Ollie Davies was 26 years old and at the lowest ebb of his life when he made a decision to come out as a trans woman.
Estranged from his family, he was suffering from depression, anxiety, and behavioural problems as well as a crisis of self-identity. He existed in what felt like a dissociative state. “I felt as if I had no free will,” Mr. Davies says. “I was completely nihilistic and lonely and self-hating and had no self-esteem. I was experiencing a total loss of identity and lack of sense of self.”
Mr. Davies, who was openly bisexual, had never questioned his gender identity as a child or young adult. But when people within his group of queer activist friends repeatedly suggested to him that he was trans, he began to believe it was true. “Ultimately it came from suggestions from others, people just started suggesting that I question my gender,” Mr. Davies said.
When Mr. Davies announced his decision to transition, the affirmation was immediate and intoxicating.
“Everyone I knew put trans people on a pedestal,” Mr. Davies says. “It was fashionable. I knew it would be celebrated and promoted. At first, it was euphoric. I felt like coming out as trans was my coming home and the key to everything that was wrong in my life.”
But, despite signing up for hormone therapy enthusiastically, being a woman never felt right. “These feelings of negative self-image and negative self-reflection became a downward spiral, and I kept trying to solve the problem further by being more of a woman,” he says. “And it just became more and more incongruent with who I am and what is natural for me. I came to realise it was a waste of time and a delusion.”
In 2019, while still living as a woman, Mr. Davies met Genevieve Hassett and fell in love at first sight. “We were both fairly deep into the woke trans ideology,” Ms. Hassett says. “But the more I got to know Ollie the more I realised there was a lot of underlying stuff. I think he felt shame about being a man.”
There are no reliable statistics on how many people identify as transgender in Australia, but there is no doubt the numbers are on the rise. The number of children presenting at gender clinics has exploded in recent years and some predict Australia will begin to see legal actions as in the UK from those who allege they have been harmed by affirmative care.
Mr. Davies has now completed his transition back to being a man. He and Genevieve want to have a baby, but he is infertile from the effects of oestrogen on his body. “It’s devastating,” Ms. Hassett says. Mr. Davies now wants to publicly challenge what he describes as an activist-driven approach to diagnosing and treating gender dysphoria.
He questions the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPath) standards of care that gender-affirmative doctors follow, which specify clinicians should take a patient-led, “affirmation enablement” informed consent approach “that recognises the patient is the final authority on their own gender”.
“The gender-affirming approach in medicine I think is a complete mistake,” Mr. Davies says. “I’ve seen an enormous amount of anecdotal evidence, including in my own life, that there are inadequate safeguards. I think that what has happened to me is just the thin edge of a massive iceberg.
“In my experience, people are inadequately educated about the risks when they initiate the process of transitioning, or even not told about them at all. It seems to me that to just say ‘we must affirm’ is just utterly failing those people and actually causing harm.
Trans health doctors under AusPath insist a mental health assessment is not required in order to facilitate a person to transition because “being trans is not a pathology”. But in the fallout from the ordered closure of London’s Tavistock Transgender Clinic, there is now active debate in medicine in Australia about how to care for young people raising gender concerns.
But Mr. Davies believes if doctors had properly assessed his mental health, probed his motivations, and taken an ordinary exploratory clinical approach, he may have taken a different path. “I think that in Australia there are hundreds of people like me who now regret it,” he says. “And I think that soon there will be thousands.”