‘I think they’re lost and I think they’re being led’: Psychotherapist who was convinced she was born the wrong sex as a ‘tomboy’ child says young people with gender dysphoria should NOT be encouraged to transition
- Stella O’Malley, 44, spent years believing she was a boy until puberty hit
- She supports the rights of transgender people and wants to open a conversation
- But fears some children are being encouraged to transition when they shouldn’t
- Number of children accessing the NHS’s gender service has spiked dramatically
A psychotherapist who spent years convinced she had been born the wrong sex believes young people with gender dysphoria should not be encouraged to transition.
Stella O’Malley, 44, of Offaly, Ireland, believed she was a boy until puberty hit and says had she been a young child living in today’s society she is ‘absolutely certain’ that she ‘would have transitioned’.
In a Channel 4 documentary Trans Kids: It’s Time to Talk, Stella, now a married mother-of two, examines how the experiences and options open to transgender children today compare to her own.
Stella is worried that experts are readily turning to the option of transitioning as a ‘solution’ to gender dysphoria, as in the past nine years there has been a 2,500 increase in the number of children accessing the NHS’s gender service.
She says that while medicine isn’t necessarily wrong for those who want to become a different gender, there isn’t enough research into the long-term effects hormones may have.
Tearfully saying of younger people seeking treatment: ‘I think they are lost and I think they are being led.’
Challenge: Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley, 44, of Offaly, Ireland, believed she was a boy until puberty hit and says had she been a young child living in today’s society she is ‘absolutely certain’ that she ‘would have transitioned’
In the documentary the psychotherapist hopes to open a conversation about allowing those with mental health issues have more time to understand and digest the process.
But she admits to finding it difficult to present a fully balanced argument because after approaching transgender charities, lobby groups, NHS and private doctors, they are all refusing to engage with the documentary.
She stresses: ‘It’s right to ask legitimate questions about people who may regret transitioning, or the lack of research into the drugs to make sure we are not doing harms to kids.
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‘Fundamentally you can’t help but think they don’t like the fact that I exist,’ she questions.
‘They don’t like the fact that I had gender dysphoria, I was that kid and I have grown up to be this woman. On some level that is threatening as far as I can say.’
She adds: ‘I never realised quite how hard it would be to make a film about transgender kids.
‘I feel it is so important as a society that we can have a real conversation about the best way to support kids like I was who are confused about their gender.’
In the dark: Among the people Stella speaks to is Kenny, who began transitioning eight years ago, but confessed he had ‘no clue’ what to expect when he started taking hormone blockers and testosterone
Among the people Stella speaks to is Kenny, who began transitioning eight years ago, but confessed he had ‘no clue’ what to expect when he started taking hormone blockers and testosterone.
Kenny said he ‘found out along the way’, only learning recently that there was even a possibility he could still get pregnant, or equally that he could already be infertile.
Although he had a double mastectomy, he decided not to go through with bottom surgery because after learning at a surgical consultation that he may lose all sensation during sex.
‘I only knew about the bottom surgery when I went to a consultation to talk to a surgeon. I was 21.
‘I think it’s unfortunate that there wasn’t as much information. When you start taking testosterone chances of children and things like that basically become non-existent.’
Stella also meets with a 13-year-old named Matt who has already started taking puberty blockers with his parents’ consent. But they are terrified that he could change his mind in the future and put the blame solely on them.
Speaking out: Cole speaks with Stella about documenting his transition on YouTube and in the past two years how he doesn’t mind being a ‘guinea pig’ because his quality of life is better
YouTuber Cole, 24, who lives with his mother in Bristol, began taking hormone blockers when he was 22 and has been documenting his transition online.
He believes that YouTube videos are helping: ‘My generation are the ones that are transitioning all at the same time.’
While he acknowledges the lack of evidence of the long term effects of testosterone, and that he is essentially taking untested drugs he doesn’t mind: ‘But because of my quality of life before, I am OK with being a guinea pig.’
Cale, who lives in south London, was 15 when she decided she wanted to become a boy, believing it was a solution to her feelings of not being able to fit in.
However after years on hormones and surgery, including a double mastectomy, Cale decided to de-transition when she couldn’t see a future as a man.
She now identifies as a woman: ‘What’s done is done. I wouldn’t undo it because I went through a lot of self-reflection, a lot of learning about myself and I grew as a person.
‘I went through a lot of bad stuff and a lot of good stuff it’s just how it is. I don’t regret it.’
Reflective: Stella, pictured, sees herself in one woman she meets and ponders whether her path might have been different if she’d lived as a child in today’s society
Stella reflects on her own journey, and admits she sees something of herself in Cale but they both where on different paths because of the options open to them at the time.
‘I went through a kid thing and then I came out of it and I went through lots of other things in my life and came to this position,’ she says. When I see a trans kid by god everything gets raised up again.
‘I’m sure some of them will go on to transition and live happily ever after and I’m sure other ones will have more complicated roles and I just think what if a huge amount of those kids are me.
‘What if they got this wrong, what if everything I had is what they are feeling because it certainly sounds very, very like it.
‘All I’ve felt is recognition and that has made me way more freaked out than I was at the beginning of this.’
She adds: ‘At the start it was way more intellectual presuming that maybe there was something I didn’t know and what I am finding is that I know this world well and deeply, profoundly.
‘I think they are lost and I think they are being led.’
Trans Kids: It’s Time to Talk airs tonight on Channel 4 at 10pm
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