Dan Hitz is the director of Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc. and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Michigan. This article is an introduction to some of the negative effects of medical and psychological treatment that seeks to affirm a transgender person’s gender identity, rather than to explore the root issues creating the gender dysphoria. As this is an extremely complex topic that cannot be fully covered within the scope of this newsletter, this article will serve as a general overview. Resources are presented at the end of this article which will provide a much more thorough exploration of transgender issues.
Activists claim to represent the best interests of all those with discordant gender identities, insisting that their policies and treatment protocols are the only ethical ones, and that other approaches lead to depression and suicide. Popular media outlets are happy to report on people who seem to find contentment with sex reassignment procedures. We seldom hear the voices of people who discovered that hormones and surgery were not the answer but often the source of new problems.
Ryan T. Anderson – When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment 1
At first I thought I was the only transgender who had regret or almost committed suicide. Now thirty years after my life-altering surgery I realize I’m just one in a population of silent, shame-filled individuals who suffer from a needless gender change. Yet, for all the pain, we are the lucky ones because at least we did not take our own lives.
Walt Heyer –Gender, Lies and Suicide: A Whistleblower Speaks Out 2
Those who believe they are a man or a woman trapped in the wrong body experience deep emotional distress. We in the Body of Christ are called to walk alongside them, hear their heart, and help them receive the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus took the time to hear the heart of the woman at the well and ministered grace and truth, we are called to speak the truth in love and help members of the LGBTQ community experience the conviction and healing power of the cross. We may not fully understand the challenges they are struggling with, but we can walk with them to the One who truly does understand their journey. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted. He loves to set the captive free.
Members of the mental health and medical community are also called to walk alongside of men and women who are at odds with their biological sex. People with gender dysphoria deserve the best mental health care and medical treatment available, and they look to the medical community to provide it. Unfortunately, the current standard of care for gender dysphoria is not to help the person bring their mental perceptions in line with their physical reality. The current standard of care is to immediately affirm their transgender identity, and begin to alter their bodies to match their emotional beliefs. Instead of helping strugglers understand the emotional issues that have caused them to reject their birth sex and identify as the opposite gender, mental health professionals immediately work to affirm their perceived gender and bring their physical body in line with their emotional perceptions. Popular culture, and even the legal system, support and defend the medical community in their efforts to override a person’s physical reality. The system even attacks the mere suggestion that we should look at the emotional roots of a transgender identity. In some states in the US, it is illegal for therapists to work with anyone under the age of 18 to help them explore the possibility that their transgender feelings may have emotional roots. The main mental health organizations believe that it is unethical and harmful to help anyone, regardless of age, seek to overcome an LGBTQ identity. Their mandate is affirmation. Sadly, efforts to prioritize transgender emotional perceptions over physical realities often compound the pre-existing emotional problems and create medical complications. This article will survey some of the most common problems transgenders experience with medical interventions, and will provide resources for more information and help for those who seek it.
One of the most obvious problems with current mental health and medical interventions is that they fail to address the root issues creating the transgender identity. Denise Shick, founder and director of Help 4 Families; and Walt Heyer, a noted author on the subject of transgender regret, write that gender dysphoria can be the result of a variety of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, dissociative disorder, PTDS, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.3, 4 Those who have transitioned, frequently discover that their transition did not resolve their underlying emotional struggles. Many who received additional therapy for those issues after their transition find that they now begin to identify more with their birth sex than the opposite gender. If they express wishes to detransition – realign with their birth sex – they quickly find that the overwhelming support they received to transition has vanished. Unfortunately, most of the physical effects of their original transition are difficult or impossible to correct.
Walt Heyer writes from personal experience. He was born a male and surgically transitioned to female when he was 42 years old. Before his transition, Heyer sought care from a prominent doctor who was a co-author of the standards of care for transgender individuals. This doctor approved his transition. Even though he lived as a woman for eight years, Heyer realized that his transition failed to bring him the peace he had hoped for. His gender dysphoria grew worse. The underlying issues of his dysphoria were not addressed until he was serving as an intern in a psychological hospital. The doctor he was working under told him that he had signs of a dissociative disorder. Heyer sought psychological care from treatment providers who focused on his underlying disorders rather than transgender issues. He learned that he developed a dissociative disorder to escape from the pain of childhood sexual abuse. The doctor who approved his transgender surgery failed to link childhood trauma to his transgender struggle. Heyer is now in his 70s and helps many man and women cope with the pain of sex change regret.1
Most transgenders find emotional relief in the initial stages of their transition, and many report an increased sense of wellbeing immediately following their surgery. However, as the years go by, others come to the realization that no matter how much they have altered their bodies, they are still inherently male or female. There are differences between males and females on a molecular level, and no amount of hormones and cosmetic surgery can alter their chromosomes.1 Walt Heyer observes that sex change regret begins to set in five to ten years after gender reassignment surgery.4 The exact numbers for those who suffer from sex change regret are difficult to find. Most studies only cover the first five years and have a very small number of participants.
The trans affirming community asserts that sex change regret is rare. Heyer sites a German study from 2018 which reports that a majority of male to female transgenders reported higher quality of life following their surgery. What the media fails to report is that 25% of the study participants reported a lower quality of life following the surgery. Although sex change regret surfaces five to ten years after a person’s transition, this study included those who had surgery between 1995 and 2015. Many of the participants had not yet passed the five year anniversary of their transition. Heyer’s ministerial experience suggests that more of the participants of the study will experience regret as the years go by.
Another danger of gender reassignment surgery is an increased risk of suicide. Transgenders, especially teens, are at an increased risk of suicide to begin with. Research indicates that 41% of adult transgenders attempted suicide at some point in their lives. Transgender advocates claim that transitioning is the only way to save those struggling from gender dysphoria from attempting suicide. However, just as sex change regret increases many years after the surgery, the suicide rate is also significant ten years following the surgery. Heyer cites a Swedish study which found that the suicide rate of post-operative transgenders is 19 times that of non-transgender peers,4 and higher than those identifying as transgender who did not transition surgically. Clearly, gender reassignment surgery is not the answer to prevent suicide among those struggling with gender dysphoria.
In addition to the emotional complications experienced by those transitioning, there are a host of medical complications. The Mayo Clinic notes that adult men undergoing feminizing hormone therapy are at increased risk for blood clots in their lungs and deep veins, high triglycerides, gallstones, weight gain, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more.5 The Mayo Clinic also reports that adult women undergoing masculinizing hormone therapy are at increased risk for overproduction of red blood cells, weight gain, abnormal amount of lipids in the blood; as well as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardio vascular disease when risk factors are present.6 The American Heart Association reviewed a Dutch study that found that transwomen – biological males who transitioned to female – experienced nearly twice as many strokes as non-trans males and females, twice as many heart attacks as women, and 5/4.5 times more likely to experience deep vein clots as women/men. Transmen – biological females who transitioned to male – experience three times the heart attack risks as women.7
Children are identifying as transgender at younger ages. Similar to the standard of care for adults, rather than working with a teen or prepubescent child to understand the roots of his or her gender dysphoria, the medical profession is fueled by trans activists to affirm his or her gender choices. As Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation writes in his book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, eight year olds are now seen as the ultimate authority to determine their own gender and medical treatment. They are encouraged to socially transition to the opposite sex in spite of the fact that young children lack the mental and emotional capacity to fully understand the implications of their decision.1 Schools encourage young children to socially transition by dressing in the cultural clothing of their identified gender, choosing their preferred pronoun, and attending school as their chosen gender. Many schools in the United States have policies in place to affirm the chosen gender of the child even without the parents’ knowledge or approval. Parents who refuse to cooperate with their child’s transition risk disciplinary action from child protective services.
After a child transitions socially, he or she will be given puberty blocking hormones. Doctors tell parents that this is to give the child more time to consider the option of transitioning while delaying the onset of his or her primary sexual characteristics. The potential side effects of puberty blockers are downplayed, yet the health risks of delaying puberty are not fully known. When the final decision is made to transition, the teen will be prescribed cross-sex hormones and his or her body will begin taking on the characteristics of the opposite sex. At this point the child has an increased risk of permanent sterilization even if the cross-sex hormones are stopped at a later date, because the body has never started to develop the primary sex characteristics due to the puberty blockers. The Christian Medical and Dental Association reports that the puberty blocking hormones inhibit normal growth and fertility, while the cross-sex hormones administered during adolescents are associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and some forms of cancer.8 Many of the effects of cross-sex hormones are irreversible, such as increased facial hair and an Adam’s apple and deeper voice for biological females, and breast development for biological males. Sterility is irreversible. This begs the question of how a prepubescent child or teen can have the personal insight to adequately determine if they are willing to risk hormone treatment at the cost of being unable to bear children later in life. If the transition progresses, the teen will eventually begin surgical procedures which will further advance his or her trans identity. Many of the physical changes performed through surgery are permanent, or at the very least, require additional surgery to reverse.
It is important to note that multiple research studies indicate that anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of prepubescent children who identify as transgender will grow up to embrace their birth gender without counseling or direct intervention.10 With therapy, up to 95 percent of these children learn to embrace their birth sex. Unfortunately, of the children given puberty blockers, 100% of them continue to transition and begin hormone therapy.4 This strongly suggests that affirming a child’s emotional perception of being transgendered locks him or her into a pattern of transition, rather than addressing the underlying emotional problems fueling the transgender feelings. It is no wonder that Dr. Michelle Cretella, President of the American College of Pediatricians, writes about the trend of transitioning children, “Today’s institutions that promote transition affirmation are pushing children to impersonate the opposite sex, sending many of them down the path of puberty blockers, sterilization, the removal of healthy body parts, and untold psychological damage. These harms constitute nothing less than institutionalized child abuse.”11
There has to better answers for transmales and transfemales than aligning their bodies with their gender confusion. In Matthew, Chapter 19 some people brought little children to Jesus and wanted Him to pray for them. Sadly, the disciples rebuked those who brought the children. They didn’t want to bother with the kids for some reason. Those same disciples urged Jesus to send the Canaanite woman away in Chapter 15. As we look at the negative effects of transgender affirming treatment, and the political/cultural waves continue to come, it is easy to get overwhelmed and skeptical that reaching out to the transgender community with the Gospel would have any value. Fortunately, Jesus’ response was much different than the disciples’. He immediately told the disciples to let the kids come to Him and Jesus ministered to the children. Interestingly enough, He tested the Canaanite woman and showed the disciples that she actually had great faith in Him. Jesus honored that faith by granting her request. May we who identify as Christians have Christ-like compassion on those who identify as trans. May we have the character to look beyond the issues on the surface that we may not understand, and offer the same grace that we so desperately need. May we be faithful to listen to their hearts, and speak the truth in love. May we be faithful to offer transgenders the hope of Christ.
Help is available…
Reconciliation Ministries www.recmin.org
Help 4 Families www.help4families.org
Walt Heyer Ministries www.sexchangeregret.com
Linda Seiler www.lindaseiler.com
1 Anderson, Ryan T. When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. Encounter Books, 2018.
2 Heyer, Walt. Gender, Lies and Suicide: A Whistleblower Speaks Out. Make Waves Publishing, Middletown, DE, 2013.
3 Shick, Denise. Understanding Gender Confusion: A Faith Based Perspective. Help 4 Families Press, Ashland, KY, 2014.
4 Heyer, Walt. Trans Life Survivors. Self-published, Lexington, KY, 2018.
5 Mayo Clinic. “Feminizing Hormone Therapy”. Posted October 7, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mtf-hormone-therapy/about/pac-20385096 on 6/6/2019.
6 May Clinic. “Masculinizing Hormone Therapy”. Posted August 31, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ftm-hormone-therapy/about/pac-20385099 on 6/6/2019.
7 American Heart Association. “Hormone Therapy May Increase Cardiovascular Risk During Gender Transition”. Science Daily. February 18, 2019. Retrieved June 13, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190218093959.htm on 6/13/2019.
8 Christian Medical and Dental Association. “CMDA Position Statement on Transgender Identification”. Adopted April 21, 2016. Retrieved from https://cmda.org/article/transgender-identification/ on 6/6/2019.
9 Robbins, Jane. “Why Puberty Blockers are a Clear Danger to Children’s Health”. The Federalist. Retrieved from https://thefederalist.com/2018/12/14/puberty-blockers-clear-danger-childrens-health/ on 6/6/2019.
10 Cantor, James. “How Many Transgender Kids Grow Up to Stay Trans?” PsyPost. Posted December 30, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.psypost.org/2017/12/many-transgender-kids-grow-stay-trans-50499 on 2/24/2019.
11 Cretella, Dr. Michelle. “I’m a Pediatricina. How Transgender Ideology Has Infiltrated My Field and Produced Large-Scale Child Abuse.” The Daily Signal. Posted July 3, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.dailysignal.com//print?post_id=342833 on 6/10/2019.
© 2019 Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc. This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as no fee is charged and credit is given to Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.