Christian man who used to be transgender urges caution after operation regret

The Church of England's guidance on services of welcome for transgender people is meeting resistance.Pixabay

A Christian man who experienced regret after undergoing irreversible sex change surgery is calling on medical and mental health professionals to exercise greater caution in treating people suffering from gender dysphoria. 

Peter Benjamin, 60, was addicted to alcohol and cross-dressing as a younger man, but often struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression. 

He told Christian Concern that his fascination with cross-dressing began as a 10-year-old, when he was taken to a drag queen show at a cabaret club while on holiday with his family.

He went on to marry three times and says that his first wife mistook his addiction for homosexuality.  His second wife used to encourage his cross-dressing by shopping for women's clothes with him but it was his third wife, whom he married in 2005, that he credits with helping him to get his life back on track.

When she tragically passed away in 2011 from cancer, his feelings of wanting to become a woman resurfaced and he started to identify as 'Victoria'.

He told Christian Concern that he became addicted to buying unregulated online hormones and started attending a transgender support group. 

Then in 2012, he told his GP that he wanted to become a woman.  He says his GP recommended that he try living as a woman for one month first. 

He then saw a psychiatrist at an NHS trust who referred him to a gender identity clinic in London and he eventually began the process of medically transitioning to a woman. 

This included being prescribed with oestrogen tablets and decapytyle injections to start the process of shrinking his testicles and lowering his testosterone levels, causing muscle reduction across his body.

In 2015, he underwent labiaplasty surgery to remove his genitalia at a private clinic, which he said was paid for by the NHS.

He described how he initially felt "euphoric" after the surgery "as I felt I could finally escape my depressed self". 

The feelings didn't last. 

"But very soon, alone in my flat with my dresses, I felt only deeper regret and unhappiness," he says.

"Some mornings I would wake up and think: 'Fantastic I can go and put on these amazing clothes and be a woman,' but in reality I was thinking: 'There is something wrong, this isn't right for me, but it's too late, I've changed everything, it's too late.'"

By 2017, he hit rock bottom and suffered a nervous breakdown. But it was at this point that he turned to a local church for support and became a Christian.  On Good Friday this year, he decided that he would no longer be 'Victoria' but live as Peter again, and he threw out all of his dresses. 

"When I was a woman, I wasn't free," he said. "Now I can just come out and be me. I've got God, I've got freedom and I am happy."

Looking back at his own painful experience, he says he felt "encouraged" to go down the path of transitioning. 

"I never thought cross-dressing would lead me to having an operation to become a woman. I had addictions, I was drinking heavily, and I was having suicidal thoughts, but at every appointment, whether with the NHS, privately, or at transgender support groups, I was encouraged to carry on the path to gender reassignment surgery and to become 'Victoria'," he said. 

"There was no caution or restraint, I was simply told, for example: 'Yes, you are definitely transgender, I'm prescribing you hormones.' It cost the NHS and myself thousands of pounds for me to go through this process."

As a result of his experience, Mr Benjamin is concerned about reports of young children learning about transgender themes in schools. 

"Today when I see and hear of books being read to children in schools such as '10,000 Dresses', I see the same influence that led me to this harmful addiction," he said.

"More must be done to protect our children, not to encourage them to pursue the same destructive path that I have had. Children are impressionable, the government can't see what harm they are doing, and I appeal to them and the Department for Education to halt this influence in schools now.

"Parents are now openly allowing their children to be exposed to the transgender agenda as they think if they don't allow it, their children will be depressed or become mentally ill. It's not true.

"When I was 5 or 6, I had no thought of becoming a girl. It wasn't until I was exposed to men in dresses at cabaret shows that my mind went that way.

"My message from my experience is that the transgender life, even surgery itself, did not solve my problem and led me to misery, suicidal thoughts and depression." 

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, said it was "tragic" that Mr Benjamin had been given irreversible gender reassignment surgery in spite of his history of mental health problems. 

"His experience represents a deep and disturbing warning for our society as it is told that the answer to deep rooted gender identity confusion is hormone prescription and radical surgery," she said. 

"What Peter has been though is catastrophic. Just imagine what we are doing to our young children when we follow the same medical path.

"People who suffer from gender identity confusion must be treated tenderly, but as a society we must also speak the truth before we see many more tragic cases. Even if external appearances can change, the reality is that physiologically men cannot become women nor can women become men.

"Yet for Peter, despite his depression, anxiety and irreversible physical harm, his story is one of hope. Out of his despair he has found his identity through his faith in Jesus Christ, and the friendship he has found in his local Christian community."