Gill is a lesbian detransitioner in her thirties living in the UK. She has very kindly allowed us to publish her story here because she is concerned about the current trend for young lesbians to redefine themselves as ‘queer’ or ‘trans’ within an LGBT scene which has become dominated by the ‘T’. She feels that the levels of lesbophobia and hostility she faced when she came out have become much worse for young lesbians today, which is why we’re seeing so many young women trying to ‘identify’ their way out of lesbianism.
Gill plans to write and speak more about what happened to her, in the hope that her story will help more young women to reclaim the word ‘lesbian’ and realise that they are perfect as they are. We think she has valuable insight into the way a diagnosis of gender identity disorder (now gender dysphoria) can be a harmful way to conceptualise feelings triggered by homophobia. We are very grateful to Gill for allowing us to share her story here.
“20 years ago, a doctor diagnosed me with gender identity disorder. 5 years after that I began medically transitioning and thinking of myself as trans. I desisted 3 years later.
In recent years, I have watched some of this become politically, socially, and ideologically motivated; at times dismissed, trivialised, glorified, and encouraged. Behind the politics and the heated debates lie real people’s lives. I am one of them. Here is a small part of my life.
From an early age, I was called a tomboy, nothing new in that. Mostly, I would describe myself as an active child, getting involved in anything involved in sport, and running around. One memory comes to mind. I was on holiday playing football with mostly boys and a group of boys and girls over a few days slightly teased me, asking me why I was acting, standing, and walking like a boy. This is the only memory that sticks out that upset me, and made me question why they were saying that. For the most part, I was a happy and confident girl. From a stereotypical point of view I swayed somewhat more towards activities and preferring to wear clothes associated with boys. However, at no point did I think I was a boy.
Everything changed as I reached the teenage years. My body changing caused me some distress, and I had thoughts around whether I would simply rather have the body of a boy. At this point I was aware of my attraction towards girls. The girls started to isolate me, as much as I isolated myself from them. I would feel embarrassed around them, although I only had slight anxiety around some issues until I was about 15. That’s when I began a relationship with a girl – well, until her friends found out and she stopped speaking to me. Of course, I was heartbroken. Her brother in particular started to bully me. The bullying escalated to the point of me running at him one day, he charged back and punched and kicked me to the ground. I stood up, covered in blood, and realised he had kicked a part of my tooth out.
I lied to my mum at first about what had happened, but I couldn’t hide it for long. Over the next few weeks, I can only describe what happened to me as a body and mind breakdown. At times, if I had a dream about a girl, or if some thought popped into my mind about girls, I would try hard to push it out of my mind. I then started to have nightmares, waking up, shaking and sweating, going in to wake up my mum, crying like a child. I broke down and told my mum everything that had been going on and what was sometimes going through my mind – I didn’t really feel like a real girl, I thought I was more like a boy. I was barely eating, and my mum saw that I had started to bind my breasts. My mum had to take me to the doctor.
The doctor sent me to a psychiatrist. I described what had been going through my mind the past few years, and he thought it sounded as though it was gender identity disorder. The psychiatrist contacted Richard Green in London, and persisted with this. My mum and my family were not convinced, they were baffled and angry, telling me I was having a hard time through the bullying, I was gay, and this was fine. I can’t say I got over it straight away, it was always there in the back of my mind. However, my body and mind mostly recovered and I joined a local football team for girls, started to meet other friends and gained a lot of confidence. I also began to hear a few older women who played football at the same place talk about how great London was. Yes, I thought, London does sound good.
I arrived in London, by coincidence, on the week of gay pride. On the day of pride I met up with a group of lesbians my age, we carried a cheap banner, simply stating ‘lesbian’. It was one of the biggest London prides, a profound moment in my life, and I still look back on that day and smile. Why then did I start medical transition, and thinking of myself as trans, less than 2 years after that day?
This is a question I have asked myself many times. It would take longer than a couple of pages to go into every detail. Of course, just as most people find it uncomfortable and difficult to articulate what goes on in your own mind and what happened in your own life, so do I. I’ll go through a few basic points. In a lot of ways, I feel gender identity disorder was imposed on me, reinforcing my thoughts; it lurked at the back of my mind. Always an option to go to whenever I would have a problem. The problems I had as a teenager were never quite resolved, fear and shame around my sexuality turned inward which caused psychological and body problems. Although London was a great place, I had a few problems with homophobia, most small, yet every time it happened, it would build up a little bit of pressure that I couldn’t shake off.
One moment maybe pushed me over that edge. In reality, a series of steps combined was probably the reason, but it might not be a coincidence that I started transition a few months after this. Me and my girlfriend got on a train one night, a couple sat across from us and the woman shouted at us in anger wanting to know if we were lesbians. I started arguing with her. We got off the train and I turned around and they were following us. The man punched me and they tried to drag me into a nearby lane, my girlfriend went and got help and they ran away. Over a period of weeks, I started going through the exact same steps as I did as a teenager: not eating or sleeping, having nightmares, sweating, shaking, and I went into a depression.
The growing queer/trans community at the time didn’t help. Mainly at this point I started surrounding myself with people who didn’t question me, rather than being involved or caring about any particular politics or ideology. I see the way younger women now are involved with this, it is not entirely different from my situation, just on a bigger scale now. Whatever the reason, for almost 3 years I took testosterone, stopping for a month or two a couple of times because I was getting a sore head. I didn’t get my breasts removed because I couldn’t afford it, or I would have done straight away. After this time, why did I stop? Trans was my shield for a little while. I knew just below the surface what my problems really were, I never thought I was a man, and I didn’t care about that. I will say, after a while I truly broke down, although after a couple of years I was lucky and built myself back up.
Transgender politics alone did not in any way make me want to medically transition. I mostly add other aspects – misogyny, homophobia – and the medical profession I believe failed me. I also take some responsibility for my own actions. However, the current transgender movement along with those other aspects must be critiqued and questioned. The ideas and actions associated are regressive, homophobic, and reinforce sex stereotypes. Society and doctors once thought homosexuals were really disordered heterosexuals, just needing to be fixed, or a man trapped inside the body of a female homosexual. This is what some lesbians were once told, and some women believed it.
Be clear on what you are now saying- a young woman who starts off in a natural state of female homosexuality is being told she is really transgender, or believes she is transgender. Be clear on what you are saying and what this involves: testosterone, mastectomy, hysterectomy, life long medical supervision, and the rest. We must question this as the primary solution for any problem a teenager or younger women has, regardless of what lead up to the point of what is now called gender dysphoria – unless you think this is innate, an intrinsic part of their person.
Everything I say now, or whatever I say in the future, will always come from a good place. I hope we find a way to think more about where this is leading for younger women, and how we are interpreting some of these ideas. I also think I can do that and say this while still having empathy for anyone who went through a similar situation to me.”