Regret is Real
The number of people who regret their medical transition is growing rapidly. There are currently over 9,000 members on the Reddit detransitioner forum, and a new international charity to help them. These are some of their stories, in their own words, about why they regret the hormonal and surgical interventions that were performed when they were too young to make such life-altering decisions:
The whole time I had fully believed I was just inherently trans. That's what doctors told me. What other trans people who fully related to how I felt about my body believed as well. Transition was supposedly the best way to treat this and yet I still didn't like my body most of the time and objectively I had only made myself more sick and dependent on medication….I don't think I can live with this long-term. I think I went too far to live with this.
Knowing that I gave myself all these health risks. Knowing I let myself get surgically castrated. Because of depression, because of trauma. Only to get out more depressed, more traumatized.
I'm just 23.
How am I supposed to live knowing I fucked myself up so much in such a short period of time?
What tops it off with misery is the knowledge that this is still happening to other people right now. And even younger women! I talked to a young woman who transitioned as a 16-year-old, got all her reproductive organs removed as a 18-year- old, now she's 25 and full of regret. So is my female friend who transitioned at the same time as me, by the way... She went as far as I did and is detransitioning as well. Went to different therapists, got approved by different doctors, and it's the same result.
Maybe it is all my fault, as I chose this, and because I didn't explore the possible reasons for my dysphoria critically enough. But I was mentally ill. My therapist and doctors, who were aware of how fast I was transitioning, let me down. How was I supposed to talk about something I wasn't really aware of? I was suppressing so much.
I was drawn to this idea that all my anxiety could be swept away. All the things that I am feeling about my body and insecurities I have and the defensive qualities that I’ve developed, the fact that I don’t feel safe or comfortable in certain situations, I felt like that was inappropriate and I wanted that to go away, and I thought that if I were able to change my body that those things would go away.
Transition was like suicide without the gun, the knife, or a hand full of pills. There's a little girl that lives inside of me that I've always hated. A fearful, weak, sensitive, chubby little girl a mother couldn't even love. I always tried to get rid of her. I tried to cut her out, to starve her down, to throw her up. But I got so tired. She was so hard to kill, determined to not be erased.
And then I found out I didn't have to kill her like that. I could invent a replacement, and wait until she withered away. I hoped she would look at my new face, more angular, with little hairs poking out, and finally realize she wasn't fucking wanted. I hoped she would get the message: that everything was her fault, and she should just die if she knew what was best for us. I hoped she would stop coming around, stop clinging to my side and crying all the damn time because it was getting annoying. I wanted a life without this fatty little tumor ruining everything, all the time.
It made sense. I hated part of myself. I hated this little girl who lived inside me. When I cut myself, I was crazy. When I starved myself, I was vain. When I made myself throw up, I was disgusting. But when I injected myself with testosterone, hoping that bottled up girl would just fucking drown, I was brave.
I would sit there for hours, sweating, shaking, scared of that needle. I would prick myself over, and over, and over, and over, and over, driving myself to tears, until I finally drove the needle into my twitching muscle and it was finally over.
I was a kid when I was put on hormones. A goddamned kid. Nobody can tell me 17 isn’t a kid. Quite frankly, nobody can tell me 18, 19, and 20 aren’t kids. How the hell was I allowed to do this? How the hell was I encouraged by medical professionals to do this? What kind of fucked up sci fi dystopia are we living in that this is a normal fucking situation? I’m just feeling so down right now about all of this. And I can’t really tell anyone how I feel because I’m so ashamed that I thought this was the right thing to do. And I see a bunch of other KIDS online, really, really fucking young kids. Like 16 and under, who are starting hormones and getting surgeries and are encouraged by doctors and others around them. My heart just breaks for them. They are not old enough to make these decisions. They are not old enough to consent to this. I was not old enough to consent to this. I was a child. How is this allowed to go on? Why?
Our voices are hidden because we’re seen by the queer community as an inconvenient consequence of their movement. We are just collateral damage for the greater good. Most desisted at the same age as me, around age 25. This is not a coincidence. This is the age your brain becomes fully developed.
I had my power taken away from (by) a man, so I stopped dating men because I feared them, and I became one because it was the only way I knew to take my power back.
I DO acknowledge I made the choice to transition, but it shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place! Removing healthy body parts to treat a mental health issue? Telling an 18-year-old girl that cross sex hormones would fix her? Why shouldn’t I blame the people who allowed this?
And did I REALLY make the choice myself? What other choice did I have when I was struggling with intense internalized misogyny/homophobia, depression, anxiety and an eating disorder with dysphoria on top of it? Not one professional offered a different perspective!
I saw a handful of therapists to start transitioning. None of them tried to work with me through my dysphoria. None told me that dysphoria can go away naturally, or that there are options other than biomedical. I was 18. Fuck….
My god. Trust me, I blame myself, I really do. But the medical professionals need to be blamed too; they deserve my anger and resentment.
I’ve grown. I’ve learned to live in this body. I’ve learned to love myself as a lesbian. But fifteen-year-old me, sitting trembling and scared in my gender therapist’s office for the first time, didn’t know that that was possible. My therapist certainly didn’t ever tell me it was. Once she’d determined that my dysphoria was real (and, god, was it real,) there was one path. It involved turning my life upside down to go “stealth,” taking testosterone and eventually surgical intervention. I made it through the first two steps before I started to figure out there was another way.
Even if that one path had been right for me, I still would have deserved to know there were others.
Everyone who is transitioning deserves to know that some people are able to manage their dysphoria with less invasive treatment. They deserve to know that some people with genuine dysphoria find transition unhelpful, counterproductive or just altogether useless. They deserve to know that some people find transition traumatizing, retraumatizing or to be at least a reaction to trauma. Everyone deserves informed consent. But that’s not what we’re getting. We’re being lied to. We’re being told, “spend the rest of your life taking hormones; have irreversible, major surgery; it’s the only possible way.”
So, they position this treatment as the One And Only, and shove us away and onto it and then don’t even research the effects of what they’re giving us. A quick glance over the Society of General Internal Medicine’s 2014 Cancer Risk and Prevention in Transgender Patients makes it clear, repeatedly, how little we know (or at least how little we knew just two years ago): “MTF individuals receiving feminizing hormones experience breast cancer, yet the degree of risk relative to natal females is uncertain.” “There are no long-term studies on endometrial cancer incidence among FTM individuals.” “No long-term studies have investigated ovarian cancer incidence among FTM individuals.” We don’t know. We don’t know. We don’t know. Or maybe, we don’t care. We don’t care. We don’t care.
I started experiencing dysphoria at nine years old after being sexually abused. I lived as a boy for several years and then felt pressured to stop although I continued to suffer from dysphoria. I was assaulted again as a young adult and it triggered that same response and I transitioned again. I felt happier both times although I recognize now that it's because I wanted to escape the body that had been betrayed rather than actually being trans….
The hard part though is that when I was identifying as trans, people were extremely supportive, and I had all the resources in the world available to me. When I went public with my sexual abuse story and detransitioned, I found myself totally alone.
How You Can Help These Young People
An international charity, the Detransition Advocacy Network, was created in 2019 to help this growing population of individuals. We urge you to support their important and lifesaving work.