Robert Wenman was four years into being a “full-time” transgender woman in Ontario, Canada, when a police officer asked him: “You got all your legal rights by now. Why don’t you just enjoy life as a woman?”
The question left the then-LGBT activist stuttering: Here he was, training a group of law enforcers on transgender rights, yet he couldn’t answer a basic question: Why? Why was he still campaigning, still fighting?
The Canadian healthcare system, after all, had paid for his sex reassignment surgery and 10-day postoperative stay. The court changed his birth records from Robert John to Rebecca Jean. He had a secure job at the Canada Post with full access to female facilities, and his family accepted him. Wenman was the textbook case of a successful transgender woman—so why, he wondered, did he feel he was constantly battling something?
For days, Wenman stewed on the question and thought about all the ways he had blamed “intolerant society” for “the destruction in our souls.” Yet the deeper he searched his heart, the clearer he reached a painful acknowledgment: He had said he was fighting for transgender rights, but he was really fighting an internal battle. “I’ve been trying to fix things on the outside without fixing the inside,” he said.
The idea that anything needs fixing inside a transgender person is anathema to big media. Time calls transgender rights “America’s next civil rights frontier.” The New York Times has, in its own words, “forcefully” advocated a transgender “crusade,” with former Times editor Andrew Rosenthal calling those who question the transgender movement “ignorant, stupid people.” This year, National Geographic joined the crusade, dedicating its first issue to the emerging “gender revolution.”
What’s missing from these stories, however, are the silent laments of individuals who now see their transgender experience as psychological and physical mutilation.
Walt Heyer, a 76-year-old ex-transgender (see “Walt’s story“) who speaks publicly about his regret, says he gets regular emails from despairing transgender men and women who found him through his website sexchangeregret.com. Many underwent irreversible surgery and now regret it. They write him horrified and helpless: What do I do now? I feel like dying.
Heyer said every single person who contacts him reveals some kind of traumatic background and psychological scars. Their heartbreaking stories align with Heyer’s own personal experience that “transgenderism is an umbrella term for a group of mental disorders that have not yet been treated.” And the consequences are devastating: According to studies, suicide rates are 20 times higher among transgender adults who undergo hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery. Meanwhile, a 2014 study found that 63 percent of patients diagnosed with gender dysphoria (a condition in which patients feel conflicted about their biological gender) had at least one co-occurring mental disorder, and 33 percent had major depressive disorders.
That’s why Heyer grates his teeth at the burgeoning pro-transgender narrative: “This is the tragedy: Not one of these people needed to go through surgery. What they need is deep, effective, long-term psychotherapy.” But when the psychiatrists themselves recommend hormones and surgery to treat gender dysphoria, what alternative options are available?
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