I was transgender: I have no regrets

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:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/02/11/transgender-debate-transitioning-sex-gender-column/1894076002/?fb_action_ids=10156189577938494&fb_action_types=og.comments&fbclid=IwAR06NJxBcezkH4EbV2UDy1mkP7uRN6Zr-dR4aXkqDuBb0H1aSq7kXLEY994

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:

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/swyer-syndrome

https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25059

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/androgen-insensitivity-syndrome

https://www.cdc.gov/des/consumers/about/history.html

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/using-hrt-to-remain-male/

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm)

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Q & A #10

The questions in this post are placed in an orderly progression of thought, from the question of sinning, to being intersex, to the experience of gender dysphoria, to the need to live as a female.

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Q: Are you not giving in to your sinful desires? If you find it okay to transition, isn’t that the same as telling an alcoholic to cure himself by continuing to drink?

A: The first question is an important one, while I find the second a distortion.

Where one begins determines how this is viewed. I view myself as having an intersex condition, which means I am not purely male but have a female aspect to me, my endocrine system having been disrupted so that I have always felt that I should be female. From this starting point, my transitioning is not giving in to a sinful desire, but treating a malady the way any person longs to resolve a physical problem and enjoy wholeness.

If one sees transitioning as flowing from a mental illness, perhaps it is not proper treatment. Indeed, I have known those who suffered gender dysphoria because of a mental illness, but their gender dysphoria was a mask for the deeper malady and an inaccurate diagnosis.

If one sees transitioning as serving a sexual desire, a fetish, or the like then, yes, it would be giving in to one’s sinful desire.

Therefore, to the second question, clearly my answer is “no.”

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Q: Has your intersex condition been diagnosed by a doctor?

A: It has, as much as a condition of this sort is able to be diagnosed at this time.

I see an endocrinologist. That my being on hormone replacement therapy has provided me with peace is recognized as the proof we can have at this time that my endocrine system was maligned in such a way that when I had regular testosterone and estrogen levels for a male I was in turmoil, and now that they reflect that of a female I have physical peace.

My doctor said, “The only way we have at this time, where we might see definitively how you are wired, would be to do an autopsy.” You can imagine that I took a pass on that.

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Q: Would you distinguish between a person who has transgender feelings and a person who suffers from the intersex condition you talk about?

A: There is a wide range of possibilities inside of this conversation. If I did not have two things to which I can point that my endocrine system had been disrupted—my mom being on estrogen when pregnant with me and that she was under extreme stress because of my brother (stress is more and more being recognized as an endocrine disruptor)—and if I did not have other signs in my body which could be signs of it—I went through puberty extremely late, I have no Adam’s apple, and I am lefthanded (research is suggesting lefthandedness, which is found in only 10% of people, could be the result of endocrine system disruption)—I would be stumped as to my having gender dysphoria, with no other thing in my past to account for it.

We know from specific people—Walt Heyer is the poster child for this because he is widely known—that gender dysphoria, which can lead to a person transitioning, can arise from something other than an intersex condition. Heyer experienced extreme trauma when a young boy, including sexual abuse. I personally know two genetic males, who now have transitioned, who tell of heinous sexual abuse to them in their youth. Yes, I wonder if they have been correctly diagnosed, whether they could have resolved the gender identity issue if therapy were directed another way and would not have had to transition. For one of these folks—both male to female—transitioning meant the loss of marriage, the inability to get a job, and many difficult situations in the world; a complete disruption of life which any person would prefer to avoid.

Knowing that transgender feelings do not arise from only one source, it is vital that a proper diagnosis is made. Sufferers need to be honest with themselves, and with their doctors and therapists, so that these professionals are able to do their best in correctly serving them.

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Q: How is it that the female side has overwhelmed the male side such that you desire to dress as a female and be called by a female name?

A: The answer is very simple: the brain is the quarterback of the body. I wrote about that here:
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/brain-and-body/

Though I remain logically able to recognize that I am a genetic male, my entire sense is that I am a female. Therefore, of course, I desire to dress and live as a female. Here is where I ask men: How would it go for you if you were forced to dress and live as a female, to be seen as a female, to be socialized as one? Surely, this would be horrible, even torturous to you. Indeed, that is the answer I always receive. That is what living as a male was for me.

We know the sex hormones are tremendously powerful. Women with distorted hormones can become very emotional. Men with elevated testosterone can become very aggressive, and some studies suggest some violent criminals were experiencing too-high of this hormone. And men with testosterone which is too low complain about being sapped of energy.

This informs me, that a messed up endocrine system would have the impact which it had in me, and now that the two sex hormone levels have been reversed that I am enjoying physical peace. And, naturally, now feeling fully female, comes the need to dress and live as a female.