It is 2004, and I am 13 years old. I am sitting at the computer, mouse poised to close my tab if my dad came in to look over my shoulder. He rarely did though, as he had no conception of the bizarre information I was accessing online. During my time reading fan fiction, an intriguing website had caught my eye. This apparently innocuous link altered the trajectory of my life for the next 15 years.
The website, the FTM Resource Guide, still exists. "This guide is intended to provide information on topics of interest to female-to-male (FTM, F2M) trans men, and their friends and loved ones," the homepage states. Various subsections have titles like "Packing: Creating a Realistic Bulge," and "FTM Genital Reconstruction Surgeries (GRS)."
Through my online exploration, I learned I was not alone in my aversion to my biological sex and began visualizing adult life as a man.
Pediatric transitions were unheard of back then, but I started binding with an ace bandage and asked my mom to get me boy’s clothes. I came out to my parents, but after they researched the atrocities of "female-to-male" surgeries, they decided not to "affirm" my revelations.
I was crestfallen. I’d read about gender dysphoria and was convinced transitioning was my only shot at true happiness.
"Many medical professionals have come to consider ‘post-transition’ transsexuals to be fully cured of their dysphoria or any other disorder," I read on another transgender resource site, Susan’s Place. I had also developed treatment-resistant anorexia nervosa, so a cure-all for my mental illnesses was enticing. Believing I was trans sabotaged any attempts to improve my mental health without hormones or surgery.
At 17, I asked my parents to find me a gender therapist, who I’ll call Dr. Ryland. They assumed Ryland would give me an honest assessment, considering my many comorbidities. Instead, he affirmed me as a boy immediately.
He was unfazed when I brought up my anorexia and persistent social problems. I told him gender dysphoria was my root issue, and he accepted my self-diagnosis. This starkly contrasted with my experience in eating disorder treatment, where practically every word I said had been scrutinized. It was clear Ryland wasn’t there to listen, but to guide me to a solution: transitioning.
After three appointments, Dr. Ryland suggested to my parents that I start testosterone. They were flabbergasted. They’d trusted Ryland to provide an impartial opinion, yet he steamrolled ahead with affirming my delusions. The car ride home was filled with awkward silence. My parents didn’t have to say a word for me to gather their answer was no.
I didn’t press the issue any further back then. At 23, I nearly transitioned, but a traumatic experience with injecting intramuscular testosterone convinced me otherwise. By 28, after years of deliberation and an overwhelming sense of desperation, I finally came out as trans publicly, started testosterone again, scheduled a double mastectomy, and filed for a legal name and gender change.
Within months, I experienced debilitating side effects and the loss of my natural singing voice. I didn’t realize that singing was more important to me than gender until it was too late. I have since detransitioned, and besides my voice, testosterone’s effects have faded.
But what if I was a trans kid today? Puberty blockers are now readily available. The thought of never having to grow breasts or start a period would have felt like a dream come true. My parents would have been hesitant, but they might have been convinced if a doctor asked, "Would you rather have a living son or a dead daughter?"
Most parents who agree to start their children on blockers are unaware of the risks, like osteoporosis, brain damage and infertility, nor of the challenges to the evidence fueling the suicide narrative. It is a manipulation tactic and self-fulfilling prophecy; children who hear that if they do not transition, they will die, start to believe it.
Body modification is not a treatment for mental illness in any other scenario. Imagine if an anorexic requested a "weight-affirming" gastric bypass. Any honest medical professional would be horrified.
By my reading of the new standards of care by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, as a minor I could have had a double mastectomy or even a hysterectomy, an intervention known to increase the likelihood of cardiovascular events.
When my parents and peers did not affirm my transgender identity, I was devastated, but it preserved my health and potentially saved my life. Gender affirmation is demonstrably dangerous for young people. Based on the available science, the Florida Board of Medicine recently approved a statewide ban on transgender medical interventions for minors. It’s time the rest of the United States and the world followed suit.