HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, England, November 29, 2019 – A British woman says that her seventeen-year attempt to live as a male, which included being injected by hormones, having her breasts cut off, and having a fake male reproductive organ attached to her, was a “huge mistake” that she now deeply regrets.
Debbie Karemer, 61, was in the spotlight this week as she broke a new taboo: publicly admitting to “detransitioning” from so-called sex-change therapies.
A 61-year-old who transitioned from female to male almost two decades ago said she feels ‘mutilated’ and has started treatment to reverse the process.
After struggling with her sexual identity for years, at the age of 44, Debbie Karemer sought out gender reassignment and changed her name to Lee Harries. She claimed she began testosterone treatment just a day after she visited a private doctor about her decision, before having her breasts removed just three months later. But after years of various operations, she ‘broke down’ when she woke up after undergoing her final gender reassignment surgery, and has recently gone back to identifying as a woman. After years of counselling she has come to the realisation that she was suffering with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, having been sexually abused for years. As a teenager, Debbie began to hate her body after being abused by her late father, but said she now understands her self-hatred came from a fear of being raped.
She said she feels like a woman trapped in ‘an approximation of a male body’, and is currently awaiting an NHS operation to reverse the re-assignment. ‘Looking back now I realise that it was simply a feeling that if I didn’t have a vagina, I couldn’t be raped,’ said Debbie, from Hemel Hempstead, in Hertforshire. ‘But I’m not a man, I am an approximation of a man. I feel completely mutilated. I completely missed out on being a woman… I wish I could wake up as Debbie’. She insists her childhood trauma was misdiagnosed at the time and she should never have been allowed to transition before receiving appropriate therapy for the abuse. Debbie told the BBC: ‘I thought I was going to be on a journey to becoming a different person… I’d morph into someone else and leave that traumatised woman completely behind’. After 15 years of taking testosterone, Debbie stopped in February this year and started taking oestrogen six weeks ago, under the watch of specialists at an NHS gender identity clinic, along with The Detransition Advocacy Network.
She said she’s speaking out on the ‘taboo’ subject of surgery regret – gender reassignment reversal – to encourage others to seek talking therapy before undergoing the operation. Debbie said she supports anyone who chooses to transition but is concerned that some after not receiving appropriate therapy beforehand. She added: ‘I look in the mirror through the eyes of that terrified 15-year-old girl and see this funny little man staring back at me…
‘I know things are a lot better than they were when I had my surgeries, but there is a big lack of talking therapies’. Debbie said the abuse left her struggling with her sexual identity for years, even developing objectum sexuality – a sexual attraction to objects like a white Fender Stratocaster guitar and a fishing rod. She later married her one and only long-term friend Alan in December, 1997, but the self loathing became so extreme she almost cut off her breasts with kitchen scissors. Debbie first heard of transgender and gender reassignment surgery in 2002 while watching an episode of chat show programme Kilroy and started researching nearby clinics that could help. But she claimed she did not have appropriate therapy beforehand by a private psychiatrist she was recommended and started taking testosterone the next day.
She said: ‘I remember when I started waking up in the morning and seeing stubble on my face, thinking “this is the start of a new life” and I’m no longer this traumatised girl.’ Over the next few years Debbie underwent a series of surgeries, including having her uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, before having her vagina removed and a penis created. But after her final surgery she said she suffered a break down and it was only when a counsellor started to talk about ‘childhood trauma that she understood. ‘It became apparent that transitioning was a big mistake. It should never have happened. It was a big wake up call. ‘I was traumatised by what had happened in my life and it was misdiagnosed as being transgender…
‘I thought that becoming a man would make me worthy and I would become a different person.’ Debbie primarily blames her father for what has happened to her but also the private psychiatrist who started off her journey. ‘What should have happened differently? Having a different upbringing,’ she said. ‘But I think that the psychiatrist should have picked up on the fact that I was abused. I should have had help somewhere along the line.’ ‘The thing I dream and long to do is to go out for a meal. But most of all I just miss the old Debbie.’