Available Resources for Transsexuals who Detransition: Jesus Christ and Euthanasia

I had a bad day yesterday. I was tired from working, everyone I interacted with seemed cranky and I was frustrated by my lack of success in connecting with people within the LGBT community offering ANY outreach or support for those who detransition (or are wondering about it) and who need help with the many psychological, medical, legal and social issues they will encounter.

About the only people I can find actively doing this are usually fundamentalist Christians who require that you repent for the “sin” of being who you are and accept Jesus Christ as your savior. Last night I found another resource provider – Dr. Wim Distelmans, who made news this week for performing euthanasia on post-op ftm to relieve their “unbearable psychological suffering” after a sex change surgery failed to meet the patient’s expectations.

Coming at the end of my long day I saw this story and as I read it experienced a profound episode of cognitive dissonance. I read the headline several times. I even read the first few paragraphs of the story and my brain still couldn’t process what was being said or what it was even talking about.

And when I finally began to comprehend the horrible reality, that a beautiful human being, Nathan/Nancy Verhelst, was so unhappy after a sex change operation that they decided to end their life and that their decision was supported and assisted by a doctor, I became even more depressed. And angry. I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night.

The early reporting that is coming out on this is very sketchy and “tabloidy”. I have learned that there is always more to stories like these so I don’t want to make too many assumptions. Someone pointed out that the story had misgendered Verhelst – the photo caption used one gender and the story used another. The sad truth is that we may never know what pronoun Verhelst would have wanted us to use. Maybe Verhelst didn’t even know for sure.

I have to respect Verhelst’s decision, but I also strongly argue that it was not necessary, at least from the details of the story as reported so far. My dream is for us to get to a place where this NEVER happens again (although for now I am sure it will, this has been going on for years under the name we use when it is not medically sanctioned – suicide – and it quite common for trans people both pre and post-op.)

One of the few quotes attributed to Verhelst in the reporting is an expressed dissatisfaction with the results of his surgery. “When I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself. My new breasts did not match my expectations and my new penis had symptoms of rejection. I do not want to be … a monster.”

This in particular haunts me – I went through something similar. Starting in the the months after my surgery I too became afraid of mirrors. I somehow managed to get through life completely avoiding them for years. And, needless to say, during that time I totally “let myself go”. I loathed my body and basically gave up on it. I gained a massive amount of weight. My hair was a knotted mess. Forget about passing as a female, I was no longer passing as a human being who cared about life.

I know we have screening processes for people who undergo gender reassignment surgery and the medical community also does what it can to ensure that people have realistic expectations for surgical outcomes. But I think sometimes we, the people who go on this journey, still secretly hope for more than is realistically possible. Even though we are often very rational people – a lot of us expect something mystical and magical will occur on that operating table. The fact that many of us, including Verhelst, refer to a relatively short medical procedure as our “second birth” underscores our belief that this surgery carries with it the same incomprehensibly wonderful magnificence that is the true “miracle” of birth.

I have met many transsexuals who after surgery describe a specific kind of depression that impacts them. It is often temporary and they are able to happily get on with their lives in their new gender, but after the surgery a lot of people just feel kind of let down when they realize it isn’t as transformative as they had thought it would be. Some flesh has moved around, there are some new physical realities (and opportunities) but basically life is still “life”.

Again, going by the limited details available in this story (I feel I need to keep repeating this disclaimer – I am going to stop but please be mindful that using sketchy tabloid-style reporting to talk about very real issues of life and death is always tricky) it seems like Verhelst was looking to surgery to escape to a new life. Or to say it another way, maybe Verhelst wasn’t running to one gender as much as running from another.

I think a lot of us trans people do this and I will talk more about this some other time. Although everyone’s story is unique, I have noticed some differences between the experiences and motivations for transition between MTFs as a group and FTMs as a group. Verhelst’s story is something that I have heard from other (though certainly not all) former FTMs. It is not so much about becoming a man – it is more about escaping the social and biological hassles of being female. From the reporting:

“I was the girl that nobody wanted,” he said. “While my brothers were celebrated, I got a storage room above the garage as a bedroom. ‘If only you had been a boy’, my mother complained. I was tolerated, nothing more.”

And then there is this heartbreaking quote from the mother:

“When I saw ‘Nancy’ for the first time, my dream was shattered. She was so ugly. I had a phantom birth. Her death does not bother me,”

Again that word – “birth”. You know – there is part of me that wants to believe this is a hoax. I am still not entirely convinced that it isn’t but that probably is a remnant of my cognitive dissonance. Assuming it is true, if this is really what the mother said it is no wonder Verhelst felt so devastated. Again, more unrealistic expectations – surgery would never repair the relationship between mother and child, nor was it going to heal the scars left from years of emotional and psychological hurt inflicted on a helpless, scared little girl. With any dreams of validation and acceptance perceived to be gone, Verhelst apparently felt there was no other option but death.

It is important to add that there is nothing in the reporting that states Verhelst wished to detransition. What is clear is that after surgery Verhelst could see no further options for leading a fulfilling life. Whether it be considering retransition or one of many other options available (perhaps spending time with other people who have faced some large obstacles in life but persevered and found some sense of fulfilment) I think that it was too soon and tragic to throw in the towel.

Since I started my blog, one of the main questions I get asked a lot is “do you think people should be prevented from having gender reassignment surgery” or “are you afraid that your story will be used by those who wish to prevent people from getting gender reassignment surgery”. My answer is straightforward – I just want people to be able to do what is really necessary for themselves to be ok in their journey through life. If it is gender reassignment surgery that is going to help them get there – I say “great”. But I also think that this surgery is often used in place of addressing the harder to fix problems. A MTF gender reassignment surgery can be completed in as little as 90 minutes. Going through and attempting to heal the emotional scar tissue that builds up over the years for some of us is not so easy. Whether it is a biological disposition to depression (or other mental health issue) that afflict some of the unlucky amongst us, or having to live through any the cruelties that we has a human race are all do adept at inflicting upon each other, a lot of us have deep problems that can not be solved as quickly (or magically) as we would like.

I think that those who work to discourage any discussion of the fact that mental health issues can, in some cases, be a contributing factor to gender identity issues are doing a disservice to everyone. I have encountered many trans people who suffer from major mental health issues and yet move forward with transition – believing that their psychological issues arise only from being “born in the wrong body”. I am not saying anyone who has a predisposition for depression (for example) should be automatically excluded as a candidate for surgery but let’s be ok with talking about the potential root causes that lead someone to want to change their sex a little more instead of always going directly to the “born in the wrong body” stuff. I think more research needs to happen surrounding transsexualism and depression. Huge kudos go out to Jay McNeil, Louis Bailey, Sonja Ellis, James Morton & Maeve Regan and the Scottish Transgender Alliance for their important research and findings on transsexual mental health.

And while we’re at it let’s stop perpetuating acceptance of the totally unverified statistic that only 1-10% of all people who have had gender reassignment surgery have some form of regret. The fact is nobody really knows. The reason always given for this lack of data has always been that “trans people are too hard to track”. I think this has been true in the past, but I think we are easier to follow now if someone will make the effort. And there are still difficulties within the trans community feeling good about working “hand in hand” with academia. Over the decades there has been a build up in the distrust of academia (which is often encouraged by some of the more prominent members of the trans community) which discourages trans people from cooperating with any sort of research. That has to be healed. Members of the academic community are certainly not blameless here either – they need to repair some very real damage caused by a small number of individuals who abused their position of trust and respect as academics to engage in some pretty unethical behavior.

And lastly – I should not be having as much trouble as I have been finding resources from within the LGBT community itself for coping with detransition. When I call (as I did last week) and speak with the nice woman who answers the phone at the World Professional Association for Transgender Health: WPATH she should not be taken aback when I ask about resources for people who detransition. All she really could offer me was a polite “that is a really good question” and admit she had no idea where to direct me.

If there are organizations within the community who are doing this SOMEONE PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I am still hoping you are out there. And if you are please work at making yourself easier to find!

This conversation needs to be OWNED by the LGBT and specifically transgender community in a way that it isn’t presently. At the very least the trans community and their allies need to become more responsible stakeholders and contributors in these difficult conversations regarding regret, depression and detransition. Trans is in the news more than ever and almost everyone I know, straight, gay, bi or whatever, has a family member or knows someone who has faced some sort of gender identity challenge. Why is the conversation about detransitioning mainly coming from people who are anti-trans? Why are these resources coming from those who are least likely to provide an affirming and non-judgmental environment for people to work through these difficult issues?

And now it has come to this – euthanasia? Really? That’s all we’ve got?

As the trans community becomes more and more an accepted strand in the of the fabric of our society (at least some parts of it) it also has a responsibility to step up and start talking about difficult issues it has so far ignored. There are a lot of real people who’s existence is not even acknowledged, people who feel they have nowhere viable to turn to for help because they don’t have anywhere viable to turn to help. The people who feel that their only real option is to give their lives to Jesus or to just suicide out. Or the uncounted and unnoticed who just quietly withdraw from society all together – the people who become timid and afraid of life and withdraw to their rooms – their sole interaction with others now mostly online (this was and still is me in many ways.)

The trans community needs to evolve to the next level and become a better community partner. Taxpayer dollars and various grants going to many agencies and nonprofits based on the fact that they are serving the trans community. The transgender community is right to take pride in the strides it has made over the last few years but it also can’t be afraid to take some of the difficult steps that it needs to get to the next level. The time has more than come.

Things cannot stay as they are. The current status quo is not sustainable.

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Comments

  1. Sandy aka Tanurr says

    Hi..came looking for answers to my own delemma…I did come to faith in Christ….but even after 6 years not taking testosterone I still grow a beard that I don’t want living as a female again. I also experience a great deal of fatigue. What Dr can I find to help me address this? I’m just about ready to move anywhere in the country….currently residing in TN.

  2. says

    I very much recommend Alice Dreger’s excellent “Galileo’s Middle Finger.” I am profoundly concerned there are not better standards of care, especially for kids and youth, and arrived at the same conclusions as you Re: the model of achieving personhood. I feel very fortunate in my own journey, but am worried about the erroneously simplistic ideas about “trapped in wrong body” motivated people to make changes to their bodies.

  3. juniper says

    We must always remember Nathan.

    Nathan’s life had value and what happened to him was criminally negligent.

    The medical community should be fully responsible to support a transgender patient at all stages of their life, (including re-transition when necessary.) There is a gross lack of quality initial medical assessment. Mental health support is egregiously inadequate (if it is available at all) and ongoing careful medical monitoring and suicide prevention resources are seriously scant. In Nathan’s case, the Doctor’s simply handed him the “gun.”

    More must be in place to support hope and an equal opportunity for quality of life for transgender and non-binary gender individuals regardless of what path they take toward healing: whether one is living without hormones or surgery or one is transitioning with HRT and/or surgery or if one is considering or in the process of re-transition.

    Human lives have value and should be protected from exploitation and injustice.

    At present, only the most privileged patients can afford the type of mental health support and general medical care that is necessary to help them cope with the enormous stress involved with living as an outlier regarding gender or when seeking transition. There is little or no support to help one cope with injustice, (and/or for those who transition with HRT or surgeries) there is little or no mental health support to assist with dealing with the unpredictable side effects of hormones and surgeries what are currently offered as treatment for Gender Identity Disorder.

    People are committing suicide after transition and no one is held accountable. The medical community just shrugs and it is business as usual for them as they profit off of the desperation of those who cannot meet society’s narrow expectation of gender.

    The bigotry and hatred that is directed at anyone who is non-binary in the gender expression often leads to depression and there is little or no metal health support available to assist people, (especially young people) who are most vulnerable.

    All too often, (almost invariably) when someone seeks help, the psychiatric community is offers a “new lobotomy” that cuts away at the endocrine system instead of helping to heal the root problem that patients present with: severe depression related to unrelenting social marginalization based on one’s gender expression (that is then, often made worse by dangerous hormone therapies and surgeries that may add to one’s suffering.)

    Where is the accountability of Doctors regarding their vow to “Do No Harm?”

    • Joel Nowak says

      Thanks for this. I think accountability is something that is much needed and is missing right now because, in a weird way when it comes to trans, holding providers accountable is not considered politically correct. Any individual seeking “legal remedies” for incompetent and even negligent services is immediately vilified for “screwing up” other’s access to care. In terms of legal professionals, many will not even want to touch these cases. In the end, this is not a good situation for anybody (including the practitioners themselves.) For one thing, if we are really going to use the informed consent for access to surgery, I really think that many providers need to go far beyond what they are currently doing in terms of due diligence in ensuring that their clients are properly informed.

      • nel says

        ..i think there is certainly due some vastly increased diligence in applying medical and surgical protocols to gender dysphoric individuals.. i watched a video the other day where a newly post-op male was ecstatically anticipating ‘peeing through my new vagina’ – how can someone so ignorant of anatomy be capable of informed consent? and anyway how is it even legal to surgically destroy completely healthy and functional human organs for profit – regardless of the reasons? is there any equivalent in medicine where healthy functional organs are destroyed as a bona fide treatment for mental distress? isnt one of the major tenets of psychiatry never to collude in a delusion? the willingness of the NHS to indulge middle aged Agps is particularly disturbing.. espcially those with longstanding significant mental health problems.. the nhs is breaking up families and totally ignoring the needs of those families who unwittingly find themselves part of the fallout ie wives and children, and falling over themselves to meet the demands of an Agp male at everyone elses expense.. no one questions how these men come to this apparently sudden conclusion during a long term marriage and fatherhood.. no one seems to be interested in the years of betrayal and gaslighting necessary to get away with this… or how egregiously abusive this is to the women they misrepresent themselves to and the families they choose to create, betray and abandon.

        • Joel Nowak says

          Thanks for the comment. I think you make some really valid points here. The gaslighting that goes on is particularly egregious. I have A LOT of thoughts on this whole STEFONKNEE situation (if you don’t know what I am talking about you will have to GOOGLE it), which is a pretty amazing case that I so far have refrained from talking about here for a number of reasons. The main reason is that the main videos so far released prominently feature this person’s wife and kids without their consent. Since Stefonknee has been found guilty of domestic violence against these people, I find it amazing that the filmmakers are willing accomplices in victimizing these people a second time and they do this apparently without any sense of guilt or empathy for these victims. I don’t want to give that video any more traffic. But that whole situation does show how far “down the road” this whole thing has gone and how nobody really has the guts to say “wait a minute here”. And now they are blaming GallusMag for causing this person distress??? WTF? Stefonknee’s “distress” is MUCH bigger than one person … and there are many more active enablers playing into the system that supports this person’s ongoing problem. It is a circus … but it is a tragic one all around. Again, I just feel sorry for that very real family that I know is out there.

    • The Sceptic says

      I have to tae serious issue with some of the gross over-generalizations made in the following comment.

      “At present, only the most privileged patients can afford the type of mental health support and general medical care that is necessary to help them cope with the enormous stress involved with living as an outlier regarding gender or when seeking transition….There is little or no support to help one cope with injustice, (and/or for those who transition with HRT or surgeries) there is little or no mental health support to assist with dealing with the unpredictable side effects of hormones and surgeries what are currently offered as treatment for Gender Identity Disorder

      From my POV this is utter nonsense and has no basis in reality, unless you are speaking from some candy coated, pink Kool-Aid induce “pig fog” of “gender-wonderland”. The reality is that changing sex is no picnic and anyone thinking that it is, is plainly delusional. Those trans “therapists” sitting blandly by. collecting their fees, while enabling clearly troubled people to totally destroy their lives via the use of off label drugs and potentially life threaten surgeries are the ones that need to be the first ones called to account. They are the ones providing legal “cover” for the drug purveyors and surgeons.

      As for: “Where is the accountability of Doctors regarding their vow to “Do No Harm?” I would ask where is the accountability of those seeking such radical treatment to understand and be responsible for, (IE: OWN), the consequences of their own choices, decisions and actions.

      Yes. I do agree that there should be some serious and compassionate therapies available for those who have come to realize the error of their ways, but blaming others is just a total “cop-out”.

      • Joel Nowak says

        I dunno, this feels like a bit of an over-reaction. I guess for one thing I have been reading Juniper’s comments here and I know that they are NOT coming from “gender wonderland”. I am sure Juniper can weigh in on this, but my take is that what is being said here is that if doctors and therapists want to be in the “gender transition” business, they have a moral obligation to serve people in ALL PHASES of that transition (including detransition.) I don’t think holding the service providers (who are building their industry up by the ongoing campaign to tout the efficacy of their treatments) at least somewhat responsible for the outcomes of their clients is a cop-out at all. Marci Bowers spends so much time singing the praises of SRS in any media outlet that will have here and has NO idea that a lot of women are detransitioning? I just don’t think that is right.

        And there are real barriers to affordability of mental health care for the LGBT community. That was a big issue for a local mental health worker and activist who recently suicided in San Diego. The San Diego LGBT Center has set up a fund in his name to assist people who can’t afford mental health services. Sometimes people need help with coping strategies to stay healthy. “Therapy” in the trans community shouldn’t always just be about getting letters. Again, people are suiciding that should be getting help. And for gender nonconforming people who do not identify as trans nor seek transition (which is what Juniper has identified in previous comments) minority stress is a constant drain on maintaining wellness. With the increase prominence of trans that stress actually increases for those who are seen as “trans”, stigmatized for that and yet since they are not part of that community there is no real place to turn for support or comradeship. It can get really lonely and truly isolating.

      • juniper says

        Hi Skeptic,

        I would agree with you if these surgeries were purely elective (like a breast augmentation for women over 18.) But today, the experience of discomfort with one’s body and gender has been turned into a DSM certifiable illness that is paired with a “prescribed treatment” that enriches a multi-million dollar industry. To make matters worse, the idea of transgenderism has been institutionalized in public schools and is promoted as being synonymous with the experience of not conforming to culturally specific stereotypes of gender. Students are being taught at campus GSA clubs and in classrooms that if one does not meet a standard gender stereotype that they must be “on the gender-queer spectrum” and if they deviate too far from the polar end of their birth sex, that they must be clinically Transgender (defined as mentally ill according to the DSM).

        There are people who think for themselves regarding gender (thank goodness) but unfortunately there are people, who because of strong social pressures (religion or cultural influences) and because of maturity and personal disposition, may be more vulnerable to being exploited. It may be tempting to blame these people for making a bad decision but when something is taught as fact in academic settings, is medically recognized as invariable fact, and is recognized by government legislation (as Transgenderism increasingly is) one cannot blame the vulnerable individuals who succumb to pervasive indoctrination.

        Society plays a role … and for some, it may be an overpowering influence.

        It is true, that many people will eventually have “the wool removed from their eyes” and some may have the means and ability to recover from some of the damage done. Unfortunately though, for many, these “therapies” are so toxic and physically altering that by the time a person comes to terms with their core identity, they may no longer have a viable choice to easily and conveniently re-transition.

        I think that Gender Identity and expression should not be classified in the DSM. I think that one should be free to express their identity and to pursue body augmentation is their adulthood (without a defined pathology.) When we are adults, we should b free to do what we want with our bodies as long as we are fully informed of the risks and are fully capable of consent.

        But as things stand, unscrupulous Doctor’s are able to manipulate vulnerable patients without penalty under the guise of treating GID.

        Please allow me reframe this. If a Psychologist touched a patient inappropriately, it would be a crime weather the patient was “willing” or fighting back. Now, imagine if the touching was taught to be a treatment for frigidity and that the person’s wish to not be touch was deemed in textbooks, in the DSM and by Government as pathologically deviant … The Doctor is given the right to sexually violate a patient intros context but would the patient still be exploited under these circumstances? And what of arguments like “why didn’t they just leave the room?” be reasonable in every case?

        Or think about a culture where genital mutilation is an accepted practice? Has an injustice occurred when a girl or boy is circumcised? There is certainly room for debate on this sone (even in the United Sates) but I side on the right of the patient to be free from institutionalized coercion, exploitation and abuse by the medical community (even by their parents.)

        Also, in a society where true equality and justice existed, some choices would be absolutely and undeniably personal decisions and not essential for survival. There are people who are physically bashed just because they walk a certain way … now, talk about intense social pressure to conform!

        So, while I agree that we must take a certain degree of responsibility for our lives, we as a society must also take a degree of responsibility when our collective and dominant culture, educational system, institutions and laws impact our citizens.

        Dominant cultural values have a great impact on mental health. For example, until only very recently, people were mandated to marry only opposite sex partners. This granted certain liberties to heterosexuals that were denied to homosexuals. This caused distress to many people in the LGBT community and for many contributed to depression and anxiety. Our country could tell people to “get over it” – but instead, eventually, it changed the laws. Will this have an effect on the well-being and mental health of people who are LGBT? Statistically, it is documented that yes, it has positively benefitted the LGBT community, and I believe that ultimately, the value of justice benefits us all as a society. No one should be forced to marry someone they aren’t attracted to in order to secure marital rights and social stability. Likewise, no one feel pressured to change their body in order to live well in a free society.

        • Anonymous says

          There is no question that the “providers” share the responsibility for the harm done. Neverthe less, these so called “professionals” are not mind readers. When you transitioned, were you able to do so as a result of “informed consent”, or were you required to wend your way through a variety of “gatekeepers”? Did you not tailor your responses to their queries to fit the accepted “narrative”? Whose “fault” was that?

          When I refer to “gender wonderland” I am talking about what I consider to be an irrational belief that people in general, (IE; society at large), will not look askance at people who act weird and dress in inappropriate ways. Demanding that people accept without question men who get boob jobs and want to invade women’s private spaces is asking too much. There is a huge difference between these type of “gender variant/ gender non-conforming” individuals and those vanishingly few who absolutely must have a complete and total sex change in order to just stay alive.

          It is only the latter that will not just survive such a radical procedure, but who will actually blossom and prosper far, far away from the LGBT/trans* “community”.

        • The Sceptic says

          There is no question that the so called “professionals” share some of the responsibility. However, from what I have read, this so called “informed consent” is a rather recent development. It is my understanding that up until the very recent past, only after a difficult navigation of so called “gatekeepers” were any seriously invasive, (life changing) treatments available. It is also my understanding that the trans* “community” in the form of NCET and WPATH has mounted a well funded lobby to alter, change and lower the requirements for these medically radical treatments. This of course was all done in the name of “equality” and social justice.

          The harm done was the result of a concerted effort by transvestites/cross dressers who wanted and coveted the hard won rights of those vanishing few who actually needed a full on sex change just to stay alive. Those electing “body augmentations”, (IE: boob jobs) for their own personal proclivities wanted parity of treatment and well…they should have been more careful what they wished for.

  4. says

    Hi Joel, thank you for sharing your story, and running your blog, and also for this post in particular. Somehow I’m reading this one last of all the ones on your blog right now. I guess the title threw me off at first. But as soon as I started to read, I understood.

    Have you seen the documentary The Salt Mines, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-HALlC6QGE, and the follow-up The Transformation? These are probably my favorite films ever about the reality of being trans. It’s beyond awful that they’re not more readily available. The films speak directly to your main point, which is that the only resources available for detransitioners/questioners seem to be from evangelical Christians. The brilliance of the filmmakers was to let the facts speak for themselves – and the scenes in The Tranformation of the one (clearly gay) detransitioner doing his wife’s hair are pretty funny, as are the reaction shots between the old friends, some still living as “queens”, some as “men.”

    Thank you again, and please feel free to contact me via email.

    • Joel Nowak says

      Thanks much for the film recommendations. I will see if I can track them down. There is another film that I am trying to figure out how to see called The Regretters by Marcus Lindeen. I found this review “interesting” (and also the fact that at one festival trans activists successfully lobbied the organizers for the right to present what was bascially a “reubutal” to the audience after the film was shown.) I have emailed the filmaker for information on future screenings or availablity but have not heard back yet.

      I am glad you got to read this post – in some ways it might be the most important one I have written. I know you said nice things about my other post about the Verhelst matter – that post was the hardest thing I have ever written and it left me feeling drained and depressed. But it was writing the above post where things came together into sharp focus in terms of how f***ed up the whole situation is for people who are experiencing unhappiness after transition or surgery. This was where I became certain that writing my blog is the right thing for me to be doing right now.

      It sounds like you have read my entire blog (I am still catching up on yours – earlier tonight I dropped by and left feeling like I had taken a wild “trip” straight out of Easy Rider.) As I have mentioned in some of my posts, I took a long break from reading about trans stuff (since the 1990s). When I recently started catching up I was actually a little excited to see in what new ways transgender theory had evolved since I had last “checked in” and the evolution of how trans people were exploring their identities. After hearing what some of the highly regarded transgender activists had to say I was disappointed to find that, in my opinion, trans theory had actually taken a step or two backwards – offering an overly simplistic view of “gender identity” that seemed to be trying to compensate for the lack of depth to the discussion by becoming increasingly militant.

      That is is why I was happy to find a number of blogs (mostly on Tumblr) that actually were what I had hoped to find – trans people who had come to realize that there were some biological and social realities that can never be changed but still had managed to find a way to make that work while living their lives in their affirmed gender. I remember right before I started blogging I spent a couple of nights going through blogs that I thought were offering the new perspectives that I was looking for and yours was one of them. I have mentioned Aunty Orthodox – and there are a few others that I will add to my links section. I really think that these “alternative” trans narratives are going to become increasingly helpful as trans becomes more and more mainstream and people start to realize that transgender issues are more complex than it is currently politically correct to believe they are. I think we are going to be at that point soon (especially with some of the upcoming political and legal battles) and hearing different voices is going to be important.

      And I will try to do my best to raise awareness that we need to have an “exit strategy” in place for those who find they do not want to continue on the path of transition. I am discouraged that I haven’t found any other guys like me but I still think they are out there. I just need to be patient and keep sending out my tracking signal while scanning the frequencies for theirs.

      Thanks for being there Snowflake. Your journey and where you want to go with it is different from mine but it is still teaching me things.

      Best, Joel

  5. Genevieve says

    Thank you for expressing your struggle. I hope you choose to live with a clear heart and know that whatever you choose, there are people, even strangers who care.
    My sibling had surgery in1975, and by 1985 had suffered strokes and heart attacks which have rendered her totally paralyzed.
    I am her only supporter as the trans community does not want to know. No medical person has ever looked at her case as a statistic of the failure of transsexual treatment. She is unable to communicate now, but I do know that before she had to be hospitalized permanently, she had business cards made up using her birth name ( and saying, formerly known as her female name.)
    I know that the medical personnel have no idea of what to do with her hormones. I am her only advocate.
    When I ask her how she keeps living in her condition, truly trapped, she tells me that LIFE IS A GIFT!
    So please take her message to heart and remember that tomorrow brings promise, even if it a rotten day….hope that tomorrow will be better.
    I hope our story can help you.
    I agree there is no support for people aftercare…I have tried gender clinics and they don’t want to help.

    • Joel Nowak says

      That is an incredibly powerful story. Any type of HRT carries very real risks and it is reasonable for you to wonder if there was an association between treatment for GID with your sibling’s medical issues. I am happy that they rightly appreciate each day as a gift – so many of us forget that. I am hoping that by raising awareness no detransitioner should face stigma from the transgender community simply for the act of detransitioning. Thank you.

  6. Alice Anne Ripley says

    Hi Jeol,

    Good post very insightful to the plight of retransitioners. I don’t know would could be done to help folks like you as I’m not one of you.

    I will say that I agree support from the Trans community should be given especially to does on the cusp of suicide. I’m sure the reasons for the Trans communities resistance is known and understood. However on a personal level I think that some Trans people who fear you and what you represent I know I do. I am early in my Transition and when I think of retransitioners such as you I feel confused and angry. Maybe this also underscores the resistance you and others face.

    Anyways I found your article insightful and I wish to help retransitioners take place with their Trans brothers and sisters in the community and get to support they need.

    I trust you are feeling better then you were

    Best wishes

    Alice

    • Joel Nowak says

      Alice, thank you for sharing your thoughts and trying to understand. I don’t want to make anyone be afraid of me or what I say. We all have to find our paths through life that work for us. I suspect that 20 years ago I had some of the same feelings that you do today. That is not meant to say that 20 years you will be feeling all the same things as I do today, but if you do follow your dream to transition some of how you think of your gender identity today will probably shift as the years go by and it becomes your original gender that is the distant dream. Once you live in something for 10, 20 years or whatever it starts to feel different. That is not a bad thing – it is just life. Stay curious. Stay open. But always stay true to yourself.

  7. Gregory Smith says

    Hi Joel,

    I am in the same boat as you. I am 47 years old and post-op MTF. I am in terrible mental pain. I am fighting to find the reason to keep going. My therapist have put me back on Testosterone and the remasculinizing of my body is making me insane. Please contact me by email and I will give you my phone number if you would like to talk. Yes, there are very few resources for our situation. The LGBT community has turned their backs on me basically. The Trans Support groups don’t want to hear from regretters; it harms their agenda, even though I am still a part of their community.

    Gregory Smith

    • Joel Nowak says

      Hi Gregory, thanks for reaching out. I will be in touch. I too had some issues with testosterone and stopped but still want to eventually go back on it. I recently had an interesting exchange with a well known trans activist. Her point was why should the trans community want to support you in wanting to retransition? And, aside from lacking any compassion to fellow travelers dealing with gender dysphoria, the main problem I have with this attitude is that, in addition to not wanting to partner to raise awareness for the situation, a lot of the most vocal “activists” are telling the media that we virtually don’t exist – that the number of “regretters” (not my preferred term) is so low that it barely matters. And the media is buying it. Some within the trans community are starting to present a more realistic picture and I definitely applaud those efforts.

      • Black Iris says

        From a human point of view, it matters if only one person is suffering.

        From a pragmatic point of view, truth will out. If you deny reality and don’t try to figure out how to deal with it, eventually you get a backlash and end up with what you fear.

        • Joel Nowak says

          Yes. That wisdom goes back millennia. It also forms the core of what is today called “Cognitive Therapy” in which one has to realize that distorted thoughts (untruths) lead to reflexive emotions which lead to unhelpful behaviors which lead back to additional distorted thoughts and the wheel keeps rolling until you find a way to break that cycle.

  8. says

    Hi Joel, its Deborah. I am glad I found you here. This is a nice place to find you. Being you. Speaking you. You have known me in my space; I am honored to know you in yours.

    I’ve struggled for 42 years in my body, in my being. My struggle has manifest differently than yours; we all have our own process. I want to tell you though since knowing you I have felt a complete acceptance, a complete willingness, a complete love – and yet I have never met you.

    I will never know all that you have gone through and continue to go through to walk down your path. But I applaud your courage and insight. I applaud your willingness. I applaud your ability to give, despite your fear. Whatever I am able to do to contribute to your moving forward and finding happiness.

    Thank you for sharing; keep it up and just keep swimming. Tilly is reading with me and she is with you as well :-)

    • Joel Nowak says

      I am going to bask in the glow of this comment for awhile. This REALLY meant a lot to me. I will comment more this weekend.

  9. Nathan says

    I think this is a really good post. I too believe that retransition and other options should be brought more into the open.
    I also like that you took in account how sketchy the reports have been and that there are many different factors in this story outside mr Verhelst being trans. The thing I’m not completely with is that you keep saying that this could have been prevented (I agree with earlier help concerning his family issues) and that it was ‘too soon to throw in the towel’. I think it’s very important to see that we don’t have the full story, we don’t know how mr Verhelst felt, what was going on in his life,… By saying these things you are judging his choice without knowing his story. I too wish this wasn’t necessary but maybe for him it was. Also: ‘a doctor concurred and now Verhelst is dead’ this statement is a severe simplification of the facts. Euthanasia has strict rules and criteria: Mr Verhelst would have had at least 6 months of counseling from the moment he expressed his wish before it would be decided to go through with it, another doctor would have had to give another opinion and there would have been discussions with his relatives. The doctor would have had to make a strong case because euthanasia is overseen by an independant commision and if he made mistakes he would have to answer for them.
    That aside I do believe there should be more research and openness about trans ùmental health and retransition and other options. With how much the community seems to want to go so very fast sometimes I think we forget that doctors are there to to make sure we will feel better after, not worse. I spent a long time in doubt because of my own mental health and I was worried my trans issues had to do with that, yet saying that in the community always got me that I knew who I was no matter what. I was lucky to have a good therapist who worked me through it.

    • Joel Nowak says

      Nathan thanks for stopping by and I very much appreciate your openness and candor about your own experiences. I am trying to avoid being inflammatory with my language and thank you for pointing out a case of me doing that. I will try to get better at this. I am going to remove the sentence you mentioned. I am sure that there is much more going on with this story and I said so in my blog. Based on the facts as reported I still believe this was unnecessary but I will admit, maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part for my own selfish reasons. I have thought about ending my life many times. My blog is relatively optimistic but I am not sure how my own story is going to turn out. I hope it has a happy ending. I am trying. I am going to blog more about this, but over the past year I have been a pretty active mental health services “consumer” (this is what it said in the handout I was given as I was admitted to a hospital earlier this year explaining my patient rights.) I have had some very bad days I have also had some great days this year so I am glad I made it. I feel confident that I at least have a chance of some further happiness. And maybe that is why I might have been projecting some of myself onto what little we have of Verhelst’s story. For the 40 years I have been trying to find out about trans stuff I keep hearing variations of “if you have the surgery and are unhappy you will live out the rest of your life in mental hell as a mutilated vestige of your former self.” That is meant as a stern warning and a stern warning is warranted. This is serious life changing stuff.

      But when you are actually in that position you can either go with that idea and be in hellish torment until the end of your days, or maybe you can realize that you still have a whole lot of possibilities. I say “maybe you can realize” because when you are in the throws of depression it is not always possible to get to that place at all and I recognize that. But going back to why I think that more mental health related research would be helpful to the trans community, my hope is that with some additional insight into how to support people who struggle with these issues we can, maybe not prevent, but reduce the frequency of these occurrences in which people totally give up. I am hoping we can find ways to help them (or to put it bluntly – me) find comfort that will be sustaining.

      • Daniel says

        I think it would help if there were more “positive” examples of people who retransitioned post-op, who had less than stellar outcomes from bottom surgery, or who experienced something more or less analogous to the above situations. In particular, what coping mechanisms and external conditions were instrumental in helping them get through it and remain reasonably happy, productive members of society.

        • Joel Nowak says

          I totally agree. Former FTMs are doing this right now and I think they are writing some really great stuff. I am not linking to any of them as I do not wish to send potential unwanted attention their way but they are out there. I am hoping that more former MTFs will emerge to tell their stories, the ones who are succeeding in living happy lives and the ones who may face challenges but are actively working towards leading happy lives. By putting it all out there I am hoping that as more people come along who think that retransitioning might be a possibility for them they can build upon what has worked for those who have gone before and have an easier journey through that retransition.

        • Joel Nowak says

          I couldn’t agree more. I am hopeful that there will be more and more. I will try to do my part to become one of the “reasonably happy, productive members of society” – just still working through a few details in getting there. 😉

  10. Daniel says

    I’m not surprised that you’re encountering a lack of resources.

    I think the trans community is still keeping very busy defending itself from loads of people who don’t consider trans identities to be valid. Anti-trans people see retransitioning (I refuse to say detransition because of the negative connotations it carries) as a confirmation that transition in general is a mistake. In retaliation, trans communities reframe it as something that is only done by a tiny minority of foolish people who jumped rashly into transition. Those two narratives were all I found when I looked up the topic online, until I found your blog.

    Your blog is helping change the narrative to something more nuanced. If it really is a thing of value (and I think it is), then people will gradually emerge to rally behind it.

    • Joel Nowak says

      Thanks for the observation – it really is nuanced. And I too like to say retransition – I use the word detransition only because that is still what a lot of people search for when looking on google. I am trying to use both. And I understand that the trans community is beyond busy not only continuing the fight to gain acceptance, but also in dealing with the many needs that the community itself has (medical, legal, social, etc.) Opening up the pandora’s box that becoming more self-critical would entail may seem like something beyond their bandwidth but I think the time has come. I think the community is ready to mature into one that can handle some of these more nuanced topics in a way that benefits everyone.