This is Shadowland, a new podcast experience from This Jungian Life that explores the lives of people who take refuge in the hidden places of our culture. Lisa, Deb, and Joseph collaborate with songwriter Wells Hanley, creator of I Wrote This Song For You podcast, to bring insight, compassion, and understanding to the obscured side of human experience.
In this episode we meet Beth who underwent gender transition from natal female to trans male and has since de-transitioned. In her early teens, Beth felt she was not like other women and began to question her gender. She saw people who were nonconforming, but although she adopted a non-binary identity in college, people still saw her as a woman. Beth became drawn to a masculine identity and associated transitioning gender with empowerment: she would be free from the perceived social constraints and physical vulnerabilities of womanhood. Beth’s parents, the therapist she saw a few times, and the surgeon all affirmed her desire to transition. Beth underwent testosterone therapy and top surgery to remove her breasts, sacrifices in service of liberation. In time, however, Beth discovered that physical changes did not transform her inner world, and her post-surgical chest remains numb. Beth says, “de-transitioning brought me down to earth” and into adulthood. She feels some of her urges to transition were healthy, and some were self-annihilating—and wishes she had had more help in differentiating her inner world from her gender expression. Beth hopes to be a voice for the complexity of gender transitioning.
Here’s Beth’s dream:
“I met a woman in a lush forest. The forest was filled with strange relics—an abandoned child’s playground, a little home, and abandoned campsites. I knew she was a detransitioner, but unlike me, she was proud, unabashed, and free. She told me I could be free like her once no one knew where to find me. Then she ran off into the jungle. There was an exhilarating feeling of freedom and hope.”
BEYOND THE BREAKING POINT LYRICS
Music and lyrics by Wells Hanley ©2021
You were my lost lover
I tried for so long
just to find you here beside me
I was so wrong
I wandered darkened highways
I turned every stone
far beyond the point of breaking
but I was never alone
So afraid I would die waiting
How I hoped you would be there
and that you’d find me
out beyond the breaking point
So I swam in shark filled waters
I swam in despair
My flesh was eaten, bruised, and beaten
My blood was spilled everywhere
And as I sank down to the bottom
and my life began to fade,
you opened up your eyes
out beyond the breaking point
And as we gaze into the heavens
where we dwell among the trees,
you’re always with me
here beyond the breaking point
Music and lyrics by Wells Hanley ©2021
Singers: Laura Ann Singh at www.lauraannsingh.com and Rei Alvarez at www.reialvarez.com
Currently, there is limited research on the factors that correlate with detransition and the percentage of individuals who chose to detransition. Of the available studies, methods and definitions vary, suggesting a need to establish standardized criteria in the future. Five studies are mentioned below. One concludes, of 17,151 who identify as transgender and gender diverse people, 13.1% reported a history of detransition or going back to living as their sex assigned at birth. Another concludes that only 0.2-0.3% of patients expressed post-operative regret and requested reversal surgery. In another study, 6.9% of patients detransitioned. Additional research is necessary to understand these phenomena more fully.
Boyd, I.; Hackett, T.; Bewley, S. Care of Transgender Patients: A General Practice Quality Improvement Approach. Healthcare 2022, 10, 121. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare100 10121
Hall, R., Mitchell, L., & Sachdeva, J. (2021). Access to care and frequency of detransition among a cohort discharged by a UK national adult gender identity clinic: Retrospective case-note review. BJPsych Open, 7(6), E184. doi:10.1192/bjo.2021.1022
Littman L. Individuals Treated for Gender Dysphoria with Medical and/or Surgical Transition Who Subsequently Detransitioned: A Survey of 100 Detransitioners. Arch Sex Behav. 2021 Nov;50(8):3353-3369. doi: 10.1007/s10508-021-02163-w. Epub 2021 Oct 19. PMID: 34665380; PMCID: PMC8604821.
Narayan SK, Hontscharuk R, Danker S, Guerriero J, Carter A, Blasdel G, Bluebond-Langner R, Ettner R, Radix A, Schechter L, Berli JU. Guiding the conversation – types of regret after gender-affirming surgery and their associated etiologies. Ann Transl Med 2021;9(7):605. doi: 10.21037/atm-20-6204.
Turban JL, Loo SS, Almazan AN, Keuroghlian AS. Factors Leading to “Detransition” Among Transgender and Gender Diverse People in the United States: A Mixed-Methods Analysis. LGBT Health. 2021 May-Jun;8(4):273-280. doi: 10.1089/lgbt.2020.0437. Epub 2021 Mar 31. PMID: 33794108; PMCID: PMC8213007.
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I would presume that a VERY DETAILED investigation should take place before a person would choose physically to transition from his/her
Just listened to Beth’s story which was amazing. As a therapist I have immense compassion for her life path. My comment is for Joseph. My father disappeared when I was 4 yo. I’ve had 4 yrs. Of relational psychoanalysis and 2 yes. Of jungian analysis. I was deeply touched by Josrph’s sensitive comments to her and quickly realized my emotional response to his comments were how I wished I had had a father who could have spoken to me in that thoughtful and sensitive manner. Thank you Joseph for enlightening my relationship about an absent father. In listening to you all and especially Joseph in Beths story has deeply meaningful
Such an interesting and powerful conversation – thanks to the hosts and “Beth”. I think Beth’s young adult story is a very common one – certainly for me when I left university (35 years ago) and what I’ve seen with my kids and other 20-somethings moving from the organized structure and purpose of university and into the uncertainty and invent-yourself world of adulthood/work. In my experience it involves a lot of stumbling forward, and at its core involves the breaking of some illusion one holds about self (type of work, persona….) and hopefully learning to listen to and trust the wisdom of your own inner voice, feelings, gut sense.
I am so moved by the story of Beth. Thank you for being brave in sharing, Beth.
Beth, thank you for your courage and for your voice. You are still transitioning into the vibrant, beautiful person who you are and always have been – speaking your story out loud in this moment takes enormous courage and presence of both mind and body. Thank you for creating a space for honest, soul-level conversations such as this one to take place in this divided culture. It is of course essential to create a society where all people, regardless of gender orientation, are allowed to express themselves freely; therefore, gender is political. But your story conveys that the soul-emotional-self journey at the heart of all children needs to be nourished and tended to outside of the social/political/media realm. As a mother of a child who struggled for many years with her gender identity, I am haunted by the ways that my own afflictions (eg. eating disorder) may have adversely effected my daughter’s inner world. I am grateful to you all for opening the space for this conversation to take place.
This is an amazing and potentially transformative conversation. I wish more Jungian therapists were available to young people with these kinds of emotional crisis. I have a child dealing with multiple emotional crisis, mental health disorder, and is also dealing with these gender identity issues in very much the same way Beth is discussing. The type of care available to them is pathetic–DBT, mindfulness, talking. But young people are searching for meaning and body integration. They have no way to access it with guidance and intelligence in our culture. The mental health crisis for teens/young people is because devalue this kind of exploration in favor of medicalized care. I am so frustrated and so angry. I so want to send this to my child’s pediatrician and therapists to listen to. No one gets this but we all know it internally.
Such a wonderful podcast, like always … thank you for the amazing work.
My heart goes out to Beth. May she find expressions of herself and gender that feel most authentic.
Please note further research into the study that showed 13% detranstion rate, 97% of those people who detranstioned reversed course because of social pressure, lack of acceptance and barriers, not because their gender identity had changed.
I asked my plastic surgeon after my top surgery about regret. She said that the most regret that she sees is from cis-women (natal women) who regret Breast augmentation. I wonder why that is not being more discussed. We are all caught in the crossfires of gender and sexism, tho trans people and natal
Women may suffer the most from dysphoria of some sort…research shows that men are suffering too.
I’d appreciate a conversation that included people of all genders, from their unique viewpoints on this topic of body image, dysphoria and gender expression/identity
Hello Joseph, Lisa and Deb,
A really sad part of this story is how little her therapist cared to really understand her situation and help her sort through her feelings to make a better informed decision. I spend more time deciding what to serve for a dinner party than this therapist seemed to spend with this woman before writing a letter of such magnitude. And if she didn’t know how to help her with these issues, she should have referred her to someone more knowledgeable.
Beth, you are a wise and wonderful woman. I am so grateful to you for sharing your story. Please know that you may save many young women from the pain you have endured by talking today.
I know that with your wisdom and insight and courage you will find your meaning and healing in your journey.
thank you to you three wise therapists.
I found the conversation so compassionate and affirming to Beth that I hope one day to share it with my trans identifying daughter and hope it will lead her to her authentic self.