On February 11, 2019, USA Today published Walt Heyer’s essay, “Hormones, surgery, regret: I was a transgender woman for 8 years—time I can’t get back.” Read it here:
I found Heyer’s take on gender dysphoria—the condition with which one is diagnosed before transitioning—overly simplistic. The result is that it does not shed light and provide the help I am sure he intends. Instead, it does harm. Thus, my rebuttal, which I submitted on February 19.
Hoping to have USA Today publish my essay, I could not directly refer to Heyer. I did not hear from them within seventy-two hours, indicating they are not interested in my piece, which means I can now post it.
Here are the areas in which I take exception with Heyer:
- He regrets the eight years he lived as a trans woman. I speak to that in my paragraph two.
- He finds all gender identity issues to be psychological. See my paragraph three.
- He asserts that genetics are immutable. See my paragraph four and onward.
- He claims many trans persons regret their transitions. See my paragraph twelve.
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I was transgender: I have no regrets
From 2015 to 2018, I lived as a transgender woman. In 2017, I had sex reassignment/gender confirmation surgery. I have since resumed living as a male.
It is common for those who have detransitioned to speak of regretting they had been transgender and underwent surgery. While I certainly wish I could have avoided the crushing gender dysphoria which led to my transition and surgeries, everything I learned, the people I met, and the experiences I otherwise could not have had, leave me grateful for what happened and where I now am. I have no regrets.
Hoping my gender identity crisis was psychological, as I sought to think my way out of suffering during the first months of talk therapy I found a physical reason for my gender conflict and, ultimately, why it resolved. Intense study led me to learn that one’s suffering incongruity between his body/sex and mind/gender is complex and far from understood.
Opponents of transitioning claim genetics can’t be changed and one’s sex is immutable. But, wait. There are women who have XY male chromosomes, and men who have XX female ones. Outwardly, they appear to be the females and males they were identified at birth, but it’s not that simple. They have an intersex condition. There also are intersex conditions which reside in the genitals and hormones, such as androgen insensitivity syndrome.
As for one’s sex being immutable, the word means “unchanging.” but if the person is born with attributes which do not line up with either male or female, the person will experience the consequences. Sometimes, they suffer conflict. This conflict can erupt into dysphoria, which means they have ill feelings about their sex and gender not matching.
Not all people with an intersex condition have an incongruity of body and identity. However, when a person does the suffering is real. It is not simply “in their head.” It is physical. And it often is successfully treated by their transitioning and identifying as transgender.
The causes of gender conflict remain mysterious. Some locate a psychological reason. I believe mine came from my endocrine system having been disrupted when I was in the womb, that my mom was given diethylstilbestrol (DES)—an artificial estrogen—to keep her from miscarrying me. DES has been found to be harmful to fetuses and is no longer prescribed to pregnant women.
Before transitioning, my testosterone and estrogen levels were typical of a man my age. But they didn’t work for me. As I took cross-sex hormones and my levels changed, I experienced great fluctuation in how I experienced myself. At times, I felt totally male. When my hormone levels shifted, my dysphoria returned. After gender confirmation surgery, I stopped producing large amounts of testosterone. Within months, I found myself feeling completely male. That sense has remained stable.
My hormone levels now reflect those of a genetic women my age, yet I feel like a man. I have learned of other men who take cross-sex hormones in order to realign their levels, striving to feel good as males. One man is in his third year. Having shifted his hormones without surgery, he’s found contentment being a male.
While there is yet no definitive proof that a disrupted endocrine system might be the cause of gender dysphoria, there are many maladies caused by altered hormones and we know their causes can be pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and plasticizers. Thus, when a three year old child, who is not yet old enough to have logical understanding of sex and gender, is able to persist, insist, and consistently proclaim that he or she is not the boy or girl as identified at birth, we are wise to dig deeply for a physical reason. A disrupted endocrine system could be the culprit.
As with uncovering psychological causes of gender dysphoria, discussing possible physical reasons indicates there is a malady. Many trans persons insist there is nothing wrong with them. They are fine being transgender. Thus, it is important to be respectful of all people in this delicate matter.
One reads arguments against transitioning, that there are large numbers of trans folks who regret it. Large numbers do not necessarily mean a majority, or even a significant minority. One can find many whose transition has provided them the wholeness of being they sought. I’ve gotten to know some of them. They report enjoying healthy lives as transgender persons.
Sex and gender, chromosomes and hormones, and every human is a complex being of mind, body, and spirit. Let us especially address with respect and patience the confounding condition which is gender dysphoria.
Greg Eilers is a former Lutheran minister, who writes at gregeilers.com. He recently published his memoir, “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane—One Wile Ride: My Journey with Gender Identity.”
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Links to back up all factual information in my essay: