Two men and one woman who underwent experimental medical interventions in pursuit of a transgender identity told The Daily Signal that they support Arkansas’ Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act, arguing that it is necessary to protect children from the horrors they themselves experienced.

The SAFE Act prohibits anyone from performing controversial transgender medical interventions on minors, who are considered too young to vote, drink, get married, or purchase over-the-counter drugs.

Medical experts testified against the SAFE Act last week, arguing on behalf of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union that children need access to “gender-affirming care.” Billy Burleigh and Walt Heyer, men who previously identified as transgender but later desisted, and Chloe Cole, a woman who desisted from a male gender identity, said the exact opposite is true, however.

“I believe every state needs to pass a law that protects our youth in this way,” Cole—a woman who once identified as male, took puberty-blockers, and had her breasts removed at age 15—told The Daily Signal on Monday.

Cole recently launched Detrans United, an organization to support fellow detransitioners. She warned about the harms from medical interventions from personal experience.

“The idea that the science is solved on these procedures is a ridiculous claim,” she said. “Confused children need to be protected from experimentation; it cannot be left up to the doctors, because they’ve been ideologically captured. The medical establishment needs to move past these treatments like they moved past lobotomies.”

“As for these being necessary procedures? They need to do better for these kids than treating a mental health condition with cosmetic surgeries that remove function from the body,” Cole concluded.

Heyer, a man who identified as a woman for eight years and says he has helped “literally thousands” rediscover their birth sex after living as transgender, also supports the SAFE Act.

“Access to quality, scientifically proven care is critical,” Heyer, who runs the website, told The Daily Signal. “Unfortunately, blocking puberty in healthy adolescents, providing destructive hormones, or surgically removing healthy body parts is not scientifically proven care and the regrettable outcomes are well-documented.”

“Kids under 18 need the Arkansas SAFE Act to protect them from unnecessary medical or surgical interventions that thwart natural development and cause life-long harm,” Heyer argued. “Kids under 18 need adults to step up and shield them from influences driving the social contagion, such as school, peers, and social media.”

Heyer said that when children claim to identify as members of the opposite sex, that often traces back to psychological trauma, rather than a need to be affirmed as transgender. He said:

Kids need the assistance of trauma therapists to uncover and resolve adverse childhood experiences. Instead of encouraging kids on a path to unnecessary and destructive surgery, let’s affirm and love our young people just the way they are—as the boy or girl they were born to be. Let’s allow them to experience the natural sexual development of puberty and to explore all issues, including gender confusion, with a licensed professional.

Burleigh told The Daily Signal that his gender issues trace back to childhood trauma. He recounted having many problems as a child, such as a speech impediment, learning difficulties, and a lack of coordination.

“Even in the first grade, I didn’t seem to fit in very well with the boys and I had this thought that came into my mind that God made a mistake and I was a girl,” Burleigh said. He also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of his diving coach.

Burleigh kept these thoughts to himself for years, only opening up to his sister in college and transitioning at the age of 28 after reading journal articles that convinced him he had a female mind and the way to find happiness would be to change his body to conform to his mind.

After two years of hormone therapy, Burleigh underwent a vaginoplasty, to turn his male genitalia into a facsimile of the female version.

“The doctors couldn’t stop the bleeding,” he recounted. “I had additional gauze shoved into my man-made vagina and it was soaked with blood.” He said his planned two-week hospital stay stretched to three weeks, and he had to get a blood transfusion.

Burleigh underwent other surgeries, but the problems worsened. “After doing this for seven years, I had more problems than when I started,” he said. He later transitioned back to male, undergoing a phalloplasty he described as “horrific.”

“I am permanently scarred,” Burleigh said. “I am scarred across my throat, I still have some breast tissue, I don’t have male genitalia.”

“In hindsight, I knew I was seeking acceptance, significance, and security,” he added. “I thought that I could find those by being a girl instead of just learning to be a boy and to be myself.”

“I want my message to go out that I took the wrong way, that government and teachers are saying that you have to get ‘gender-affirming care,’ but from my experience and from those I’ve spoken with, we all have childhood issues and many of us have been sexually abused,” Burleigh said.

Children do not have awareness,” he added. “Their brains are not developed to the point to make an informed decision on such life-changing medical modifications. They’re not even responsible enough to go out and get a tattoo. How can you say they’re responsible to make this decision?”

“Children need help with the problems they’re having and not to be ‘gender-affirmed,’” he concluded.

The ACLU of Arkansas did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment for this report.

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