Retransitioning: The experiences of youth who socially transition genders more than once

Lily Durwood, Katherine A. Kuvalanka, Shira Kahn-Samuelson, Ashley E. Jordan, Jennifer D. Rubin, Pauline Schnelzer, Aaron H. Devor, Kristina R. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Retransitions in youth are critical to understand, as they are an experience about which little is known and about which families and clinicians worry. Aims: This study aims to qualitatively describe the experiences of youth who made binary social transitions (came to live as the binary gender different from the one assigned at birth) in childhood by the age of 12, and who later socially transitioned genders again (here, called “retransitioning”). Methods: Out of 317 participants in an ongoing longitudinal study of (initially) binary transgender youth, 23 participants had retransitioned at least once and were therefore eligible for this study. Of those youth, 8 were cisgender at the time of data collection, 11 were nonbinary, and 4 were binary transgender youth (after having retransitioned to nonbinary identities for a period). Fifteen youth and/or their parent(s) participated in semi-structured interviews (MYouthAge = 11.3 years; 9 non-Hispanic White; 3 Hispanic White; 3 Multiracial; 10 assigned male; 5 assigned female). Interviews gauged antecedents of transitions, others’ reactions to transitions, and participants’ general reflections. Responses were coded and thematically analyzed. Results: Participants described various paths to retransitions, including that some youth identified differently over time, and that some youth learned about a new identity (e.g., nonbinary) that fit them better. Social environments’ responses to retransitions varied but were often neutral or positive. No participants spontaneously expressed regret over initial transitions. Conclusions: These findings largely do not support common concerns about retransitions. In supportive environments, gender diverse youth can retransition without experiencing rejection, distress, and regret.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Transgender Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy

Keywords

  • childhood social transition
  • gender development
  • retransition
  • Transgender youth

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