- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2024

They lived the transgender life for years, but Walt Heyer and Laura Perry Smalts are now defying the gender-identity movement by spreading the word about the pitfalls of medicalized gender-dysphoria treatment.

Both Mr. Heyer and Ms. Smalts are what’s known as detransitioners. Both experienced childhood abuse. Both returned to identifying as their biological sex after years of “gender-affirming care,” which they say left them physically damaged and psychologically derailed without addressing their underlying trauma.

“We dehumanize people when we give them hormones, and then we destroy them when we cut them up and do surgery on them,” Mr. Heyer told Billy Hallowell, host of The Washington Times’ Higher Ground podcast, in a Wednesday interview.

“So it’s either devalue, dehumanize, or mutilate and destroy,” Mr. Heyer said. “That’s all this whole ideology is that they put the name transgenderism on.”

Now 84, Mr. Heyer took cross-sex hormones for 20 years and underwent surgery in 1983, living as a woman named Laura for eight years before returning in 1990 to identifying as a man.

Today, he disagrees with the terms “transition” and “detransition,” saying it’s impossible to become the opposite sex.

“I lived all that life, but the fact of the matter is that it didn’t ever change me to a female,” said Mr. Heyer, who founded Sex Change Regret. “The whole thing was a cosmetic process. So biblically speaking, there was really no transition. You can identify as a transgender. You just can’t become a transgender.”

He traces his gender dysphoria to his childhood. He said he was cross-dressed as a boy by his grandmother, and sexually abused by an uncle. He was also physically abused by both his mother and father.

Had he known then what he knows now, he said, “I would have fought back and said, no, when you diagnosed me with gender dysphoria, you’re diagnosing somebody who is traumatized by sexual and physical and emotional and psychological abuse before he was nine years old.”

His experience dovetails with growing concerns about the booming gender-transition business amid allegations that adolescents and teens are being pushed into drugs and surgeries without adequate psychological evaluations.

“I went for this surgical procedure to take off my genitals because I didn’t ever want to be molested again,” Mr. Heyer said. “And so that would prevent anybody from touching me, wouldn’t it? So that seems a little crazy, but I’ve actually had other people tell me that that’s why they did it.”

He added that, “I didn’t really, quote, want to become a female. I just did not want to ever be touched there again.”

He said an 18-year-old once wrote to him and told him “I feel like a Frankenstein monster.”

“And I said, gee, that actually is kind of appropriate,” Mr. Heyer said. “It’s sort of like a Frankenstein surgery because all they’re doing is mutilating people. So my position on this is we devalue people when we tell them the lie that they can change genders.”

Ms. Smalts said she was sexually abused when she was 8, and although it only happened once, “it really had a profound effect on me.” She also had a contentious relationship with her mother, one of the issues that caused her to feel like she didn’t fit in with girls.

“What really began to drive me down that road even more was in high school, I turned away from the Lord. I told God I would never serve him again. And I got into a lot of sexual sin,” she said. “I was trying so hard to find love, to feel accepted, to find value and worth. And the more that I gave away, the more I felt used and abused and dumped and rejected.”

She finally decided that “the reason I’m never happy is because I was supposed to be the man.”

She lived as a man named Jake for eight years, taking testosterone shots and undergoing surgeries, including a hysterectomy and a double mastectomy, but said at some level she was “always aware that this was a lie, that this was not real. It felt very artificial.”

She gave up the transgender life after returning to God. She has since gotten breast implants and married a man named Perry, which is also her former last name, but still must shave her face every day. She will also never be able to give birth.

The author of the 2019 book “Transgender to Transformed,” Ms. Smalts said teenagers don’t understand the ramifications of their decisions to undergo “gender-affirming care.”

“These kids are always saying, ‘Well, I don’t care if I have kids one day. It’s not a big deal if I become infertile.’ Well, they don’t understand what they’re giving up,” said Ms. Smalts, who runs the Eden’s Redemption ministry with her husband. “And I have cried myself to sleep so many nights [from] just deep, deep regret and grief and longing to know what it would have been like for Perry and [me] to have a child.”

Transgender-rights groups argue that the vast majority of people are happy with their gender transitions and that detransitioners are rare, although the backlash is growing.

Several detransitioners have sued their medical providers for malpractice. More than 20 states have barred sex-change drugs and surgeries for minors. The National Health Service of England banned puberty blockers for gender transitions effective April 1.

“The problem is the gender clinics aren’t telling them, ‘Hey, you had something happen to you. Let’s find out what that is. Let’s dig in. You don’t need hormones. You don’t need surgery because it’s not going to change your gender. And it’s only going to harm you,’” said Mr. Heyer. “We need to begin to fight back and just tell the truth.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Laura Perry Smalts.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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