A Letter To Young Trans People

young trans people
Leanne Mills aged eighteen

We were very moved, as we know many others were, by the testimony of Leanne Mills which was published in the Daily Mail on December 13th last year. Leanne, who was born a boy, Lee Anthony, began to feel gender dysphoric at age four and had sex reassignment surgery at age 34. Leanne is concerned that young trans people are not being given the full facts about transitioning.

Leanne wrote to us with a link to a subsequent article in the Nottingham Post and to explain the rationale behind the decision to go to the press: to warn and to help others, particularly young people who may be considering transition. We asked Leanne to write an open letter to those young people and give the other side of a story which is usually portrayed to children as only positive and affirming. We publish the letter below and we are very grateful to Leanne for writing it and allowing us to use it.

In Leanne’s own words:

“I do hope it goes down well, though I know many trans people will feel extremely hurt by what I say. This grieves me but I feel the truth of transitioning must be told for the sake of the young.”

Our thanks to Leanne for having the courage to take this risk and for speaking out publicly to help others.


A Letter to Young Trans People

Like you I was once a trans teenager. Decades ago I participated in a TV documentary in which I attempted to show how difficult life was for a young transsexual, for example in trying to find work. I saw the programme again recently and the first thing that struck me was how naive I seemed as I touchingly described my hopes for the future. I can be forgiven for that, I was only 19 after all.

Since then I’ve been through the transition (the most challenging period of my life) and nearly a quarter-of-a-century later still have gained much enlightenment in my ‘female’ role.

I use quotes here, for the most profound lesson I’ve learned is that I can NEVER be a ‘real’ woman. This is not born of opinion, but of cold, indifferent medical and scientific evidence. I realise that statement is crushing to all trans women (or transmen if going the other way), regardless of how breath-takingly convincing your transformation might be. But simple logic dictates that I can never escape the male body which Nature imposed on me at birth. Though I’ve permitted drastic and intrusive surgical modifications it shall forever be male. I’m reminded by the evidence on a daily basis. For example I still find it necessary to shave off facial hair despite having had laser treatment. I must continue to take female hormones for the rest of my days or my bones will start to decay and fracture. And that’s not all – the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis, heart attacks or strokes is ever present.

I can’t bear children for I possess no uterus. Don’t even bother to ask me where the menopause is supposed to come in. I am unable to experience love as a woman because my vagina is artificial, a mere tube of penile skin that lacks feeling. When I came out of hospital in 1995 I was handed a collection of glass dilators which were required to keep it from shrinking; This happens because Nature resents Mankind’s meddling and fights back, attempting to close a space between my thighs that really shouldn’t be there. As a consequence also I am beset by messy post-op complications, causing a painful burning sensation which sometimes is excruciating. Some individuals even suffer prolapse, finding themselves on and off the operating table. Vaginal reconstruction is in itself a risky affair, any wrong move on the surgeon’s part can lead to lasting damage to the bladder or rectum. Others find they cannot pass water, requiring an emergency visit to the hospital. Tragically none of this will be found referenced on the Mermaids website.

My male past shall forever haunt me, no biological female ever began as a man after all. When out in public I feel I must always be on my guard lest someone ‘read’ me, that is to say see through the illusion of femininity that I project. For example characteristics like jaw-line, large hands, tallness, especially the adam’s apple can be tell-tale signs that one is not what one appears to be. Indeed in the final analysis all I can ever hope to be is a facsimile of a woman. I was born trapped in a man’s body. The only way I will ever leave it is when I take my last breath. All I can truly claim to be innately feminine is my demeanour, my emotional responses, my self-expression, my interaction with others…

So does it mean then that all the pain, abject misery and hell I’ve clawed my way through for many years now amount to nothing? Not necessarily. Though sex reassignment surgery is a pragmatic solution, it does not alone resolve the hell of gender dysphoria. I believe the key to survival is calm, logical acceptance of clinical reality together with the limitations that fact places on the transsexual person.

For many transitioning today who fail to comprehend the reality I describe, I fear you will only meet with disaster.

How many of you, for instance, are even doing so for the right reasons? There will be those (influenced by social media) who see it as cool, merely swept along with the many trends and fads that mark our modern age. Others are inspired by the glamour, competing with their peers for those coveted ‘likes’. The trans celebs must take responsibility here, placing too much focus on beauty rather than pragmatism, after all excuse me if I suggest that none of them ever seem to look like ‘the back end of a bus’. And their encouragement of young followers to purchase hormone pills over secret sites on the web is dangerous in the extreme. More will be transitioning in the belief that ‘the grass is greener on the other side’, an answer to inner feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, or simply searching for love which you feel lacking in your lives.

And that doesn’t even begin to include the countless numbers who are just confused, possibly being gay, cross-dresser, asexual or even autistic as opposed to transsexual. Mermaids are dangerously muddying the waters still further, overly-promoting gender identity theories based on nothing more sound than faith and philosophy. They need to understand that no matter how hard trans people are encouraged to believe or feel themselves to be a member of the opposite sex, it will not make it so – and neither will limitless surgery.

Looking ahead, you will be infertile (especially crossing over so young) so you can forget ever having children yourselves. That also means no grand-children. What you also don’t realize is you have youth on your side only for now. Old age comes to us all. The looks that we all seek will no longer be as much in evidence 30-40 years from now, many of your friends will have moved on and family members passed away (as for all people). But the most important thing you should know is that there are very few men and women in society who will commit themselves to a life with a transsexual person. I know this from experience. And then there is societal prejudice – you simply can’t force people to love you no matter what legal rights you may be given, that’s basic human nature. The most unfortunate will find themselves chronically lonely, isolated and maybe even suicidal.

Of course I’m not suggesting that everyone will end floundering on the rocks, you do get happy endings. But the ones that don’t make it are indeed out there in significant numbers, unseen and unheard. I am merely one who has chosen to come out of obscurity and present an alternative reality in the hope of slowing the runaway train of the ‘trendy to be trans’ culture.

Transition if you truly feel that is the right path for you (not because someone else suggests you do) but be a realist and acknowledge that the end result may fall rather short of your original dream. I don’t wish to be flippant but only Dr. Who could manage the most flawless and genuine sex change ever witnessed.

Leanne Mills

This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. charles lewis

    Hugely powerful, and convincing, Leanne, and very courageous. Should be required reading by everyone on the transgender bandwagon. Thank you.

  2. Sly Fawkes

    Thank you, Leanne, for sharing your story. It couldn’t have been easy.
    I sometimes think that if I had been young in this era, I would have been convinced by psychologists that I was transgender because I never liked to dress in a “feminine” fashion and I was always angry at the opportunities that boys were given. I didn’t want to BE a boy. I wanted the opportunities and respect that they get, and I find feminine clothes impractical.
    I have always felt that transgender people should be treated with kindness and common decency, that no-one should be denied opportunities or be bullied and called names for being transgender. However, I cannot understand or abide by the current climate of consciousness which postulates that anyone who disagrees with the trans activist movement is a “TERF” who deserves to have physical violence done to them. It is impossible to have a conversation about identity politics or about whether transitioning is indeed what is best for a person, for the reasons you mention in your post without being shouted down and accused of being some sort of bigot. One is supposed to simply accept mantras such as “trans women are women” without question.
    The thing is, I’m the sort of person to approach others from an above the neck perspective, not to obsess on what’s below their belt. I’m going to treat people like people first, and if someone identifies as a woman, I will call her by her preferred pronouns (same for men.) I’m not going to demand that this person prove they have the “correct” genitalia or that they were born whatever sex they say they are. However, trans activists will nonetheless brand me a TERF because I question whether giving children puberty blockers is the right action. There is no rational discourse with these people.
    We need more trans people like you who are courageous enough to speak about the downside of transitioning. Thank you for doing so.

  3. Maria MacLachlan

    Love you, Leanne. You are awesome – thank you for speaking out.

  4. Ruby warner

    So true and needed saying. Thank you.

  5. Fiona mcclymont

    Thank you, Leanne. I just hope some of these misguided children and their parents listen to you.

  6. Patrick FitzSymons

    Thank you, Leanne, for your courage and generosity of spirit…

  7. Patrick FitzSymons

    Thank you, Leanne, for your remarkable courage and generosity of spirit…

  8. chad

    The trans community is going to be in a tizzy for her having spoken the truth.

  9. Susan Green

    Thank you. I find your story really helpful.

  10. Eileen Clarke

    I admire your bravery in speaking out, Leanne. You’re clearly a deeply thoughtful person with insight of yourself few can accomplish.

  11. Philippa Hammond

    Beautifully written, a subject I knew nothing about until the GRA debate last year, and profoundly moving. Lived experience speaks.

  12. Vortex of Bloggery

    Extraordinary and powerful. Thanks to Leanne for speaking the truth.

  13. Sharon Campbell

    Thank you for speaking out about
    your experiences, Leanne. Young people need to know the truth so they can make informed decisions. You are brave to do this

  14. Imogen Makepeace

    Thank you Leanne, best wishes to you

  15. Tony Turner

    This confirms much of what I suspected. When my son told me he wanted to transition, aged 26, I asked him what he thought he could do as a transgender woman, that he could not do as a sensitive man. He told me I did not understand, but I fear that he may be the one who did not understand, and Leanne’s open letter confirms my doubts. Thank you for being brave Leanne, and ignore anyone who has a go at you for not following the transgender propaganda line.

  16. Susan Moses

    You can identify as a male living as a female if you want. Or some third gender. Just remember if you tell other trans women they are not “real” women it will come across as internalized transphobia. Just like if you told a cisgender women with the same problems as you (facial hair, infertility, no sex partner) that she was not a “real” woman, she would call you sexist.

    1. Scott Glynn


    2. amy vegan

      @susan moses- re: “Susan Moses 17 JAN 2019 REPLY
      You can identify as a male living as a female if you want. Or some third gender. Just remember if you tell other trans women they are not “real” women it will come across as internalized transphobia. Just like if you told a cisgender women with the same problems as you (facial hair, infertility, no sex partner) that she was not a “real” woman, she would call you sexist.” I am a cis gender “real woman” with facial hair. It’s called PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome. Note the word OVARY. Facial hair is a female issue.

  17. Marie

    I am deeply impressed by Leeanne’s wisdom and clear-thinking. I wonder why anyone thinks that happiness is directly related to one’s gender? Men can be happy or unhappy; women can be happy or unhappy. It is true that women have had disadvantages in our society; but it is mainly men who have had to fight wars! Unfortunately, in some cultures, women are greatly discriminated against. The answer is to change the culture. Your gender (“sex” is probably the correct word, but both these words are incorrectly used these days) is not your identity. Your physical body is not your identity. I am now old, by social standards, but I feel the same inside as when I was 12–just more experienced.

    Maybe all of us are suffering from an identity crisis, and the cause is our disconnection from God. The reality is that we are children of God. If I am wrong to mention God, let everyone decide for himself or herself. I can’t separate my beliefs from everything else. Everything is connected, and we can’t really separate our beliefs from our lifestyle.

  18. Marie

    Great letter, Leanne.
    I wrote a long comment, but for some reason, it doesn’t show up. Are comments censored?

    1. Transgender Trend

      Hi Marie, we haven’t received a long comment from you. Please resubmit. Comments are moderated before posting – hence the delay sometimes. Thank you.

    2. Transgender Trend

      Hi again Marie, your longer comment went into the Spam folder for some reason. Published now! Thanks for commenting.

  19. Nicole Richards

    Great to hear something from the heart. I had my surgery over 35 years ago and I’m more often than not angry at some of the so called young Trans activists stories and arguments that I read. Helping young children to start blockers is child abuse. It always amazes me how it’s always the loudest activists that have in fact NOT had GRS that talk so much rubbish. But I’m still confused as to why the press are so reluctant to talk with people that have lived as a Trans woman for so many years that can actually make a difference and actually help the next generation.

  20. Michelle Uriarau

    Much respect to you Leanne.

  21. Leanne Mills

    Thank you so much to everyone for your kind words, and I’m so grateful to Transgender Trend for posting my letter. It inspires me to go forward xx

  22. Name Withheld

    Surely these children would be supported by competent mental health professionals?

  23. Kathy Ferguson

    Thank you so much for this courageous, profoundly honest and beautifully written letter, Leanne. I hope it will help many to understand more deeply all that is meant by transition.

  24. Jamie Shupe

    Youth should take note of the growing number of aging transgender people such as Leanne that are coming out of the shadows at great personal expense to share the harsh lessons of their journeys.

    You can lie to yourself and even get others to go along with those lies, but in the end, you can’t escape your birth sex and your biology.

    Thank you for your bravery, Leanne.

  25. anonymous

    I read this with interest, Leanne. I’m a trans man, having transitioned over a decade ago, and I have to agree that it seems to have become very fashionable to be ‘trans’ and that ideas are being peddled on the internet at the expense of the reality.
    It was very difficult to find someone who wanted to settle down with me, and I still worry that I am not as ‘acceptable’ as another person might be, in my darker moments. My body doesn’t ‘match’ – I have had a mastectomy which left me very badly scarred and certainly doesn’t look like the triumphant ‘after’ photos one sees paraded on social media. I couldn’t even contemplate lower surgery after the pain and trauma, and nor could I spend time recovering for months, on and off, when bills need to be paid and life, as always, marches on.
    I don’t regret my transition, and my life is better now, not perfect, but better in the sense that I feel more myself that I was when I was trying to look like Madonna. It has come with sacrifices, some terrible. Some family members have turned their backs on me. Some pretend to accept me, but almost casually exclude me from their social events. I can’t change people that do this, and I don’t care to try, so I just get on with my life. Not as a ‘real man’ or whatever, but someone who is trying to live the best life they can. I’m not doing too badly, despite everything. I hope you are, too 🙂

    1. Leanne Mills

      I was moved reading your story, thank you for sharing it. So much of what you say dovetails with my experiences. With my parents gone, the only relatives left are from my Mum’s side and they have rejected me. Where I live my neighbours all know and are polite, but none call round if they’ve not seen me in months.

      Like yourself I don’t regret transitioning, it was a way to survive. I just wish it could have been more than what it finally yielded. In a sense ‘crossing over’ did work for me in that I’m here today telling the tale; had I not done so, I’d be well dead now, from suicide. Indeed it was a major suicide bid which kick-started my decision to go for reassignment in the first place. It ‘s sobering reflecting on it from nearly 25 years on.

      1. Claudia

        Hi, Leanne, I was truly moved reading of your journey, as I might be you. I’m slightly older than you are, and like you, I’m a transgender person, being aware of it since I was about 5 or 6. Like you, I had no perception of “gender” — I just felt different. Yet, not knowing what was possible in the 1970’s and 80’s, I did nothing and I thought I’d managed to crush my female doppelgänger. I went on to marry, to have several children now reaching adult age. Three years ago, overnight and completely without warning, my female double woke up and I had a melt-down as I never thought would be possible : it seemed to me that I had ignored my true self my whole life in exchange for the shallow security of social approval.

        I can appreciate your story, as I might have been you : you mention suicidal ideations as the major trigger for your change. In your original Daily Mail story, you sadly wrote (about yourself, unless I’m mistaken) “lost in a twilight world of fear and loneliness and just wishing life would end.” I am at that point as well (just wishing life would end) (being under a psychiatrist’s supervision), except that I’m looking at life from the perspective of someone your age who didn’t dare (or didn’t know how) to transition and did every thing “right” by social standards.

        So, now, I’m facing the temptation of transitioning, at my age, with a high likelihood of causing a major family disruption. On the other hand, when I hear such heart-rending stories as yours, I don’t know what to do : go on trying to throttle my inside girl until I dry up and die of inner emptiness or let myself be myself and transition, now that I have paid the social dues expected of a “true man” — raised a family, quite successfully, contributed to society’s smooth running, etc.

        To come to the point I’m trying to make, your letter is “To young trans people.” I’m no longer young. I’m standing on one side of the valley and you on the other. It seems that some dark river is running at the bottom — you have crossed it. My question would be (if it makes sense) : did you cross it too young ? Do you think that if you were to have done it later, you might have been happier — if suicidal thoughts hadn’t provided such a strong push ? Or do you think that crossing this particular river always leads to a shipwreck, now matter how old one is ?

        I hope I’m not turning the knife in the wound, but I would like to hear your take on this, after reading both your article and your letter.

        Thank you for sharing and good luck.

  26. Billy Copenhaver

    Reality is not subject to our desires, wishes or fantasies…To acknowledge our own misunderstandings is a sign of intelligence. To try to help others is a sign of the heart. congrats on your awakening friend…

  27. Martie Stollen

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with today’s somewhat confused (weren’t we all?!) teens and their shell-shocked parents. I want so badly to share this with my teen, who believe wholeheartedly that they are trans, yet I risk alienation and even more silence. When most therapists and doctors aren’t questioning these kids, what do we do as parents? I’m terrified.

  28. Janet Jones

    Found this site yesterday following an enlightening interview with Bob Withers on our national radio here in New Zealand. My 17 year old grandchild has been undergoing testosterone injections for past 12 months. This transition has been a ‘bomb like’ situation for our family. In the case of our grandchild there is a complex past history: father gaining custody and continued antisocial behaviour of mother, but it appears none of this has been adequately dealt with by the tiny number (a significant 1 currently) of professionals dealing with my grandchild’s mental health & welfare. Having survived this far and amazingly, despite a chaotic 2018, excelling at their exams my grandchild is now in the final year with plans for university or ‘the world’. But. This whole venture has ripped our small family unit apart. Although initially all of us were trying to be helpful and supportive, none of our opinions about taking things slowly were listened to and once 16 the decision to transition was taken from the family’s hands. This has alienated my grandchild from their father and step mother so now it seems its up to us the grandparents. We have offered lodgings at our place as a way of completing their final school year in relative peace and quiet. Although I will not express these views to my grandchild, I do have a reluctance to do this because 1) it shouldn’t be my responsibility because the whole process has caused this family disconnect and if it had been handled correctly it wouldn’t have happened and 2) I will have to keep my views to myself because my grandchild has been in (and still is I would think) a very fragile state, so adding my disapproval to their perception of what their immediate family thinks, will not be good. Just to end by saying how pleased I am to have found this site and to have the opportunity to read Leanne’s article along with all the validating messages in the comments.

  29. Mama Moon

    Thank you Leanne for a well rounded bird’s-eye view into this world that I feel my child is dragging me into. I am saving this letter to show to them. xoxox

  30. Faith

    The idea around a shattered fantasy has hit me . Must just accept that I will have a male body forever and nothing will ever change that. I accept it, do not let the fact get me down, just do what I can to get on with things. Thank you for this very thought provoking piece, I agree with people above this should be read by anyone even thinking of transition.

  31. Stella

    Thank you for your post. I am not sure what I am – definately a confused mother to a trans identified child of 14years. I really do not care what my child decides to be, when they are capable of making an informed decision and understand the serious implications on the choices they make. I am scared with what my child says that the groups and online support they seek information from are all pro and glorify how perfect life is when trans. I knew from about the age of 7 my child was most likely to be bisexual so was unsurprised when they came out to us last year- but not once did I get the impression they wanted to be a different gender – if I did maybe I would think differently now. I belive this is more about social notice/inclusion/apperance of friends and I had been feeling alone and lost until I read this post. I just want my child to be who they want to be without making a mistake of life changing surgery amd regretting it. You provide hope to me that I can be strong in my resolve & believe they need to be older. It also gives me hope that even if they choose to transition they can be happy with this too but have to be prepared for different challenges.

    1. Transgender Trend

      Stella, so sorry for the delay in approving your comment – for some reason it was sitting in our spam folder.

  32. Just Me

    I am 54 years of age and suffered with GD all my life. its not easy to deal with and I have never taken hormones or had surgery. the reason for this is it not a cure for GD, if it were I would of done it by now. Also transitioning is a more difficult road than living with GD. this whole thing about early interventions on children who say their trans is madness. It should be left until at least age 25, and the medical profession should be doing more on the mental wellbeing of the child until then.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.