For those seeking gender reassignment surgery, they have often spent years or their entire lives convinced that they were born the wrong gender and that they will never feel normal until they have transitioned and have the big final operation. To make such a life-altering decision, you’d assume patients are 100% sure of their decision and that there is absolutely no going back. This isn’t always the case – some post-op transgender patients come to feel their sex-change was a huge mistake.
To reverse something as complicated as gender reassignment surgery can take years of waiting and lots of counselling, as many post-op people have found. Medical staff need to be convinced that transgender patients will not change their mind again and refer them to psychiatric help in place of further surgery. The result for the poor patients with buyer’s remorse is to live in a limbo of depression and confusion about what they have done to their bodies and whether they’ll ever get the real "them" back.
Often, the reason so many people change their mind after having surgery is that they made the decision to swap their gender at a really young age. Many feel so unhappy in the role they were born with that they don’t even wait until adulthood. Others switch back because they get to see how life treats the other gender and realize it’s not at all what they’d imagined. From seriously unhappy teens to those suffering a mid-life crisis, here are 15 stories of "re-transitioning" - when people seriously regretted their sex change.
15 ABC News Editor Who Claimed Amnesia After Surgery
Undergoing something as major as a sex change can be daunting for anybody, but being in the public eye must surely make this more difficult to handle. This is what news editor Don Ennis found, who claimed to have suffered from amnesia to explain away his quick-fire sex change and de-transition in 2013. Ennis, who worked as a journalist at ABC News, decided he felt more comfortable as a woman and underwent a sex change to become Dawn.
Shortly after his transition, the father of three separated from his wife of 17 years and began embracing his short-lived new chapter as Dawn. He turned up to work in a wig and a little black dress and changed his Facebook profile pic from male to female. Suddenly after only 3 months as Dawn, Ennis returned to work as Don again. In an attempt to conceal his mid-life crisis, Ennis claimed he had amnesia and that his wife had forced him to wear wigs and created a fake ID card for him with the name Dawn on it. Ennis was fired from ABC shortly afterwards.
14 Former Man Decided It’s “Too Exhausting” Being A Woman
Like so many of the stories on this list, the phrase "The grass is always greener" can be applied here. British transexual Matthew was born a man and wanted nothing more than to become a woman. The allure of having breasts and the smooth feminine features were something he had always longed for, but this may have overshadowed the realities of living as a woman. Having lived as "Chelsea" since 2007, she has decided that being a woman is “too exhausting” to keep up. (Tell me about it…)
30-year-old Chelsea Attonley – formerly Matthew – originally underwent surgery on the British National Health Service that cost around $15,000. Deciding he had changed his mind about being female, he has since demanded that the British taxpayers help pay towards his reversal procedure (an operation that would come to roughly $22,000). Matthew spoke of his unhappiness to the UK press: “No amount of surgery can give me an actual female body and I feel like I am living a lie. I need to have these operations for the sake of my mental health.”
13 Transitioned Back To Give Dying Father A Grandson
Mark Marzo sacrificed a lot more than most on this list. Born male, Mark identified as gay for most of his life and was the youngest of 13 children. He was also his dad’s favourite child and when he came out, his father was immediately accepting of his sexuality. Later on down the line, however, Mark decided to become female – a decision he would later go back on for the love of his dad.
Mark - now "Maria" - was enjoying life as a woman. She had renamed herself Maria Corazon Marzo and even got married shortly after the op. But sad circumstances meant Maria would be changing back to Mark again and returning to her old life as a man. Mark’s father was dying and his last wish was that his favourite child "Maria" give him a grandchild. Amazingly, she agreed to his wish and underwent a complete sex change reversal to become his son again. Mark had a son with the help of a friend who became pregnant via in vitro fertilization.
12 LA Times Writer Who Committed Suicide After Re-transition
Sports writer Mike Penner regularly wrote articles for the Los Angeles Times. But in April 2007, he posted the kind of piece that would change his life and one that his readers were not at all expecting. He titled it "Old Mike, New Christine," publicly outing himself as someone who identified as female. Penner spoke excitedly and openly about the joy and fulfilment he would feel in becoming a woman and that this decision had been made after “millions of tears and hours of soul-wrenching therapy.”
In the months that followed Penner’s article, he had taken on the role of Christine Daniels – an outgoing advocate for transgender people everywhere and a persona that would inspire others to come out publicly at transgender conferences and events. A year after the article was first published, however, Penner had completely abandoned her, or rather his, identity as Christine Daniels and feeling privately tormented by his decision, he eventually took his own life in November 2009.
11 “I Was A Burden To The Doctors”
On the morning of his operation to become a woman in 1985, 32-year-old Steve should have been elated at the idea of finally becoming the gender he identified with. Instead, he was “terrified and confused” at the prospect – due to a lack of support and guidance from medical staff at the time. Steve – now "Stephanie" Robinson – had wished to have counseling on the British National Health Service, but was made to feel like a “burden” to the doctors.
Speaking about her ordeal, Stephanie recalls being “given female hormones and electrolysis and left to get on with it. It didn't hit me what I was about to do until I was on the train to the clinic for the operation.” Thankfully, counselling and psychiatric help have become more widely available to transgender patients since then. But for Stephanie, her gender had been needlessly altered because, in her own words “in the eyes of the doctors, the sooner I had the chop the better it would be for everyone.”
10 Middle-Aged Father Lives With Regret For 8 Years
Despite feeling trapped in the wrong body since the age of five, Walt Heyer lived through life as a man for 42 years, becoming a happily married father of two kids. But despite outward appearances as the average American family man, Walt had been grappling with traumatic childhood issues that eventually led him to undergo gender reassignment surgery at 42 years old. At first, he was ecstatic with his new female body, but it didn’t solve his deep-seated unhappiness.
For the next eight years, Walt tried to understand why becoming a woman had not made him as happy as he thought it would. He eventually came to realize that the desire to change his gender had actually stemmed from the trauma he had suffered as a child and poor family relationships. Because surgeons of Walt’s generation were more eager to operate than provide counselling, Walt underwent unnecessary treatment. Eight years and $20,000 later, Walt is now back to Walt and has become a counsellor for those considering sex change surgery.
9 British Multi-Millionaire Who Still Couldn’t Find Happiness Post-Op
Proof if it were needed that extreme wealth can’t buy you happiness. The British property tycoon Sam Hashimi (nearly) had it all – a multi-million-pound property portfolio, a 52ft motor yacht, Mercedes, designer wardrobe, and more. But after a messy break-up from a 12-year marriage, Sam decided he wanted a sex change and became glamorous blonde socialite Samantha Kane. Then in 2004 – after living as a woman for seven years – he desperately wanted to switch back to being a man again.
Now identifying as Charles Kane, Sam believes that his desire to transition was down to a period of confusion after his marriage fell apart, where he questioned everything – even his sexuality. In order to return to his male-born gender, "Charles" underwent three private medical operations to reconstruct his genitalia which included taking skin grafts from his stomach. Charles is happy to be male again but admits that his "secret" now puts a crimp on his love life.
8 UK’s Youngest Transgender Patient Who Changed Her Mind A Year Later
Back in 2011, British teenager Ria Cooper (formerly Brad) made headlines when she was found to be the youngest sex change patient in the UK, at just 17 years old. As a boy, Brad desperately wanted to be a girl and began dressing in girl’s clothing as early as 12. At the age of 15, she begged her family and her doctors to be transformed into a woman. But she came to regret that decision after only a year of living as a woman.
Ria’s sex change story was seen as quite a controversial one because, at such a young age, she was effectively interrupting her puberty. At a time when our bodies are already experiencing so many changes, Brad wanted to make even bigger changes – a decision Ria later described as “overwhelming” and ones that caused her deep mental anguish. Throughout her time as a woman, Ria tried twice to commit suicide and decided enough was enough. She cancelled the full sex change op but was left with breasts due to hormone therapy.
7 “Happier If I Was A Transvestite”
Transgender woman Sandra – born Peter – described herself as a “Non-person” and an “it” following her sex change operation to become female. “Far from solving my problems, the operation has made things worse,” she revealed. Like so many others who come to regret their transition, Sandra became stuck in a kind of transgender limbo where she no longer knew who to identify as. Peter had the sex change to become Sandra in 1987 and confesses that she would have been happier if she had remained a transvestite.
Sadly, Sandra was made to feel like she didn’t have the time to make sense of her feelings and blames medical staff for recommending a sex change op when all she really needed was counselling. Peter pushed through a violent and unhappy childhood and got married, but soon began to feel more female than his wife. Unable to afford counselling (and with no offer of any to him), Peter believed a sex swap was the only way to feel happy. Sandra has since tried to reclaim her lost manhood by cutting her hair short and wearing masculine clothes.
6 Believed Surgery Was The Answer To Childhood Trauma
When pre-op transgender people like Gregory don’t receive adequate counselling from their doctors or psychiatric help, they can grow up believing that surgery is the way to treat and heal past trauma. For some, drugs and alcohol can be a way to self-medicate, but for teens growing up with feelings of gender confusion and depression, gender surgery is often viewed as the magical quick fix solution. In Gregory’s case, he just needed to make sense of a disturbing, whirlwind childhood.
At the age of just 3, Gregory was sexually abused by his grandfather. On top of this, his father died a couple of years later and despite his mother remarrying, Gregory grew up with no real father figure or male role model he felt he could identify with. Feeling he had developed a “feminine core” he experimented with estrogen and he liked the change, but wanted a professional opinion. By the time he was approved for surgery, doctors swept his childhood issues under the rug and within eight months of being a woman, Gregory felt suicidal. After years of therapy, he has urged gender confused youths to first change themselves “inside.”
5 Transgender NFL Cheerleader Who Transitioned Back To Male
To look at former NFL cheerleader Phoebe Porter in her heyday, you wouldn’t believe she was born a man. Philip Porter from Texas underwent gender reassignment surgery to become Phoebe and lived happily as her for a total of 32 years. During this time, Phoebe the cheerleader was also a successful topless dancer. However, in 2009 after spending more than three decades as a woman, Phoebe decided it was time to change back to Philip and have a gender reversal procedure.
So what changed Phoebe’s mind? Despite loving life as a woman, being a middle-aged female began to take its toll. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Philip Porter revealed that experiences of “hot flashes” and “feeling very uncomfortable” that often come with female ageing had put him off staying female for the rest of his life. Porter became increasingly curious about what life could be like if he grew up as an old man.
4 Lost The Chance To Have Children After Male To Female Op
One of the biggest risks of having gender reassignment surgery (and something that is rarely discussed at length with patients) is the fact cross hormone treatments can significantly decrease the chances of fertility and once the full op is carried out, it is impossible to rear your own biological children. In an anonymous letter to an online transgender community, one man tragically reveals that the worst part of his sex change regret is the fact that he can no longer have kids.
After regretting his male to female transition, one man began to see a psychologist. He had hoped to be able to come to terms with his new gender, but he gradually fell out of love with the idea of being female altogether. Throughout his therapy, his lifelong depression and anxiety had begun to fade, but he was still unhappy with his decision and he tragically realized it too late. “Saddest of all I can never have children, which I pray God will give me the strength to withstand that sadness.”
3 Transgender Issues Was Really Just Undiagnosed Autism
New Zealander Zahra Cooper had always struggled with her identity, but she never knew the real reason why. After suffering from body dysphoria in her teens, she began using hormone replacement pills and her life quickly spiralled out of control from there. Trying but failing to identify as a lesbian, she assumed gender reassignment surgery was the answer, but this only gave her more heartache and confusion.
After her transition to "Zane," Zahra became increasingly angry and short-tempered with her friends and family and tried to end her life more than once. Eventually, Zahra was taken to see a mental health professional who diagnosed her with Asperger’s Syndrome - a mild form of autism. This was a revelation for the 21-year-old, as a common side effect of her condition is a struggle with one’s identity. Zahra was convinced she didn’t fit in and was sadly led to believe a sex change was the answer. She’s now living as a girl again and trying to reclaim her old life.
2 Girl’s Fear That She’ll Never Know Who She’s “Meant To Be”
When your belief in being one gender is so strongly ingrained in you as a transgender person in waiting, the idea of going back on your decision can seem unthinkable. It’s little surprise that those who have de-transitioned to their birth gender can feel as if they have no real identity at the end of all the trauma. This is how 22-year-old Amanda feels, having turned into "Anthony" and back to a girl again in such a short space of time.
Amanda confesses that she “never really felt super-girly” growing up, but now, she is doing everything she can to erase her newly-discovered male identity. She has undergone electrolysis to remove her facial hair and has quit testosterone because she “prefers make-up to shaving.” U-turning on her gender has only made the future more confusing and uncertain for Amanda who fears she could keep transitioning indefinitely: “My biggest fear is that I’ve got it all figured out now but that I could get confused again and not know who I am. Forever.”
1 Gay Teen Who Was Obsessed With The Idea Of Looking Female
For teenage boy Jait Jr., every woman he saw only reminded him that he wanted exactly what they had and was desperate to have feminine features. Speaking on the show MTV: True Life, the transgender teen spoke of his obsession to have gender reassignment surgery and become the sex he felt he needed to be “I saw the breasts and I saw the long hair and I thought, that’s what I wanted.” Unfortunately, living as big-breasted brunette "Daniella" wasn’t the life Jait had been dreaming of.
In MTV’s segment about transgender teens who have changed their minds in adulthood, Jait Jr. is one of many young teens who were so eager to transform their bodies that they didn’t take the time to consider the future realities of living with their transition. For Jait Jr., becoming Daniella provided a temporary high and a boost to low self-esteem, but it quickly became clear that this wasn’t right for him. Jait Jr. has now transitioned back and is living as a gay man.
Sources: vice.com, dailymail.co.uk, pbs.org