By Jonathon Van Maren
First published at First Things
In the past decade, the American public has been subjected to a relentless series of documentaries and films pushing transgenderism and focusing on the stories of “transgender children.” There is the reality show I Am Jazz, which follows a boy as he “transitions” to a girl; the TV miniseries Trans in America; documentaries such as HBO’s Transhood; and a growing list of movies. Transgender stories are all the rage, and while the details are different and the characters diverse, the narrative is the same.
Thankfully, a few dissident filmmakers have begun countering that narrative, with projects such as Dead Name (2023) and Affirmation Generation: The Lies of Transgender Medicine (2023). The new documentary The Detransition Diaries: Saving Our Sisters, produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture and directed by documentarian and former nurse Jennifer Lahl, is a powerful and desperately needed addition to this growing genre.
The film follows three young women on their path into, through, and out of the transgender cult. All three were told that becoming male was the only way to address their struggles, pain, and alienation. All three were assisted on this path by medical professionals. All three eventually realized that they had been lied to. Their stories, the film makes clear, are representative of tens of thousands of similar stories still unfolding.
By age thirteen, Helena was depressed, self-harming, and had an eating disorder. On Tumblr, she was told that if she didn’t fit in and didn’t like her body, she was probably trans and that “if you transition, all of these problems will be fixed.” She changed her pronouns. Her parents opposed transition, but school staff—who hadn’t noticed her struggles before—were suddenly “bending over backwards to help me be trans.” She got prescribed testosterone after a single appointment at Planned Parenthood. It gave her a flash temper and landed her in the psych ward. “I just felt like a monster,” Helena says. She quit after seventeen months and is grateful that she didn’t opt for more surgeries.
Cat was afraid to grow up female, believing womanhood limited her. She struggled with substance abuse, depression, and an eating disorder. The Internet told her she was transgender. She called Planned Parenthood. After a thirty-minute chat with a doctor and a psychological evaluation, she was prescribed testosterone, which she picked up the same day. Despite her parents’ opposition to transition and occasional heart palpitations from the chest binder that crushed her breasts, she felt good at first. After another brief call with Planned Parenthood, she got a letter approving her for “top surgery”—a double mastectomy. When the testosterone started affecting her singing voice—Cat is a musician—she decided instead to “quit everything cold turkey.”
When Grace began feeling uncomfortable with her body, the gender ideology she absorbed online and in college persuaded her she was in the wrong body. After a brief stint identifying as “non-binary,” she started injecting testosterone at age twenty-two, grew copious body hair, and began to lose her beautiful soprano voice. At first, it gave her a rush, and she had her breasts surgically removed at twenty-three. When she woke up from the surgery, she realized it hadn’t worked. “I looked down at my body and saw these weeping gashes on my chest,” she said. “I don’t feel like a man. I feel like a woman with her breasts cut off.” She stopped taking testosterone and detransitioned. Her singing voice has not returned, and she is worried that she may not be able to have children.
Consider again that Helena, Cat, and Grace are only three of an exploding population of girls flocking into gender clinics across the country. Stats indicate that between 2016 and 2017 alone, the rate of sex-change surgeries among girls and women quadrupled in America. That trend continues, pushed by everyone from powerful elites to progressive medical professionals to the president of the United States. The transgender movement now wields tremendous power, and many children are being transitioned long before they reach their teen years. They are being put on puberty blockers and going under the knife before they are old enough to vote, drink, or drive. Many will wake up one day and realize that their ability to conceive children and experience sexual pleasure was destroyed by the adult ideologues that they trusted.
As awful as it is to consider, these three young women are better off than others. Helena has become an advocate for detransitioners and is relieved that she didn’t pursue “top” or “bottom” surgeries. Cat is working through her mental struggles and pursuing her music while telling her story. She has graduated from university with a bachelor of science. Grace is married to a supportive husband, lives in New York, and serves as the president of the Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network, promoting a different approach to gender dysphoria. The Detransition Diaries makes clear that there is life worth living after detransition, even though the consequences of transgender “treatments” last a lifetime. Considering the backlash that greets these stories, it is impossible not to admire the courage of these women.
Each new dissident documentary puts another hairline crack in the transgender narrative pushed by the mainstream media monolith. The Detransition Diaries is a powerful film because it is counter-cultural, and because we have been told that people like Helena, Cat, and Grace do not exist. But they do, they are refusing to be silent, and in the years to come, their decision to speak up may be viewed as one of the catalysts to a rebellion that put an end to this dystopian nightmare of scarred chests, castrated children, and broken voices.