A detransitioner speaks
Note: this article uses the name on the user’s YouTube account throughout.
Emory Waite had a problem. “I hated myself and wanted to be someone else,” she says.
The oldest child in a large family that shouldered her with a lot of responsibility, Emory’s parents had gendered expectations and gave her brothers more freedom than her.
Frequent family moves uprooted them. Emory became an outsider with all the classic teenager tropes: loneliness, resentment of social in-grouping, alienation, depression, self-harm.
Worse, Emory recognized early that she was a lesbian. In deeply-conservative Tasmania, that was a hard road to travel.
“I realized I liked girls in grade 4,” she says, and also feminine boys. By grade 8, she was “only attracted to girls.”
“I felt guilty,” Emory says. She was “sick.”
“It wasn’t a fun time.”
Then gender transition beckoned, presenting itself as the perfect solution for all her issues. Emory “read an article framing transition as the medical pathway to happiness” and decided to try out being a boy.
Surprisingly, even though she never had dysphoria, “I never questioned it,” Emory says. In her interviews with clinicians, she “ticked all the boxes of someone who should take hormone treatment” anyway.
“I bought the entire validation myth,” Emory says. She takes full responsibility for telling people what they wanted to hear in order to access treatment.
Still, her account should worry anyone who has paid attention to the debate over pediatric transition.
For Emory, the first red flag came almost two years into taking testosterone when she realized “I still hated myself just as much as before I started transitioning.”
The promises of transition proved to be empty. Rather than solve all her problems, hormones and a new wardrobe induced gender dysphoria.
It is a common theme in these videos: transition promises to solve unrelated problems, then simply compounds them with a massive new one.
Emory’s transition was a five year experience of accomplishing nothing with her life out of anxiety that some stranger would realize she was female.
“Dysphoria came from anxiety over passing,” Emily says. “It made self-hatred okay.”
She wore a binder for more than a year, refusing to leave the house without it. “I couldn’t check the mail” until she had put it on, Emily says.
Because the “process” of transition never really ends, it frequently becomes an all-consuming self-obsession that makes makes people miserable rather than happy.
Far from a form of ‘self-expression,’ transition was all about self-censorship for Emory.
She still liked wearing a dress sometimes, but threw them all away out of fear. She would sometimes paint her nails and then remove it before anyone could see. She wanted to grow her hair out, but was terrified of being misgendered.
Avoidance of ego-death became an all-consuming preoccupation. “I struggle with being proved wrong,” Emory says. “I don’t want to admit when I’m wrong.”
But she could see how the daily labor of upholding a male ‘gender identity’ was changing her in ways she did not like.
“I just completely lacked empathy,” Emory explains. “I thought the world should revolve around me.”
This, too, was a product of internalized stereotypes. “I thought because I was a guy, it was okay” to be nihilistic, she says.
What happiness she did feel was just the euphoria of hormone treatment, which did not prove lasting.
Emory acknowledges the role of internalized homophobia in her transition. “I couldn’t accept myself for being a lesbian,” she says.
When her formerly anti-gay grandmother expressed new willingness to accept a lesbian grandchild, Emory felt the dam crack.
Still connected to her family and friends, Emory found she had the support to actually be herself instead of trying to be someone else.
Doubts were gathering as her surgery date approached. The massive costs of lifelong medicalization were daunting.
Talking to her mother about her doubts finally tipped the scales. “I needed to hear that I would be okay and it was never too late to detransition,” Emory says.
While she still sees her experience as part of a journey to self-acceptance, Emory admits that she was not happy.
She regrets taking hormones and binding her chest, but she says she is finally happy. Emory no longer needs validation and proudly wears the “labels” of a woman and a lesbian.
“I love myself now. I really do. It has take me almost 22 years to accept myself,” she says, brimming with self-esteem.
This story is Emory’s own to tell, but it is hardly unique. In fact, it sounds very like so many other detransition stories I have heard.
though im grateful for everything ive learned through my transition, such as life experiences and self-love and confidence, there's still a bigger part of me than i would care to admit that wishes i could go back and not transition at all
— em 🦎 (@funkylildyke) June 1, 2020
If I could sum up my impressions into one sentence, it would be a familiar progressive LGB motto that has somehow been forgotten in the new rush towards pediatric transition: It gets better.