Proponents of “transgenderism” would have us believe medical transition is the only path for children identifying as “transgender,” but a growing number of detransitioners belies this stance.
On February 18, Panacol Productions released a new documentary about the medical transition of young people on the popular video platform Vimeo. Affirmation Generation: The Lies of Transgender Medicine shines a timely spotlight on a medical scandal in the making. Four days later, after it had been viewed 19,000 times, Vimeo removed the film.
Affirmation Generation’s producer, Vera Linder, told me via email last night that when Vimeo removed her documentary she received an email from the company informing her that her content violated Vimeo’s Terms of Service. She also speculated, “It’s possible that getting 19,000 views in three days generated too much traffic.” Linder said she submitted an appeal.
Today Linder contacted me again to say Vimeo had reinstated her documentary. She believes the about-face is due to the outpouring of support the film received on Twitter.
The one-and-a-half-hour film features interviews with half a dozen detransitioners and desisters, as well as doctors, therapists, and journalists. It is organized into three parts: Dysphoria, The Only Path: Affirmation and Transition, and Detransition.
Like another recently released (and promptly censored) documentary, Dead Name, which shines a light on parents of children who claim to be the opposite sex, Affirmation Generation foregrounds a group neglected by mainstream media: detransitioners.
Affirmation Generation centers on “gender dysphoria,” defined in the film as per a report by Reuters as “a feeling of distress from identifying as a gender different from the one assigned at birth.” According to this document, over 42,000 children aged six to 17 were diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2021 in the United States alone — a 70% increase from 2020.
Captions inform viewers that in 2011, 0.1 to 0.3% of the U.S. population was estimated to be “transgender. In 2021, a study of 5000 public school teens found 9% claimed a transgender identity.
The detransitioners — three young men (Joel, David, and Abel) and three young women (Cat, Laura, and Michelle) — share their heartbreaking stories, discussing what led them to attempt a medical “transition,” the side effects of the cross-sex hormones they were given, the permanent damage to their bodies, as well as their reasons for detransitioning and regrets.
The detransitioners’ stories and experiences are supplemented by interviews with a number of licensed therapists and medical professionals, including: Stella O’Malley, a psychotherapist from Ireland and author of Bully-Proof Kids and Fragile; Dr. Lisa Littman, the American physician-scientist who coined the term ROGD (Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria) and serves on the advisory boards of GenSpect and Gender Dysphoria Alliance; American endocrinologist Dr. William Malone; Lisa Marchiano, American LCSW, psychoanalyst and author; Sasha Ayad, an American licensed professional counselor, the co-host of Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast (with Stella O’Malley), and a founding board member of several organizations, including the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine; and Stephanie Winn, American LMF therapist and host of the You Must be Some Kind of Therapist podcast.
Other interviewees include Joey Brite, an American desister and activist; journalist Lisa Selin Davis, the author of Tomboy; and Jennifer Bilek, the investigative journalist behind The 11th Hour Blog.
The film opens with footage of rallies, protests, and media clips addressing the medical transition of children. In a televised address to the American nation, Joe Biden says, “To everyone celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility, I want you to know that your President sees you.” In another clip, Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage; The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, asks an important question: “So the puzzle is, why, out of nowhere, in the last decade, have we seen a sudden and sharp spike of teenage girls, who have no childhood history of gender dysphoria, suddenly deciding they’re trans — often with their girlfriends?”
Cat, Laura, and Michelle provide some answers.
Cat, who appears to be in her twenties, recalls dressing up in her father’s clothes as a child. Her problems with “gender dysphoria,” however, only began when she reached puberty. Then, she says, “I just started to feel very uncomfortable in my body — very uncomfortable with the changes that were happening.” She recalls browsing the internet at 13, and coming across a forum for FTM (female to male) people:
“… It had tips on how to pass. It had people telling their stories of transitioning and saying that they’d had chest surgery, that they used to have female genitals and now they had male genitals. And just the way they were talking about it, they made it sound like it was entirely possible to change sex.”
Cat’s parents brought her to see a gender therapist. “He affirmed my trans-identity within two appointments — really the first appointment — and I think it was the third appointment that he suggested I start testosterone,” she said.
Cat started hormone therapy, and initially enjoyed the changes happening to her body. However, after a few months she noticed concerning side-effects: almost daily heart palpitations, frequent nausea, weight gain (she gained 20 lbs.), edema, as well as discomfort speaking and singing. Cat, a singer, was also binding her chest.
Cat reflects on the reasons she began to feel so uncomfortable with her body at puberty, explaining, “I think that being sexually assaulted absolutely contributed to my gender dysphoria getting stronger and wanting to be a woman even less.” She also notes that before “transitioning” she had had an eating disorder and a suicide attempt.
Laura had a history of depression, anxiety, and autism before her medical transition, which included hormone therapy and a double mastectomy. When she was 15, she was introduced to the concept of “gender identities” on Tumblr and at school in the gay-straight alliance club. She adopted labels like “androgynous” and “gender-queer” at first, before becoming convinced “transitioning” into a gay man would mean being loved and accepted. In truth, she says:
“The transition didn’t help. It actually made things worse for me, physically, mentally, and socially. Testosterone really worsened my mental health: depression, mood swings, anger issues, social issues. I lost a lot of friends because I was in a bad mental state.”
Eventually, Laura discovered the work of radical feminists who were challenging gender identity ideology, and began to understand the link between trauma and trans-identification:
“I started talking to detransitioners — this very small group — and I realized that it was all due to trauma and nothing had changed and I wasn’t really any different and I wasn’t any better off. The worst part is that I sort of learned that I could have just dealt with it.”
Laura says her double mastectomy was “one of the worst mistakes that I’ve made.”
Echoing the experiences of other detransitioners interviewed in the film, Laura says she turned to professionals, but was “ushered along very mindlessly,” adding, “I have permanent damage because of it.”
Michelle, now in her thirties, says Tumblr and her peers also played a role in introducing her to the concept of gender identity.
Though she had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD, it was “gender dysphoria” that made sense to her:
“It answered the question: Why am I being bullied when I was in elementary school? Oh, it must have been because I was transgender. Why didn’t I like dresses? Why didn’t I want to wear makeup… Oh, all of this is because I’m transgender. Like, so many of my friends are starting to identify as transgender and are starting to transition. It feels like something that is really catching fire.”
She joined TransFam Support Group, for people considering “transitioning,” run by two trans-identified therapists. One day they told her a clinic nearby was looking for transgender patients. “They want experience with transgender patients,” they told Michelle. We learn that one of the clinic’s therapists wrote her a letter recommending testosterone after seeing her for approximately one hour.
Michelle remembers finding the changes to her body interesting at first. She then got a double mastectomy. A video she made afterwards shows her bare-chested and breastless. Looking stunned, she says, “I don’t know what to say, really.”
Eventually, Michelle came to the realization that the childhood bullying she suffered was due to her autism, not because she was “transgender.” But not before undergoing an elective hysterectomy — “the worst thing” she did as part of her attempt to transition. “Even before I detransitioned there was a part of me thinking, ‘Actually, I do want children now.’”
Michelle’s detransition began with her roommate, who had detransitioned and encouraged her to read online posts by other detransitioners. Initially she refused, believing these kinds of posts were written by bigots simply trying to take away “trans healthcare.” However, Michelle eventually realized she was “chasing something that ultimately I was never going to be able to achieve.” She explains:
“If you live as someone who has transitioned, you’re spending the rest of your life either denying your own material reality or trying to convince other people that they need to deny your material reality in order for you to be comfortable in society.”
David, a gay man, began noticing the stigma surrounding homosexuality when he was a child: “I recognized the guilting [and the] the shaming of same-sex attraction within society and culture.” He decided he would be happier as a woman and began calling himself Paige, taking estrogen, and wearing women’s clothing and make-up. He also got silicone implants.
David says the estrogen he was taking led to severe bone loss — initially osteopenia, which turned into osteoporosis, causing him to become hunched over, needing a walker.
David went to New York City to get castrated, and spoke with two transvestites who had undergone complete sex-reassignment surgery, and who dissuaded him from undergoing the procedures himself. David recalls that one of them told him:
“Don’t do it… All of my life I thought that if I could just become a woman I would find peace and joy and happiness… now that I am legally and medically a woman, I’m more miserable now than I was my entire life. I think about taking my life every day.”
The other man also told him he thought about killing himself “several times a day, every day.”
David recounts experiencing severe unhappiness after his transition — feelings he kept hidden even from his friends:
“Everyone that knew me, they would have argued with anybody that ‘Paige’ was content and secure and happy and just being the person she was meant to be and none of them had a clue that I was depressed, that I was bitter, that I hated myself, that I attempted to take my life quite a few times… I recognize that I didn’t just live a lie, I became the lie. I was the lie.”
Joel is a soft-spoken, thin young man who now sports a beard. He developed anorexia at the age of 11, which led to body dysmorphia and eventually a belief that he was “transgender.”
Joel lives in Indiana and says it is incredibly easy to obtain hormone treatments if you live in an area that has adopted the “informed consent model.” He made an appointment with a doctor in Chicago, and just two weeks later received estrogen. He describes his initial honeymoon phase with hormone therapy, saying, “Everything felt great. My body felt great… I was also becoming an internet influencer pretty quickly.”
Joel had developed a large following on TikTok — in one clip, we see Joel celebrating six months of estrogen injections. He is clean-shaven, heavily made-up, and holding a syringe up to the camera.
Three months later, Joel made another video. He now has a beard and mustache and says his medical transition just made him “more dysphoric.” He explains, “The more that happened to my body, the [more scared] I got, and I came to the realization that I don’t feel like I’m actually transgender.” Joel stayed on hormone therapy for less than a year.
Joel realized that hormone therapy was not having a satisfactory effect on his health, but his desire to stop the treatments was hindered by his social media following. Joel recalls:
“… I had a lot of social media followers, people that looked up to me and made me feel like I was important to them. I felt like I couldn’t go back and that the only option was to just keep pushing forward.”
As a result, Joel became depressed and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
Abel is a young bearded man whose medical transition included hormone therapy and breast implants. The sadness and defeat in his voice as he tells his story are palpable. And yet, he says that when he decided to transition he was nearly 100% certain he would never regret it. In the end, Abel had his breast implants removed.
Abel, too, speaks of how easy it is for young people to access wrong-sex hormones. He had just one session with a therapist and was given a letter to transition right away.
Pediatrician Julia Mason reveals that, in many states, young people can walk into a Planned Parenthood and leave with hormones. She explains that Planned Parenthood operates on the “informed consent model” Joel mentioned, and that if youth “sign a piece of paper saying that they acknowledge the risks then they can be given these powerful hormones with irreversible side-effects.”
According to the documentary’s captions, the informed consent model “allows clients to access hormone treatments and surgical interventions without a mental health evaluation or referral from a mental health specialist.”
Stella O’Malley explains:
“I’ve met way too many people — way too many detransitioners — who said: ‘I was constantly trying to fight against the onslaught of nature. I was always fighting against it with the hormones I was taking.’ As somebody said, ‘It’s like putting diesel in the petrol tank.’”
Dr. Malone challenges the claim that puberty blockers are reversible, saying this is “disingenuous on multiple levels.” He says 95% of children who take puberty blockers go on to take cross-sex hormones and that puberty blockers cannot be considered a stand-alone intervention. Moreover, Dr. Malone points out that studies show most children (somewhere between roughly 65% and 98%, depending on which study you look at) who develop gender dysphoria will have resolution of that gender dysphoria by the time they reach adulthood. “This fact seems to be forgotten by medicine currently,” he says.
Dr. Malone enumerates the risks of cross-sex hormone therapy. Males who start estrogen treatments risk blood clots, breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, gallstones, and elevated cholesterol. Females who go on testosterone risk thickening of the blood, severe liver dysfunction, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and breast or uterine cancer.
Close-ups of documents from the Mayo Clinic reveal other complications linked to feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapies, including infertility. “The fact they’re being offered outside of clinical trials, despite the fact there’s so much unknown about long-term risk, is a scandal, in and of itself,” Dr Malone says.
He says there are psychological impacts as well:
“Something that has not gotten a lot of attention but I think will, in the coming years, is the psychological impact of being told by people in positions of authority — physicians in particular — that these interventions would improve that person’s mental health, then coming to discover that not only did the intervention not improve that person’s mental health, but there actually was no evidence to begin with that it ever would.”
Dr. Lisa Littman was the first to produce a study about how social contagion factors into the trans trend, finding that in around 2013-2014, “one after the next teenager was announcing a trans-identification in numbers that greatly exceeded what would be expected.” She says, “It was apparent that these kids were all from the same friendship group.”
Dr. Malone, too, addresses the increasing number of children claiming a transgender identity:
“This has been documented. Not only at clinics in the United States, but also across Europe, a several thousand percent increase in teenage girls in particular. The ratio now is about 80% girls, 20% boys for gender dysphoria.”
Stephanie Winn explains that the idea of transitioning is “highly contagious” because it “appeal[s] to so many of the things that we long for and provide[s] the kind of illusory hope that there’s a way out of normal human struggles like the discomfort of puberty.”
Winn isn’t just critical of the trans trend, but of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM-5) description of the criteria for gender dysphoria:
“It’s really just a list of stereotypes and then someone saying that they don’t fit these stereotypes or that they are uncomfortable in the body that they have. So what’s wrong with that is that you’re recommending some invasive, risky, experimental, and costly medical treatments for something that you’re saying is not a medical condition.”
Sasha Ayad argues that professionals need to “hold space for this being an exploratory thing that teenagers do,” rather than “rubber stamping the identity and encouraging kids to medically transition.” She adds, “This is really the potential of a serious epidemic of medical interventions that are probably going to be inappropriate for many of these kids.”
Oftentimes, discussions of “supporting trans kids” are connected to risk of suicide, should these youths not be encouraged to transition. Winn says “Parents are being intimidated and coerced,” told, “If you don’t affirm right away your kid’s going to commit suicide.” She believes this is incredibly dangerous. “It’s our responsibility to believe in our patient’s capacity for resilience, even and especially when they don’t believe in it themselves.” Winn says:
“We should never tell anyone, under any circumstances, that if you don’t get what you want or if you don’t get what you think is a solution to your problems, you will kill yourself. That’s really damaging. I would call that malpractice.”
Moreover, the data around suicidality in this context is being misrepresented. Ayad explains, “All of the clinicians that are actually tracking current rates of self-harm and suicide will tell you — luckily — the suicide rate is quite, quite, quite low,” adding, “We don’t know medicalizing reduces suicide.”
Interviewees discuss young transitioners’ other (neglected) conditions, including autism, unresolved past trauma, and internalized homophobia and misogyny. Ayad says that “once a kid identifies as trans or describes gender dysphoria, all of the other conditions that they were struggling with before become attributed to the distress of being trans.” O’Malley points to findings in a study done by Tavistock, the largest gender clinic for children in the world (before it was told to shut down last year after an independent review), showing that 48% of the children seeking to medicalize their gender identity were autistic.
There is also concern over the troubling numbers of gay and lesbian youth identifying as “transgender.” Lisa Marchiano says:
“When you realize that most of the young kids who get gender dysphoria will eventually desist — and what the evidence tells us [is] that most of those who desist will then be lesbian or gay — what we may be doing, actually, is sterilizing and destroying the sexual function of kids who may have grown up to be gay or lesbian.”
Lisa Selin Davis notes that some European countries are reevaluting their approach to medical transitions, as systematic reviews did not find evidence to support the idea that these interventions are either medically necessary or qualify as “life-saving treatment.” She says they have issued “very strict guidelines so that children are very carefully evaluated before medically transitioning.” Some of these countries have even begun urging against social transition, as “it appears from preliminary research that social transition generally leads to medical transition.”
Notably, Sweden and Finland both have backtracked on medicalizing so-called “trans kids,” opposing puberty blockers and hormone treatments for minors. Mason says Sweden, Finland, and England all followed a commissioned, systematic review of the evidence, finding “either no benefits to youth gender transitions or even that the harms outweighed the benefits.”
Despite these U-turns, Davis says both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health are refusing to do a systematic evidence review.
Dr. Littman discusses her 2021 study, in which she surveyed 100 detransitioners, saying, “The most frequently endorsed reason for detransitioning, in my study, was that their personal definition of male or female changed, so they became comfortable identifying as their natal sex.”
Others expressed concern about medical complications from transitioning, found that their mental health did not improve while transitioning or even worsened with transition, experienced dissatisfaction with the physical results of transition, or discovered that their gender dysphoria was caused by trauma or a mental health condition.
Dr. Littman also comments on the fact that nearly one quarter of survey participants reported internalized homophobia was associated with their gender dysphoria and desire to transition. Accepting themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual was related to their detransitioning.
After listening to the six detransitioners’ stories, we are hardly surprised when Marchiano relates something she has heard repeatedly from detransitioners: “I have ruined my life. I’ve ruined my body. I’ve ruined my health. I had a perfectly good body and now it’s ruined.”
Alline Cormier is a Canadian film analyst and retired court interpreter with a B.A. Translation from Université Laval. In her second career she turns the text analysis skills she acquired in university studying translation and literature to film. She makes her home in British Columbia and is currently seeking a publisher for her film guide for women. Alline tweets @ACPicks2.