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Keira Bell’s Story

Keira Bell, whose body was permanently ruined by experimenters (BBC video)

Stop whatever you’re doing and read this autobiographical piece by Keira Bell, a British detransitioner who won a major court case against the Tavistock clinic, which facilitated her transition to male when she was a troubled young teenager. Bell talks about how she was a lonely and frightened adolescent with an absent father and an alcoholic mother. As she started puberty, she lost her male friends, and was alarmed by her attraction to other girls. She told her mother, and her father’s partner, that she thought she was a boy. More:

As I look back, I see how everything led me to conclude it would be best if I stopped becoming a woman. My thinking was that, if I took hormones, I’d grow taller and wouldn’t look much different from biological men.

I began seeing a psychologist through the National Health Service, or NHS. When I was 15—because I kept insisting that I wanted to be a boy—I was referred to the Gender Identity Development Service, at the Tavistock and Portman clinic in London. There, I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, which is psychological distress because of a mismatch between your biological sex and your perceived gender identity.

By the time I got to the Tavistock, I was adamant that I needed to transition. It was the kind of brash assertion that’s typical of teenagers. What was really going on was that I was a girl insecure in my body who had experienced parental abandonment, felt alienated from my peers, suffered from anxiety and depression, and struggled with my sexual orientation.

After a series of superficial conversations with social workers, I was put on puberty blockers at age 16. A year later, I was receiving testosterone shots. When 20, I had a double mastectomy. By then, I appeared to have a more masculine build, as well as a man’s voice, a man’s beard, and a man’s name: Quincy, after Quincy Jones.

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Five years after beginning my medical transition to becoming male, I began the process of detransitioning. A lot of trans men talk about how you can’t cry with a high dose of testosterone in your body, and this affected me too: I couldn’t release my emotions. One of the first signs that I was becoming Keira again was that—thankfully, at last—I was able to cry. And I had a lot to cry about.

The consequences of what happened to me have been profound: possible infertility, loss of my breasts and inability to breastfeed, atrophied genitals, a permanently changed voice, facial hair. When I was seen at the Tavistock clinic, I had so many issues that it was comforting to think I really had only one that needed solving: I was a male in a female body. But it was the job of the professionals to consider all my co-morbidities, not just to affirm my naïve hope that everything could be solved with hormones and surgery.

She sued Tavistock and the NHS. A British court ruled unanimously in her favor. She writes:

My team argued that the Tavistock had failed to protect young patients who sought its services, and that—instead of careful, individualized treatment—the clinic had conducted what amounted to uncontrolled experiments on us. Last December, we won a unanimous verdict. The judges expressed serious doubts that the clinic’s youngest patients could understand the implications of what amounted to experimental treatment with life-altering outcomes.

In their ruling, the judges repeatedly expressed surprise at what had been going on at the Tavistock, particularly its failure to gather basic data on its patients. They noted the lack of evidence for putting children as young as 10 years old on drugs to block puberty, a treatment that is almost universally followed by cross-sex hormones, which must be taken for life to maintain the transition. They also had concerns about the lack of follow-up data, given “the experimental nature of the treatment and the profound impact that it has.”

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At the Tavistock, practitioners provide “gender affirmative care”—in practice, this means that when children and teens declare a desire to transition, their assertions are typically accepted as conclusive. Affirmative care is being adopted as a model in many places. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement on the treatment of young people who identify as transgender and gender diverse that advocated for “gender-affirmative care.”

But former Tavistock practitioners have cited varied problems suffered by the kids who sought help, such as sexual abuse, trauma, parental abandonment, homophobia in the family or at school, depression, anxiety, being on the autism spectrum, having ADHD. These profound issues, and how they might be tied up with feelings of dysphoria, have often been ignored in favor of making transition the all-purpose solution.

As the High Court found, much of the clinic’s treatment is not even based on solid evidence. At the time our case was accepted, the NHS was asserting that the effects of puberty blockers are “fully reversible.” But recently, the NHS reversed itself, acknowledging “that ‘little is known about the long-term side-effects’ on a teenager’s body or brain.” That didn’t stop them from prescribing these drugs to people like me.

Read it all. Bell talks about the incredible, irreversible physical effects of choices she made as a 15 year old — choices encouraged by everyone at the clinic. If you watch this short video report on her case, you can hear that she speaks with a male voice — something that cannot be changed now, something that she will just have to live with. “I was an unhappy girl who needed help,” she writes. “Instead, I was treated like an experiment.”

It is absolutely insane that this was allowed. It is now allowed in the US — even mandated in some hospitals. One physician I spoke with in reporting Live Not By Lies told me that at his hospital, they are under orders from the top to practice “gender affirmative” care. If you object to this as a doctor, you will be fired.

The Arkansas legislature banned this last week, and overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto, thank God. Those lawmakers are going to save future Keira Bells in that state. Those lawmakers are hated by all the right-thinking progressives, and certainly by woke capitalists. But they did the right thing — as will be obvious when American Keira Bells start winning these lawsuits in US courts. It’s coming.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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