“Desistance”: a disputed concept

Sometimes a person who made a change in gender identity or gender expression will make more changes later. Most people see gender changes on spectrum. A few see them as a binary and describe these changes as “desistance.” This is especially true for young people.

Others prefer the term “retransition,” as suggests a less rigid view of gender than the “all-or-nothing” binary that you are either 100% cisgender or 100% transgender.

In some cases, people who retransition later shift their identity or expression again. One of the main goals of introducing a wide range of gender identities is to eliminate the harmful belief that being transgender is a binary.


Serano J (2016). Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates. Medium https://medium.com/@juliaserano/detransition-desistance-and-disinformation-a-guide-for-understanding-transgender-children-993b7342946e

Meadow Tey (2018). The Loaded Language Shaping the Trans Conversation. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/07/desistance/564560/

Yong, Ed (January 15, 2019). Young Trans Children Know Who They Are. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/07/desistance/564560/