Pushing a narrative of “regret” contradicts our lived experiences

In a climate where the rights of transgender people are under continuous assault, amplifying false talking points does substantial damage to our health and wellbeing.

Pushing a narrative of “regret” contradicts our lived experiences

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By: Adrian Elaine Doerr (Finance and Administration Director, Gender Justice) originally published in the Star Tribune on April 15, 2022

It’s difficult to put into words the anger I feel reading the opinion piece “What I wish I’d known before my transition” (first published by the Washington Post and included in the Star Tribune’s April 14 print edition).

In a year when the assault on transgender people’s rights has intensified with speed and fury across the United States — and in the process has promoted a whole host of lies about trans people — it’s disturbing that this paper would choose to amplify a voice that calls into question a basic health need for most trans people and isn’t representative of the vast majority of transgender people’s experiences.

At its heart, this commentary reads like a checklist of current transphobic talking points through the lens of personal experience. By equating “fad diets” or “body-shaping clothing” to the need for trans folks to seek hormone care or gender-affirming surgery, it uses an analogy that conflates the bodily dissatisfactions we all face with the gender dysphoria that trans folks feel.

And it promotes the notion that being transgender is something of a caprice or phase, a falsity regularly espoused by Republicans across the nation to limit access to trans-specific health care.

It also rehashes a consistently false talking point that trans teenagers are too young to understand their gender and make affirming choices for their bodies.

In my own experience as a trans person, what I feel the most regret about is not transitioning sooner. I still mourn the time I lost from my life prior to transition, especially because I now feel so much joy and ease in my body.

Growing up in rural Michigan, my teenage self had no idea that it was possible to feel anything other than torment and despair about my body. And if I had known about gender-affirming care then, I would have undoubtedly sought it out.

And while I feel bad that the writer has struggled to feel at home in their body after their gender-affirming surgery, their experience is at odds with almost every other trans person. I could point out that peer-reviewed research in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery — Global Open demonstrates that 99% of trans people who have gender-affirming surgery do not regret their choice. I could give you a litany of examples of people in my own life who have benefited enormously from having gender-affirming surgery. But I’m not sure if that matters in the end because in running this piece the damage has already been done.

Elevating a narrative like this continues to create an environment of skepticism and doubt around the very real feelings and health care needs trans people have about their gender and their embodiment.

I’m most angry at a media ecosystem that propagates these indictments of trans life — every editor who chooses to run an article like this actively encourages disinformation and distortion of what it means to be a trans person. Running this commentary mirrors the callousness of the politicians who demonize trans people and see them as objects for a culture war, rather than human beings worthy of respect and a full life. It helps to create the conditions for the continued attacks on the basic health care needs and human rights of trans people.

It’s long past time for the space devoted to commentaries like this one to be replaced by information that actually discusses the experiences and challenges that most trans people face in their daily lives, rather than these politically motivated fringe examples that are in no way representative of what it means to be trans.