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: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0PzPV2-mrkbxLPk2-eY53Q