I’ve seen several newspapers reporting on this Daily Mail article on Matthew Attonley, generally making even more horrible a fairly badly written, sensationalist article about a virtual non-story. It was so badly written that even trans people reacted negatively towards Matthew and his experience, where the real issue is media representation. This is my attempt to do less-shoddy journalism, using the same tools as shoddy journalists — i.e. isolated quotes stolen out of a piece of someone else’s biased reporting.
After attempting a gender transition as a woman, Matthew Attonley decided to detransition and live again in his assigned gender.
When living as a trans woman, he felt rejected, his identity denied and not acknowledged: “When people found out about my past, they treated me like a liar and a fake.” “No matter how much make-up I put on or how I dressed, I knew people would not know me as a real woman.”
Indeed, Matthew felt the harsh pressure put on women’s appearance after his transition: “It is exhausting putting on make-up and wearing heels all the time.” [*] But even moreso, he had to deal with the specific difficulties male-assigned women face when taking on new gender roles one was never taught: “It was draining to constantly think about how to walk and speak like a girl.”
Despite all his efforts, he doesn’t feel he looks “like a proper woman”. His hard experience with being trans left him with a bad body image. Like many trans people, he could never feel at ease with his body, partly because of his internalized cissexism: “I knew deep down that, even though I had had surgery, I had still been born a man.” “I have always longed to be a woman, but no amount of surgery can give me an actual female body and I feel like I am living a lie.”
He also suffered from the transnormative treatment of gender dysphoria that makes genital surgery the focus of trans people’s trajectory, and felt an inevitable backlash when it did not, in fact, make him happier: “I thought the surgery would make me feel complete, but it didn’t.”
Throughout his transition, he suffered from mental health issues which the NHS did not treat successfully, and which were compounded by side-effects of hormone replacement therapy.
For all these reasons, he decided to go back on his transition and identify as a man. He is now hoping that the NHS will pay for the surgeries he needs for his second transition, and for recovering some lost happiness.
Despite experiences like Matthew’s, transition is usually very effective for people with gender dysphoria. Most people who regret their transition do so for the same reasons as Matthew — because society rejects trans people and invalidates their bodies.
However, few feel the pressure is so hard that they want to transition back to their assigned gender after getting through the long and difficult admission process of UK’s gender identity clinics and meeting the criteria for surgery. In fact, gender reassignment surgeries enjoy a satisfaction rate of around 99 %.
That wasn’t hard, was it?
[*] After seeing people’s reaction on this, I’d like to clarify something: I did not include this quote because I find it particularly meaningful, but because I wanted to show what could be done with the quote that attracted the most media attention, and make it non-dismissive.