Transgenders have high levels of mental-health problems such as depression, resulting in increased levels of self-injury and suicidal ideation (thoughts, attempts, and rates), finds a September study from the highly respected Nottingham Centre for Gender Dysphoria in the United Kingdom. The center reviewed 31 papers to arrive at that conclusion.
This is probably not the “trans civil rights problem” recent Emmy winner Jill Soloway meant when accepting her award for directing a comedy show sponsored by Amazon that features a transgender character. But statistics show it deserves to be.
If we examine the medical definition of self-injury, we get a better understanding of why changing genders is a mental health issue. The Mayo Clinic defines self-injury as “an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.” As someone who has undergone gender change, I know that people who indulge in self-destructive behaviors and suicide ideation have mental issues that beg to be treated and resolved.
Gender Change Is Self-Destructive
To a person undergoing gender transition, in the beginning it feels like the right thing to do, even exciting, for the first few months or years. I felt at peace for the first four or five years after I transitioned. Then I realized the high cost of that tenuous peace. Being transgender required destroying the identity of Walt so my female persona, Laura, would feel unshackled from Walt’s past, with all of its hurt, shame, and abuse. It’s a marvelous distraction for a while, but it isn’t a permanent solution when the underlying issues remain unaddressed.
Gender change is at its heart a self-destructive act. Transgenders not only annihilate their birth identity, they destroy everyone and everything in their wake: family, wife, children, brothers or sisters, and career. Certainly this demonstrates the behavior of someone hell-bent on total self-destruction and self-harm.
It occurred to me after much self-reflection that asking a surgeon to modify my appearance through a series of cosmetic procedures was simply a socially acceptable means of self-mutilation and self-destruction. Taken to the extreme, self-destruction leads to suicide.
Recovery from Self-Hating Is Possible
My turnaround began when I enrolled at one of California’s universities to study psychology, addictions, and recovery. As I studied and applied what I was learning to my own life, it became evident that transgenderism was a psychological disorder and recovery was possible.
For me, the restoration of my sanity would only come by reversing the gender change and going back to living as the male God had made me to be. It took much heart-wrenching anguish to come to that conclusion, but it was the only way to end my self-harm.
Surgery to change my appearance had not been the treatment for my gender dysphoria (the clinical term for persistent gender uneasiness). No amount of surgery can fix a disorder with psychological roots. The biological fact is that no one can change from one gender to another except in appearance.
Through many years of therapy, I began to see that gender dysphoria had been my survival mechanism to cope with intense emotional pain. The profound psychological hurts from my early childhood separated me from reality in some ways. Not everyone responds this way to abuse—some cut themselves as teenagers, run away from home, seek solace in substance abuse and addiction, or even bury the pain under seemingly positive pursuits such as achievement. A few of us cope by acting out in a different gender and finding a surgeon to do the cutting for us.
Unhealthy coping behaviors are signs of underlying psychological damage. Who but the psychologically damaged would go to such lengths to eradicate who they are in name, appearance, and gender so they could pretend to be someone they are not?
Powerful Feelings Are Not Reality
The feelings are so powerful and pervasive that we, the gender dysphoric, think our compulsion is real and we start acting out on it. We want to have gender-change surgery because it makes drastic changes in our appearance. The desire for transition becomes an endless obsession, a longing that demands we destroy and erase the histories of our birth and follow whatever “professionals” advise—hormone therapy, cosmetic surgeries, voice modulation lessons—all designed to allow us assume a new identity, one built on hurt, anger, and pain.
This was my story. I was 42 years old, married for 16 years and the father of two outstanding kids. But I had suffered in secret for most of my life from the desire to be female. The fantasy of changing genders became a passionate longing at the age of 15 when I first heard someone had done it: Christine Jorgensen, a retired Marine, had changed from male to female.
Over the next 25 years, I became convinced that gender surgery would be the key, my only option, to resolving the psychodrama going on in my head. Eradicate Walt, become Laura, and life would be lovely. But the reality is the strong feelings and the surgeries put the transgender in a limbo state, living somewhere between male and female and not fitting into either.
From Regret to Reality
Perhaps life’s wisdom is only found by looking back over one’s shoulder at the clear view of the carnage that results from the madness of self-destruction. Regret, once acknowledged, opened my eyes to see what I had thought was reality. “I should be a woman” was only an illusion. The moment the word “regret” tumbled from my lips, I was open to truth and wisdom. I started to consider the possibility of leaving my surgically-altered life as a transgender woman and resume living as the male gender given me at birth.
With this new wisdom I begin to study, pray, and meditate on a power higher than myself. Rather than focusing on my dissatisfaction with who I was, I became open to putting my broken life behind me. I could choose to remain self-centered and self-obsessed, but if I did, I would stay isolated from reality. The choice was up to me. I chose to try faith.
Although progress came slowly, eventually the manic, self-centered, relentless anxiety no longer drove me. I stopped thinking that what the surgeons had done to my body defined my identity. I came to accept that gender surgery didn’t change me into a woman. I was born a man, and I was still a man; my gender never changed. Therefore, even though I couldn’t undo all of the feminizing changes to my body, I didn’t need what is called “reversal surgery” to be a man.
The Secret World of Detransitioners
Ninety-nine percent of the emails I receive are encouraging. Many come from regretters or their loved ones who validate the findings of this recent Nottingham study about self-destruction and suicide ideation. When I probe regretters gently about experiences in childhood, 100 percent of the time they reveal an abusive or traumatic environment that triggered the onset of gender dysphoria, just like it had for me.
Detransitioners live in secret and hide the shame and disappointment of falling for the fraud of gender change. In the emails I get, I hear how they want to detransition, but do not want to go public or be counted among the ones whose lives were so torn apart. Some will come to Jesus Christ for their redemption and restoration. Others will reject faith but through sheer willpower, driven by strong internal forces, find restoration of the gender once lost. Some lose the fight and give in to suicide.
The world of regretters that I see and support is vastly different from the world of the transition advocates, those in a relentless pursuit to convince the world that being transgender is the ultimate of all genders.
The advocate world includes intellectuals and medical practitioners, who benefit financially and professionally from providing transition services to this population of hurting people. Some surgeons even perform reversal procedures for regretters who transitioned and want to go back, but the focus is primarily on getting people diagnosed as gender dysphoric and put on the fast-track to transition. Hardly a word is spoken to clients about regret or the high rate of attempted suicide after surgery.
The regretters who have contacted me report that none of their doctors recommended treatment for underlying psychological distress. Instead, the psychologists were quick to diagnose them with gender dysphoria, prescribe hormone therapy, and approve them for surgery.
Not All Doctors Approve
Medical community reports of transgender unhappiness even after transition are annotated in my book, “Paper Genders.” For example, Charles Ihlenfeld, an endocrinologist who had worked for six years with Dr. Harry Benjamin and administered hormone therapy to some 500 transgenders, concluded that 80 percent of people who expressed the desire to change genders should not do so. Ihlenfeld said there was too much unhappiness and too many suicides among transgenders and, as a result, he quit administering hormone therapy to them.
Back in the late 1970s, Paul McHugh was in charge of the Johns Hopkins Hospital psychiatry department and gender clinic. For ten years, the clinic performed gender surgeries. When a follow-up study was conducted to objectively judge the outcomes, they found no evidence that changing genders improved the quality of life of transgenders. McHugh concluded, “Changing genders is collaborating with the madness of mental disorders.”
Studies published in the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the Netherlands speak of the psychiatric and psychological disorders present in a majority of transgenders, and report on the high rate of suicide in the gender-changing population. Others along the way, like me, have sounded the warning about the lack of medical necessity for gender reassignment surgery
Fast-forward to this September, to the Nottingham Centre report that transgenders show increased rates of self-harming behaviors and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and it’s the same story of discontent. This study suggests transgenders are hell-bent on self-destruction.
Let’s Glamorize Self-Destruction
On the other hand, the media are hell-bent on glamorizing transgenders. The media find stories of transition newsworthy. Warning signs such as the robust objective research findings apparently are not newsworthy and not reported. Apparently transgender TV shows yield better ratings if the people are shown moving towards their path of self-harm. But when the transgender life loses its luster and today’s media darlings experience discontent and question their decisions, where will the coverage be then?
My experience was no different. Everyone was supportive and interested while I lived the transgender life. Now that I have gone back, producers are not interested in my story. Recovery isn’t as titillating a subject and doesn’t reach the ratings stratosphere.
My life is living evidence that no matter how broken a person’s life seems to be, it can be restored to joy and fullness. The door to restoration and sanity is open; anyone can live free apart from the madness of being transgender.
I’m the lucky one. I share the my message of hope worldwide, traveling wherever I’m welcomed, writing books and articles, participating on radio and television shows, offering a Web site full of info, all in an effort as best as one man can to prevent others from unnecessary gender surgery, regret, and suicide. Through my Web site alone, the message has reached 180 countries and hundreds of thousands of people.
I share this recent study because it was conducted by a gender dysphoria clinic and points us to a deeper understanding of the transgender mind; that is, transgenders have mental health problems that lead to self-injury and suicidal behaviors. If not a civil-rights issue, this is certainly a human compassion issue that ought to call us, not to exploit transgenders for money and attention, but to address their deepest needs.