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Are Transgenders Happy After Surgery? A Look Into Sex Change Regret

Jen Slack's picture
transgender regret

My first experience in talking with someone who desired a sex change was back in the early 1990's. "Mark", who was my coworker, began the transition to become a woman and remained on this path for a few years. However, in the end, he decided not to go through with the surgery, and went back to living as a man. Since, then, I've often wondered if transgenders are happy after surgery, or if they experience sex change regret, once it's too late.


When Mark asked me if I would like to learn more about his desire to become and woman, I eagerly accepted the invitation. I was very interested to know what was going on with Mark, and why he would want to become a woman.

Childhood Experiences

I went to Mark's house and talked with him for about three hours.

In a nutshell, here's what I learned.

Mark believed that women were more valued in society, citing the moving of women, before men, into lifeboats during the Titanic sinking.

I learned that Mark's childhood was far less than ideal.

He had been molested by an older relative.

He was one of three boys born to parents who, he believed, wished for a girl. When his female cousins came to the house for special occasions, he felt that the adults fussed over the girls, in their dresses, with their hair done.

The first complement Mark himself ever recalled was when he and two friends walked into a convenience store, and the man behind the counter made a remark, "Don't you boys look pretty today". Of course, it was not lost on Mark that the first complement he remembered hearing, was one that was typically used to describe a girl, not a boy.

A Failure As A Man

Mark also spoke of difficulties of working two jobs as an adult male and not being financially successful. In fact, he couldn't even keep up financially. His wife was a stay-at-home-mom, who apparently had a shopping problem and regularly racked up the department store credit cards. He also found it difficult to pay the bills. He told me that his wife regularly made long distance calls to her sister, and that the bills were regularly in the $300 - 400 dollar range. This was during a time when Bell Canada still had a monopoly on the phone industry and today's inclusive options were not available.

Quickly glancing around the house, I could not help but notice it was dreary, dark and not well kept.

Deluded Thinking Pattern

At the end of our conversation, it was very apparent to me that Mark was looking at becoming a woman as a way out of his current misery.

Professional Counseling for Gender Reassignment?

I was not concerned however, as he explained that professional counseling would be a large part of his future and that he had to be approved in order to get gender reassignment surgery while at the same time, doing his best to live for the next two years as "Alison" - his new identity.

I left Mark's house that night, relieved that he would soon be in the hands of professionals who would straighten out his thinking and talk him out of his desires. After all, in just a few hours, if it was obvious to me, a lay person, that Mark was deluded, the professional counselors would surely see it as well, and Mark would instead get professional help to deal with his childhood and other issues.

Shortly after that conversation, due to restructuring, Mark lost his job where we worked together. I lost contact with him. However, I did hear news about him about two years later.

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I was positively astonished to learn that Mark, had indeed, been given the green light to go ahead with his sex reassignment surgery.

He Changed His Mind After Being Approved for Surgery

Thankfully, however, despite being approved, Mark had decided on his own, that becoming a woman was just not for him.

It was more than 15 years later that I saw Mark again and had a conversation with him. The news I had heard from others had been true. Mark, had, in fact, been approved for sex reassignment surgery. Then, shortly after, he changed his mind.

In our latest conversation, he looked happy. He was living fully as a man. His wife was also gainfully employed and their children had moved out. It looked like they were enjoying a financially-rewarding life.

He spoke of their recently-found love of travel by cruise ships, stating happily that they would normally try to do at least two cruises a year. Although he was in every way, living again as a man, he still wore large shirts to cover up his hormonally induced large breasts,from pills he had taken many years before.

I still wonder what the professional mental health experts were thinking when they approved Mark for gender reassignement surgery - especially knowing that once approved, he backed out on his own volition.

I began wondering about how happy Mark would have been if he had become transgendered. I do believe he would have been the prime candidate to experience sex change regret.

Frequency of Sex Change Regret

It seems that sex change regret actually might be fairly frequent, although it's rarely heard about in the mainstream media.

As with anything on the Internet, it's tough to get to the truth of the matter. According to some sources, the number of transexuals who experience regret is as low as 2 percent, with others, like this website owned by a person who had sex change regret, saying it's as high as 20 percent.

Suicide Rates Among Transgenders
Suicide rates, according to a long-term Swedish study, are 20 percent higher for transgendered people than for those who have never been transgendered.

Researchers said "Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behavior, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population."

Although they did not make any conclusions as to why transgendered people might be more suicidal, adding...
"the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment."

Sex Change Regret Videos On Youtube

The internet is full of stories of transgender regret stories, including hundreds of Youtube videos featuring heart-wrenching stores by people, some through tears, who describe their regretful experiences and feelings.

Transitioning Back to Original Sex

The fact is, there are people who do transition back to their original sex. Alexis Arquette, who was born "Robert", Hollywood actor and activist, was said to have gone back to living as a man not long before he died of complications due to Aids at the age of 47. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3786170/Alexis-Arquette-living-man-dying-AIDS-complications-aged-47.html

The issue of transgenderism and sex reassignment surgery and its implications is a relatively new concept to humanity. One thing is certain to me, however - better screening and more in-depth counseling should be required for those who are considering sex reassignment surgery.

Are you or do you know someone who transitioned? Please feel free to discuss that experience.



Interesting. I knew someone who was trying to make the transition but don't know what happened to him.
It's a very difficult and expensive road, even if you don't regret it.
This writing is littered with inaccuracies, of such a nature one can only surmise they were made intentionally. To start with is the intent to generalize across an entire class of people by virture of one piece of untested anecdotal evidence. Not to mention ignoring the mountain of evidence that every major medical and scientific group acknowledges as truth about transgender people. Then there is the allegation of the etiology of gender being the result of abuse, disproven eons ago. The reason sex change regret is not heard of is that statistically it does not exist, except in the mind of the extremist trying to make others feel bad. Do you know how many breast enlargements and reductions are done every day? How about nose reconstruction? And lets not forget the whole ¨designer vagina¨ movement. How many times have you read about regret of those thousands and thousand of surgeries? Yeah, but then there is this one wrongfully (reportedly) misdiagnosed transgender person. I realize this website will likely not publish this comment but maybe one person will give a second thought to wild accusations of sex change regret.
Lori does the regret or no regret about nose reconstruction surgery make your point valid?
In no way was it meant to be an analogy but rather to point out the mischaracterization of transgender people who regret having a surgery. If it existed, as would the enormous number of cosmetic or elective procedures done every minute, it would be widely known. It isn´t, because it does not exist, statistically. I am sure there are people who have had the procedures colloquially known as sex reassignment (when preformed as cosmetic for cisgender people they are simply referred to by their name) and wish it had been done differently, but from my rather extensive experience with this community I don´t believe enough transgender patients regret having the surgery to warrant empirical data.
Hi Lori. I am wondering if you might have missed page 2 of the article which sites a study wherein 20 percent of transgendered people are suicidal or that the rates of regret could also be as high as 20 percent? Or the many people on You Tube and many who have their own websites who speak of regret, often questioning their mental health professionals who allowed them to have these drastic procedures done. The article was written because most people don't know that transgender regret even exists. It's good to be aware of this.
I am afraid you are under the inflluence of fake data/news about transgender, distributed primarily through dark agencies. I would not doubt that post-operative trangender (something like 26%) have a 20% suicide rate. I believe this for two reasons, there is no doubt (if you need I will provide) that the suicide rate is due to oppression and only minimally related to gender dysphoria (in particular those who have support). Lot´s of science on that, plus it makes sense. It is just like the border patrol officers who have higher suicide rate than other officers, oppression breeds dysfunction. Second is that 20% is an incredible improvement over those trans who have not had some gender confirming care. That´s a 50% improvement, can cancer related surgery show that kind of improvement? So, the bigots (taken literally) or the mis/ill-informed attempt to use the much improved rate of 20% to grandiosely imply cisgender good/transgender bad. Of course it is horrible number but the illness is in religion, ignorance, animus, not the individual, so it goes to reason that the oppressed will not fare as well. It is important to note two things related to ¨the surgery.¨ First, most surgeries are performed on cisgender and transgender people alike, it only becomes transgender when the patient is trans,otherwise the procedure goes by it´s name. i.e. transgender male to female is called sex reassignment but when performed on a cis women it is colloquialy known as ¨vagina tightening.¨ It is a very popular elective procedure for women, and along with a labiaplasty is known as getting a ¨designer vagina.¨ How about men? The most popular male elective is breast reduction, except for a ftm trans it is called ¨trans top surgery.¨ It is worth noting that these procedures can be had for the asking, unless you are transgender, then you´ve had to been on hormones, seen a therapist and a Phd, and been given a letter say you can do so. I am afraid the world is a much more complicated system than any 140 character comment can apply to. The very bottom line that explains the transgender condition is very much similar to the womens´, black, gay, hispanic, asian, and on and on movements that have had to fight for equality, and it is all about animus and phobia and tribalism. I would ask this, how can the trans be making such significant inroads legally and socially in America, given they are some subset of .6% of the population, unless there is a mass of supports who aren´t afraid to stand up for what America stands for, for the most part. Did I answer your question?
The 2nd page also links to this page, wherein 2 studies are cited - http://www.sexchangeregret.com/wwwsexchangeregretcom
Can I ask what kind of work you do with transgendered people?
You most certainly can, although I don´t talk about myself as I am biased, and I know it. If I am going to present an opinion I would hope to do it on sound data. In 2017 parlance I would refer to myself as a Social Justice Warrior. In truth I have always thought that the world was made up of two types of personalities, leaders and followers. You either are or aren´t. Started working 1995 with trans youth via foster care, manager at a LGBT community center, involved with transgender children´s agencies and adult support groups. I had what I hope was a significant part in the legal recognition of GD in HHS/Medicare policy and help represent homeless trans kids in court. It was pretty much my whole life from 95 to 2015. I just share what I know.
Lori, what is the characterization of "enough?" This is a story about regret and you keep praising the procedure which has cause many people to regret.
I am sorry, I have no idea of what you refer to. Please rephrase I´ll try to be helpful.
Hi Lori: I am confused as to why you call this "fake news". Do you believe the Swedish study is fake? As well as the You Tube videos and other websites that those with transgender regret have? And yes, if you can show studies that say transgenders are suicidal due to oppression but it would be hard to show if they are really oppressed or if they just feel that way, would it not? Are you familiar with the BBC documentary, Transgender Kids, Who Knows Best? This article was not written to shame anyone, but to bring it to the attention of people that Transgender Regret exists and hopes for better screening. The leading Canadian doctor who was fired successfully treated many with counseling who would have otherwise, under the care of another doctors, just been approved for the operation, like my friend "Mark". Incidentally, Mark, during his time of confusion, met others like himself and told me that he personally knew of a friend, who went from male to female who also deeply regretted it. I have been aware of transgender regret for a few decades now.
Lori I think your approach is very biased and you don't want to see the truth. Calling reputable data fake is not a sound approach to life.