Transsexualism, Regrets and "Reparative Therapy"

copyright 2005 by Christine Beatty

Note: this document will continue to grow.

Life can be very hard for a transsexual person. Not only are we often rejected and ridiculed by society, the difficulties and hardships we often encounter in transition sometimes make us question if this is the right path for us. Even those of us who truly have the medical condition of transsexualism may experience these doubts, especially when the cultural opposition is so strong that we question our own powerful feelings. These feelings of doubt may become so intense they turn into regret, and trying to go back to one's birth sex may seem tempting. When I detransitioned in late 1986, it was a relief that the public hatred stopped immediately. The only problem was that I knew I was selling myself out. And after two years of slow suicide, I went back to being Christine and my life turned around for the better.

On the other hand, a little doubt can be heathly. A transsexual person must take huge, life-changing steps, some of them permanent, and it is crucial that all doubts be fully and honestly explored. It is conceivable that some people might face an identity crisis or a midlife crisis and conclude that changing their sex will bring them inner peace. In that context it's possible that an inappropriate candidate might attempt to transition. If he (or she) was convinced he was a transsexual person and learned the right things to say to a gender therapist, a non-transsexual might slip through the screening process and obtain SRS (sex reassignment surgery), especially if he did not express his doubts or outright lied to his therapist.

Out of approximately a hundred thousand transsexual people who've successfully completed transition, a handful of "former transsexuals" have launched well-publicized crusades against transsexualism. Doubtlessly these few vocal cases feel foolish about their ill-considered decision, but instead of taking responsibility they claim they were "deceived" or "misdiagnosed" and they condemn the entire process for everybody. While it is possible to get around the standards of care required to obtain hormone therapy and genital surgery, the existing protocol is a proven one. Both the psychologists and the sex reasignment surgeons have a powerful motivation to carefully screen the applicants for this process: malpractice suits.

However, these "ex-transsexuals" have a new ally to help condemn transsexualism: "reparative" therapists. In the early 1990's, "reparative therapy" began to emerge as an alleged "cure" for homosexuality. Though it has little basis in science and is given little credence by the vast majority of responsible psychologists, the Religious Right has seized upon this theory to further stigmatize homosexuality. In reality, the proponents of this "therapy" use the self-hatred instilled in some gay people by society -- internalized homophobia -- to convince them that they are sick and that they may be cured by therapy and religion.

Proponents of reparative therapy also claim that psychotherapy and prayer will cure transsexualism as well. However, many years of psychiatric experience have shown that neither homosexuality nor transsexualism are pathological conditions, nor may they be changed by therapy. Furthermore, as the links below will show, there are very few cases where somebody has had their sexual orientation or their gender identity changed by "reparative" or any other means. In reality, "reparative therapy" is a cruel and stigmatizing smokescreen that masquerades science and hurts far more people than it helps. Read below for specifics.

Note: if you have a verifiable detranstion/retransition story, please
consider sharing it with others by allowing me in include it here.

"Reparative" Therapy information
An excellent source of information about this therapy purported by religious fundamentalists like NARTH and JONAH as a "cure" for homosexuality and transsexualism. Includes numerous scientific studies and professional opinions.

"Reparative" therapist Richard Cohen alleges that the reparative methods he uses with gay people works on transsexual people as well. However, as the author of Anything But Straight, Wayne Besen, revealed: in 2004 Cohen was permanently expelled from the only legitimate professional affiliation he had left, the American Counseling Association. According to the 1/25/05 Daily Commentary on Wayne Besen's website, the author recently uncovered a letter from the ACA ethics committee that charges Cohen with numerous violations. Given that Cohen's book makes him a major cheerleader of the reparative cult, this incident throws further doubt on both the ex-transsexual and ex-gay claims these religious zealots often make.

Peta's Retransition
Peta spent many years being happy as a transsexual woman before a period of disillusionment caused her to find solace in Christianity. At first she believed that to practice her newfound faith meant going back to living as a man which she did for nearly ten years. Yet like most true transsexual people, she was desperately unhappy living this lie so she re-transitioned a few years ago. She still maintains her Christian faith, but as the woman she knows she is.

"Mistaken Identity" - article by Guardian Unlimited
An detailed article that examines other cases like Peta's, including one who thought she'd found the answer in a combination of religion and therapy, but eventually went back to being a woman. The article also points out the uneven application of the Standards of Care used as guidelines for diagnosing and treating transsexual patients. Without a proper diagnosis it's possible for people with psychiatric problems, high-intensity crossdressers and confused or gay people with internalized homophobia to be mistakenly diagnosed as true transsexual patients.

James: a man who misdiagnosed himself
For eighteen months James Birk thought he was a transsexual woman and took female hormones. Partly because his desire was so strong he was able to convince several mental health providers he was a candidate for transition. In April of 2004 James finally realized that the transsexual path was not right for him. Due to the "real life test" waiting time built into the Standards of Care for transsexual people (see below), James had sufficient time to soul search and make the right decision for him. As his article shows he does not condemn the concept of transsexualism, unlike the high profile "former transsexuals" mentioned earlier.

Lynn Conway's warning to those considering SRS
Dr. Conway has amassed information that any potential transsexual person should consider before treading too far down this path. She lists several examples of people who had surgery and then later regretted it. There is seldom a decision in one's life that requires more thought and soul searching than transsexual transition, especially SRS (sex reassignment surgery).

Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association
A professional organization devoted to the understanding and treatment of gender identity disorders. It develops and publishes Standards of Care for the treatment of gender identity disorders. These internationally accepted guidelines are designed to promote the health and welfare of persons with gender identity disorders.

Transsexual Women's Successes
Given that the media loves to focus on tragedy more than success, eminent computer scientist Dr. Lynn Conway, herself a transsexual woman, has compiled this listing of nearly 150 transsexual women who are successes. Engineers, attorneys, physicians, entertainers, computer professionals, educators and many more grace these pages. Given that most transsexual people prefer to blend into the woodwork, largely due to the prejudice and discrimination they would face by being "out", the women in this listing are but a small sample of people whose lives demonstrate that transsexualism is not an impediment to a happy, successful life.

If you came to this page from Christine Beatty's website,
please just close this window to resume websurfing there.
Otherwise, please feel free to visit Christine Beatty's website