If you haven’t heard about the U.S. Supreme Court case R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, you soon will. Its outcome is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the rights of many Americans. It also happens to involve a situation and emotions I’m intimately familiar with, which is why I joined with others to file an amicus brief in the case.
At the center of the case is Harris Funeral Homes, a fifth-generation business that has served the greater Detroit community for more than 100 years. In 2013, a male funeral director, Anthony Stephens, told owner Tom Rost that he planned to begin presenting and dressing as a woman while ministering to grieving families.
Mr. Rost was understandably surprised. Mr. Stephens had worked for him for nearly six years and had always agreed to and abided by the funeral home’s professional, sex-specific dress code — a dress code that ensures families are able to focus on their grief and that is consistent with industry standards and federal law.
Mr. Rost decided that Mr. Stephens’ plan would not work and tried to end the relationship amicably.
But Mr. Stephens filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the EEOC sued Mr. Rost in an attempt to redefine the term “sex” in federal employment law to include “gender identity.” The federal government has since changed its position, but the ACLU has since taken up Mr. Stephens’ cause.
I know how Mr. Stephens felt. I had a similar conversation with my boss nearly 40 years ago. That conversation had a similar end.
Even so, today I side in this case with the owner of the funeral home.
While everyone’s story is different, mine began with confusion created by family. When I was 4, I encouraged my grandmother to dress me in a purple gown. Her actions to affirm my appearance and dress me in girls’ clothes became the basis for my gender confusion that would last for nearly 50 years. Soon, I began yearning to be a girl — to find the acceptance I didn’t feel I was getting as a boy.
I was never attracted to the same sex. Gender dysphoria is about identity, not sexual orientation. I was plenty interested in girls and dating, but once engaged, I had to explain to my fiancee about my gender confusion. She thought we could work through it; we married and had two children. Weekly business trips, meanwhile, gave me opportunities to dress and present as a woman without anyone close to me having to see or know what I was dealing with.
But it’s hard to live two lives, and the desire to be a woman wouldn’t go away. In my early 40s, I found a top gender specialist who told me what I wanted to hear. Surgeries were scheduled (genital reconfiguration, followed by breast implants and other feminizing procedures), hormone treatments began … and my marriage came to an end.
All that seemed at first to be a fair trade for the long-awaited opportunity to start life over as a woman. But the revised anatomy, clothes and makeup couldn’t reach the wounded little boy inside. The gender dysphoria reversed itself; I began longing to be a man again.
At 50, I had the breast implants removed, but it took five more years of thoughtful counseling and love and support from family and friends before I was ready to be a man again. Still, not everything I did in my confusion could be undone: I still bear the scars on my chest and take hormones to regulate my system. Incredibly, I met a wonderful woman who looked beyond all the damage I’d done; we’ve been married now for 22 years.
For the last 10 years, I’ve committed my life to helping people who, like me, were wounded by their gender confusion. I’ve studied psychology and pharmacology at the University of California-Santa Cruz for two years and earned a reputation as a leading transgender regretter and detransitioner speaking against transgender ideology. My experiences have taught me that transgenderism is a social ideology, not a condition a person is born with.
That’s an unpopular stance with many, who don’t read the mail I get every day from suffering people who have tried to become the other sex and say they’d give anything to have dealt differently with their pain and confusion … to have found better counseling and steered clear of the hormone treatments and the surgery.
For political reasons, the medical community opts to ignore people like me. Despite an almost complete absence of hard data tracking the long-term impact of gender-transition surgery and treatments — despite a suicide attempt rate of as high as 50 percent among young people encouraged to embrace transgenderism and despite abundant evidence that transgender impulses are linked to other profound psychological problem — many doctors are bowing to the pressure to facilitate and accelerate gender transitions. Many people are hurt by this.
I don’t know where Anthony Stephens is with his feelings today. But I know that changing your appearance doesn’t change who you are. Genetics are irreversible. Surgeons, federal agencies, social activists can disguise that, but sooner or later, we learn the truth.
Although I remember all too well how it feels to be in Anthony Stephens’ position, I don’t want to see the ACLU’s efforts bend federal law to accommodate an unfortunate and difficult gender distress that denies biological and psychological reality. Especially when I know many will be so traumatized by it that they will reverse their decision and detransition back.
• Walt Heyer formerly identified as a “transgender woman” and now provides support to others who regret gender change at SexChangeRegret.com. He is the author of “Trans Life Survivors.”