Amidst the media euphoria surrounding the former Bruce Jenner’s gender reassignment surgery and cover photo on Vanity Fair, a 74-year-old transsexual who deeply regrets his decision has come forward to caution those who think that transgenderism solves people’s psychosexual problems.
In a CNN interview on Tuesday, Walt Heyer warned viewers that the relief accompanying gender reassignment surgery doesn’t last. After Jenner expressed exhilaration over the Vanity Fair cover, Heyer responded that such elation is normal, but transient.
Heyer acknowledged that “this is really the most exciting time in a transgender’s life.” It is, he said, “the debut,” when “all the things that you had hoped and thought about are coming about.” From personal experience, however, and from the many transgender people who write to him, Heyer says he knows “this doesn’t always last.”
“It’s sort of like, you know, going down to the bar and you’re having a good time and you drink it up good and then, you know, you wake up with a hangover,” he said.
In an essay earlier this year, Heyer offered a chilling autobiographical account of abuse and gender confusion, sexual reassignment surgery, a short reprieve from anxiety and eventually deep regret at his decision.
Heyer, now reverted to his male identity and married to his wife for 18 years, spends his energy raising public awareness of the disastrous penalties of gender reassignment.
“Changing genders is short-term gain with long-term pain,” writes Heyer. “Its consequences include early mortality, regret, mental illness, and suicide.”
Clinical studies would seem to confirm Heyer’s conclusions. A review of more than 100 international medical studies of post-operative transgenders carried out in the UK in 2004 found “no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective.”
In a published online column, Heyer commiserated with Jenner’s situation.
“As a former transgender myself,” he wrote, “I found it painful to see Jenner looking so fragile, exhibiting an uncertain nervousness throughout the interview. I see Jenner and my heart sinks with sadness; my stomach aches in pain.”
“When Jenner said, ‘I want to know how this story ends, you know?’ a rush of concern filled me. I know one possible outcome of the story—great pain to kids, wife, family and even to himself. I want to yell at him, ‘Stop! The bridge is out,’” he wrote.
Heyer’s prognosis for Jenner is not bright, though he admits there is always hope:
As long as the television lights are on and the cameras are rolling, being in the spotlight he enjoys, Jenner will be fine. But when the lights go dim and the cameras are no longer rolling, he will face the most difficult time of his life. His celebrated change of gender could turn on him and become the cause of deep depression, which, left untreated, according to those who study the causes of suicide, is the number one cause for suicide.
Having been incorrectly diagnosed and pressured into a sex-change operation, Heyer is deeply sensitive to the plight of the many young people today who are confused about their own sexuality and receive mixed messages from a society eager for them to take steps that can never be undone.
“Instead of encouraging them to undergo unnecessary and destructive surgery, let’s affirm and love our young people just the way they are,” he wrote.
Heyer has little patience for “enlightened” parents who think they are doing their children a favor by playing up their confusion and catering to their “dreams of being the opposite gender.” Though motivated by a desire to be open-minded and supportive, this parental behavior is ultimately destructive, says Heyer.
Walt Heyer now runs a website, SexChangeRegret.com, as well as a blog, hoping in this way to educate the broader public on the tragic consequences of transsexualism. His books include an autobiography, A Transgender’s Faith and Gender, Lies and Suicide.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome