The number of young girls who are up for sex change has exploded over the past decade, and many of those who came out as trans have been getting second thoughts, national broadcaster NRK reported.
This marks a change of pattern in the transgender community. Previously, men and boys used to be more keen on changing their sex, but now the tables have turned. In 2012, only 11 girls were referred to the National Hospital for gender reassignment. By 2018, their number had risen to 154.
This phenomenon was also witnessed in Norway's neighbouring countries Sweden and Finland, as well as in other Western nations, such as the Netherlands, the UK and the US; it has left doctors scratching their heads.
“We have no idea why this is happening,” Anne Wæhre, senior physician at the National Hospital told NRK.
According to Wæhre, the patients can be divided into several categories. Some have rejected their biological gender since childhood and adolescence. Of those who experience discomfort with their gender as teenagers, more than half struggle with serious mental disorders, she stressed. Additionally an increasing number of patients are placed somewhere on the autism spectrum. However, another group has been rising in numbers in recent years.
“Many of those who have applied to us in recent years are girls who have always felt a little different, a little outside of the rest. When puberty comes, they often fail to fit in. After that, they get a very strong discomfort associated with their breasts and all the visible female features. Soon afterwards they want to change their gender. Then they are referred to us,” Wæhre explained.
She stressed the lack of long-term follow-up research on the girls, who have applied for a gender change since 2012 and been warned of the risks of undergoing irreversible treatment due to problems that may be only temporarily.
According to NRK, many Norwegian girls have regretted having come out as transgender. All of the girls have strong anxiety, and they call it “social suicide” to share their experiences publicly. They are afraid their stories will be seen as devastating to the trans community and its narrative.
Aleksander Sørlie, manager at the Patient Organisation for Gender Inclusion (PKI) suggested that “regretters” rarely get room to tell their stories in today's debate climate.
According to Tone Maria Hansen and Mikael Scott Bjerkeli of the Harry Benjamin Resource Centre in Oslo, the research that suggests a low percentage of “regretters” doesn't take into account the explosive increase in recent years. According to them, a thorough individual approach should be in place to avoid people being misdiagnosed.
“These are not trifles. We are talking about removing healthy organs and body parts in young people. Then we must be sure that it is right”, Tone Maria Hansen said.
According to them, an increasing number of young people apply for gender change on the wrong terms.
“We are afraid that there is a contagious effect on social media, where slightly nuanced images and hashtags fail to tell a true picture of what it means to switch gender,” Mikael Scott Bjerkeli said, citing “echo chambers” with no possibility for a critical conversation, and an overall polarised and aggressive debate.
Contrary to previous research stressing the benefits of changing one's gender, a recent Finnish study pointed out that this is not necessarily the case for young patients aged 13 to 18.
“The common belief that when the patient struggling with mental disorders get the right sex, they will feel good about themselves. However, the majority of those who start taking hormones before they turn 18 in Finland find no mental relief in treatment. A small group is also feeling worse about themselves, both physically and mentally,” Riittakerttu Kaltiala, a youth psychiatrist at Tampere University Hospital told NRK.
Earlier, a Swedish survey indicated that 2.2 percent of patients had their gender correction process undone. The estimate is based on the number of people who applied to restore their original legal gender and doesn't cover all “regretters”.