Girlhood Interrupted—Path of Desistance

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"The view from my window is of the house next door, and a little winding road that leads to a local co-op... I wish my life, like this view, could’ve been so simple."

By Chiara Canaan

In my sophomore year of high school, I had my first-ever girlfriend. She was from Miami. She had long blonde hair, taught me how to pronounce “queso,” and held my nervous hand in the halls between classes. As teenagers do, we spent almost all of our time together—when we weren’t hanging out with our shared group of friends we’d watch New Girl, do homework and listen to shitty alternative pop… That is, until I broke up with her via text two months later. I fell for someone else, gave her the cold-shoulder and lost my circle of friends as a result.

This was partially deserved, but at fifteen years old, I wasn’t equipped to handle the complete rejection of my group. Cut off from my stable set of friends, I ate lunch in the bathroom every day, and turned to the internet for support and companionship. I was already fairly interested in Tumblr and YouTube, but the communities I found there soon became almost the only people I interacted with. 

I’d always been a little more “masculine” than most girls, and I wasn’t particularly interested in conforming to stereotypes and roles. In retrospect, it’s not surprising that I latched onto a trans identity—especially since I got involved with social media in the midst of the trans movement’s rapid surge in notoriety. 

My immersion into this online space kicked off a period in which I very quickly developed intense social and body dysphoria.

My immersion into this online space kicked off a period in which I very quickly developed intense social and body dysphoria. I became convinced that I was a boy trapped in the body of a girl, and that the only way forward was for me to begin a medical transition. I began to envision myself as a straight guy (rather than a gay girl), which alleviated a large amount of the discomfort I felt with my sexuality. 

I begged my mother to let me take testosterone and wanted to schedule “top surgery” (a double mastectomy) right away. My mother wouldn’t allow it, but she voiced support for me to be as “gender-non-conforming” as I pleased. Our relationship remained rocky until I graduated high school at seventeen and traveled to another state for a nine-month internship on a horse farm. While working there, I had limited internet access, which shifted my focus; I started paying attention to other things going on in my life. This shift, coupled with the emotional maturity I gained during that time, allowed me to return home and take a step back—to question the narratives I’d been exposed to online.


I stumbled upon radical feminism, some tenets of which resonated with me, and eventually dove further into researching Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD), first explored in Lisa Littman’s 2018 study. This term describes a growing trend among adolescents, in which gender dysphoria seems to come on “out of nowhere,” and is often very severe and distressing. It’s a very real phenomenon, and with the increasing numbers of detrans and desisting people, it’s something that needs to be taken seriously. 


I would’ve greatly regretted medical transition, and although at the time I thought I’d die if I didn’t get my way, I’m immensely grateful my mother knew better. I still experience dysphoria, but now that I’ve grown up I’ve come to understand how the issues I struggled with in my teenage years, such as social isolation, internalized homophobia, and a history of sexual abuse, contributed to the disconnect I felt. These factors collectively fueled my desire to escape being female. 

Realizing that vast numbers of young people have been coming forward with similar experiences, that they’ve been silenced in the media, I co-founded The Pique Resilience Project. We’re a group of young detrans and desisted mentors.

I respect everyone’s bodily autonomy and have no desire to police anyone’s choices. However, where young people are concerned, therapists and other medical professionals should strive for honesty and transparency about the negative and irreversible side effects of cross-sex hormones and surgery. Therapy and exploration into other potential causes of dysphoria should be ongoing, and healthy interests should be pursued and encouraged by parents and peers.

Just a few months ago, I learned that my mother founded and set up 4thWaveNow in 2015 to connect with other parents going through the same thing she experienced with me. They too have been dismissed by mainstream media. 

Looking back, I finally understand how much of my desire to transition was a reaction to the homophobia I experienced and witnessed throughout my early life—a universal, unpleasant experience shared amongst almost all gay and lesbian people. 

Looking back, I finally understand how much of my desire to transition was a reaction to the homophobia I experienced and witnessed throughout my early life—a universal, unpleasant experience shared amongst almost all gay and lesbian people. 


Our society remains overwhelmingly heteronormative, regardless of the steps taken in recent years to increase rights and foster equality. Growing up same-sex attracted is difficult enough; young people don’t need the added pressure of determining a “gender identity,” especially when these identities offer a tempting opportunity to “escape” homosexuality.

Identifying as a “trans man” set me back years in accepting my own sexuality. In the interest of young people’s ongoing health and self-image, we need to acknowledge that there is an epidemic affecting kids at an alarming rate. Medical transition isn’t a frivolous, easily-reversed experiment; it is a significant undertaking. My own experience, as well as the experiences of countless others who went through the same thing, is incredibly relevant to the current discussion. 

The view from my window is of the house next door, and a little winding road that leads to a local co-op… I wish my life, like this view, could’ve been so simple.

The view from my window is of the house next door, and a little winding road that leads to a local co-op… I wish my life, like this view, could’ve been so simple.

When I was fifteen, I had a girlfriend who used to hold my hand in the halls. Our song was “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons. And when it ended, I got lost in screens, in an alternate reality. It’d be three years till I found my way. My childhood was interrupted. I can’t change that—but I can fight for other young people, in the hope that they might not have to go through the same thing. 


Chiara Canaan is a founder of The Pique Resilience Project.

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