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Women who detransition deserve to have their stories told

No matter how hard a woman might try to transition to male, she still remains female and often that dichotomy remains elusive and gnawing, eventually forcing some women to renounce their transition.
Nicole Russell Texas, US

In an  article published in The Sunday Times, photographer Laura Dodsworth interviewed and photographed multiple women who transitioned to be men, then regretted it. Their stories are powerful and the photos are harrowing. It’s worth a read. In an era where transgender ideology is gospel and the people who transition are prophets, a story like this, that tells the other side, is vital to understanding the controversy that surrounds the transgender movement.

Dodsworth writes that she felt compelled to photograph women who regretted transitioning from female to male through hormone replacement therapy and surgeries because the topic has become so taboo.

"One person told me I should not be focusing on detransitioners when trans people are still struggling for acceptance. But this would be to silence key voices when we should be having an inclusive and nuanced discussion about gender identity, especially at a time when the government is deciding how, or whether, it will reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004."

She says she believes "it is not sustainable, or fair, to silence one community to serve another" and that "detransitioned women I interviewed are canaries in the coalmine. Not only for detransitioners, but for womanhood."

While Dodsworth’s profile shines a light on just a handful of detransitioners, both the woman and the photographer believe there are scores more. However, it’s hard to know exactly how many because most detransitioners don’t return to the doctors who treated them and they’re often rejected by the transgender community for their betrayal.

These women’s stories stood out to me and demonstrated just how dangerous it is for the transgender community—from online support groups to medical doctors—to outright support hormone and medical transitions, particularly for children under 18 years old. Many seem to have offered this solution to these hurting young women (only one was significantly older) after only short interviews and little research. Almost every single woman interviewed here contended she wished her doctors had hesitated, at the very least, to prescribe such a radical solution to the issue of gender dysphoria.

Sinead, 29, transitioned to male as a 15 year old with hormone replacement therapy and had a double mastectomy. She says she realized quickly what a mistake it was and communicates in an online support group of at least 100 other detransitioners. "But I still have those dark nights when I sit alone in a room and I think I’m ruined, disfigured and damaged, and I’m not even 30 yet. And then I get better nights when I think it could be worse."

Ellie, 21, first came out as a lesbian then transitioned to male with hormone replacement therapy after watching YouTube videos about transgender people. A common thread in every story but one was the prominence of Google searches, YouTube videos, and online forums that introduced searching, hurting, young women to the concept that the solution to gender dysphoria was automatically to transition fully to male.

Ellie tried to participate in sports after her voice deepened and she was able to grow facial hair, "Everyone on the team thought I was a guy, but I felt completely out of place. Realising I didn’t really belong in male spaces is part of what drove me to detransition. Playing sport in a male team made it clear that I just don’t have the same socialisation as the men. Women are competitive, but not in the same way as men. It slowly stopped making sense being a guy."

Although Ellie will use a male changing room, she says she feels uncomfortable there, but because she looks so much like a male, she doesn’t associate much with women either because she doesn’t want to make them uncomfortable.

Lucy, 23, struggled with anorexia, gender dysphoria, and OCD issues before she discovered, again via the internet, that perhaps the cure for her pain was a medical transition. She had her breasts removed and a full hysterectomy, which she now regrets.

"I’m horrified that when I went for the hysterectomy they didn’t emphasise to me how important these organs are. Now it’s too late. I’m 23 and I am basically in menopause already, with all the health implications that come with that. I can’t comprehend how doctors could let this happen, because they would never approve a 21-year-old woman for a complete hysterectomy for no medical reason. But once that woman identifies as a man, suddenly it’s really easy to get."

At 62, Lee is the oldest person Dodsworth interviewed and her story is probably the most excruciating to read due to both her age and the number of surgeries she had to "become" male—surgeries she now regrets.

"I thought I wanted to be male. But how would I know what it’s like to be a male? I’ve never been one. I can’t be. I’m an approximation of a male on the outside, but really I’m a woman on testosterone who has had surgery. This is just my opinion, and other people can have their views, but I don’t think there is such a thing as being born in the wrong body. I think that the causes often begin in childhood," she said.

She describes her transition in full detail. It’s hard to grasp how far down the rabbit hole she went to "become" male, especially since she now regrets it. "I hated my breasts and couldn’t wait to get rid of them. I know a lot of trans men bind, but I didn’t because you can’t exercise in the gym with a binder, they are very uncomfortable. So I had a mastectomy a couple of months after starting testosterone.

"Within a couple more years I had a hysterectomy and ovariectomy, prosthetic testicles put in and a metoidioplasty, which is supposed to make your clitoris look like a small penis. In reality mine wasn’t big enough, just quarter of an inch. I ended up having a vaginectomy. Then I had a phalloplasty. They took skin from my arms. The scars are still prominent. It’s a very serious and complicated procedure and I didn’t heal easily. I had to take antibiotics many times."

Though Lee wants to detransition, she cannot. She feels she would not survive all the surgeries it would take to reverse her "male" organs back to female. She concludes, "On the outside people see a little bloke. Inside I’m a traumatised little girl."

This woman tweeted that she appeared in the group of women Dodsworth interviewed. Her only criticism of the piece is that it’s titled "Detransitioners" and she believes she has not lost her womanhood—she was and always will be female.

While I understand what she’s saying, I do believe that is Dodworth’s point exactly, or at least, that’s something most people might conclude from the piece. No matter how hard a woman might try to transition to male, she still remains female and often that dichotomy remains elusive and gnawing, eventually forcing some women to renounce their transition. It’s important to hear these stories, in our current age that applauds women who transition from female to male and act as though there were no negative consequences.

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