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.

Apparently, I was an abused child

While this is an essay about my not having been sexually abused, searching images to enhance this piece led to my finding the ones you will see throughout, of which all of us need to be aware.

Child_Molestation_copy

On Monday, I addressed a speech by former transsexual, Walt Heyer, in which he claimed that giving one’s life to Jesus, along with having faith and desire and willingness were the ingredients for being healed of one’s longing to transition from his birth sex. Diagnosing his theology, I was thankful to recognize that, despite my apparently having three not-enough-faith-strikes against me, the Holy Bible confirms that I am, indeed, a Christian.

Today, I take up Heyer’s claim that all gender dysphoria is caused by one’s experiencing childhood trauma, especially that which is akin to what he says he suffered, being cross-dressed by his grandmother, sexually abused by an adopted brother, and severely beaten by his mother.

Is it true that some people suffer gender dysphoria because of similar abuse as children, even considering themselves transgender, and even transitioning? Yes. Is it true that this is the case for all people, or even many, who suffer gender dysphoria, as Heyer asserts? Not. Even. Close.

88440-84503

Heyer eventually found that he had been incorrectly diagnosed. His gender dysphoria was not due to his being intersex—which includes conditions of the genitalia, chromosomes, or hormones—but was due to his abuse which caused him to suffer dissociative personality disorder (formerly known as having multiple personalities). A wrong diagnosis will lead to wrong treatment, and transitioning to female was wrong treatment for Heyer. He is not the only person to endure a wrong diagnosis; just because a person feels a pull toward the other sex does not mean he or she is intersex and would benefit from transitioning.

I have met, and have had thorough conversations with a couple of transgender people who were sexually abused in childhood.  As I have listened to them, I have wondered if the abuse were behind their gender dysphoria, and if transitioning might not be what they need.  Yet, I also know there are many other factors—including that they are intersex—behind their being transgender.

Onto diagnosing my situation. Before I ever knew there were more intersex conditions than those of the genitals, I had no idea why I wanted to be a girl. It was not until 2013, when Julie found the study of the artificial estrogen, which I find to be the likely culprit behind the disruption of my endocrine system when I was forming in the womb. The study found a large number of males, 47%, who identify as trans. Learning of this drug opened the door to the wealth of information I possess today.

When, that year, I began therapy, and I was determined to remain male, I brought up every topic and asked every question that occurred to me. While I never suspected that I held any repressed memories of having been abused as a child, I examined every angle of my upbringing. I pondered every aspect and angle of my life, dozens of times, and ran possibilities by my therapist. When we moved to Indianapolis and I changed therapists, I spoke to her as if never having seen a therapist, so determined was I to remain male.

if-you-tell-anyone-ill-kill-you

 

The facts are these: I could not have had a more idyllic childhood, or better parents, or a safer home, or an extended family—both Mom’s side and Dad’s—in which every relationship was beneficial. Home life, school life, neighborhood life—all were super, superb, supreme.

If I suffered any trauma from abuse, it was from being the middle child of five rambunctious kids in our house!

Last spring, when I went public with my gender dysphoria, a number of people asked if I considered that I had suffered childhood trauma, or if I had been sexually abused, or if I had an overbearing mother, or a vacant mother, or an overbearing father, or a vacant father. No, no, no, no, no, and no.

Was there ever a point in my young life where I was terribly troubled? Overly fearful? Felt exposed to danger? (I’m trying to think of everything.) No, no, and no.

As a kid, I was regular as they come. As an adult, I have been as regular as they come.

Well, you know. Mostly.

More than regular, I was—this is how I described myself in my going-public piece, “Who Am I?”: I am as straight as a yardstick. As a youngster, I never tried alcohol or tobacco or any illicit drug, and behaved myself with the girls I dated. As an adult, I have never once abused alcohol and still never tried tobacco or any illicit substance.

Quite the opposite of bad habits, I have practiced many good ones, such as being a jogger since I was twenty-two. I get my highs from down-to-earth activities.
I’m a geek. A dweeb. A conformist.

People with gender dysphoria are habitual alcohol abusers, some studies showing over 40%. Adults, who had been sexually abused as children, suffer many harmful habits in an effort to ease their pain.

childabuse517_2EAC_extended_web1

As a pastor, I worked with two people who had, as young children, been sexually abused by adult relatives. Hearing their stories, watching them speak, and digesting the inner turmoil they continued to experience was an eye-opener for me.

Both of these people used a lot of harmful ways for trying to cope. Between the two of them, they drank to excess, used illicit drugs, burned their flesh with cigarettes, cut themselves, and were sexually promiscuous.

Bad coping mechanisms are as common to those who suffered abuse as good habits are to those who have been blessed with love and safety and an ideal upbringing.

Walt Heyer bothers me a lot. Why? First, because his view of gender dysphoria and transgender is so narrow and his theology is terribly wrong. Second, because he has the ear of a lot of people and most of them are the people whose ears I long to fill with sound research into gender dysphoria and being transgender, and with proper Christian theology.

No, apparently I was not an abused child. I suffered no trauma after I left the womb. Rather, in the womb, I suffered trauma to my endocrine system, which caused my hormones to scream at me GIRL when I should have been content as a boy.

That is how I will understand myself unless and until I uncover some other studies or materials or hypotheses which provide well-researched, reasonable possibilities.

STEP-3

 

Apparently, I am not a Christian

A year ago, I underwent a faith-healing. At the same time, last summer, I was receiving counsel from a prominent minister in my Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), who has asked me not to reveal his identity, whose goal, as I believed from the way each conversation went, was to use God’s Word to get me to convince myself that I was a male.

I flunked at both. Add these to my lifetime of failed repentance, never losing the desire to be a female, and I have the fatal three strikes against me: I’m out. I don’t have enough faith in the Lord, or, even worse, perhaps I do not have genuine faith in Christ. If I had, I would have been healed by those who laid hands on and prayed over me, I would have been able to find confidence in my being created a male, and my lifetime of repentance would have borne fruit.

Apparently, I am not a Christian.

It gets worse.

This topic was prompted by my watching of another video of the former transsexual, Walt Heyer, in which he addressed the group, STAND4TRUTH.

Last March, I wrote about Heyer in my piece, “Sex Change Regret?”
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/sex-change-regret/

Here is a summary of Heyer’s life, from my previous piece:
• At age five, Heyer says, “My grandmother, when I was being babysat by her, started dressing me in female clothing.” He reports that his older, adopted brother sexually molested him and that his mother’s discipline became so severe that, once, she was afraid she had killed him.
• Heyer suffered gender conflict and, at age forty-two, fully transitioned, including sex reassignment surgery, to Lauren Jensen, and lived as Lauren for eight years. Fifteen years ago, he detransitioned and became an active opponent of all things transgender.

In the speech to STAND4TRUTH, Heyer recounted all of this. Here is the final minute of his speech, beginning at 12:33. As you read the following paragraph, keep in mind the three faith-strikes I have against myself.

“All the things that were lost have been redeemed and restored because I had faith. And the Lord came to me because I gave my life to Him. And anybody who struggles with these issues we know today are struggling with issues that happened in early childhood, and through good therapy, good counseling, prayer, and good people, all of them, if they have a desire and are willing, can be redeemed and restored just as I have been.”

Did you catch the reasons Heyer was healed and I was not? Here they are, in his words:
• “I had faith.”
• “And the Lord came to me because I gave my life to Him.”
• “And anybody who struggles . . . if they have a desire and are willing, can be redeemed and restored just as I have been.”

If Heyer is correct, here is each of my strikes:
• I do not have faith.
• I did not give my life to the Lord.
• I do not have a desire and am not willing.

There it is. Heyer had the faith, the heart for the Lord, and the desire and will, and he was healed. I did not. What else could it possibly be?

You knew I would have an answer.

I begin with the middle item, this idea of giving one’s life to the Lord. Heyer practices the popular Christian faith in which a person makes a decision for Christ. Decision Theology became rooted in the USA with the revivals of early American history then, in our era, by Billy Graham’s rallies where attenders were encouraged to come forward and give their lives to Christ. “Make a decision for Christ” is the common practice across American Evangelicalism.

This flies in the face of God’s Word. Three scriptures will suffice; I could quote many more.
• Ephesians 2:1: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
• Colossians 2:13: “When you were dead in your sins . . . God made you alive with Christ.”
• John 1:12-13: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

Here are the two keys. From the John quote, no one can come to God by his own decision, which flies in the face of “I gave my life to the Lord,” and before the Lord gives us faith we are dead. Dead people can do nothing for themselves, so how could they give themselves to Christ?

We do not give our lives to the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for us, then the Holy Spirit gives Christ to us, making us alive via the gift of faith, and then we are able to live to the Lord.

I was “born of God” (John 1:13) when I was baptized at the age of nineteen days.

Back to Heyer’s claim that it was his faith which did the trick, and that he had the desire and willingness. In my unceasing prayers to the Lord—especially after my gender dysphoria crushed me in 2013—I would remind the Lord that I believed He could heal me if He were willing. I believe the events recounted in the Gospels of Christ’s healing every sort of malady. I believe that nothing is beyond His grasp. And I believe that He hears my prayers, loves my prayers, and will only answer them according to His good and gracious will for my life.

Let’s assume that I do, in fact, have genuine faith in the Lord and return to that evening, a year ago, when two women laid hands on me and prayed over me with the explicit intent of healing my gender dysphoria. One of the two is a friend, and the other is her relative. Both told me of specific times God performed a miracle of healing in their lives.

Because they longed to pray over me, and I am grateful for every Christian who displays love for me, I gladly visited them. They prayed over me in every way you can imagine, imploring the Lord to heal me. After awhile, I prayed out loud with them, reminding the Lord of how I had prayed these exact things to Him for so long.

We prayed for a half-hour. As we chatted afterward, the conversation kept returning to my believing the Lord would heal me. I felt like the women were saying I had to have enough faith. Each time I heard it, I addressed it with them: “Are you saying I don’t have enough faith?” “No, no,” was always the answer, yet the ladies kept saying things like, “If you will just believe.” I would press the point again, even asking if God heals us based on our having enough faith (and how do we know when we do or do not?) or out of His grace and goodness?

We remained at an impasse. I was not healed of my desire to be a female.

Several weeks before that evening, I began my sessions with the LCMS theologian. I admire this man, having read and deeply appreciated some of his books, and love him for having reached out to me immediately after he learned about me. I was totally invested in his counsel. I so longed for it all to be over, to be a man, to stop freaking out my family and fellow Christians.

Sadly, it only took a few sessions for us to reach a stalemate. He always insisted, “God created you a male” and “this is what God intends you to be.” I would remind him that I was not a regular male, but had a physical condition which was the cause of my struggle, and if God intends me to be a male then why doesn’t He answer YES to my prayers to be a male?

Several times, I made a clear confession of my faith, wanting to demonstrate to this theologian that I have both an abiding faith and hold proper theology. He never found error in my theology.

I told him that I was looking for his key to all of this—I so wanted him to say something that no one had before said to me, the thing to unlock the door to healing. He admitted that he had nothing up his sleeve. Ultimately, his mantra was, “God created you a male and intends you to be a male.” Sadly, because that was the foundation of his argument, because I had received the exact same counsel from several pastors over the two years prior, and because it felt like he wanted me to use faith and determination—hello, Walt Heyer—to be able to abide in my male self, that was the end of our sessions.

Now, how do I know this is not a faith issue? And how do I know that I have not struck out, as I suggested up front? Here is how.

The craziest thing happened on my way to transitioning: My faith in Jesus Christ deepened. My desire to worship each Sunday heightened. My pleasure at receiving the Lord Supper resulted in my often leaving the Communion rail in my tears of joy. My prayer life has expanded. My devotion to reading God’s Word is the first thing I do seven days a week. My thirst for showing my love for Him through my love for my fellow man cannot be quenched.

The Lord had always blessed me with an abiding faith and desire to serve Him. Remember, I was a minister and loved it! Yet, through these past three-plus years, and in the two years since I retired, everything of the previous paragraph is bigger, deeper, wider, greater, more profound.

Whew! I am a Christian, after all.

Finally, Walt Heyer believes that all transgender people are mentally ill due to early childhood trauma. More on that in a piece which I will likely title, “Apparently, I had a traumatic childhood.”