It’s time we listened to those who regret their transgender “treatments”

It’s time we listened to those who regret their transgender “treatments”

More and more questions continue to be asked about the ethics of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgical treatment for transgender patients. At the same time, stories continue to surface about those who regret using these controversial methods to address their gender dysphoria.

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Claire Chandler recently wrote that medical professionals had been contacting her “with concerns about the rapidly rising prevalence of children and teenagers (particularly girls) distressed about their bodies, and the associated increase in the prescription of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.”

She asked one doctor how many colleagues had similar concerns regarding the increase of gender dysphoria and life-changing medical interventions. “Almost everyone I’ve spoken to” was the answer.

One doctor overseas has observed the overrepresentation of females seeking to detransition, many of whom were suffering from complex social and mental health issues at the time they became trans-identified, often in the context of significant family dysfunction, sexual abuse and eating disorders.

In 2009, Jill Stark wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald about the devastating experiences of three former patients of Monash Medical Centre’s Gender Dysphoria Clinic. More than a decade on, with transgender “treatments” pushed ever more zealously, we don’t seem to have learned a thing from such tragic stories.

All three patients had suffered family dysfunction and sexual abuse as children, contributing to the hatred of their bodies. All three were fast-tracked through the system without proper investigation of their underlying issues, with one describing his experience like “being on a conveyor belt”. All three profoundly regretted their hormonal treatments and surgeries, which only served to exacerbate the suffering they were experiencing as a result of their gender dysphoria. All three were harshly criticised by the transgender community for telling their stories. Unfortunately, such experiences are not dissimilar from many transgender patients today.

Below is Angela’s story (not her real name*). It is time we started to listen to stories like hers.

Another former patient, Angela*, was also an abused child. Sexually molested by a cousin between the ages of four and nine, she grew up hating her femininity. 

She recalls punching her breasts and working out obsessively at the gym to "remove anything that reminded me I was female". She was a 22-year-old university student when she was referred to the clinic by her GP, depressed and struggling with her identity. Dr Kennedy diagnosed her as transsexual at the first assessment, prescribing her male hormones and suggesting female-to-male surgery.

Within months Angela's body was covered in thick hair, her voice deepened and she had a full beard. She had to shave under the covers every morning to hide the truth from her conservative Catholic parents. Two years later she had surgery to remove both breasts and was scheduled to have a full sex change. Angela could no longer conceal the truth from her family and began living as "David". Thankfully, she says, she realised there had been a mistake before undergoing full genital surgery. 

"I remember at one point looking at myself in the mirror with this beard, my breasts gone and thinking, 'Oh my God, what the hell am I going to do?' I felt ugly. I was the classic bearded woman, a monster trapped between two worlds."

She claims her pleas for help were also ignored by the clinic and her return to life as a woman was a nightmare that involved two years of painful electrolysis to get rid of facial and body hair and surgery to reconstruct her breasts. 

Now married to a "wonderful" man, Angela has three young children and has slowly rebuilt her life. Looking back, she acknowledges she gave consent for the procedure but believes it was not informed consent. She feels she was mentally ill and that her childhood abuse played a part in her gender confusion.

You can read the other two stories from the Sydney Morning Herald article here.