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Aaron Kimberly

Observatoire: Aaron, thank you for this discussion and thank you for sharing your experience with the French public. Can you tell us briefly about your life journey and your transition?

Aaron Kimberly: I have suffered from gender dysphoria (GD) for as long as I can remember. At least since the age of 3. I was raised as a woman, but at 19 I was diagnosed with a rare intersex disease called ovotesticular disorder of sex development. I think my gender dysphoria is related to this, although I have no way of knowing for sure. I tried to live with my gender dysphoria as a young adult and came out as a lesbian, but it never felt right and I wasn't happy. I experimented with ways to express my masculinity. I changed my name to Aaron at 22.

I didn't even know how to explain how I felt to people and I was ashamed of it. I also didn't know at the time that a medical transition was possible, and when I learned how to do it years later, it felt far-fetched and risky. In the early 2000s, I moved to Vancouver and met a few trans people. Then, around 2007, I saw a documentary on TV about trans children, which resonated with my experience of gender dysphoria, and so I decided to transition. I don't really regret this decision, because I feel much more comfortable as a man, but it was not easy. As I get older, I care less whether I'm male or female. I don't believe in radical gender politics. I think that even if people decide to make the transition, we need guidance to help us understand gender dysphoria and deal with it realistically. "Affirming" is not the same as giving us answers about the reasons for our feelings. When I went to doctors for help, I assumed they understood what this disease is and what treatment is most helpful. I'm rather angry to find that they don't really have a clue. They didn't tell me about all the research done by psychologists like Dr. Blanchard and Dr. Zucker, and they presented medical transition as the only real option. They just give us what they think we want, but I didn't know there were other options. I trusted them to know.


Obs: You have children, has your transition changed your relationship with them?

AK: I have 4 teenage children. I adopted my daughter when she was a baby, 16 years ago. She knows I transitioned but has never known me other than as "dad" because I transitioned when she was a baby. My three stepchildren don't know I transitioned. They always knew me as Aaron. I don't think any of them were much affected by my transition except for the time off I had to take to travel to the US for "bottom" surgery. This required time off, travel and some expenses. I then had complications related to this operation which took about a year to resolve during subsequent operations. I'm sure my down time had an impact on them and what kind of activities I could do with them - lost vacations etc. But that didn't change my relationship with them. If they had known me before the transition, I'm sure it would have had a much greater impact on them.


Obs: Your experience of trans identity leads you to argue against the application of transition processes to children: can you explain the main reasons?

AK: Looking back (into the past), we see things clearly: adults with severe gender dysphoria, who transition later in life, look back and wish they had transitioned earlier. We think of the benefits, like "if I hadn't grown boobs, then I wouldn't have needed a mastectomy." The risks of puberty blockers seem small compared to operations we could have avoided. But we're not really sure that we would have been better off if we had made the transition earlier. Maybe we just had to find a way to understand why we felt that way and to be understood by others.

The problem is that, in advance, we do not see the future clearly: we have no way of knowing which children will need these interventions throughout their lives and which others will not. As studies have shown that around 84% of children with gender dysphoria give up at puberty if left alone, I don't think we should support changing their bodies if there's a chance they'll are finally comfortable in their own bodies.

I also find that children are primed to identify as transgender. Here in Canada, they are taught “Queer Theory” in public schools starting in kindergarten. See for example this human rights case: to-a-full-hearing/ They also have open access to social media and receive misinformation about these terms. They acquire culture, not evidence-based clinical information.

Because of this preparation, I don't think children can give informed consent to medical transition. Children are not properly informed. They are not taught that many people suffer from gender dysphoria for different reasons. They don't need to be "trans" or transitioning just because they have gender dysphoria.

They are also not properly informed of the risks and difficulties associated with the medical transition. Clinicians do not want to appear to be discouraging their clients, and so they underrepresent the reality of these procedures. It's not just rainbows and unicorns.


Obs: What advice would you give to children and teenagers who want to make a transition and think it's the only way for them to be happy?

AK: I would suggest that they look at the identity of people with gender dysphoria before medical transition is an option. We have existed and often prospered through the ages. It is simply not true that the only options are death or transition. Sometimes gender dysphoria goes away on its own. Other people feel it but learn to deal with it. Medical transition may help some people, but make gender dysphoria worse for others. After that ? Physicians have no way of knowing who will benefit from medical transition and who will not. Often it helps for a while, but then it doesn't work anymore. Why go through all the pain and expense just to feel worse? I would tell them to watch videos on detransition. All of these people thought transitioning was something they had to do at that time as well. Today, they regret it and have to live with their new body. Would that be better or worse than having dysphoria? Is it possible that they are gay but have a hard time accepting it? Is it possible that they see the transition as an easy fix for some of the hard things they're facing? It's OK to be another type of girl or another type of boy. Have they explored what type of girl or boy they might be? Medical transition cannot make them exactly like the opposite sex. It is simply not possible. So whether they are in medical transition or not, they will have to accept themselves and their unique journey. If they can learn to do this without changing their body, that's ideal.


Obs: You seem to be saying that if you were now back in your pre-transition situation, but knowing what the medical transition journey entails, you would have proceeded differently. Is it correct ? What would you have considered as an alternative path?

AK: I would have seen more counselors first and learned more about what gender dysphoria is and all the options available to me. (Although it is difficult to obtain this kind of information today). I thought I knew everything I needed to know, but I didn't. I was so desperate to feel better and fit in that I didn't really have a clear head. I feel good about my choices now, but I'm not sure they were all necessary. I regret having had a lower body operation, because I had complications and the result is not what I expected. I feel like I was cheated on what I could expect. It actually made my dysphoria worse instead of better.


Obs: What attitude can you suggest to parents whose child declares himself to be trans?

AK: Somehow we have to help children understand that "trans" is a concept that we have invented. It is not a medical term. We have to counter the queer theory they're being taught because that's what does the most damage whether they end up being trans or not. It's not that it's "bad" to be trans. It's just that it's a meaningless word that causes confusion. Gender dysphoria is not an identity, a culture or a way of life – it is a condition. You have to get to the root of the problem. Is it gender dysphoria or something else? gender dysphoria is real, but the reasons people experience it are many and different. (Intersex conditions, being gay or lesbian, autogynephilia, autism, schizophrenia...) Gender non-conformity is acceptable. There is nothing wrong with being a masculine girl or a feminine boy. It's really important to be neutral with our kids and let them know we're going to love them no matter what. Let them explore their birth gender as much as possible. Teach them that sex is more than stereotypes. If she's a girl who loves sports and cars, that doesn't mean she's a trans boy. Girls have a right to like these things. Tell them that if they really need a medical transition as an adult, you will support them, but that it is a decision to be made as an adult and not as a child.


Obs: How to respond to a child who is in despair when asked to take puberty blockers and asked to wait? What alternative can you offer him?

AK: Acknowledge and validate her distress, but explain to her that there are risks in taking puberty blockers and that there is not enough research on them. Puberty is a time of distress for many people. It's actually a pretty normal thing to feel. Puberty is not just about physical changes, but also about brain development and social development, and stopping puberty can disrupt these important developmental changes. Sometimes people need to go through puberty to sort out their developmental issues. If it is too much for them, they must be helped to cope with the distress they feel. Encourage them to find other ways to express themselves, such as choosing clothes, hairstyles, etc. Encourage them to open up and find words to express how they feel and why. Not taking puberty blockers doesn't mean they can't decide to transition medically into adulthood. In fact, for boys born, the results of surgery are better if they don't take puberty blockers. Puberty blockers stop the growth of a boy's penis - then there is not enough penile tissue to invert into a vaginal canal later. In this case, a section of their colon must be used instead, which is more complicated.


Obs: Parents are often faced with a guilt-inducing alternative: either you support your child in his transition, or you are bad parents. You may even be responsible for the eventual suicide of the child. What comment does this inspire in you?

AK: I reject the idea that all people with gender dysphoria throughout history have committed suicide. What a horrible message to send to children today. Wasn't the life of the Butch lesbians 100 years ago worth living? Trans activism is quite homophobic and sexist.

We can face all kinds of challenges if we can find meaning in them and feel connected to others. Many people face all kinds of difficult things. Many of these suicide statistics are skewed. Some people lie to get what they want. Some clinicians teach people to lie to get what they want. Some of these people were suicidal, but for reasons other than gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria can be difficult, but it's not a death sentence. Teach children that they are loved for who they are, not that they are sick and hopeless. If we tell kids that having gender dysphoria is so horrible that we'd better be dead, of course kids are going to feel bad about themselves.


Obs: In your opinion, can the discomfort of having a girl's or a boy's body find another remedy than gender transition?

AK: Yes, it helps to have a sense of self that has nothing to do with sex. Gender obsession makes gender dysphoria worse. Many “butch” (masculine) women I have known over the years have gender dysphoria, but they are proud to be butch. They have found community and meaning in their lives that is more powerful than their gender dysphoria. Our sense of meaning and worth should not be based on how our bodies look or what others think of us. I think if kids feel connected and have purpose, their gender dysphoria would be manageable.


Obs: Often, the simple fact of questioning the relevance of a transition process in a young person with gender dysphoria is considered transphobic behavior. Yet you are a trans man yourself, and you strive to protect children from engaging in these trans identity processes before they reach adulthood. What do you think of these accusations of transphobia?

AK: I'm sorry that trans activism has gotten to the point where I'm even being called a transphobe to be honest. Some people don't seem to understand that Queer Theory is separate from having gender dysphoria. Queer Theory is just a theory. Whether we believe it or not is optional. I am more than just a theory. I don't believe it and I'm still trans. I have interacted with hundreds of queer and trans people in my lifetime. Having heard so many stories, I know that we are not all the same. I agree with Dr. Blanchard's topology - although he didn't catch all the types. Some "trans" people have never experienced gender dysphoria. They lied to their clinicians to get hormones. I do not know why. Some said they made the transition for "political reasons". There are so many reasons why someone might not feel comfortable with their body or gender. Now it's been made to look like it's cool to be trans and the kids are getting confused. We SHOULD question the relevance of the transition. This is an important question! If a person feels "attacked" or feels like they don't exist because we don't believe their Queer Theory-based narrative, then they've built their whole identity on a theory. It's quite sad. If we don't recognize the truth of our condition, then we can never be truly loved. I'd rather be called transphobic by a few people than never be loved for who I am. People who call it transphobia are afraid to take the lid off the box for some reason. They deserve compassion, but the whole world shouldn't collude with a harmful fantasy in order to spare a few people some distress. People should get help for their distress.


Aaron Kimberly has created a platform for those like him. Join him. Tell your stories. Gender Dysphoria Alliance Canada.

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