As anyone who has tried will tell you, it is nearly impossible to reason with someone caught up in the counterculture that demands and glorifies self-destruction. But sometimes we should try.
Guided by transgender compatriots in the proper talking points, potential transgender victims view friends and parents who question them as being out of step with today’s culture. They often perceive themselves and other trans people as brilliant and enlightened.
Taking cross-sex hormones can deliver a temporary euphoria that many mistake for proof of its efficacy. Unfortunately, hormones adversely affect sound thinking and reinforce the disordered conviction that surgical transition is right for them. They are blind to their own self-destructive behavior and deaf to counter arguments or data.
That was true in my life. I surrounded myself with cheerleaders for transition and pushed skeptics out of the way. Following a doctor’s advice, I took hormones and had mutilating surgery. The self-destruction was complete.
Ultimately, however, I still had the same issues as before, but with the additional complexity of living in a female persona. After eight years of living as a “woman,” I finally got it through my thick head that nothing had changed and decided to go back, a process sometimes known as detransition.
I enjoy a unique position of now having communicated with hundreds and hundreds of men and women who experience remorse and regret. They reach out to me after looking at my website, sexchangeregret.com, to tell me “changing genders” was the biggest mistake of their lives. They say, “I want my life back,” or, “I want my body parts back.” They tell me the hormones and surgery did not solve their distress; it added to it.
So how should we talk to those struggling with the idea of transition before they do something they regret? First, be armed with knowing you stand on the side of truth.
That fact seems so obvious, but many people fall for the lie that sex can change. Genitalia can be rearranged, and body parts removed, but that doesn’t change one’s sex.
Sex is immutable. The most renowned gender experts have testified that even when a person undergoes gender-change surgery and takes cross-sex hormones, as I did for many years, genetic sex and internal morphology will not change; they are fixed at conception.
Cross-sex hormone therapies and surgeries are never a proper treatment for people with psychological issues or unresolved childhood trauma, even for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Using hormones and surgery to treat childhood abuse or other emotional scars is absurd, reckless, and deeply damaging.
Likewise, psychological disorders such as body dysmorphia, depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug abuse, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and autism do not improve with hormones and surgery. Puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and mutilating surgeries have dangerous lifelong consequences.
I have developed some conversation starters based on my 76 years of experience including years of interactions with hundreds of regretters, detransitioners, and people still identifying as transgender who want to know how to go back. The purpose of the conversation is to learn “what happened” that caused them to not like who they are and to help them reflect on their journey from a new and different perspective.
During my transgender years, people exhibited true compassion not in affirming me in a false identity, but by asking uncomfortable, but caring, questions. My compassion is motivated by wanting to protect people from unnecessary body-mutilating procedures. True compassion means not collaborating with the rush to medical intervention.
Every time I’ve asked a regretter what happened, he or she was able to pinpoint something — loss, trauma, abuse, bullying, a perceived lie — that started the idea to erase who he is and try to become someone else. Here are some ways to pose the question:
- Tell me what “caused you” to engage in this self-destructive behavior? Why do you want to “erase” who you are to become someone you can never be?
- Tell me “what happened.” What was the “event” that started you down the road to transition?
- Have you ever had some form of trauma or abuse?
- How were you introduced to the idea of becoming a transgender-identifying person?
- Did you learn about transgenderism in internet chat rooms? In school?
Over the years, I’ve learned that taking on a transgender identity is not about becoming someone else; it is about erasing oneself. That changes the perspective of treatment away from guiding the person toward a new identity to looking for the reason behind his or her desire for self-destruction.
Recently, in working with a mom whose 13-year-old foster daughter had been identifying as a boy from age 10, I asked mom to sit quietly with the girl and explore the “what happened” questions. After a bit, the 13-year-old revealed, “I had a bad dad.” Mom hugged her and listened. Within five days she was back to identifying as a girl. The mom said she had never seen her so happy. The young girl sent me an email thanking me for helping her mom help her.
Another mother of a 15-year-old girl explored this line of questioning in a quiet conversation with her daughter who was insisting on identifying as a boy. When mom asked her daughter, “What happened?” the 15-year-old disclosed her dad had sexually molested her. Both mom and the girl cried. In that tender moment, the young girl said, “I really didn’t want to be a boy.”
There’s no magic here. It’s real people asking real questions and listening to the response in love. It will not work every time. But if we begin with the perspective that people engage in self-destructive behavior because they have been hurt, we place ourselves in a better position to talk and ask questions that help people see adopting a transgender identity won’t solve it. They can’t become someone else. They need help to accept and cherish who they are.
Lastly, have these conversations without an expectation of change. Love the person, pray for him or her, keep the communication line open. As my pastor told me when I was living as a pseudo-woman, “It’s my job to love you. It’s God’s job to change you.” That’s just what God did for me.