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 is 24 and lives in the United States.
Her Instagram is http://www.instagram.com/funkgoddesign