Lift The Veil.
Parents Get Busy & Learn Why
'Medical Transition Is Not Place For a child.'
TReVoices & Everyone Else
Canadian Detransitioners Tell Their Stories
I knew I liked girls from a young age. But I could never last in a long-term relationship. Since high school, when my gender dysphoria was most prominent, I would end relationships without explanation. I would just tell them we can’t be together, without explaining that I had issues with my body; that I couldn’t let them see or touch my body. I felt like I was inadequate or incomplete as a lesbian. I felt like I must be a man to be legitimate, or I must have male parts before I can have sex. I felt like I was doing something wrong, like I was “converting” them to lesbianism, or “making” them lesbian. I felt as if it was awful to be a lesbian and it was all my fault, even though they were willingly dating me because they were attracted to me, and I had not fooled or coerced them in anyway. I hate myself for being a masculine girl, a lesbian, and I felt like it was all my fault, so I would cut and burn myself, and drink heavily, to make it all go away. A few of the girls who liked me, and would attempt to date me, would be sad and cry. They could not understand why I hated myself and my body so much. They would try to tell me that it was okay, that they knew I was a lesbian. They wanted to touch me, in the same way I touched them, but I wouldn’t let them. I thought I had to be a man to make them happy. I thought I had to be their husband, and have children with them, for it to be legitimate. I thought every girl was straight and wanted a heterosexual life, and since I could not give that to them, I would beat myself up about it.
I never got therapy for my internalized homophobia. No one made the connection. The symptoms of my internalized homophobia matched those of gender dysphoria, so professionals just assumed I was a man trapped inside a woman’s body somehow. They offered me transition, as a way to “correct” my body, instead of helping me cope with my emotions.
I started testosterone when I was 23. The therapist who wrote my letter was a trans man. He asked whether I had internalized homophobia, and I answered “no”. We didn’t delve into it any further. I honestly didn’t even understand what exactly he was asking. The endocrinologist who prescribed my hormones told me about the side effects: increased muscle mass, facial and body hair, voice drop – these were the effects that I wanted. He also briefly mentioned side effects like acne, increased blood pressure, and infertility, but I didn’t think about that. I told him that I didn’t want to have children anyway, and that I was happy to have all the good and bad that comes with being a man; I was committed. I began Androgel on my birthday that month because I saw it as a “rebirth”, as if I was going to become a new person, or as if I would be reborn again, in the right body this time.
The first few months were really good. I got everything that I wanted. My shoulders got wider, my hips narrowed. I began developing facial and body hair, and my voice dropped. I was already passing as a boy before testosterone, but this helped me pass 100% of the time. I had more energy and my mood improved. This is what is known to detransitioners as the honeymoon period.
After about 6 or 8 months, everything changed. I was constantly hungry and couldn’t keep up with my increased libido. My mental health worsened. Prior to starting testosterone I had been diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. I became so aggressive at home that my parents called the police a few times, because I was shouting, threatening, and destroying their house. I dropped out of school, which meant that I had to switch to injections because my insurance ran out. I was not able to work and I went into psychosis, which meant I was in and out of the psych ward constantly over a period of 7 years.
While in the psych ward, I told them that I was on Hormone Replacement Therapy, and asked whether that could be affecting my mental health, but they dismissed it. They said the two were unrelated. I didn’t know at the time but have since learned that it is a well established that synthetic hormones can cause mental health issues in females. They continued injecting me with testosterone in the hospital, but gave me anti-psychotics to stabilize my moods. I was dysfunctional. I ended up homeless because I was misbehaving at home. No one cared about my quality of life. All the doctor’s primary concern was always whether I passed or not, as a male. I did, so they considered my transition a success.
I started to look up “detransition”. I wanted to know whether I could stop, or if there was a way back. I found a few detransitioners online. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror or photos. I looked as if I was my own male cousin. I decided to stop testosterone without telling my doctor. I was afraid how they would react. My endocrinologist had not taken my concerns seriously. My family doctor didn’t care which way I went in my transition. They acted like it didn’t matter; like any identity is valid no matter what it does to your health.
There is no support for detransitioning. Every time I went to speak to a doctor or therapist, they all concluded the same thing: that I was trans, and I must stay on my hormone regimen. Me wanting to desist or stop, was seen as me being unwell, and not taking my medicine. If I explained that the hormones seemed to be making my mental health worse, they would shame and coerce me into taking them again anyway. CAMH approved me for top surgery twice, but both times, the funding ran out because I was not able to do the surgery in time. My mental health was so bad that my psychiatrist would not write the readiness letter for surgery. CAMH kept pressuring me to get surgery. They would say: “we have approved you twice. How come you are not getting the surgery?” Or knowing that I had not gotten the surgery yet, they would push for more surgery. They would ask: “when are you getting your hysterectomy? What about bottom surgery?”
When I first detransitioned, I was very confused, and was trying to live as my birth sex, but using female washrooms was impossible, since I now passed so much as a male. From my perspective, living as my birth sex was impossible. I tried to go to school again, and the school counsellor came to the same conclusion: “You are transgender. This is why you are having these difficulties.” At every step they affirmed my trans identity, and they kept sending me back to the same doctors or the same organizations that had transitioned me the first time. In order to detransition, I had to change my entire health care team. It was only then that any doctors could look at my medical history critically and comment on the pattern of taking hormones leading me to experience several mental health issues.
I lived as a trans man for 10 years and took testosterone. I am thirty one now, and this is the first time that I am starting to see the connection between my internalized homophobia, and my desire to be a “straight man” or rather to pass as a straight man in society. I will never truly be a man in the way that a natal male is a man, as I was led to believe when I began my transition. I will never have functional male genitalia or be able to father children. I have a female body and experienced female socialization, and no matter how I try to alter my body with hormones and surgeries, I could only ever be an approximation of a male while running from the reality of being a homosexual female. For the first time in my life, I am in a lesbian relationship with someone who is attracted to me exactly as I am, and that has made a huge difference. She doesn’t wish I was a male, so I don’t wish I was a male either. This lesbian relationship where I am seen as my true self, where I don’t have to make any alterations to my body, and can just exist as I am, has been tremendously healing for me. I wish other gays and lesbians with extreme internalized homophobia like myself can find self love without feeling the need to fit into the heterosexual world through transition.