In 2015, twelve-year-old Patrick Mitchell told his mother that he thought he was actually a girl. Two years later, Patrick has decided to “detransition” and live openly as male again. Patrick’s case has become a media sensation, with people using it to make generalizations about detransition, and transgender people in general. But detransition is an incredibly complex issue, and the realities of detransitioning can’t be reduced to a simple sound bite.
As a twelve-year-old, Patrick was extremely unhappy with himself and could barely stand to look in the mirror because he “didn’t know who the person staring back at me was.” Since he was a young child, he had enjoyed wearing women’s clothing and had asked his mother if he could “turn into a girl” when he got older. When his mother mentioned the possibility he might be transgender, he smiled “for the first time in months.” And when Patrick faced legal barriers to transitioning (in Australia, going on hormones and puberty blockers requires waiting until the person is 16, and court approval) he became depressed and suicidal. Worried for her child’s mental health, his mother Alison gave Patrick her own estrogen medication.
Eventually, Patrick was able to take estrogen, grow out his hair, and be referred to by female pronouns at school. But in the process, he started wondering if he was actually a boy. At the beginning of the 2017 school year, when teachers started calling him a girl, Patrick let his mom know that he didn’t think he was actually transgender.