Detrans Story: Y.

“There’s such a blame culture these days. You chose to take the hormones at an age people can decide to make children (16). Someone couldn’t baby you and sit with you for hours on end about your decision, you needed to do research. Yes it is horrible having made a mistake but the fault is not on doctors who cannot read your mind.”

So writes a reddit user in an emotional vent post on the subreddit r/ftm, lashing out at Keira Bell.

Up until fairly recently, most people hadn’t really heard of detransitioners. For a long time I myself knew them, as a then-trans guy, as bitter, hateful ex-ftms who couldn’t accept being trans. My exposure to them was entirely second-hand through trans (often transfem) friends who’d explain to me how “detransitioners,” discussed with the same incredulity as discussing a dragon or alien, were really bitter ex-ftm TERFs. Having had the harrowing experience of being accused of being a TERF myself once before, to the surprise of no one my decrying of TERFs and detransition from the time read almost like a simpering plea to distance myself from both. To be a TERF was the worst possible sin in my circles, even worse than being a racist or sexist. The fear of guilt by association ran deep. Unsurprisingly, when I began questioning my own transition a year into HRT my first fears jumped to TERFhood. 

Like many detransitioners, I grew up in a difficult, abusive household. Perhaps subconsciously the decade of sexual abuse and misogyny I endured from my step-father made me truly hate being a girl, but neither I nor my therapists ever consciously made the connection at the time. Regardless, I still have nightmares of those years that wake me up, heart racing and on the verge of tears, in the middle of the night. It’s difficult to say the trauma from that time hasn’t affected me at all, though I did once try to pretend so.

Home life being difficult, school life was only marginally better. Despite excelling academically, I was unknowingly on the autism spectrum and from elementary onward my peers were quick to pick up on my oddities. My proclivity for “boy’s” clothing, short hair, and playing sports quickly led to rumors and accusations of being “dyke,” a word I had no understanding of at merely 10 years old but which I quickly learned. Puberty escalated things. I hated my body and swam in XXL jerseys and sweatshirts. Girls avoided me, and even the boys who had been my friends began to make fun of my pads and periods. I truly didn’t feel I was meant to be a girl, and around this time two things happened: I happened to read what “transgender” was in a book of child psychology, and talk of the “gender binary” began to pop up on Tumblr. 

Honestly, at the time it felt like I’d found a secret key. Everything fit — the discomfort with my body, my loathing of being a “girl,” my comfort with being masculine, my desire to be masculine. I threw myself into it. 

Up until this point, I had been secretly interacting with lesbian identity through blogs on Tumblr and books at the local library. I knew I was attracted to girls from a young age, but I didn’t know it, and the idea of being a lesbian was truthfully terrifying. Maybe it’s ironic, but the idea of being a trans guy seemed infinitely less scary despite lack of public trans support at the time. I had always dreamed of being the Disney prince to a princess. I began following ftm youtubers, looking into transition and researching HRT and surgeries, and participating in online trans forums. I consumed trans content voraciously; for the first time I felt “accepted.” I was allowed to be and even validated in my feelings and inability to connect to stereotypical femininity. My hatred of my body was normalized. I was experiencing gender dysphoria, and so did other people. Art, fics, memes, community — it all helped me feel like I had found a place. I came out as trans that year at 14. Despite not pursuing hormonal treatment until 21, I was lucky enough to go “stealth” and lived a life as a “cis” guy, albeit one with a high voice and baby face, for the better part of a decade. 

When I initially decided to go to a renowned but unnamed gender clinic in 2018, the physician I saw told me that transition would likely work out great for me. We talked about my social transition from when I was 14, what I wanted from T, and my plans for transition in the future. When I signed off the paperwork for informed consent — “Just a formality,” he had said — he was extremely optimistic about how my transition would go. I got T that day, with my first shot done in the clinic by a kind nurse who offered to do it for me when I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking while attempting to ready the syringe.

I would visit the clinic a few more times over the course of that year and my therapist, who I’d seen for over a year at that point, to get my blood drawn and levels checked. My physician would comment on how well my transition was going and shake my hand before going on to the next patient. My therapist would affirm the same, praising how far I’d come. They both helped coordinate legal name changes and surgery, and my university insurance covered top surgery so I started weighing postponing an early graduation to get it done.

And then, I couldn’t.

My reluctance surprised me. I had picked up my forms from the gender clinic for my sex marker changes mid-year and they sat in my letter tray for weeks. I didn’t call the top surgeon I had been eyeing for a consult despite visiting the browser tab for it almost daily. I stopped going to the gender clinic altogether towards the end of the year, and my therapist had quit her practice in the summer. Although she invited me to try another therapist within the same care team, I didn’t feel I had the energy or spirit to explain everything, A to Z, to a new therapist. I stopped going, and my doubt mounted. I spiraled. My T shots tapered off as I tried to figure out what was wrong. The tsunami wave of fear, particularly the fear of regret, began to build.

What if I had made a mistake? What if I had “destroyed” my body with T? Could I even go back to living as a woman? What could I tell my family? That they were right? What about my body? Did I need to do anything? Who could I talk to? The gender clinic didn’t even bring up detransition. Should I just go to my normal PCP? What if I really damaged some internal organ? I had been experiencing symptoms of vaginal atrophy and the physician at the gender clinic had responded to my humiliated admission of atrophy with a surprisingly cavalier “It happens” before prescribing estrogen cream — would I have to do that forever? What about my voice? My facial hair? My hair had begun thinning, would it grow back? These thoughts swirled in my head for weeks and months.

I suppose in a sense, there was a dramatic “one day” — one day when I realized I wanted to detransition — but it was that one day amidst a shrouded mist of emotional turmoil so it doesn’t stand out so much to me. It took me weeks to even acknowledge my feelings. I was disappointed to find little to no “official” information on detransitioners at the time, and r/detrans remained the sole source of community that I could turn to for support, advice, and camaraderie. I came out to close friends as detransitioning, initially to “nonbinary” as detransitioning to “female” was unfathomable to me at the time, and was accused of everything from being brainwashed by TERFs to being unable to tackle internalized transphobia. It took me months to accept that I wasn’t “nonbinary” and that, despite being masculine and presenting masculinely, I wasn’t any less of a “woman” for it.

From there, my journey was similar to the paths I’ve seen liberal feminists take to “peaking” and embracing radical feminism or gender critical beliefs. It’s not especially relevant to this essay, so I’ve omitted it. But suffice to say that it is distressing so many things I found uncomfortable about the trans community were difficult to see while in it, and it is endlessly frustrating to realize I had quietly abided by casual racism and fetishization, misogyny, and encouragement of unhealthy beliefs. 

It’s difficult to explain concisely why I transitioned, or why I detransitioned. Both are complex circumstances that took me years to process. I didn’t transition because I was autistic, same-sex attracted, or a “tomboy,” and I certainly didn’t consciously transition because I had childhood trauma, but these likely played a role in my gender dysphoria. Similarly, I didn’t detransition because my gender dysphoria vanished or for any similar singular reason, but the accumulation of many factors.

For one, occupying the male social role was difficult for me. I passed as cis, but nothing could have prepared me for knowing that passing as male wouldn’t make me male. The better I passed, the greater the divide felt between who I was seen as and who I truly was. I had to lie and pretend I had been born something I hadn’t been, experienced things I could never have, and understood things I didn’t, while pretending that I hadn’t experienced or understood the things I had. I had to pretend I couldn’t empathize with other women about periods or the experiences of misogyny and pretend I’d experienced a boyhood and even had a penis (when a cis guy friend worriedly asks if you’ve ever had a funny looking wart on your penis, you can’t exactly say, “Well, funny that…”). Whether or not trans men are “men,” I was lying about being male, and the most upsetting part was that I was lying well.

For another, the things I couldn’t have because I wasn’t male were the things that mattered quite a bit to me: being able to have “normal” sex as a man with a penis, having biological children with my future wife, feeling safe at night when passing a group of drunk guys catcalling a woman down the street…hell, even just being able to be shirtless without a scarred chest or (if I was lucky enough to get peri) “female” nipples. I would always have the scars of being born female if I got SRS — which barely felt like an option with how I felt about the results — and regardless of whether I did or didn’t get SRS, I would always be a “man” with a qualifier: a trans man. I simply wasn’t equipped to deal with that reality as a kid who grew into a young adult told that HRT (and particularly T) was basically magic that would turn me into a real boy. 

If I had to pick one quote to describe my experience, it would be:

“Despite everything, it’s still you.”

-Chara, Undertale

I bear the permanent effects of T on a female body, and while some effects have proven to be less permanent than I’d seen claimed, it remains that I am changed from physically transitioning. My voice is deeper than the average woman’s, I struggle with PCOS, I have to shave the few scraggly chin hairs I got from T. Fundamentally, however, I am still myself, and I am thankful that I was able to have the courage to detransition and tackle my dysphoria in healthy ways. Some days I struggle with wanting to be male or perceived as male, but I can recognize where those feelings stem from and act accordingly. 

In the end, I am just me, but me is pretty great. I’m a 24-year-old Asian same-sex attracted detrans woman, but I’m also an artist, pet owner, eldest daughter, trivia geek, and frappe lover. I’m glad that I took the opportunity, however delayed, to be my true self without buying into an ideology that necessitates the true self comes from the superficial trappings of hairstyles, clothing, HRT, or surgeries. 

Detrans Story: Sarah

For me it all started when I changed school. I always have been gender-non-conforming before. But happy and proud in being so. The new school didn’t think so. The other pupils thought of it as strange, that I, a girl, who walked around in boy’s clothes and short hair. Also I wasn’t really thin. The girls talked a lot about boys, and I wasn’t interested in boys. I was much more interested in one girl in the class. The boys stopped talking with the girls. It was two separate groups and I really missed my male friends from the groups before. Also, now I was separated from the working class and they’re basis understanding of how things work.

I cried every evening during that time and my mother eventually wanted to put me in a different school form. But my father wasn’t interested because it would mean losing social status and I simply was afraid of losing the few friends I still had. (it didn’t occur to me, that I would make new friends at the new school).

One year later I was anorexic. I had a tonsillitis and because of that wasn’t really hungry. So I kept up my tonsilitis by going outside in too thin clothes to keep up eating less. I weighted 30kg by a height of 1,60m. my family’s GP said to me, that I would cause damage to my inner organs if I would go on. My mother told me in passing that I wasn’t allowed canoeing and climbing if I wouldn’t eat. So secretly I started eating again but promised my inner self not to eat too fat in the future.

I kept on falling in love with girls. And I really didn’t want to. I talk myself into believing I fell in love with boys from my class. I didn’t. I felt like a pervert for falling in love with girls. I never talked about it. I had the inner feeling, that being who I was, was ok, but succumb to my inner desires was not (Like openly flirting and kissing). In fact, coming out at that school would have been a social suicide and I wasn’t sure I would have been emotionally backed by my parents and family. So, for me it was about surviving.

My mother at that time had an underactive thyroid and got depressed. She somehow changed her personality. Before she supported me (even when she didn’t see the obvious anorexia). She stopped with the supporting and now became that mean person I didn’t recognize as a mother. She kept on making me bad in front of relatives. She said I was egoistic and would never help etc.

During that time, I went to a psychotherapist. The psychotherapist listened to me patiently. And then she wanted to arrange a family meeting. That to say, the family meeting didn’t go well. There just were a lot of tears and angry shouting and afterward the psychotherapist told me I should try to get out of that family. She also told me it wasn’t practical to go on with psychotherapy with her, when the family wouldn’t be involved. (she didn’t believe school also had a big impact).

I went to the social service of my city as a naïve 16-year-old does and told them I wanted to move out. Of course, they laughed at my face. So, I went to another city and stayed in a shelter for teenagers and young adults, who lived on the street. The social service and my parents didn’t know where I’ve been for 2 weeks. That worked. I moved into a social service shared flat for teenagers. Which really didn’t help my mental wellbeing at all.

Then a lot happened in between. But with 19 I decided to live on the street. I kind of had ptsd symptoms and anyway decided the street and the young adults there (punkers, squatters etc.) were much more interesting.

I found a group of people, who hitchhiked through Europe and decided to join. Later I hitchhiked by my own from Germany to Greece and was shortly into Bulgarian prison (because I’d lost my passport).

Later back in Berlin I decided, that the told experience, that I heard from a trans men I’ve met in Vienna, who was original from Hungary, was exactly my experience. So, I started looking into transition. I was not at all in a mental place to start a transition and also some psychotherapists told me so (they said my feelings had a different cause). But it gave me back some feeling of everyday sense. So, I started an apprenticeship as electrician, always went to the local trans meeting group and continued looking for testosterone. In my apprenticeship there only were men because I was working on the building side. I didn’t have any women perspective. I just knew these men, who never had my discrimination experience, and I knew the local persons from the trans group. I was completely isolated. I started to believe in the mantras they were telling (like you’ll be so much happier, when you transition). It was my only social connection.

I found a GP who prescribed me testosterone without psychological counseling. Three years later I still hadn’t managed to get into good psychological therapy. I met one psychotherapist every week, but we just talked about everyday life. Not once about my past.

I decided I wanted to have a mastectomy and that it might solve all my problems. Because the person in the trans group said it would. I started to look at doctors. But I didn’t have the mandatory therapy time to get the mastectomy paid by the German health care system. So, I decided to pay it by my own. It was difficult to find doctors, who understood that I wanted to pay and not have it paid by the health care system. So, finally I found one, I decided to go for it.

That turned out to be a bad idea. I had internal bleeding (i had to go to surgery again) and the surgeon probably cut some nerve (or he sewed it in), because now I have everyday pain (sometimes even in the left arm). It’s probably what they call post mastectomy pain syndrom (pmps), but i never heard of it before the mastectomy (so much to informed consent). Also i can’t deal with the strange new feeling from the areola. In your mind you have a map of your body and now it’s changed and hard to deal with.

But this pain also was my wakeup call. That all I was doing was big bullshit. I changed the city after that. I changed the people I surrounded myself with. I stopped Testosterone a year later. Currently I’m studying, but honestly, I’m just doing this, because I’m not sure I’d be mental stable enough to work.

I think transitioning often has a lot to do with self-harm. With trying to destroy a part of you. Mastectomy feels for me, like I cut away a small part of my soul. I don’t want to lose more. Nowadays I try to stay in contact with working class and with a lot of different people from different echo chambers. I think that’s really important to stay grounded. I also found radical feminism even when I don’t believe in everything they’re saying. I find it ridiculous that feminist nowadays support pimps and self-harm.

I guess I still need to do therapy. I guess I have trauma from feeling like i was in mental prison when i was at school. Everyday i just needed to survive the day. I also need to face internal homophobia, gnc-phobia and accept that I have a body dysmorphia disorder and work on trusting persons (that persons usually don’t change their personality).

What happened to me, could have happened to everyone, who looks a bit GNC.

Sarah is a 27-year-old female Detransitioner. She’s currently a STEM student in Germany. Usually, she spends too much time in social Media and really likes the unguarded food of her flat mates (but usually rebuys the things taken).

Detrans Story; Laura B.

I’m a straight woman in my early 20’s. I identified as trans for 3 years. I questioned whether I was trans for 5 years before I formally transitioned. I was on testosterone for 7 months and I had a double mastectomy at age 20. I regret all aspects of transition and have had to do a lot of reflection about why it happened and how my evolution has gotten to where I am today.

All my life I have been gender non-conforming, and non-conforming in general as it pertains to societies’ norms. When I was young my mom said that I was very “gender neutral” and enjoyed clothes, activities, and toys associated with both boys and girls. My parents allowed me freedom of expression. However, as I grew older, I became more of a tomboy and preferred to wear boy’s clothes and hated everything feminine. I wasn’t aware of many social and gender norms at the time, but I knew I hated anything “girly.” I was aware that I was different from girls, but I also did not feel connected to boys either. I felt very isolated and lonely even as young as 5-6 years old. Later I thought that this might have been proof that I was queer or trans, but now I know it’s just because I was autistic.

I physically developed at age 9 and hated wearing a bra and having breasts. I dreaded having my period. When I did have my first period at age 11, I became very moody, irritable, depressed, and had behavior issues at home. I had a hormonal imbalance which caused a lot of moodiness along with general adolescent emotional dysregulation. This led to my dad becoming very emotionally and verbally abusive to me. I had self-esteem issues to begin with and my dad ruined my self- esteem for most of my life, through his emotional abuse. In middle school I did poorly socially and isolated myself because I couldn’t connect with others. I was diagnosed as being on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum at age 11 but I never got help for it. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety around this time, but I didn’t believe I was depressed for 2 years because I was trying really hard to be tough and not be vulnerable if I could help it. Eventually I accepted that I was depressed, and gained much self-awareness, and much shame and pain.

I was increasingly becoming less feminine. My depression got much worse and I was extremely lonely and had low self-worth. I was rejected by those I tried to befriend in middle school, and in high school I didn’t even bother trying to make friends. I was beginning to feel suicidal. Then, I started going on Tumblr and meeting people with similar niche interests that helped shape my identity. When I was 15, I started smoking weed, drinking, and trying any drugs I could, and ended up making a group of friends that accepted my eccentricities. They were theater kids and most of them were queer or gay. My parents asked if I was a lesbian because of how I dressed and acted, and I told them that I had no attraction to girls at all; I’d always liked boys.

When I was 15, I learned about gender identities online and thought that I was genderqueer, meaning that my gender was just all over the place, and that physically I was an androgynous female. However, I questioned if I were transgender because I seemed to fit a lot of the criteria. Some reasons I thought I might be trans are because I always gravitated towards male characters, personalities, actors, and musicians. I always played as a male character in games or the fantasy roleplay I would do with my friends and family as a child. I always saw myself in the perspective of a male protagonist or main character, whether that be in a movie or even the male singer of a song. I never related to the female characters portrayed in any media. My style of dress was masculine and I wore mostly men’s clothes and had short hair. I never felt comfortable with performative femininity and I was very androgynous. I didn’t like my body, resented my breasts, and desired male facial hair.

I thought my connections with sexuality, and with relating to male characters in movies, TV, games, and popular culture were proof I could be trans. In reality I was just expressing normal female sexuality towards men, and I related to male characters because female characters were badly written if written at all. The music I liked was male dominated so of course I related to the male singers. I didn’t relate to women in media because I never saw a woman that thought, looked, sounded, or acted like me. I was never around anybody who demonstrated that a girl like me could become a successful, adult woman later in life. I don’t recall any media representations of women like me whatsoever, unless they were being parodied. If I did see any women like me, they were butch lesbians, who I didn’t relate to because I was straight. Although I was very supportive of LGB rights, I had a limited view of lesbianism and had always been obsessed with men due to my sexuality and infatuation with romance, so I never thought much about what lesbian butches, or any women for that matter, could have in common with me. I had no female role models, so of course I related to male characters who were actually allowed to be complex human beings, instead of just sexy or passive female ideals.

When I was 16 I fell into a severe unrequited love for a gay male friend. He had led me on and I was devastated by his rejection. He hadn’t said he was gay when we became friends, but when he finally admitted it and when he rejected me, I felt it was entirely because of my sex and I felt horrible about myself. I felt that if I had a male body that he would love me. After all, I had never liked my female body and neither had anyone else; nobody had ever had a crush on me, and I was not tied to femininity in any way. In reality it WAS because of my sex, but it didn’t have anything to do with a fault of mine. He was a confused gay teenager. My gender and sex dysphoria started getting really bad and I berated myself every day for being such a misfit that wasn’t a proper woman or man, someone who pleased nobody and who was desired by nobody, even myself.

My identity was completely surrounded by self-loathing and depression. I began thinking I could be trans but I was terrified to think that my life would have to be that way. At 18 I started wearing a binder which I liked because my large breasts were covered up and I looked better in my men’s wardrobe with a flat chest. I longed to have a beard and look masculine, but I knew that it made no sense being a female. That year when I was 18, I fell in love with another gay male friend who led me on even worse than the previous one. He was genderqueer and confused about his sexuality which led him to play mind games with me for over a year. I was even more devastated when he finally realized he was completely homosexual, and I felt 100% to blame for not being loved romantically and sexually, yet again. I thought for sure he would love me and maybe I could be happy and not suicidal or depressed if only I had a male body. I was also watching a lot of gay male porn, thinking about myself and my unrequited love, and I would often cry because of how my fantasies were not reality. The fantasy of my body being loved and wanted and appreciated, and of being able to make my loved one happy sexually and emotionally. I wished so much that I had a penis so I could be sexually satisfied and satisfy “those I loved” aka those gay boys.

It seemed gay men could bend the rules and be feminine or androgynous but still have male privileges. They could be wacky, flamboyant, sassy, artistic, sensitive, etc. but still have male bodies and male privileges over women. I became very jealous and resentful of gay men during this time because it felt like my life, personality, sexuality, etc. made perfect sense as a gay man and not at all as a straight woman. I knew I could be however I wanted to be, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be as respected or appreciated as a straight woman. I started identifying openly as trans and using they/them pronouns. I was accepted by my family and friends without question. They basically knew I was a freak and messed up, so they didn’t even think it was a big deal.

I had been in therapy for some time but nobody really knew anything to say about my gender issues. My therapist suggested I find a different therapist who knew the issues, so I shopped around, but everyone was useless. Nobody had advice about my situation; they just said that they were supportive of my identity. I wanted help from my dysphoria very much but I was frustrated by the lack of professional help. I was suicidal and felt I’d never be wanted or loved or happy. Nobody was giving me any advice. So, when I was 19 I went to an informed consent clinic in Chicago and got testosterone. I told them the truth about my suicidality and mental illnesses, but they didn’t see an issue giving me testosterone to inject weekly after an hours chat. I told my psychiatrist that I wanted to have top surgery and she wrote a recommendation letter. She never did any evaluation to my knowledge to diagnose my gender dysphoria but I got the label somehow. My general practitioner, who I didn’t know well, wrote a second letter with no questions asked, and I sent them to a surgeon in my state. When I had just turned 20 I went into the hospital for suicidal ideation for the third time. When I got out I met with the surgeon and booked the top surgery. I tried to be positive but it seemed like false hope. I wanted to transform myself inside and out and decided to stop bothering with any bullshit, and just take control of everything. Evidently this meant being reckless and aggressive.

Testosterone did not make me feel any better. I had a little happiness thinking of growing a beard but it made me even moodier than I already was. I became more reckless, angry, and impulsive, started drinking and smoking weed a lot, driving intoxicated, doing petty theft, and getting into fights. I had top surgery in the summer. I was suicidal that very day but the surgeon did the job anyway as I insisted it wasn’t related to fear of surgery. It wasn’t in honesty, but it’s clear now that my emotions were even more distorted and overwhelming because of the depressing prospects of living as a “gay” trans man.

 The surgery didn’t make me feel any better. I enjoyed not wearing a binder and having a flat looking chest in my clothes but I certainly didn’t feel more “me” or “right” or “complete” like I hoped it might. I stopped hormones due to the emotional pain they increased. I planned to go back on when I became stable but never did. After that I didn’t think much about gender dysphoria; I was too focused on other traumatic events that had occurred around the time. I had lost my entire friend group because they didn’t want to deal with my issues any longer. I was spiritually broken and felt intense grief and shame. A few months later I started DBT and we practiced radical acceptance.

Over time I learned practical skills in therapy and accepted myself more and my flaws too. But, I found myself very lonely with no friends and ended up on Grindr again. I dated a 47 year old bisexual man for 3 months. Although it was very unhealthy, the big thing is that for the first time someone actually wanted me as a female. Someone actually appreciated my body a little bit and at least pretended to care about me. When he called me his girlfriend I felt no dysphoria; I felt happy. He eventually broke up with me because of being gay. After I broke up with him I started hooking up with more bisexual guys who appreciated my female body. I felt validated and began to relate to my body. I also became increasingly gender critical online, which I had always been even within the trans community, but I found radical feminist materials and realized so many things about myself and the world of gender. I spoke to and read a lot of detrans women’s stories which resonated greatly with me. The feminism and the spark of connection to my femaleness matched up and a few months later I detransitioned.

Now I have accepted and admitted that transition was a horrible idea that I made when I was immature, irrational, and hopeless. I don’t blame myself for it. I don’t fully blame the professionals who “treated” me, because I think most of them were well intentioned, but I do blame them for being so unhelpful in treating my dysphoria with therapy. They did NOT know what they were doing and signed letters to my surgeon knowing how suicidal I was, the self hate I had, and the other mental illnesses and environmental issues there were. It was far too easy for a suicidal, fucked up person to get experimental, life altering hormones. It was far too easy to get a double mastectomy and remove healthy organs. I’m not sad. I am angry at what has happened to me and many others due to this “identity affirming” method of “treatment.” I have since noted the many factors contributing to my dysphoria and those absolutely should have been dealt with using therapy, acceptance, and reality affirming suggestions by my therapists.

 I had PTSD from my father’s abuse, obvious self-esteem issues, romantic issues, autism, severe depression, anxiety, was suicidal, and hopeless. I was vocal and aware of my femaleness and expressed a desire to treat gender dysphoria with therapy, not transition, but instead of helping with any of those issues or thinking they might play into my gender dysphoric feelings, SEVERAL therapists and psychiatrists said nothing to me of accepting my body, loving my body, accepting my sexuality, loving my sexuality, asking me to observe other possibilities than being trans and having to transition. None of them asked me to consider the other factors in my life.

Currently I have no sex or gender dysphoria although I still have severe depression, and deal with anxiety, autism and ptsd. The dysphoria went away once I came to terms with my true reasons for self hate and discomfort, those being chronic depression, suicidal ideation, desperation for escape from my sad life, autism and being chronically misunderstood and isolated, confusion from gay males and my feelings for them, and being misled to think that social and medical transition are the only options to treat gender dysphoria. They are not; I have rid mine through therapy and I know many detrans people who cope with it without being trans.

 Do I still believe that my life would be easier and perhaps make more sense if I were a gay man? Absolutely I do. But that is now so far away from my reality or fantasy that I don’t care anymore, and I only want to be the best version of myself that I can be in reality.

I’m in a very strange place physically, and socially I’m still on the fringes of society. But I’m now trying to make it work for me, and I’m not compromising anything. I don’t miss my breasts as I basically have the body I had as a little girl before my breasts grew in. I still look and feel quite female and cognitively I’m aware and accepting of this. I’m still lonely and I still don’t know what straight man is going to dig this eccentric androgynous woman without breasts, but I’m getting a lot more secure with myself and with being alone in general. I feel mentally healthy, rational, and am no longer suicidal. For the most part, I am okay with my femaleness, although whenever my small patch of facial hair grows in, I have trouble shaving it, and wonder what I would look like now had I continued testosterone. All I know is that it’s hell being a weird depressed girl/woman, but it’s even worse being a weird depressed girl/woman, trying to look like and be a man, knowing that is truly impossible. I know that I have made some very foolish decisions with transition, but I did the best I could at the time and simply followed what seemed to be the only treatment afforded to people like me. Evidently, that treatment was just validating my self-loathing as an identity, with no actual mental health treatment occurring.

Regardless, I try to leave my transition, dysphoria, the traumas, etc. in the past and now have a much healthier present life, and a promising future as a genuine, certainly strange, woman. And I have the scars to prove it.

Laura B. is 24 and lives in the United States.

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Detrans Story: Laura

I was born in 1983, and as I sit writing this, I am 36 years old. I am female. I have always been female, but for nearly a decade, starting in my mid-teens, I was in denial of this fact. I took drastic measures to conceal it, including testosterone injections starting at age 18, a double mastectomy shortly after my 20th birthday, and cumulating in a second surgery on my chest, which was supposed to correct the poor aesthetic outcome of the first surgery. Instead, it was so badly botched that it threw me into a crisis which fortunately led to my detransitioning, although this word did not exist at that time. I was, for all intents and purposes, in uncharted territory.

In retrospect, I am glad that I experienced this wake-up call when I did, and did not remain on testosterone any longer. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the testosterone had caused me to develop vaginal and uterine atrophy, which led in part to a pelvic organ prolapse , which I will be dealing with for the rest of my life. If I had remained on testosterone longer, and my pelvic organ prolapse had been diagnosed while I was still under the care of gender doctors, I think it is very likely that I would have ended up having a hysterectomy. Today , as the mother of a toddler age son, I am very grateful that I did not lose my fertility. At the time, though, it was impossible for me to imagine any kind of future for myself. All I knew was that I could not follow the transgender path any longer.

At the turn of the millennium, at the age of 16, when I declared myself to be a “gay male”, changed my name, and socially transitioned, the transgender “community”, and society at large, were different than today. I did not know any other teenagers who were “transitioning”, so I was not subjected to social contagion, nor was I exposed to the idea that I had possibly been “born in the wrong body” or could “change my sex” through children´s books, television, or a seminar on “gender identity” at school.

I was not a feminine girl. At age 8 I was diagnosed with ADHD and put on a lot of medication which did not help me. I remember reading an article which claimed that the diagnosis of ADHD was pathologizing normal young boys, whose brains had supposedly been shaped by evolution to be quite different from those of young girls, and at this point, it occurred to me for the first time that I might actually have a “boy´s brain”. Fortunately, this was not affirmed by my psychiatrist at the time. If I had been born later, I think it´s likely that I would have become a pediatric transitioner.

I was socially ostracized by my peers, and in my early teens my parents’ house was repeatedly the target of vandals who spray painted slurs like “lesbo”. For a time, I actually wished that I could have been a lesbian, because I thought this would have provided me with an explanation for my difference, and some hope of finding acceptance and maybe love. I already knew that I could not be a lesbian though, because I was not attracted to women.

At this time, the internet still consisted largely of text-based message boards and MtFs still greatly outnumbered FtMs. I found information about transsexuality online, and although it had all been written by MtFs, I knew immediately that this was what I wanted. I researched passing tips, cut my hair, and found it surprisingly easy to pass as male, at least among people who did not already know me. Not long after that I dropped out of school, a year later I was hitchhiking and freight hopping around the United States, sleeping in abandoned buildings.

In San Francisco, in spring of 2002, when I was 18 years old, I started testosterone at what was then apparently one of the few clinics which specifically catered to “trans youth”, and where, although an interview with a psychiatrist was conducted, neither heterosexuality, nor an obviously dysfunctional life, were considered barriers to transition. The clinicians were activists. They affirmed everyone. It was a microcosm of what exists almost everywhere today. The trans ideology which I internalized at this time, and helped to spread, had just emerged, and I was one of its early and enthusiastic adopters.

I loved the way testosterone made me feel at first. I was stronger and more energetic, so I imagined it was actually improving my health, and that I had been something like a eunuch before I started taking it. I believed that transition was the only effective treatment for gender dysphoria, and that those who could not transition, or who “failed” at transition, inevitably committed suicide.

Based on assurances from the “trans community” that transition presented my only chance of survival, the implication that friends and family who questioned my transition did not care if I died, while in reality deeply paranoid, had seemed logical. I had been encouraged to sever ties with anyone and everyone who refused to affirm and support my transition, and I had. I then found myself isolated in the echo chamber which I had constructed, unable to voice my own doubts when they arose.

There were multiple times during the 5 or so years of my medical transition where I questioned where all this was taking me, but I could not bear to get honest with myself, let alone to get honest with the friends and family members who I had manipulated into enabling my self-destruction.

I felt very conflicted in the days and weeks leading up to my first chest surgery, but was afraid to back out because my parents had already paid for it, and according to the “trans community”, this made me privileged. I felt that all eyes were on me, and that it would be easier to go through with the surgery than to come up with an explanation for backing out last minute which did not cast transition in a bad light, making it harder for other people to “access care”.

This dynamic repeated itself even more dramatically before my second chest surgery. The same voices, internal and external, which had originally assured me that “top surgery” was no big deal, and would result in a beautiful male appearing chest, now told me that a “revision” was necessary to fix the prominent scarring, asymmetry, and itchy puss filled nipple grafts. My desperate attempts to convince myself and others that my chest was beautiful and that I was happy with my surgical results had failed. Again and again I was told that another surgeon could “fix” my chest, if I would only let them.

I had been made to understand that it was unacceptable for trans people who had been harmed by botched surgeries or the side effects of hormone treatments to express regret or talk openly about their experiences, because this threw the emerging transgender medical industry into disrepute, and would result in other trans people being denied these supposedly “lifesaving treatments”.

It was not permitted to acknowledge the unsatisfactory results of the first surgery, without committing to undergoing a second surgery. However implausible the second surgeon’s promises may have sounded, I had to believe that they could magically undo the misfortune of my first surgery, thus restoring my reputation, and the reputation of medical transition in general, which were both called into question by my very existence as a trans person with a publicly botched surgery.

Faith in the transformative power of scalpels and needles had to be maintained against all odds. The ideal of the triumph of the will over the flesh had no alternative. My motto at the time may as well have been “victory or death”.

After my second botched surgery, as the reality of a concave chest, permanently poor posture, nerve pain, and recurrent episodes of numbness and paralysis in my arm, sunk in, it was impossible to maintain the illusion any longer. In a state of desperation, I consulted a third surgeon, who suggested silicone “pec implants”. It became glaringly obvious that medical transition did not have the power to transform me into a male and could only destroy me. I had once loudly advocated for “trans rights”, and against “gatekeeping” and the requirement to wait until turning 18 to begin medical transition. Now, at 23 years of age, I found myself mutilated and voiceless. I was “collateral damage”. I contemplated suicide. It seemed that my only option was to disappear.

I stopped taking testosterone, and I became addicted, first to prescription painkillers, and then to heroin. Eventually I came to two realizations: firstly, that I needed to stop harming my body, whether through transition, through drugs, or whatever. I would probably be alive a long time, whether I liked it or not, and the unhealthier I made myself, seeking to avoid suffering, the more I would actually have to suffer. Secondly, that I needed to take accountability for my actions, because my self-destructive behavior was not merely self-destructive, but rather the direct and indirect cause of harm to others, often through the glamorization of self-destructive behavior, which seemed to come naturally to me.

When I got clean, I was fortunate to get support from other recovering addicts who shared their experience, strength and hope with me, and showed me by example that another way of life was possible, even for those, like myself, who had plumbed the depths of depravity. The first step was getting honest with myself, and I did. I became aware of the myriad ways in which my unwillingness to accept reality, and my struggle to manipulate reality, which I had once regarded as necessary, and even as heroic, had resulted in my descent to ever increasing levels of hopelessness and despair.

This awareness, and the belief that another way of life was possible, restored me to sanity. I had been relieved of a colossal burden, the belief that I had to control everyone and everything in order to survive, but life for me as a detransitioned woman was not always easy. Not only did I have ongoing health problems as a result of the harm that medical transition had done to my body, but my deep voice and lack of breasts caused me to stick out from other females, resulting in me sometimes being mistaken for a transwoman. The difference was that, unlike when I was attempting to “live as male”, I did not inflate these experiences and allow them to occupy every waking moment of my life. I found that it was possible to practice self-acceptance, even while still experiencing regret.

Despite my desire to find a man, fall in love, and start a family of my own, I discovered that the changes I had made to my body had rendered me unattractive to most men. Those few men who were attracted to me often had pedophile tendencies or other paraphilias, such as an amputation fetish. For this reason, I remained single, and largely celibate. It is possible that even if I had not transitioned, that I would have been unable to find a husband because of my poor social skills, but I will never know. One thing I have come to understand is that I have no control over the past, and that it is pointless to speculate over “alternative timelines” which do not exist.

Freed from the self-obsession which had dominated my life in my trans days, I was able to pursue things outside myself which were infinitely more interesting, such as teaching myself German, reading lots of books, including medieval literature, and especially Icelandic sagas, developing an appreciation of obscure baroque era composers, and learning to identify all of the flowering plants native to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area while photographing them in their natural habitats.

Several years ago, I noticed that the transgender ideology was no longer a fringe phenomenon, as it had been when I first encountered it, and in retrospect still was when I escaped it. Not only was it becoming omnipresent in the mainstream media, but many people who I had previously told of my traumatic experience with transition, who had reacted sympathetically at the time, were now being reeducated to think that it was bigoted to bring the “triumphal narrative” of transition into question, the way I did by simply talking about my own experiences. Some tried to pressure me into identifying as “non-binary”, others suggested that I attend a “transgender support group” when the subject of my chronic health problems came up. I felt support being quietly withdrawn. I was on the defensive. I felt put on the spot when people would ask for my pronouns, or otherwise go out of their way to imply that they assumed I must somehow be transgender. I did not know how to deal with this. I thought that I had more or less successfully managed to leave this chapter of my life in the past, but now it seemed to have caught up with me.

It was for this reason, in part, that I made the decision to leave the US, where I had been born, raised, and had all my experiences with transition and detransition. I remained here in Austria after visiting in the summer of 2015, because I believed the transgender ideology to be a uniquely American phenomenon, and I naively assumed that things here were different. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The transgender ideology may be largely a US invention, but it has been exported and adopted worldwide.

I started to notice things changing around me, over the course of a few years, symbols of the transgender ideology began to appear on the streets of Vienna, first as graffiti, then as signs in store windows. When I was pregnant with my son and attempting to find breast milk donors for him online, I discovered that many women active in the “alternative” mother scene online in Germany and Austria were raising their toddler age children as transgender, and that any other mothers who dared to question the wisdom of this were swept away in a flood of criticism. I was appalled.

At the same time, I learned that many people who prided themselves on being supportive of “trans rights”, including the insistence that young children should be allowed to determine their own “gender” and then be placed on a medical pathway before puberty if their chosen “gender” happened to clash with their “assigned sex”, were in reality so ignorant of the primitive state of transgender medicine that they actually believed the doctors would be able to change the children´s sexes. They did not understand that “sex change” is a trans medical industry propagated myth, and what actually occurs is cosmetic surgery, which can go very wrong, and even best-case scenario results in infertility and lifelong dependence on medication.

Multiple people who I interacted with while pregnant, including some who worked in social services or in doctors’ offices, believed that I was a transwoman, despite the fact that they knew I was pregnant. How could this be? I realized that the apparent adoption of science and reason as guiding principles by current societies was extremely fragile and superficial. Under the surface teemed a bottomless sea of medieval superstition. Most people were not engaging in scientific thinking, but merely passively accepting as truth whatever claims were made by credible seeming authorities, and these messages were rapidly being corrupted by ideology.

Last winter I stumbled upon a word that I had never seen before online, and that word was “detransitioner”. For the first time, I saw other women, younger than myself, who had been through something like what I had been through, and were talking about it publicly, at a panel in Great Britain. I reached out to some of them online. After all of those years, I was thrilled to no longer be alone with my experience, but quickly I realized that these brave young women, who had found the courage to speak about their experiences, were only the tip of the iceberg.

Over the past few years, while I had been preoccupied with trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, crying over not being able to breastfeed, and caring for a baby, the number of young people, particularly girls, who were medically transitioning had skyrocketed. This had resulted in a building tsunami of regret, which trans activists were doing their best to suppress, terrified that detrans people sharing their experiences would call the triumphal narrative of transition into question.

For over a decade I had suffered with the knowledge that my early trans activism and promotion of transition to my peers had resulted in harm to many individuals, damage which I could never undo. Now an opportunity to do an indirect amends had fallen into my lap, and I knew that I was morally obligated to act on it. Soon after I made a twitter account and posted a few videos on YouTube, talking about my story. After all those years, I finally found my voice .

Laura is 37 and currently resides in Austria. You can find her YouTube channel here:
Twitter: @FlohrFritz

Detrans Story: Rachel

I want to write this like a story, but it’s not. I lived it, I’m still living it. It was a choice I made and, now, I’m here.

I came out (for the first time) as a lesbian in 2012. I was 22 and had already had a lot of reckless adventures. I had previously dated mostly men, but never felt right about it. Growing up, I experienced a lot of homophobia from my father and the church we were in. I repressed my sexual orientation for a long time, smothering the flame of my true nature in order to keep to the standards I was raised with. But, slowly, the cage I had built up slowly began to crumble. I tip-toed out of the closet and nervously started dating women exclusively. It never occurred to me that I’d still have to navigate males in my dating pool, until I met a young transwoman. Her profile said nothing about being trans, so I was more than surprised on our first date. In fact, I felt a bit deceived. It seemed like anyone other than women shouldn’t expect to be dating lesbians.

I asked her a lot of questions, some of which were definitely inappropriate, but I thought it went well aside from the fact that I didn’t feel attracted to her. The only exposure I’d had to the T part of LGBT was through the ever-glamorous Maury and Jerry Springer. I’d never met anyone like that in person. I quickly began to feel pressured by her to have sex. She insinuated that I couldn’t be a lesbian if I wasn’t attracted to transwomen and went as far as to tell me she’d self-harm if I didn’t sleep with her. I didn’t pick up on it at the time, but all the tell-tale signs of abusive behavior were there. Regardless, I wanted to be an empathic person, capable of understanding the journey of others. I dug deep by watching YouTube videos and getting into Reddit discussions. I started becoming interested in the stories of female-to-male transsexuals and reached out personally to some of them. The more I talked with them personally, the more I felt I could relate to them. In these personal exchanges, they revealed so much of what I found in my own story- young women from abusive homes, girls with eating disorders, women who walked throughout the world, looking to shrug the spotlight off for just a moment of peace and quiet.

Since I was four, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t sexualized by an older man. First, I was molested by my father. He often made comments about how I was going to grow up to be a prostitute or how I deserved to be raped. I got a lot of these comments from other adult men in my life, too, from such a young age. I was raped for the first time when I was fourteen, and then raped by three other men at separate times. That shit sticks to you.

I’d do anything for a family that didn’t shuck me like corn. My parents raised me in their own brand of Christianity with very rigid gender roles. I was homeschooled until the age of twelve, with very limited interactions with the world. All I knew was that I wasn’t like the girl my parents wanted me to be. By the time I was seventeen, my father found out I was dating a girl and kicked me out. For a long time, I felt homeless. It’s no wonder I was so easily lured in by the “chosen family” of the transgender community.

Many transgender people find their place in the community through social media, particularly Tumblr. While I had individual communications through Reddit and emails, I didn’t get very involved in other modes of social media. Instead, I relied a lot on psychological and medical journals. For me, statistics and scientifically-framed information has always gone further to change my mind than personal stories. I fell into the belief that the brain is heavily influenced by sex, and that transsexuals have a diagnosable different-sexed brain pattern.

I started testosterone three months after the first time I’d heard anything about transgender identity. I saw a therapist for a month before I was approved for a prescription. At the time, a person was supposed to live in the role of the desired sex for 6 months before receiving the letter that allocated approval of hormones for a consenting adult. My therapist, after a few sessions, decided we could lie about that. Any practitioner who is willing to lie about your health, saying it’s for your own benefit, is either misguided or blinded by another motivation. My therapist was connected to a primary care physician who was known to prescribe hormone therapy with a very quick turnaround. My first visit, I was so nervous. I wanted to make sure I knew all the right things to say. The goal was to get the testosterone and I was willing to fudge a bit in order to get what I was so convinced I needed.

After starting cross-sex hormones, the changes came on fast. My voice dropped within weeks. It was crackling and unfinished. I started growing facial hair shortly after. My body fat changed from hourglass to pole, no thanks to the eating disorder that continued to aggravate my mind. My body started to change so quickly, I got whiplash. My mental health, which was pretty bad to start with, started to get worse. I had thought I’d get better. I thought I would begin to think clearly, be happy in my own body. I even thought I’d be more comfortable with men, as though I would be more comfortable with men if I could garner more respect as a gay man than as a woman. But everything started to get worse. I couldn’t recognize myself, on top of feeling like my skin was on fire and the piercing sting of the groping eyes of men hadn’t gone away. Learning that being female means oppression is innate, that is a hard lesson.

Year after year, I kept up my expectations that things would get better. And, year after year, the anxiety and depression of starting something that would never be finished took hold. But, really, I could never escape the prison of an oppressed body. I couldn’t escape the violence and abuse I’d experienced, and the world didn’t see the new me as anything different. I got to bathe in the light of trans oppression, which I never really faced. The most I got was being intentionally misgendered and, boo-hoo, that didn’t really change my life for the worse. Sticks and stones, right?

After years of hoping and waiting and nothing inside myself changing, I started to feel like something was wrong. The doctor never told me about health problems like increased risk of heart disease, stroke, or osteoporosis. Nevertheless, I believed my doctor when she told me that the worst to come was balding and body hair. Presently, there’s still not much information about the effects of taking cross-sex hormones and long-term health. Eventually, the health issues popped up like fucking daisies. I hurt all over, I was tired all the time, I got jaundice and urinated blood. I had a series of three trans ischemic attacks (otherwise called “mini strokes”), kidney infections, and liver failure. This was the first indicator to me that something was truly wrong. I was twenty-five, on a healthy diet and no other medications. After a consultation with my doctor, she proved unhelpful beyond telling me I should drink more water. I decided to lessen my testosterone dosage, though my doctor wouldn’t offer me an endocrinologist referral. I noticed a significant difference in my health, so I decided to stop hormones altogether. In 2019, the American Heart Association confirmed in an article that individuals on cross-sex hormones are at a higher risk of cardiovascular problems. Although there is still so much unknown regarding the health of females who take testosterone, I have no doubt in my mind that it negatively impacted my long-term health. The only prescription I was on- a high dose of depo testosterone. So, I decided to slow it down and eventually quit. I had no guidance from my therapist, who thought it was a bad idea. Or, from my primary care doctor, who refused my request for an endocrinologist and was not about to give me a detransition action plan. I had to figure it out on my own. So, I once again turned to research.

I read stories on women whose names I won’t mention here for their own privacy, but they spoke words that I understood. These women had come into trans identity much like myself, with histories of pain, looking for family and truth. But they made a point that should have been obvious from the start- changing your body doesn’t change the damage you hold. I was scared that I was falling into the same trap of finding empathetic souls who understood me in a field of shallow lies. Still, I caught whatever bug they had and started to feel more secure as a woman. And, I became angry. Angry that I had been told that I needed to fix my body in order to be happy and treated right, not told that I was deserving of human kindness and that my body was my own to lay the boundaries for. I decided to detransition altogether. The feeling of being out of control of my body didn’t just go away, with either my trans identity or with my initial detransition. I had to wrangle that horse on my own, and I’m still working with it.

I get asked so often “If you knew _____, would you do it again?” The answer is, yes. I would do it again. Because I would not know what my body or my mind or my spirit of endurance could handle if it hadn’t been for transitioning. It broke down my last resources to run away from the cruelty of how I’ve been treated for being female. It wore down the walls I built around my sexual orientation. It left me raw and without any other fast fixes, or insta-cures. I had to deal with my shit on my own. And that’s all I can say. Get therapy. Face what’s been done to you. It’s awful and it deserves the respect of being awful. You get to mourn. But you also get to be free.

Rachel is a 30-year-old woman living in the Pacific Northwest. She identified as transgender for 5 years and has been detransitioned for 3 years. Rachel works as a preschool teacher and enjoys film, videogames, and spending time with her pets, a parrot named Ziggy and a dog named Sputnik.

Follow on Twitter: @HabituallyFemme
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