Something in me snapped today.
Almost every week-- and sometimes twice or three times a week--someone calls, texts, or emails me to request that I put them in touch with detransitioners.
Until now, I have done my best to comply. I reach out to those with whom I have contact, and I ask them yet again to share their story.
But something in me snapped today.
I feel complicit in the ongoing damage our society has inflicted on these young people. I don't want to introduce another indignity by asking those who are struggling to heal to tear the bandages off of tender wounds in an attempt to convince society of the horrors they endured at the hands of those entrusted with their care.
It is unbelievable that we live in a world where detransitoners exist, where those suffering from gender dysphoria are told to disassociate from their healthy bodies, damage themselves in untold ways, kill everything about themselves that reminds them of who they really are, and then create an entirely new persona.
Detransitioners were betrayed by healthcare providers who told them that their problems would be cured by these fraudulent interventions. These young men and women have been damaged in unimaginable ways by the very people who were supposed to take care of them.
I am incensed that we have to parade detransitioners in front of legislators in order to persuade these lawmakers that we must criminalize the chopping off healthy young teens' breasts or testicles.
I am enraged that we have to provide personal evidence of the damage done by drugs that block the normal development of a child’s body, when we already have ample evidence of the harms these drugs do to grown-ups.
I am furious that we have to prove that an adolescent’s body is irreversibly harmed by high doses of cross-sex hormones.
When detransitioners talk publicly about their experiences, they are mocked and bullied, belittled and shamed, and told their stories are not real. They are told they are hurting others by their very existence. They are told they are responsible for suicides. And they are largely dismissed as aberrations, or entirely ignored when they tell their stories publicly.
How dare we suggest that the only way to stop these dangerous experimental interventions is to put on exhibit those who have been so badly damaged by healthcare providers, and who were betrayed by a system that should have protected them? This is like asking a brutally beaten child to show us her broken bones and bruises in order to convince our legislators that children should be protected from child abuse. This is like asking a woman who was kidnapped and raped to describe the details of how she was violently violated in order to convince lawmakers to outlaw sexual assault.
One difference in this case, however, is that the abused child would be shamed by activists who discount detransitoners' lived experiences; they would say the child had asked to be beaten. The rape victim would be chastised and ridiculed for testifying about her attack because activists like these don’t want to admit that sexual assault is harmful.
We need to flood our legislators' offices with emails, letters, and phone calls demanding that they criminalize the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries as treatments for gender dysphoria in children.
We need to contact insurance companies, doctors’ offices, and medical associations and tell them we will not support them using dangerous experimental interventions on children who suffer with mental health issues.
We need to stop donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and Amnesty International, who tell those with gender dysphoria that they are so inherently flawed that the only solution is to harm their healthy bodies.
I have testified a number of times about my childhood gender dysphoria (which was brought on by a brutal sexual assault), my social transition, and my efforts to convince everyone I was a boy. Pouring out such intimate details of my childhood trauma and ensuing mental illness is incredibly difficult. Even after all these years, I tremble as I recount my experience. My voice quivers and my hands sweat.
And yet my story is that of a little girl who got the help she so desperately needed, and of therapists, teachers and other supportive adults who encouraged me to accept myself rather than reinforce the hatred I had for my body. My wounds are mostly healed, but even still, it is difficult to discuss the degree of shame I felt for my female body. Recounting the self-harming behaviors in which I engaged is embarrassing. Being threatened, booed, hissed at and called names by those who want to silence me is terrifying.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for a young person who has just recently detransitioned.
We already let down those who have been damaged by puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and mutilating surgeries. They are the wounded. They deserve to heal.
We need to stop retraumatizing detransitioners by endlessly pestering them to recount their painful experiences to leaders who don’t seem to have the basic human decency to recognize that damage is being done. We need to protect detransitioners from further betrayal by a society that failed to protect them when they were most vulnerable.
We need to bang on doors and rattle windows and shout until we are heard.
Erin Brewer is a partner with Partners for Ethical Care. Contact Dr. Brewer via firstname.lastname@example.org.