Detransition Legal FAQ

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Disclaimer: We are not licensed or even trained to offer legal advice. We can only share our own experiences, which hopefully might help your individual situation.

How do I detransition my legal identity documents?

Answers vary by:

  • Where you live (which state, province, or nation);
  • Which document you're changing (photo ID, drivers license, passport, birth certificate, etc);
  • Whether you're changing your legal sex/gender and your name, or changing one now and possibly one later;
  • What order you change documents;
  • What you changed before, how you changed it, and where you changed it.

Please search the web first (such as googling california dmv gender change). Some agencies have answers on their websites.

Please feel free to search our subreddit's posts, or to post anew. In the future, we might compile more specific information here.

Please consider asking an LGBT or trans advocacy org. They might ignore you (that's been our experience), but the more they hear the question, the more likely they are to start offering answers.

If you're unsure about anything, we definitely recommend you ask an attorney. Legal identity changes, if done wrong, can be expensive or impossible to undo. Please be careful. We know first-hand not everyone has a few extra hundred dollars (pounds, euros, etc) for a lawyer. You might consider seeking pro-bono help, looking for a free legal advice clinic, asking a loved one for assistance, or fundraising.

What are our options to sue?

We moderators of s/detrans are very interested in exploring options for individual lawsuits and class-action suits. We ask any interested attorneys to message us here, and we're open to referrals if you might know of potential attorneys.

The following information was posted to our subreddit by an anonymous user on 2019-07-25. We moderators are not qualified to verify the information offered, but we believe it was presented in good faith. As in all legal matters, please consult a licensed attorney as soon as possible for your case.

Frequently asked questions about suing for malpractice.

I'm an American lawyer. I have both practiced plaintiff's personal injury law and been a personal injury plaintiff. I'm no longer practicing in that specific field, but I wanted to answer some frequently asked questions in the detransition community about how malpractice lawsuits work.

Q1. What can the legal system do for malpractice victims?

A1. The courts can order malpracticing physicians to pay monetary damages to injured patients. Money damages are designed to compensate plaintiffs for their injuries, future care expenses, and their pain and suffering. The courts can’t make your doctor apologize or give you closure, they can't directly put a doctor out of business, and they can't directly make her provide better care. However, responsible physicians pay attention to these cases and learn from them. The insurance companies that cover doctors against malpractice claims also pay close attention - both when deciding whether to offer coverage for the individual who treated you, and when deciding what they require of the other gender therapists, endocrinologists, and surgeons they cover.

Q2. How do you pay for a lawyer?

A2. In the American system, most plaintiffs' lawyers do not get paid unless and until they win your case. Virtually all plaintiff's malpractice lawyers work on a contingent fee basis - that is, the lawyer does not charge upfront but if you win or settle your case she will get a set percentage of any amount you receive. The expenses of litigation (for example, hiring court reporters and expert witnesses, which can reach ten thousand dollars or more) are usually advanced by the lawyer and recouped from the plaintiff's settlement or award. Occasionally a deep-pocketed plaintiff will offer to cover the expenses or pay an hourly rate for the lawyer's time to encourage a lawyer to take a more difficult case. It is possible for a court to award a plaintiff extra money to cover her attorney fees, but it is extremely rare.

Q3. What kind of lawyer do I want?

A3. At a minimum, you need a lawyer who is licensed to practice in the state where you were treated. Beyond that, look for one who doesn't advertise on TV or public transportation. Those guys can absolutely be passionate, skilled, and committed advocates, but they specialize in car wrecks and chiropractors. Their business model is all about taking cases that can be developed by an experienced paralegal and resolved out of court with a minimum of time and expense. Medical malpractice is not like that. You need an old-school litigator, not a settlement artist.

Q4. How do I find that kind of lawyer?

A4. If you know a lawyer, then ask her for a recommendation even if civil litigation is not her specialty. We generally know who're the lions in our local bar associations and who're the hyenas. Seriously, call up the guy who did your parents' divorce or your cousin’s friend’s uncle who does criminal law and ask for a recommendation. Your state bar association may also have a section or a committee dedicated to medical malpractice – that’s a good place to look. You can also try Googling "your-town-hospital malpractice verdict" and see what shakes out.

If all you have to go on is firm marketing, there are still some things great litigators tend to have in common. Your lawyer's profile on her firm's website should emphasize a range of litigation experience - medical malpractice, of course, but other kinds of personal injury cases, nursing home litigation, appellate work, and most other kinds of civil lawsuits are a good sign. It's a good sign if her firm is prestigious enough to spend more money on nice offices downtown than billboards on the highway. Things like SuperLawyers and Top 100 Best lists are pretty meaningless, but it is a good sign if she clerked for a judge in her early career, or has been invited to speak at continuing education seminars on medical malpractice.

Q5. How do I get started?

A5. Call and ask the receptionist for a consultation, or use the contact form on the firm's website to request an appointment. It's not like a doctor where you need a referral and pre-approval in triplicate from your insurance company. For all that we like to wear suits and obsess about rules, we mostly work in small businesses without much bureaucracy. And what's more, we tend to be the kind of people who really like hearing a compelling story and digging into the possibilities of a new case.

Q6. Can I join or start a class-action suit?

A6. Maybe. I am not aware of any transition-related class action suits in the works at present, but then again I haven't gone looking. Keep in mind that class action suits are intended to help when a group of people have all suffered very similar injuries from the same source. You can't generally file a class action suit against all providers of a certain therapy, or even just for the patients of one particularly bad doctor because everyone's experiences are so different. However, I could see a class action suit if, for example, a pharma company has been irresponsibly marketing a particular hormone for transition care.

Q7. How long do I have to decide whether to sue?

A7. It depends. In some states, the relevant statute of limitations can be a year. A mile on the other side of the state line, it might be five years. In some states, med mal actions just fall under the general personal injury limitations; in others there are stricter deadlines for med mal cases. If you were a minor during part or all of your transition attempt, that might extend the deadline. State law will also control when the clock began to run - when you first were misdiagnosed, when you had surgery or took hormones, when you desisted or detransitioned, or when you realized how transition harmed you. In any case, witnesses forget, and people die, retire, and move. It’s better to start sooner than later.

Q8. How do I get a lawyer to take my case seriously?

A8. Any lawyer you've entrusted with your case should be compassionate first and foremost. If she isn't, that's on her not on you. Still, taking a case on a contingent fee is a big investment for a lawyer. We have to be selective. The absolute best thing you can do is be organized. Sit down and write a letter to your prospective lawyer, which you will hand-deliver at your consultation. Use it to lay out a timeline as best you can recall: when you experienced dysphoria (if ever), relevant prior medical history, when you first saw your various physicians, when you were diagnosed, told to socially transition, prescribed hormones, or underwent surgery, and when you desisted or detransitioned.

The next big question on a lawyer's mind is going to be what the standard of care is in cases like yours. Just because a patient had a bad outcome does not mean he has a malpractice case. It is possible for the courts to find that the doctor was still exercising reasonable skill and caution. The question is, what is reasonable in that specialty?

This is tricky. The standard of care can vary depending on where you were treated (rural family practice versus the Mayo Clinic) and when you were treated (before or after it was widely understood that a certain practice was risky). It usually takes expert opinions from one or more doctors to establish the standard of care. In some states, you have to get a medical expert to sign an affidavit saying you have a viable case before you can really begin the lawsuit. In pretty much all states, you're going to need expert medical testimony at some point.

Your average lawyer may not know much about dysphoria or transgender politics to start out. You will likely need to help educate him and provide names of physicians providing quality care and research in this field. As you’ve learned from painful personal experience, not all experts are created equal.

One big green flag for taking a new case is if you have spoken post-transition to a physician or therapist who has encouraged you to pursue a malpractice claim. Doctors generally have no love for the lawyers who make a living suing them. If they have even a shred of doubt about the other doctor's culpability, they tend to err on the side of keeping quiet. It is rare for a doctor to cross the tribal line and support a suit against one of her peers without a subpoena involved, and a sign that some serious negligence occurred.

Keep in mind that if you are still in therapy it can impact the patient-therapist relationship pretty badly if your therapist becomes embroiled in your lawsuit. She may refuse to give an opinion on those grounds alone, and not because she thinks ill of your case. If your detransition therapist does not want to be involved, or if you aren't seeing one, then see if you can provide a reading list for your attorney.

Be prepared to explain what you believe your previous provider should have done when you presented in her office with your original symptoms. Was there another disorder she should have considered, like dissociative disorders, PTSD, or autism spectrum issues? Did a parent put you in a Munchausen By Proxy/FDIA situation? Were there known risks she failed to warn you about? Did her behavior meet the WPATH standards of care, the standards urged by another expert, or no credible standards at all?

Q9. What should I expect if a lawyer does take my case?

A9. Not to take advice from randos on the internet. Your actual lawyer will be the best person to guide you through the ins and outs of your local legal system. That said, litigation is not famous for its speed. There's a ticking clock on your deadline to file a suit, but once you're in it, it's usually a hurry-up-and-wait situation. You can easily spend more than a year in discovery, compiling your medical records, giving your deposition, and getting medical expert testimony. Then you have to go through summary judgment motions and get a trial date. It is not uncommon for a state court civil case to take two years from filing to final judgment.

Q10. Is it worth it?

A10. If you're considering a malpractice suit based on harm suffered in transition, you have probably had a lifetime supply of professionals who should know better telling you to dive right in and ignore your doubts. It would be the height of hypocrisy for me to do the same. Even in a best-case scenario, litigation is hard. It's doubly hard when it involves mental health. It's trebly hard when the subject is as controversial as gender dysphoria.

It's also an invasive process. The good news is that you are going to be able to get your medical records and compel your doctor to testify about what she knew and when she knew it and why she did it. The bad news is that her defense lawyer is going to be able to get your most of your medical records, and ask you some painful questions about your sexual identity, your body, your past trauma, and your present condition.

And then there’s the circus factor to consider. There is a chance that a suit against a trans-affirmative practitioner will draw attention from some downright unhinged people. You can count on the defense to seek out experts to validate your doctor's transition recommendations. There are folks out there who believe that gatekeeping is a dirty word instead of an essential part of a doctor's duty of care. There are folks out there who want to punish the women who tell them no. There are folks out there who are projecting some horrific beliefs onto the bodies of trans kids. I’m writing this under a throwaway account for a reason.

Personally, I do believe we are living in an age of mass harm inflicted in the name of affirmative care. I think that social contagion is being drastically underrated as a factor in ROGD, and desistance rates are underreported and under considered. I think kids are being experimented on without adequate disclosure. I think that the benefits of transition are being oversold. I think that we are catastrophizing and medicalizing dysphoria that is often transient or treatable with less drastic measures than transition. I think that many care providers have abdicated their responsibility to provide sound, independent judgment for people who are in deep distress about their bodies, their sexuality, and societal gender roles.

But I’m not a doctor. My personal opinions aren’t proof of anything. I’m also writing this in 2019. The courts can only judge physicians by the standards of their day. If all the experts agree that clinicians should do XYZ for your symptoms, then it’s hard to make a case against the doctor who does it, even if the outcome sucks and the experts eventually change their minds and recommend doing ABC instead.

Lawsuits live in the places where experts don't all agree, and the evidence isn’t completely one-sided. They are uncertain by nature, but some of us choose to do it for a living anyway. I believe that we’re on the cusp of seeing a lot of transition-related lawsuits, but I also believe that there has to be some real pioneer work done to get there. If your doctor's treatment decisions weren't backed up by sound science, and if you're in a place where you can stand scrutiny on a painful chapter of your life

Q11. What if a lawsuit isn’t right for me?

A11. Then there are some alternatives. If you’re absolutely certain that you aren’t going to file suit, and you believe the person who treated you was well-meaning but misguided, then consider writing him a letter about your experiences and what you've learned. If you believe that you were the victim of medical negligence, but a qualified local lawyer tells you the statute of limitations has already run out, then you might want to address that letter to your state medical licensing board.>

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