My name is now Deborah Ashley Hayton, but that was not always the case. In 2012 I transitioned “male-to-female”. I didn’t really change sex – I know that now – but at the time I was convinced that I was some kind of woman. Otherwise, I can’t imagine that I would have gone through with it and caused so much distress to my wife and children.
I was born 44 years earlier in 1968 as David Ashley Hayton. As a boy, my interests were not atypical. I enjoyed my books – and I devoured encyclopaedias – but so did other boys. I did not struggle especially with the gender stereotypes; my problems were rooted in my sexuality. But for most of my life I had no understanding of the problem. Deeply ashamed, and unable to compare my experience with anyone else, I buried it as deep as I could.
The symptom was baffling and inexplicable: I desperately wanted to be a girl. It persisted into adulthood, and I developed coping strategies. I kept myself busy, studied hard and I did well in education and in my career. I knew I was heterosexual – I am attracted to females – but the target of my sexuality was also my own body, and that body was male.
It was an impossible problem but had it not been for the internet, I suspect that the second half of my life would have been pretty much the same as the first: a family man notable for things I had done in my career rather than things I did to my body. The crisis was precipitated by social media. When I learned that other people were transitioning – and seemingly finding peace and contentment as a result – I needed to do it too.
The compulsion became overwhelming as emotions took over my mind: envy of others and craving for myself. I was entranced by the illusion that I was some sort of woman. I transitioned to try and find my true self. But I had always been my true self. The hormone therapy and gender surgery changed my body but it did not change me. However, I was not prepared to listen to reason. Five years later the “pink mist” began to lift and I realised that transition is at best a palliative solution to psychological distress. It can never be a resolution because we can never change sex.
Roberta Cowell – a Spitfire pilot who transitioned in the 1950s – is reported to have said that “It’s easier to change a body than a mind.” That may be true, but surely it misses the point. Instead we need to reconcile the mind with the body. That is hard, but our bodies are more than mere perambulating devices; we are our bodies as much as we are our minds.
But if that nuance was lost on me in 2012, what hope is there for children who are being bombarded with messages from the internet. In cyberspace we can be whoever we want to be, so long as others play the game. But this spills into reality, and the messages are propagated by publicly funded groups. They have captured policy making and established the concept of gender identity as an innate quality which alone determines whether we are men, women or something else. It is pervasive but it is also unprovable, unfalsifiable and impossible to define without recourse to circular reasoning – “gender identity is the gender we identify with” – and sexist stereotypes.
These messages have been taken into schools by campaigning groups including Stonewall UK, Mermaids UK and Gendered Intelligence. These same lobbyists have inspired guidance for schools that has denied children their legal right to single sex toilets and washing facilities, encouraged name changes and pronoun changes without informing unsupportive parents.
In a world where heterosexual can be seen as boring, children desire to be special. Identity becomes everything when there are “100 genders or more” to choose from, according to the BBC.
As adults cheer them on, these children are heading for medical treatment that would change their bodies and possibly leave them infertile for life. Unlike my generation, where transsexualism still mainly comprises men who want to be women, these youngsters are mostly girls who want to be boys. They are the other sex, and their issues are different to anything I could have experienced. Indeed, while my problems were rooted in my sexuality, it seems to me that these teenage girls just don’t want to become women.
Policy may eventually be put right but it will be no consolation to children whose bodies have been changed permanently. Medical transition is a one-way ticket. The safeguarding of children from harm is at stake, and that task is the responsibility of everyone.
By Debbie Hayton
Debbie Hayton is a teacher, journalist and trade union officer based in the West Midlands.
This piece was first published by the Family Education Trust in their Summer 2021 Bulletin, Issue 182
11 replies on “Transition is not the Solution: a Personal Testimony”
Thank you so much for this open, honest, and constructive article!
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Thank you for your kind words.
As of recently I have been delving into transgender issues and debates (which are getting in my opinion more extreme and absurd by the minute). Googling the topics I came upon your name and was impressed with your balanced and grounded views. But this particular story of yours left me quite shocked as it echoes a lot of the horrendous and disproven things I have read about people like me – homosexual men and women. That is that we are not really homosexual but “misguided” by our upbringing (may Freud and Psychoanalysis be damned). I don’t quite understand what you are trying to say – that you were not really transsexual but confused about your sexuality and fetishes (per Blanchard, Bailey) or that all transsexual people are simply troubled and need therapy?
Thanks for your comments. They made me think. My (rhetorical) question is, what does it mean to be “really transsexual”? Is there any meaning to the term beyond a group of people whose mental health was improved by transitioning?
A very important question is why their mental health would be improved by transitioning.
If I may draw a parallel with homosexuality – it is very important if it is because of some complex interplay between genetics, environment etc. which is a normal, though rare variation or because of some incurable disorder/arrested development/misguided libido… Labels matter! And what I fear is that the trans debate may lead us either to a tragic delusion of denying basic biological facts and dismantling every coordinate system (male, female, man, woman, good, bad, true, false) our civilization has or back to another dark age where anything different from procreative hetero sex is a disease/perversion/paraphilia. Being sick or being healthy/normal matters. At least to me.
Very powerful testimony Debbie! We need to acknowledge that all transgender experience is not the same, but how, when not everyone is insightful about themselves in this way and we as a society can’t even acknowledge the existence of AGP.
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An insightful piece, Debbie – thank you. I imagine it might not have been easy to write, but as someone who is committed to truth and reality, I also imagine that not being open and honest is not an option, either. The truth sets us free, eh?
How are you now that the “pink mist” has lifted?
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Much better, thank you! 🙂
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“Debbie Hayton is a teacher, journalist and trade union officer **based in reality** “. Thank you Debbie. Wishing you strength and hope for your well-being. From a parent of a daughter caught in this web, you’ve described our experience depressingly well. It’s not that difficult to see but the world refuses to see what is going on for an irrational fear of harming trans people.
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Glad to see the “pink mist” starting to lift … It sounds like you’re starting to accept that you’re a man. I hope you continue on this journey toward self-acceptance and self-awareness, and that you’ll publicly admit that you’re no kind of woman. The confusion created by the alleged “gender critical trans” has done nothing but enable the homophobic far left.