Foreword by Julia D Robertson:
People often ask me why I do what I do…Why I care… They don’t always immediately make the connection, that what’s happening to nonconforming youth is an issue for lesbians. My wife and I started The Velvet Chronicle because a lesbian, a desister, Chiara Canaan, wanted to tell her story, and even lesbian publications wouldn’t publish it. And while an alarming number of youth are coming forward with similar stories, mainstream media on the left has continued to ban their voices—voices that are vital to gay and lesbian youth, to parents of nonconforming kids, and to society as a whole. A few years ago, when I first started trying to put into words why this was a human rights issue—a human rights violation of LGB kids—I relied on my background as an ex PSY major. I began pointing to something no one else was talking about—cognitive brain development as it specifically relates to the ethics of “transitioning” kids (or lack of ethics, as it were). I could often be seen online yelling at people in high places about how unethical it is to label toddlers, medicalize children, and perform double mastectomies on 13-year-old kids, way before they ever even have a chance to reach full cognitive brain development (at around age 25). Back then, I was perplexed to discover that nobody, not even doctors, had made that specific connection. As a very concrete thinker, I saw this as the “smoking gun” —something no rational person can argue with. At the time, people were mostly behind avatars, terrified of losing their jobs, and in some cases, scared of losing their child. It’s important to acknowledge the kind of threats that led people to feel they had to be anonymous, and to understand that being threatened fueled so many people to organize and take action. To diligently dig up studies and statistics, compile information, and make the connection that the majority of these youth, statistically, would grow up to be LGB adults… if allowed to grow up. It’s important to look at how far we’ve come and to give credit where credit is due. Many people put a lot on the line. Each act, no matter how small, took a level of bravery. So now, when people ask why I do what I do, why I took every chance I could to yell about cognitive brain development online, why I took every chance I could to talk about it in my articles, I can point to young people like Charlie Evans. Young people who were thrown into a minefield, and needed to quickly develop a concrete vocabulary. Young people who needed to understand what happened to them, and why… Young people who would need to be able to explain it to others in the most logical of terms. Young people who needed to understand that this wasn’t their fault. Medical professionals knew… They knew these young people were a long ways away from reaching full cognitive brain development… They knew, and they did what they did anyway.
Without further ado, bisexual detrans activist, Charlie Evans shares her speech here, at The Velvet Chronicle, for Bi Week (as heard at the Lesbian Strength Rally in Leeds).
Last month, I walked with Get the L Out at Manchester Pride. Last year, I tweeted that radical feminists did not represent me. And last decade, I didn’t “identify” as a woman.
Time has changed me – and for good reason.
A decade ago, I was 17 years old. I was tightly binding my chest, and had shaved my hair, adamant that I was not a girl. I knew I was a boy, because I hated the way my chest attracted attention, I hated my period, I hated attention from boys.
I knew I was a boy, because I loved cars, and trucks, and mud, and boxing, and girls. I knew I was a boy, because I didn’t ‘act’ like a girl – nothing about my character ‘felt’ girly, and trans ideology says everyone feels their gender. I didn’t feel like a girl.
I knew I was a boy because I meet the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria – a strong rejection of typically feminine toys and typically feminine clothes, mostly male friends, a sense that my feelings and reactions were typical of boys, the desire to be treated as a boy.
When I spoke about these experiences to older friends, or in online chat rooms, the message was affirming. Nobody encouraged the idea that it’s okay to be gender non conforming, Instead, friends and healthcare practitioners alike ‘affirmed’ my gender. Yes, you are a boy.
By now I had been indoctrinated into the belief that boys and girls must act and feel certain ways, and if they don’t, they might be the opposite sex trapped in the wrong body.
I became obsessed with trying to ‘pass’, my mental health took an even deeper dive – I hated my ‘wrong body’, and wanted the world to see my ‘true’ identity.
Except, it wasn’t true.. The teenage brain plays tricks.
I recognise now that trans ideology sold me on the idea I could identify into the powerful group. I was hurt knowing I couldn’t marry a woman at that time, hurt that I couldn’t have a family that looked like the only families I had seen until then. The idea I could ‘identify’ out of oppression, and be a straight man instead, felt liberating.
There are few studies behind detransition rates, but I can tell you there are thousands of us – our voices are hidden because we are seen by the queer community as an inconvenient consequence of their movement. We are just collateral damage for the ‘greater good’.
Many – maybe most – are gender non conforming lesbians, who were raised in gendered homes where the roles of girls and boys were strictly defined. No wonder they felt like boys. Most desisted at the same age as me – around age 25. This is not a coincidence.
Again, there are no real scientific studies on this, but here’s my theory, as a biologist.
During adolescence, your brain is almost completely remoulded. Your prefrontal cortex, this part at the front of your head, is the last bit to develop. It is responsible for some really important stuff – controlling impulses, solving problems, making decisions, seeing what impact your choices have on your future.
It’s the part that makes us responsible adults, and why teenagers can sometimes seem erratic.
The maturation of the brain in this way is caused by sex hormones, which are specifically increased during puberty for the purpose of developing the brains ability to learn, remember, cope with emotions, and process social interactions. As far as we know, these changes are permanent. The brain’s development will continue until you are about 25.
Is it possible that the reason most women desist in their twenties is because that is when their brain has fully developed?
If we know the vital role that sex hormones have in the development of the brain, why are we give pre-teens hormone blockers that are preventing this?
Why are we giving teenagers the choice to have cross sex hormones almost ten years before the part of the brain responsible for decision making and understanding consequences has even developed?
There is no evidence that hormone blockers are safe.
This generation are guinea pigs, and the fact that scientists and doctors are staying quiet about this is criminal.
It is also concerning that once a teenager has started taking hormone blockers, they are much more likely to transition. And as far as I can see, this is because hormone blocking makes desisting difficult – it almost completely destroys any chance of their brains maturing properly, and working out their issues with their bodies.
This should be a huge concern for scientists, doctors, and other medical practitioners, but the research on the subject and conversations around this are almost entirely absent.
Where there should be research, there is silence.
Instead, we hear time and time again that hormone blockers are safe, despite the science suggesting they’re dangerous and we continue to commit children into a path of painful surgeries and lifelong hormone replacement treatment.
Lesbian youth are exceptionally vulnerable to this type of ideology, particularly as many will be gender non conforming. Coupled with the oppression of the female sex more generally, many young lesbians will match the criteria needed for them to start hormone blockers from as young as ten years old.
Is that any surprise in a world that oppresses lesbians and idolizes straight men that so many young girls want to be men?
Young lesbians today are up against challenges that were not around when we were their age.
Instead of having no lesbian role models, they are surrounded by people who call themselves lesbians. These people are often males, who tell them that being a lesbian is transphobic – because you are meant to be attracted to ‘gender’, and not sex.
With few groups or communities for lesbian girls who reject this ideology, there are limited places they can go for support – I have no doubt that this further drives young girls onto the path of transitioning. Accepting males into their sexual orientation is a pressure placed on lesbians, but is not expected of straight men.
I could not have predicted that ten years into the future, I wouldn’t have the same feelings of self loathing as I did as a teen. I could not have predicted that by allowing my brain to mature, I would grow out of the idea that there is such a thing as a ‘boy’ brain or a ‘girl’ brain and I had been born with the wrong one.
You were not born with the wrong body or the wrong brain. You were born you. There will be days that you will hate it. There will be days you stand naked in the mirror, pinching your flesh between your fingertips – and asking why – out of all the bodies you could have been born in – why were you born in this one?
But there is nothing you can do as a man, that you can not do as a woman. There is no ‘mismatch’ between your brain and your body, that is just a view held up by sexist ideas of what it is to be a man or a woman.
Let your brain mature before making any life changing decisions.
Being a woman is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. It is just our biology. It has no bearing on our interests, our hobbies, our clothes. Rejecting traditional ideas of what it means to be a woman, does not make you a man.
I did not go on hormone blockers.
If I had, I have no doubt that I would not have been standing here today comfortable in my sex. I don’t know if I would have regretted the decision or else lived half a life, not knowing what true liberation meant.
Liberation is not changing your body to fit society. Liberation is changing society to fit you.
Charlie Evans is a bisexual feminist writer, raising awareness to detrans and LGB youth issues.