Half of All Desisters are Same-Sex Attracted

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KEY POINTS:

Half of all those who desist from gender dysphoria are same-sex attracted.
It remains likely that the affirmation-model of treating gender dysphoria will disproportionately affect same-sex attracted individuals, and may constitute “gay-eugenics”.

One of the most salient points of the literature on gender dysphoria among children is that it goes away after adolescence in the vast-majority of cases unless children are socially or medically transitioned. This has been the finding of every study done on the topic. However, it is also of considerable importance that a significant number of these desisters report same-sex attraction. It is well-established in the literature that gender non-conforming behaviour in childhood is predictive of later same-sex attraction, behaviour, and identity.¬†Given this robust finding, the increases in reported gender dysphoria, and an affirmation-only treatment paradigm, many authors are warning the public that it is likely that same-sex attracted individuals are being transitioned due to the gender non-conformity associated with their attractions. Some have been so bold as to suggest that the current treatment paradigm represents a medicalized “conversion-therapy” which is treating same-sex attraction with puberty-blockers, opposite-sex hormones, and body modification, as a sort of “gay-eugenics”.

These concerns, in my opinion, are warranted. It is abominable that same-sex attracted individuals are being medicalized, sterilized, and mutilated on account of a political ideology that has brought pressure to bear on medical professionals who may not be well-versed in the historical literature on gender dysphoria, same-sex orientation, and their respective etiologies and developmental factors.

While I am in full agreement with the concern of many that “gay eugenics” is being currently practiced, I am also concerned that some who I would consider allies are not careful in their representation of the findings in the literature, overestimating the percentage of desisters who are same-sex attracted, and thereby weakening their position. Below I report the findings of a short meta-analysis of the twelve studies done on the persistence/desistence of childhood gender dysphoria.

Sources for this analysis included Zucker & Bradley, 1995 which provides their own meta-analysis of the six earliest studies (Bakwin, 1968; Lebovitz, 1972; Zuger, 1978; Money & Russo, 1979; Davenport, 1986; Kosky, 1987), in-depth look at Green, 1987 (the only prospective study ever done), and the findings of their own study.

I then considered separately the data in Wallien & Cohen-Kettenis, 2008, Drummond, 2008, Singh, 2012, and Steensma, 2013.¬† The main measure used for determining sexual “orientation” of those who desisted from their gender dysphoria was a “fantasy” rating of 2-6 on the Kinsey Scale. We did not count those individuals where fantasy was omitted. For Singh, we included the parent-reported fantasy (29 cases) in cases where there was no clinician or self-report. Wallien had measures for both “attraction” and “fantasy”, however there was a much greater amount of data for “attraction”, which we used instead. In comparing the two measures, we do not believe this would significantly alter the findings.

Full findings available here.
The percentage of desisters with same-sex attractions (by fantasy):

Bakwin to Kosky – 41.7%
Green – 74.4%
Zucker & Bradley – 24.2%
Wallien & Cohen-Kettenis – 50%
Drummond – 28.6%
Singh – 56.5%
Steensma – 48.8%

The total percentage of desisters with same-sex attractions for whom we have data is 50% (n=214). Male desisters were much more likely to have homosexual attractions (56.5%) than female desisters (22%).

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