A Newsnight report has highlighted the growing phenomenon of ‘detransitioners’ – those who underwent the process of ‘changing sex’, but later regretted it and now wish to return to their birth sex.
Deborah Cohen spoke to Debbie, who underwent sex-reassignment surgery and lived as ‘Lee’ for 17 years.
She also spoke to Charlie Evans, who began transitioning and lived as a boy for several years before desisting. Evans has now formed an advocacy network for others with similar experiences.
“A lot of these women feel that they were not in a state to be able to give consent”.
Debbie had a traumatic childhood, but did not decide to ‘change sex’ until she was 44, after watching an episode of Kilroy where women who were living as if male were interviewed.
She underwent full surgery, changed her name and spent 17 years on testosterone, which caused her to grow facial and body hair, to develop more muscle, and her voice to lower.
She said she thought, “I would become a different person. I’d become accepted in the world.”
‘This is a mistake’
Now 61, she is filled with regret.
“I remember breaking down. It was like: ‘This was a mistake. It should never have happened.’”
But part of her trauma was considering what to do now, and how she could ever “go back to being the Debbie that I was”.
“You know, how do you go through yet another harrowing transition? What do you do? I’ve got no hair, I’ve got a beard, I’ve had all my body mutilated.”
She added: “I think I’d have to wave a magic wand, but I hope my hair will grow back in time with the oestrogen, the body hair would reduce, and I could get rid of this beard.”
Charlie began identifying as transgender when she was 15, opting to shave her head and wear a breast-binder.
Unlike Debbie, Charlie never took testosterone to masculinise herself, and detransitioned after several years.
After going public, she was contacted by around 300 people with similar stories, and has formed the Detransition Advocacy Network to provide support.
She says of those who have detransitioned, “a lot of us are autistic, and tend to be under the age of about 25”.
Charlie also told Cohen: “A lot of these young women feel that they were not in a state that they were able to give consent, because they felt so unwell with eating disorders or depression.
“This was going to be the thing that made them feel better.
“They often feel that they didn’t follow up intensive therapies as much as they could have, to make sure it was really informed consent and the right path for them.”