[FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW] “Bad behavior is rewarded by TikTok. You're given an incentive to behave like that … So when we see influencers acting crazy, and then people sharing their transition journey, it gets more and more extreme, to the point where you have someone like Dylan Mulvaney saying that he wants to become pregnant.”
Social media influencer Oli London became known for undergoing many surgeries in his quest to look like a Korean man and then, during the pandemic, a Korean woman. He was one of the first influencers to join TikTok, and he says the social media platform fueled his gender confusion.
Now he’s sharing his story in his new memoir “Gender Madness: One Man's Devastating Struggle with Woke Ideology and His Battle to Protect Children.”
“So many kids look up to influencers more than they look up to teachers or doctors. They respect them more. So if an influencer says something—and it could be very harmful—teens will just follow it blindly, like a cult, almost like a religion. So I feel like I had a responsibility, and I woke up,” Mr. London says.
FULL TRANSCRIPTJan Jekielek: Oli London, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Oli London: It's such a pleasure to be here in Washington, DC. Thank you for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: There's one chapter in your book, Gender Madness: One Man's Devastating Struggle with Woke Ideology and His Battle to Protect Children that covers TikTok. You were, and perhaps still are, a major TikTok influencer. TikTok burst onto the scene in 2018 and 2019, and has been growing ever since. Because you were big on some other platforms, you were invited to become a TikTok influencer, and that also played a pivotal role in your own journey, which you chronicle in Gender Madness. Let’s get the notes on your journey. How did all this start?
Mr. London: I was one of the first people to use social media back in the day when it was MySpace. I was age 16, so this is really going back. I always had an interest in social media, and for me it was a form of escapism. I could create this online identity, I could use filters, and I could get that affirmation and validation. As a teen, I was bullied a lot, and I struggled with my identity.
I turned to social media like MySpace to try and feel good about myself, and to get positive reactions, likes, and comments. Then I started to use Instagram about a decade later, and then I turned to TikTok. TikTok was the app that influenced me most. It completely changed my identity, and it pushed these different ideas on me that I hadn't necessarily thought about before.
It really became a pivotal thing in my life and a thing that I was very addicted to. They say it's almost like a digital opioid because you always want that serotonin rush, that fix. I was one of the first influencers to join TikTok, and I was invited to the TikTok headquarters in London.
I had a creative partner manager. Basically, I went there and they said, "Look, we are moving away from the dance videos and the lip-syncing videos," which was what the ByteDance company was all about. They wanted people to express their individualism and identities. I said, "Okay, I need to basically tell my story and share that with the audience."
Mr. Jekielek: They specifically mentioned wanting to highlight the peculiar nature of your individual identity. That was something that they stressed?
Mr. London: Yes. They said, "We don't want influencers. We're not going to promote this on the FYP," which is the homepage called the For You Page. "We're not going to promote videos that are dance trends or lip-syncing. We want people to express themselves." People like me struggled with their identity, and it was out there in public.
They wanted me just to show my individualism, let people into my life, talk about my personality and my own identity struggles, and then express that to the audience. They said that would help me achieve views and followers and engagement. I thought, "If that's what they're telling me to do, I best go along with it."
Mr. Jekielek: Before we dig deep into TikTok, I noticed that you have struggled with your identity. You became a huge fan of K-pop. It's not just male-female identity, but it's also racial identity. It all happened in this very tight time period, just within a few years. I was stunned at how industrious you were with all these different changes, and some very serious surgeries. How did all that happen, if you don't mind me asking?
Mr. London: As a teen, I never liked the way I looked. I was always different from other kids, and I had body dysmorphia. I was picked on and bullied because of the way I looked. When I became an adult, I wanted to start changing myself. I lived in Korea for a year, and Korea is very famous for plastic surgery. There is a social pressure in Korea to look a certain way in order for you to be happy, to be successful, and to achieve your dreams.
Initially, I succumbed to that pressure, and started changing myself through surgery. I wanted more of a Korean-style, feminine look because I wanted to be one of those people on the billboards or TV. They seemed to be happy, they were adored, they were loved, and I never had those feelings before. Then as I started to use social media; Instagram, Twitter, and then obviously TikTok after that, I started to really crave validation online.
Every time I would change myself, whether with a surgery or whatever it was, I would crave people validating that and telling me, "You look good, you look beautiful, and you look amazing." If I didn't get that, I would think, "Okay, something is wrong with me." I would question my identity and then I would push myself down this dark path of more surgeries. I started getting addicted to this. I started to really spend a lot of time on social media and to really reflect on negative comments.
If somebody said, "You look ugly," it would actually really affect me. When I became a very avid social media user with Instagram and TikTok, I really became more confused. The algorithms are very smart because they can push you content based on what you're thinking about. It was pushing me content that basically said, "You can be any identity you want. It's good to have a different identity. It's good to be an individual. We're not all the same. Some of us are born different." That's the kind of content I started to see. I started to think, "Okay, maybe this is a sign from above that I am meant to be different and I am meant to change."
Mr. Jekielek: The pandemic lockdowns hit in early 2020, and we see a lot of trends, and it's very hard to find specific causality around them. But one thing that does happen is that TikTok grows a lot, and very substantially. We see a great increase in suicidal ideation among teens in America, a shocking statistic reported by Dr. Scott Atlas. There are all sorts of things happening. I want to go over that time period with you, because this was in the middle of everything that you were involved in.
Mr. London: In 2019, I was a very avid TikTok user, and this was the time when TikTok started to see an explosion in growth. They gained around 693 million downloads in 2019. Then fast-forward to 2020 when you had the pandemic, and that doubled to 1.2 billion global users. Everybody was taking to TikTok during the pandemic, because everybody was locked at home, and nobody was socializing.
We were missing that basic human interaction of speaking with people, getting that validation, and getting compliments. We were missing that. Me and millions of other people took to TikTok as an outlet. I started to spend many hours there, up to eight hours a day, and I would just be endlessly scrolling.
I might not even be that interested, I would just be scrolling, scrolling, and scrolling. Then the algorithm would start to push me more and more unusual content of emotional people basically having mental health breakdowns. We saw a lot of that spurred on by the pandemic, because people weren't interacting, and they were locked in their houses. We saw that mental health deterioration. I also experienced that because when you are locked at home, you can’t even go for a walk. What can you do? Then I was online all day long on TikTok. I'm seeing all these other people struggling with their identities and sharing that, and then suddenly they were getting love.
They were getting validation. Because I had always questioned myself, I said, "I want to feel that love too. I want to feel that validation." It really did become an addiction to getting those views and getting those likes in order to feel validated and to feel like I was worth something. That really spurred it on for me and also for many other people.
We can really attribute this growing trend and this social contagion of people transitioning or people identifying as non-binary, trans, and all these other identities to that time period of being locked at home for up to two years and being on TikTok. This is when we really started to see this explosion in teens being very confused about their identity.
Mr. Jekielek: Just to clarify, most of your procedures were post-2020?
Mr. London: I started doing surgeries in 2013, and that was initially to change my features and try to develop self-confidence. I started with a nose surgery and then I started to get a lot more surgeries around 2018 and 2019. I actually had a jaw surgery and a chin surgery, which feminized my face. During the pandemic, that's when I was struggling with my identity. I was showing it online and I still wasn't sure of who I was.
All the roads seemed to suggest that I was trans. All the videos I saw said, "Trans this, trans that." I'd already had those questions throughout my life. I wasn't one hundred percent sure, “Was I born in the wrong body? Why do I always feel different?” That really spurred it on.
During my TikTok addiction, I did research on becoming transgender and the processes involved. Just after the pandemic, I actually did go through facial feminization, which is 11 procedures in one day, because I had spent so much time on my phone, and I hadn't been socializing. Then the more feminine I looked, the more makeup I would wear. The people were complimenting me, and I wasn't used to that.
I was used to bullies and people putting me down and saying that I was worthless, so that was a good feeling. I became addicted to that feeling of getting that attention and people telling me that I look great, that I look better as a woman, and that I look feminine. People said that I looked like a girl. I thought, "Wow, maybe these people are right."
Mr. Jekielek: It wasn't your purpose to look like a girl?
Mr. London: I did struggle with severe body dysmorphia, and I did struggle with questions of gender dysphoria as a teen. As a young boy, I was always more feminine, and I was more interested in girls' toys, makeup, Barbies, and things like that. I always had those questions, but I never necessarily thought about transition. I never thought it was a possibility. I grew up in a slightly different time, the early 2000s. It wasn't something that was pushed on young people. It wasn't something that even seemed like an option. Of course I had this question, "I'm more feminine than other boys, why is that?"
But I never had that kind of thought of, "Okay, I can change this. I can actually become trans." It wasn't until later in adulthood when I saw all these things online and saw that it seemed so easy and all these people seemed so happy. That’s a key thing with people online—it's a facade. People pretend that they're happy and they show off the best parts of their life, but it doesn't necessarily reflect how they're feeling.
But when you see these people transitioning and they seem like they're much happier. They're smiling, they're getting praise, and they seem like they're happy. You think, "Okay, maybe my solution is to do what they've done and transition." And then for a time I did feel happy, but for a short time.
Mr. Jekielek: Please explain how racial transition fits into this picture.
Mr. London: That really goes back to when I was living in Korea and I fell in love with that culture. I thought it was a beautiful culture, and it was the first time in my life where I actually felt free. I felt free to express myself. This is a culture that's predominantly driven by looking a certain way, and for having these perfect aesthetics and the perfect symmetry of the face. That's where it all began. I went back and forth to Korea several times, and I just had an affinity with that culture.
When I started changing myself, I started going for more of a K-pop feminine look. I was seeing things online where you can identify in any different way, and there's something called Two-spirit. There's all these different identities. You have some people identifying as animals or furries. I thought, "Is that really that different?" Now I see that it is. But at the time it kind of begged the question that these trans activists have, which is you are allowed to identify however you want. But when I said, "I can be a Korean guy," people were strange with that.
Mr. Jekielek: That's interesting, isn't it? Why is that any different than identifying as any other number of possibilities?
Mr. London: That's what I thought at the time, “How is this any different?” That's why I thought, “Let me just say that I feel this way, if everybody else is praising people that have these different identities.” It does beg an interesting question, “What is the difference if somebody says you can change your gender, or you can change your sex, even though biologically, you are born a male or female?” Some people say that men can get pregnant, and that men can menstruate. Why is what I was going through so extreme to these people?
Mr. Jekielek: I want to go back to TikTok here and your engagement with the app to create content, as opposed to just passively scrolling, taking stuff in, and getting ideas. We know that it can be incredibly potent, and we know that it can be very addictive. In fact, it's designed to be that way with every social media. But what about this process of being a creator? You talked about how you were told to showcase your individuality and your uniqueness. Please explain that to me.
Mr. London: I had a meeting in 2018 at the TikTok headquarters in London, and I have also had meetings with Instagram where you are assigned a partner manager. The bigger you are, the more followers you get. They give you a creative partner manager. They basically speak with you every month and they give you ideas. They tell you, "Okay, this is trending right now. This is what you need to do if you want to beat the algorithm and succeed."
When I had meetings at TikTok, they would always tell me to express my personality and show off my different identities. They said, "The more unique and unusual you are, the more engagement you're going to get, and it will help you grow on the platform.” Indeed, they will help push that with the algorithm. If you play by their rules, you are going to get promoted, and you're going to see that huge increase.
Another thing that TikTok did for me and other creators is to give incentives to create content. There's a thing called a creator fund. People get rewarded for making videos based on the views, but that doesn't necessarily add up to much even with millions of views. But for some people that can be an incentive, even if they're just making a few hundred dollars a month. This is especially true during a pandemic when they are just sitting in their house. Actually, some of them can make thousands or tens of thousands if they're really successful.
Then you also have TikTok live, which I used to do all the time. You get rewarded when fans send stickers, which converts into money. That's what TikTok does for creators. They hook you in and promise you, "Okay, we're going to promote you." Indeed, they do push you on to the recommended page, and then you get these incentives to keep you on the app. It gives you an incentive to be a little bit crazy and to express yourself in unusual ways. We see this time and time again with these prominent TikTok influencers. Dylan Mulvaney is a great example.
They start out just being normal. He was an actor and a comedian doing some funny videos, a little bit crazy. Then suddenly you see this progression when their followers go up. The engagement goes up, and they start to behave more and more bizarrely, because that is promoted by the algorithm. With me, I was sharing my identity struggles, and that was being promoted at the time. In retrospect, it was very bizarre. That's what we see—bad behavior is being rewarded by TikTok. You are given an incentive to behave like that.
We see influencers acting crazy, and also people sharing their transition journey. It gets more and more extreme to the point where you have someone like Dylan Mulvaney saying that he wants to become pregnant, because it's all for views. It's for attention and validation. Then he says he's a lesbian, and then he says he's using tampons. It is driving people to behave in very weird ways because it's giving them a reward and an incentive.
Mr. Jekielek: I often describe TikTok from the perspective of the Chinese Communist Party having particular influence on this app, by its own laws and also by its own policies of civil-military fusion. It’s potentially a very effective weapon in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. If you wanted to send destabilizing messaging into the most popular social media app for young people in America, that's what is happening from everything you're talking about. Do you subscribe to that view?
Mr. London: Yes, absolutely. TikTok started to become very big in 2018, and then you had the pandemic hit the following year. That's when the user numbers started to multiply by hundreds of millions. People had that addiction. TikTok gave incentives for creators to create content, and encouraged people to use the apps. The videos are very short, because it's all about attention span. They are 5 to 15-second videos, and that's just about what young people can manage these days in paying attention to content.
Now, you have 5-second videos, and you’re just scrolling, scrolling, and scrolling, and you see some really weird things on there. That is something that is put on the feeds for many, many people daily. All it takes is for TikTok to understand you as a person—your vulnerabilities and what you're thinking, and then they're going to push that content on you.
You have groups of girls now wanting to become trans. There is this explosion in teens of not understanding what a man or woman is, and having no sense of masculinity or femininity. It’s really just breaking down the younger generations. There was a quote from Lenin, the communist leader, "Give me one generation of young people, and I can influence them and turn them into communist foot soldiers." That's what China is looking at, and they just need one generation. They need to get them when they're young, plant that seed, and then indoctrinate them.
These people are never going to be functioning adults. They're always going to have these struggles. They will be so preoccupied they won’t be interested in politics or what's going on in the world. They will be so consumed with their own struggles they can’t contribute to society, either career-wise or skill-wise. They will always be trapped in that internal conflict.
Mr. Jekielek: You're describing your own situation, but somehow you found your way out of it. Please tell me how that happened.
Mr. London: I actually started using TikTok and social media a lot less frequently last year, when before I was really using it very heavily. When I would look at my screen time for the day, it would be 13 to 14 hours on some days. On some days, it was 16 hours, and a lot of that was on TikTok, and then Instagram. I was consumed by it. I got to a point where I was going down this destructive route, and I had a lot of issues with my family because of the journey I had put them through. It was very, very tough.
I had to stop, basically. I was like a train about to go off the tracks. I had to stop, put the brakes on, and find a solution. I started going to therapy, started going to church, and used TikTok and social media less. My happiness went up tenfold, just by limiting my social media use.
Now, I do Twitter, but it's not like it was before where it was just pictures and videos of me. It became very narcissistic. We all use social media, but it becomes very narcissistic where we always want praise and love. Then we always have to do something extreme in order to get that love. I stopped doing that, and that has increased my happiness.
It has helped me to just focus on what's inside. It doesn't matter what's outside. It doesn't matter how many likes you get, and how many comments. It's about who you are as a person. Also, it’s about responsibility. Every single one of us has a responsibility as an adult to be a good role model. Many kids look up to influencers more than they look up to teachers or doctors, and they respect them more.
If an influencer says something, it actually could be very harmful. Teens will just follow them blindly like a cult or almost like a religion. I felt like I had a responsibility. I woke up and realized, "You know what? This is bad. I shouldn't be projecting this, even though TikTok is rewarding me. I'm getting so many brand deals and incentives. I need to stop this because it's not healthy."
It was both self-reflection and the realization, "I can't keep doing this because I'm going to end up dying on the operating table." We didn't have social media 20 years ago. I wanted to go back to the old me that was happy and content. I was very shy, I was insecure, but I was happy with just being a young boy.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the things you touch on in the book is the difference between the Chinese version of TikTok and the U.S. version. Please tell me about that. What you just said is very pertinent.
Mr. London: There's a huge difference between the Chinese TikTok, Douyin, and the Western version, TikTok. The key difference is the content. On Douyin, you have educational videos of skill sharing, children in the classroom, and learning things about the military, but it also promotes collectivism and nationalism. We see a very key difference with that. People in China don't see people transitioning or changing their gender or their pronouns. It just doesn't exist because these kids aren't being fed that online. It is not allowed, and it's not posted there.
They only have things that promote skill sharing, education, and the family unit. You see families on Douyin sharing their happy lives. You don't see that in the U.S. Here it's all about individuals, and it's all about these teens. Quite often we see teens cut themselves off from their family. TikTok is isolating them because they're on their phone all day and they become detached from their family. They're almost taught that having a family is bad, and having a wife or a husband is not good. They are taught, “You need to be an individual and you are special.” It's telling kids, “You're special, you are unique, and you need to adopt a different identity to stand out.”
Mr. Jekielek: In Douyin they're really focusing on maintaining social cohesion, and you could even say indoctrinating around that. Do you see what's happening on TikTok as a kind of indoctrination?
Mr. London: It definitely is indoctrination. Even the Chinese version, Douyin, does promote certain things that are beneficial for the Chinese Communist Party. They obviously have control of that, and they can control anything in China. In terms of Western TikTok, we have seen these trends of kids changing, and you've got now 11-year-olds going on puberty blockers and hormones. People like Dylan Mulvaney have 10 million followers on TikTok, and they get rewarded for bad behavior and for projecting these insecurities on kids.
Dylan is seen as a symbol of success, because kids see, "Okay, he's got a brand deal with Mac or Maybelline or Bud Light and he's really cool. We need to be like that." Kids now aspire to be influencers. Around a quarter of all children want to become an influencer instead of a veterinarian or a doctor or a scientist. That's the culture we live in.
We know that China ultimately has control over the data of these kids. I believe it's able to listen to people and use the camera lens. This has been reported multiple times. It's very clever at manipulating people, and it has a very smart AI algorithm.
Mr. Jekielek: What happened to you when you spoke up for the Uyghurs and Xinjiang?
Mr. London: I've always been very vocal about speaking up for oppressed minorities, whether it's the Rohingya people in Myanmar or the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province in China. I was always speaking up about them on Twitter and even on YouTube. I used to have a lot of people coming on to my TikTok live and they would ask me questions.
I would have people from different countries and sometimes they'd want me to talk about social issues. I remember seeing a comment, “Please speak up for the Muslim people in China.” I was very much aware of what was going on. I said, "Look, it's awful in Xinjiang, there are over 1.6 million Muslims in concentration camps."
Within a few seconds, the live feed was cut. They said that I had a live ban, with a suspension for a week, so I wasn't able to do live for a week. There was no reason for it. It didn't say that I posted something sensitive, offensive, or violated some terms. It was just, “You're banned for a week,” with no explanation. I realized then that you're not allowed to talk about certain things.
You're not allowed to expose certain things that are critical of China. We all know China is all about censorship, and their own people don't even know what's going on. But the fact is, this censorship is now happening in the West. This is an app we're using in the West and it's censoring the content that we are seeing. That's very wrong and that’s worrying as well.
Mr. Jekielek: You have some regrets about possibly influencing people in the wrong direction. How are you dealing with that?
Mr. London: Yes, I do have some regrets about that because I have over 2.3 million followers across various platforms, and over 1.1 million on TikTok. I had billions of views over the last few years on TikTok itself. I have reflected, and some of my identity struggles that I projected onto TikTok may have influenced young people to think that it is totally normal to behave this way, that it’s okay, and that plastic surgery is a great thing.
But now I've realized that's wrong. I now realize I should be encouraging kids to accept themselves, and to find that inner confidence from within, and not to want to radically change themselves beyond repair and beyond recognition. I don't think that's healthy for kids, but this is the generation we live in.
We live in a generation where it's all about looks, appearance, and wanting to be special. We all want to stand out and get that validation. But I think you can be unique. You can be yourself without the need to change your appearance, and without the need to adopt these identities. I also try to encourage kids. I have a lot of young people following me on TikTok, but I don't use it too much.
I encourage kids to not spend all day on TikTok because it is unhealthy. Kids should be socializing and doing sports and things like that. I now feel that I have a responsibility, and I do feel some sense of guilt from sharing all that. It was a mental health struggle I was going through, but I was sharing that online. I do have some guilt about that because I could have influenced someone in a negative way.
Mr. Jekielek: You have also gotten involved with a U.S. political action committee [PAC]. You're based in the UK, but you visit the U.S. a lot. Please tell me about that.
Mr. London: I've been spending a lot of time in the U.S., and have been back and forth for the last 10 years. I’m very familiar with the politics here, and with what is going on. Recently, there is a real push to take away certain rights and spaces from women, particularly when it comes to women's sports. I've been a spokesperson for the Fairness First PAC. Caitlyn Jenner is the other spokesperson. Basically, it's about trying to restore fairness in sports because everybody has a right to participate in sports.
Everybody loves sports, and it's important to be very inclusive, but there are ways of doing that without taking away the achievements of others. One of the key areas of focus of Fairness First is protecting women's sports. We shouldn't have biological males that have an advantage. It's not about politics, and it's not about anything else. It's about males having an advantage biologically, whether that's muscle mass or stronger bones.
It's about finding a solution where women do not lose their places, and women don't lose their sports. Maybe we will have an open men's category. A lot of young people that become trans or non-binary almost feel that they have an entitlement to women's rights or women's spaces. This is about saying, "No, you can't just take away the rights of 50 percent of the population. Everybody can coexist, and everybody can have access to certain things, but it's about doing it with balance and fairness."
The UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale], which is the cycling governing body, is having trans people compete in a men's open category now, which is just about fairness. Nobody is an outcast, and nobody is unable to participate. It's just about fairness. That's the kind of work I'm doing now, and I think it's very valuable. I’m speaking up for women and for athletes, and I speak with athletes like Riley Gaines and Paula Scanlan all the time. These athletes train their whole lives for that one moment, and to have that taken away by someone that has an unfair advantage, I think that's very wrong.
Mr. Jekielek: A number of people, including U.S. politicians have advocated for a complete TikTok ban. There are different U.S. agencies and departments and states that have actually banned it on government devices. Where do you stand on that?
Mr. London: That's a very tough thing to answer. Obviously, President Trump did try to push this. We've seen the state of Montana pass a ban, where I believe Governor Gianforte has signed that ban. But there are now lawsuits looming to try and stop this, because they're saying a lot of people rely on TikTok for income. That's why China is smart in offering these monetary and financial incentives. But the state of Montana has passed that ban.
You have Congress speaking about a TikTok ban. Some government officials aren't allowed to have TikTok on their devices, and rightly so. If the Chinese Communist Party can be listening to what the congress member or senator is saying, that is very dangerous for national security. It's a very complex issue. The original TikTok ban that was proposed had some issues.
I read through the bill, and there were a lot of things about censorship of other parts of the internet, not just specifically TikTok. There needs to be a lot of work on that. There are other options. President Trump did try to force the sale of TikTok to a U.S. company. But then even the U.S. company might be a woke company. How do you differentiate between the Chinese Communist Party and some woke company that has the same kind of agenda as China?
It is a tricky issue, but I would just say to individuals, spend less time on TikTok or just don't use it at all. Just live in the real world which is much nicer. Go for a walk, visit an animal park or a farm, or go horse riding. That is much more valuable and rewarding than dedicating your entire life to social media, which is very toxic. It really does negatively affect our mental health and our perception of the world.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned that you found faith along the way. How did that play into your decision making?
Mr. London: When I needed to find God the most was a kind of pivotal time, because I really was struggling down this dark path and doing all these extreme things. Part of that period of reflection was about trying to find myself. It was about going to church and leaving my phone at home with no TikTok, and no social media.
I was just trying to find some solace and some peace of mind, and trying to unlock the old me, that young boy before I was a teenager who wasn't confused about his identity that much. That young boy was happy and running around in the woods and the countryside. It was trying to unlock those repressed memories.
Going to church gave me that clarity and it also gave me a purpose in life. I realized, "I've got a lot of followers, and I have a lot of influence. I need to do it right, and I need to do it in a good way." I realized what I had been doing was almost sinning.
I was projecting something bad onto the world, and actually having an impact. It's not just me on my phone posting something, it's actually impacting people around the world. Going to church and finding faith helped me get that clarity and get the realization that I need to follow the teachings of Jesus and be a good person.
Mr. Jekielek: You have changed your identity many times, especially in that very concentrated period. Is this the end of your search for identity, or will you still change?
Mr. London: I actually get asked that question a lot, but for the first time in my life, I'm actually really happy. The thing that makes me happy and fulfills me is helping people. I didn't have that before. It was a narcissistic pursuit, just like social media is narcissistic, because we're all posting about ourselves, and we all want that attention.
I've gotten out of that trap. Real happiness is when you can actually contribute to society and be a positive role model. It’s when you can actually help save some lives and help save some young people from going down with their own struggles. You can say, "Look, be happy with who you are. You're a great person. Just try to work on yourself internally."
Mr. Jekielek: How have your fans reacted to these changes?
Mr. London: It was actually very mixed. I said, “I'm just going to be me again. I just want to live as a man, and I’m going to detransition. It was a mixed reaction, because I did get a lot of hate. A lot of people get that, unfortunately, especially these young detransitions. They get so much hate because they speak out and they share their struggles. It takes a lot of courage to do that.
It has been mixed. But I've really had so much love over the last year. I've had parents reach out to me saying, "Thank you for speaking out. Your advice is very helpful. Your tweets are very helpful." That is motivating for me.
Wherever I am in the world, I have women coming up to me in the street, sometimes elderly ladies in their 80s. Then I have young teens coming up to me and saying, "Thank you for actually doing something. I've followed you for a number of years and I saw you were struggling, but now you're actually helping people." It is really rewarding when you're making an impact in the world.
It makes me happy that I'm able to help people and encourage people to be positive. Whatever you're talking about in life, whether it's talking about helping animals or helping save the ocean, do something that's impactful. Whether you've got one follower or a million followers, we can all make a difference.
Mr. Jekielek: You've mentioned that parents are contacting you. Is there some general advice that you have for parents? You're a bit older now, but you may understand some of those teen struggles more than the parents.
Mr. London: I do get so many parents reaching out to me all the time. It's a really tricky situation to be a parent because parents want to be loving. They want to help their kids and help them navigate through things. But parents often don't know what to do in these situations. When a kid comes to them and says that they are trans, some parents don't know what to do. They wonder, “Should we take them to a doctor? Maybe we should tell them that they are going to grow out of it. Do we try to transition them?”
It's a very difficult situation for a parent, and we can't blame parents in all cases for transitioning their kids. Sometimes the doctors can coerce them and tell them, “This is the only option.” The child may have severe autism, but without treating that, they might misdiagnose them. I'm not one of those people. I'm not blaming all parents that transition their kids.
There are some parents that are dead set on doing that. They have a boy and they want it to be a girl, and then they will transition them. It is very harmful to push that onto a kid. I would tell parents that it's very important to be aware of what's going on, particularly on your child's phone.
You can have parental controls, and you can have cutoff times. Maybe 9:00 PM is the cutoff time when your kid is allowed on social media. Giving them a limit is quite healthy, maybe even giving them just a one-hour limit. Because in this day and age, kids are smart, and they're all going to go on their phones.
You can't just suddenly ban them from being on their phones. They're going to rebel, and they're going to go crazy. Perhaps you can say, "As a reward for playing soccer today or for your piano lessons, you're allowed to go on your phone for an hour and speak to your friends."
Parents also need to have control of what these kids are accessing, whether it's on TikTok or on Google. There are things out there that are pushed on kids that are vulnerable, and they are very susceptible. Always keep an eye on what's going on in school. That's another place where we see indoctrination happening. Some school library books push both sexualized content and transitioning on kids. Just be aware, that's the most important thing.
It's a hard job being a parent. I have two godchildren, so I know how hard it is. Just don't just give them the iPad or give them the phone because you're tired or you're busy. Include the kids in the cooking or even cleaning the house. Always be engaged with the kids instead of saying, "Oh, I've had a long day." If you hand them the phone, you have no control of what they're seeing.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned that you had serious psychological issues that you were dealing with. Many kids that experience gender dysphoria also have multiple psychiatric comorbidities. You mentioned autism, and there are others not as common. It’s terrible to push affirmation as the only way to treat a kid with gender dysphoria. If you're only focusing on that, those underlying psychiatric comorbidities just don't get addressed. You end up with someone going through all these changes, but actually never dealing with the original problem. Please tell me your thoughts about that reality.
Mr. London: We see a huge problem with kids being misdiagnosed. Children with severe autism are six times more likely to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a doctor. You also have significant numbers of kids that have preexisting psychiatric conditions; severe depression, suicidal tendencies, severe ADHD, bipolarism, and schizophrenia.
There's a big, big correlation, but doctors don't look into that. They just think, "This child's got a problem. We can fix it, let's give them some hormones." They see it as a quick fix for these problems. They start with the puberty blockers and then the hormones. In some states like California, Oregon, and Washington, girls can actually have double mastectomies at age 15.
That is a really serious thing because that's something you can never repair. A lot of these girls are being made infertile or sterilized. As a teenage girl, they don't understand these things, so it is very sad. They become an adult and then they finally realize they can't have kids. They can't breastfeed, and they have complications.
Doctors shouldn't be prescribing this as some kind of miracle cure for these kids' struggles. They should be helping them with whatever they're going through, whether it's depression, whether it's anxiety, or whether they're being bullied. Help them with that, instead of just going down this easy route of giving them a prescription and saying, "Here you go, this will make you feel much better," because it certainly won't.
Mr. Jekielek: Oli, this has been an illuminating conversation. Any final thoughts as we finish up?
Mr. London: It's very important for young people to limit their time on social media and also not to question their self-worth based on what they see online or how many likes they get. I don't think that's important. We need to teach young people just to accept themselves. There are many people speaking out now regarding this and what we see on TikTok, the number one propagator of this gender ideology stuff. We see that anyone that questions that or speaks out does get censored.
Of course, we see it on other platforms as well, but TikTok specifically drives this gender ideology. Then it also suppresses anyone that questions it. I've known women who have been banned for just saying that we don't want men in our toilets. They get banned for that because it's hateful content or harassment and bullying. They also try to suppress anyone that does question the official narrative that they're pushing.
Mr. Jekielek: Oli London, it's such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Mr. London: Thank you, it’s been a real pleasure, and I appreciate it. Thank you.
Mr. Jekielek: TikTok did not immediately respond to our quest for comment. Thank you all for joining Oli London and me on this episode of American Thought Leaders. I'm your host, Jan Jekielek.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.