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.