As she coddles her infant son at her home in the Chicago suburbs, newlywed Daisy Strongin says she deeply regrets having her breasts removed in gender transition surgery when she was 20.
She was an “insecure, very self-involved, outcasted 15-year-old girl,” and the urge to transition, she said, was “enticing.”
“I really wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin and I wanted to stop being depressed," Strongin told The Epoch Times. "I wanted to be someone else. I hated myself. I didn’t want to be the person that I was, and transitioning seemed to be this very alluring path that was beckoning to me.”
She wore a chest binder for years, started taking testosterone at age 18, and legally changed her name to Oliver. However, years later, she “felt worse,” “incomplete,” “less satisfied,” and “less whole,” she said, and eventually stopped the transition process.
She sees the recent surge in the number of children claiming they are non-binary and "trans" as a social contagion and feels compelled to warn others about the pitfalls of transgender ideology.
About 42,000 children and teens in the United States were diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2021, according to data from Komodo Health Inc. that was compiled by Reuters. That's almost three times the number in 2017.
‘Tomboy’ TeensAs a child, Strongin often felt out of sorts with her gender, and those feelings only grew stronger by the time she reached middle school.
She knows now that it’s normal for teens to feel “awkward,” but she didn’t at the time. As a “straight girl,” she never fully understood her youthful desire to dress like a boy or to be perceived as one.
In eighth grade, she was labeled a lesbian and called derogatory names.
“I didn’t really have very good social skills, and I was bullied,” she said.
Growing up, Strongin was a tomboy, and her parents knew her as such. But, when she was 15, she told her parents she was having a serious gender identity crisis.
“I came out to them as 'genderqueer,' and they didn’t take it seriously at all,” she said. “They were like, ‘OK, you’re a tomboy. Great.’”
Secretly, in her quest to find her “authentic self,” Strongin found she was “chronically online,” reading obsessively about “all these weird alternative gender identities.”
“Then I started thinking maybe I’m a trans guy,” she said.
As she persisted, her parents became increasingly unsettled and were shocked at her eventual decision to proceed with surgery and injections of cross-sex hormones.
Seeds of Doubt, DistrustStrongin was distrustful of her parents, especially her mom, and blames “trans influencers” on social media for planting those seeds of doubt.
“It’s definitely really cultlike,” she said. “I thought these online communities were my adopted family. That’s one of the tactics: ‘Oh, if your mom doesn’t accept you, I’m your mom now.’”
Lonely and confused, Strongin felt that the most important message she needed to hear was that there was nothing wrong with her.
“Chances are, the kid who is spending 14 hours a day on the internet probably doesn’t have a lot of in-real-life friends, and so they probably feel alienated. I mean, that’s how I felt,” she said.
Her interactions online allowed her to avoid the social pressures and anxiety that came with one-on-one interactions with peers at school.
‘Genderqueer’ YearsStrongin soon discovered the term “genderqueer” on Tumblr, and fully immersed herself in the world of “gender fluidity.”
“Genderqueer ... means that you’re sort of in between male and female,” she said. “That was when the concept of gender identity really entered my consciousness, and I understood it as something that is very malleable and individualized, like you can [be] anything you want to be.”
The deeper she explored "gender fluidity" and obsessed over her gender identity, the more she started asking herself if she "might be trans.”
By 2014, Strongin was mesmerized by female-to-male transitioners who were documenting their gender transitions on YouTube. These “trans influencers,” she said, were popular, “attractive, and cool people” who talked about “how they felt alienated from their own bodies, how going on testosterone was so exciting for them, and that top surgery was this huge milestone that came with so much joy and relief and finally feeling at one with yourself.”
She knows now that her social media acquaintances weren’t real friends and that spending much of her life online only made her feel more isolated.
“I didn’t have a lot of trans friends in real life. I did talk to some people, but I was mostly just lurking,” she said. “The social media aspect is huge. If it wasn’t for my internet addiction, I really don’t think I would have transitioned. Even with my depression, I would have found healthier coping mechanisms, and learned how to properly deal with these weird gender feelings I was having.”
Strongin said she was “definitely influenced and misguided” online, but doesn’t feel she was groomed.
Years of TherapyStrongin began seeing a psychiatrist, who treated her from age 15 to 22 through "social transitioning," testosterone injections, “top surgery,” and the start of her transition.
“I don’t think she thought it was wise of me to do all that—make permanent changes to my body. She did not outright say that to me though, because I think she was scared that she would lose her license,” Strongin said of the therapist. “She wasn’t overly affirming, but she wasn’t discouraging me from it. She was sort of neutral, but I could tell she didn’t think it was a good idea.”
The narrative online was that “transitioning is the only way to cure gender dysphoric feelings, and if you don’t, then you might kill yourself,” she said.
Strongin believed that if she didn’t find her “authentic self” and honor her "true gender identity," she would “just be an empty shell of a person.” She saw gender transition as a panacea for all her problems.
“I think I had possibly brainwashed myself to the point of no return,” she said.
GSA ClubIn high school, Strongin joined a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club. GSA refers to “Gender and Sexuality Alliances” that "[move] beyond the labels of gay and straight, and the limits of a binary gender system," according to a statement by the national GSA Network.
“It was very different when I was in high school,” Strongin said. “I was involved in a GSA club, but we didn’t have any policies about changing my name in the system or pronouns, not telling my parents, and that kind of thing. It was just this club that my friends and I would go to, and we would all talk about how gay we were or how trans.”
Truth and AcceptanceHer parents wanted to be more supportive, but struggled to accept her male persona.
“My mom definitely had a harder time,” she said. “She avoided pronouns and names altogether, because she didn’t want to alienate me. but at the same time, she didn’t want to lie to me and say that I’m a guy.”
After Strongin had been in therapy for about four years, her dad offered some acceptance.
“Even though he was horrified by it, he was like, ‘Well, I guess this is reality now,’ and started calling me Oliver, his son,” she said.
Negative Image of WomenUnlike many transitioners, Strongin said she never went through a traumatic sexual experience.
“I know a lot of women want to become male as a defense mechanism that comes from trauma,” she said. "That makes perfect sense to me, but I didn’t have that sexual trauma."
However, as a teen, she said, pornography played a “subconscious role” in her gender issues, and she developed a negative image of women.
“To be 14 years old and seeing those videos has a much greater psychological effect than porn did maybe 20 or 30 years ago, when it was just like naked girls in a magazine,” she said. “Women were portrayed as objects for sexual pleasure that can be hit and choked, and that’s supposed to be sexy?”
When girls at school started “dressing more seductively,” Strongin felt uncomfortable.
“That always was just very foreign to me," she said. "It’s not like I looked down on them for doing that; I just felt really, really strange in clothes like that. I just had a very unhealthy image of what it meant to be a girl and what it meant to be a woman.”
She perceived women as “weak and histrionic”’ and didn’t want to become “hysterical or overly emotional.”
Her TransitionWhen Strongin came out as transgender, she was celebrated by her peers at school and “random people” online. For the first time in her life, she experienced a strong sense of belonging.
“I made a lot of new friends. And they were all trans and LGBT,” she said. “I had real-life people who I could relate to, and I was feeling really positive and excited about being trans. I became more and more sure I was going to be trans forever.”
To conceal her breasts, Strongin wore a chest binder for 10 hours a day for about three years, from the time she was 17 to age 20, she said.
Eager to look more masculine, when she turned 18, she took the next big step in her transition: injecting cross-sex hormones.
“I had short hair and would wear boys’ clothes, but I still looked like a girl and sounded like a girl, so I got on testosterone,” she said.
In college, she had two serious relationships—both with bisexual men.
“I’m straight. I’ve pretty much always been straight. There was a time when I thought maybe I’m bisexual … but I’ve always been attracted to men. So, when I was identifying as a trans guy, I was identifying also as a gay trans guy,” she said. “It’s very confusing.”
During the second relationship, Strongin had a double mastectomy. She was 20.
“I knew the changes I was making were irreversible. It’s not like I was uneducated about what was physically going to happen to me, because I had watched so many transgender influencers talk about the effects of testosterone, and I knew what top surgery would look like,” she said.
Her DetransitionAfter surgery, Strongin procrastinated about changing her legal name to Oliver, but eventually did. However, she began to experience doubt and remorse about her decisions.
“It just got so hard to look in the mirror because I felt more of a disconnect between my mind and my body than I did before. I felt like I was in some kind of weird gender purgatory. I didn’t look like a man. I didn’t look like a woman. I had this flat chest and deep voice, but I still had pretty curvy hips and so that was distressing,” she said. “I had a lot of regret and insecurity.”
She knew it was only a matter of time before she would detransition.
“I was chasing something that was just completely unattainable, like ‘I’m never going to be male,’” she said. “It just became really clear to me towards the end of the transition, and that I was never going to be satisfied with what I had done.”
Strongin had smoked marijuana in high school and partied in college, but in the weeks leading up to her detransition, she began to self-medicate, smoking “a lot of weed” and “getting drunk every night" by herself, she said.
Finally, one Thursday in May 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, Strongin decided to stop taking testosterone.
“I used to inject testosterone once a week. Every Thursday was my shot day. And progressively, when that day would come and it was time for me to do my injection, I would think, ‘Do I really want to keep doing this?’”
That Thursday, Strongin told her mother that she didn’t want to take the shot, and when her mom asked what this meant, she replied, "I think it means I’m detransitioning.”
“It just kind of hit me that every injection was bringing me closer to infertility. I was one to two years away from needing a hysterectomy,” she said. “I didn’t want to close the door on having biological children.”
Strongin cringed at the thought of admitting her mistake and telling people who only knew her “as a guy” that she was actually a woman, and she dreaded having to explain to people what “detransitioner” meant.
Fortunately, she hasn’t had any serious complications from the surgery, other than sensitive areas around her scars, no feeling in her nipples, and other “weird pockets where there’s no sensation.”
While breast implants would make her clothes fit better, Strongin is leery about reconstructive surgery, afraid she could slip back into the mindset of needing to change her body to be happy.
“It’s actually been a really difficult decision. I haven’t really settled on what I want to do yet,” she said.
The Gender Theory ‘Scam’Reflecting on her whole gender journey, Strongin wishes she hadn’t even started.
She outright rejects gender theory and gender identity, calling it "a scam."
“I now realize this isn’t something that's connected to reality. It’s sort of a fantasy, and I don’t mean that in a facetious way. It’s just—that’s how I see it. There’s no science behind it,” she said.
“The idea that one can have this innate, unchanging gender essence that’s metaphysical but is also fluid, and it can change, just doesn’t make sense. The more I think about the ideology, the less and less it makes sense. It didn’t even make sense to me when I was trans.”
Detransitioners are an inconvenient truth to transgender activists, medical professionals, and Big Pharma, because they shatter the pro-trans narrative and, as such, their voices are often squelched in the corporate media, Strongin said.
“[They] want to hide the fact that this is happening,” she said.
Trans activists often deny that people detransition because of regret, she said. They call detransitioners "bigoted," and accuse them of “internalized transphobia.”
“That’s a lie. It’s just not true,” she said. “People just want to assign some different reason as to why people detransition. I just wish people would actually listen to us, instead of just listening to what other people say about us.”
"Gender-affirming care" is “wrong in so many ways,” she said. She blames profit-based motives of big pharmaceutical companies and the medical community for medically transitioning children and young adults before they are fully mature.
Married LifeStrongin was married in December last year and has since given birth to a son.
As she cradles the 2-month-old infant in her arms to bottle feed him, she's constantly reminded she’ll never be able to breastfeed. It bothers her, but she doesn’t want to dwell on a past she can’t change.
“It’s done. There’s nothing I can do. The only thing I can do is just try to make peace with it,” she said.
Though she still struggles with depression and anxiety that comes and goes, she no longer takes any psychiatric medication.
The loss of her breasts, and her deeper voice from testosterone, are “unfortunate but not debilitating,” she said. “I love my life. My husband is really good at helping me feel feminine. He thinks I’m beautiful.”
She said that motherhood can be challenging at times, and isn’t for everyone, but at the risk of sounding “cliché,” she said, “it’s worth it,” and she's content, for now, to be a stay-at-home mom.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice, but like I get to look into the eyes of a life that I created,” she said. “It is the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced. And I just think about hearing his first laugh, hearing him say his first words, and watching him take his first steps.”