FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—Three “detransitioners”—men who underwent surgeries in pursuit of a female gender identity but later rejected that identity—filed a legal brief supporting a Florida health agency’s rule preventing Medicaid from reimbursing for transgender medical interventions.

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration finalized the rule in August 2022, declaring that Medicaid would not cover “puberty blockers,” hormones, “sex reassignment” surgeries, or other procedures that alter primary or secondary sex characteristics.

LGBT and health activist groups led by Lambda Legal represent four young people who identify as transgender and filed a lawsuit in September aiming to block the rule. As part of their lawsuit, the LGBT groups asked the court to temporarily block the rule while it considers the full case. In denying that temporary injunction, the court ruled in October that the case centers on whether Florida’s determination that the transgender interventions are “experimental” is “reasonable.”

In a motion Friday, the Agency for Health Care Administration urged the court to resolve the case by upholding the rule. At the same time, many third parties submitted amicus briefs also urging the court to uphold the rule.

Walt Heyer, Ted Halley, and Billy Burleigh defend the rule in one of these briefs, exclusively provided to The Daily Signal.

Heyer, Halley, and Burleigh urge the court to consider the harm that doctors did to their bodies in the name of transgender identity, along with their regret over the procedures. They counter the young transgender plaintiffs’ claims that withholding medical interventions will cause “irreversible and harmful physical changes and irreparable mental harm” by noting their personal experiences.

In the brief, the detransitioners “recall that they too were once convinced that gender transition was their path toward healing and happiness. But eventually Walt, Ted, and Billy each came to see his gender transition as a dead end. [Detransitioners] recognize that safeguards like the Florida rule could have saved them a lot of pain and heartache.” For that reason, they hope “the rule could help those who experience gender dysphoria or identify as transgender pause and explore other options before fully committing to a gender transition.”

Heyer, Halley, and Burleigh note that they “sought treatment through medical and surgical transitions, and found that these treatments did not solve their mental health problems. … Each has found more peace and happiness through embracing his biological sex and mental health counseling than he had found through pursuing a gender transition.”

These men’s “personal experiences with gender dysphoria, gender transition surgery and medical treatments, and de-transition to embrace their biological sex” belie the LGBT activists’ claims about a “supposed scientific consensus” on these interventions, the brief notes.

Walt Heyer

Walt Heyer wanted to be a girl since he was four and practiced cross-dressing in secret. Although he got married and had two children, his desire to be a woman persisted. A gender identity disorder expert prescribed him cross-sex hormones, and after two years on the drugs, Walt let a surgeon remove his testicles and invert his penis. He lived as a woman for eight years.

“Walt was happy with the gender transition at first, but as the years passed, his dysphoria reemerged,” the brief notes. “He sought help from health care professionals, but though professionals had pushed him into cross-sex hormones and radical surgery, he was now advised that he needed to ‘give it time;’ he was told that ‘adapting to being ‘Laura” would take more time, even years.”

Another psychiatrist urged him to pursue therapy, however, and that therapy led to a diagnosis of dissociative disorder tracing back to childhood trauma. As “he healed from his disorder, his feelings of wanting to be a female went away. Walt returned to living as a male in 1991 and has found the happiness he had sought his whole life.”

Heyer has spent decades “helping others who, like him, found that gender transitions did not resolve their root problems and decided to embrace their biological sex.” He argues that “government acts in the best interests of those who identify as transgender when it takes steps to protect vulnerable people, especially children, from irreversible medical and surgical interventions that can cause life-long harm.”

Heyer laments that “no one told him that he might find peace through counseling and psychotherapy until it was too late, until he had lost years of his life and mutilated his body through surgeries.” He warns that children “are soft targets in [a] raging political and cultural fight over what it means to be human.”

Ted Halley

Ted Halley remembers asking God to make him a girl when he was a pre-teen. Although he got married and had children, “his desire to be a woman never went away,” according to the brief.

Halley started cross-sex hormones and underwent several surgeries, “including facial feminization surgeries, ‘genital reassignment surgery,’ and breast augmentation.” He was happy for a time and lived as “Theresa” for 12 years but began to question what he had done.

“He became severely depressed and suicidal,” the brief explains. “If he hadn’t been caring for his granddaughter and if he hadn’t had his faith in God, Ted probably would have killed himself. Ted saw that what he had been pretending to be—a woman—wasn’t real. In March 2021 Ted decided to detransition.”

Now in his mid-60s, Halley “has no regrets about detransitioning and wishes he had done it sooner.” He credits detransitioning with having saved his life. “He regrets having wasted years of his life pursuing a lie that did not make him happy. He regrets the damage that doctors have inflicted on his body, including the permanent loss of parts of his body and natural expressions of his true self as a male.”

“Based on Ted’s personal experience, he knows that children and adolescents with gender dysphoria are incapable of properly understanding what it means to have your penis removed, to voluntarily acquire a permanent sexual dysfunction, and to modify your body so that it does not reflect your biological sex,” the brief notes.

Billy Burleigh

Billy Burleigh remembers asking God to make him a girl when he was in first grade.

After graduating from college, Burleigh sought help from a gender therapist, hoping therapy would “help him be free of the thought that he was a woman. But his counselor told him that the only way for him to be happy was to change his body to match what his mind was telling him,” the brief stated.

His depression deepened after five or six years of therapy, but the therapist convinced him he needed cross-sex hormones. Three years later, he “underwent a penile inversion, an Adam’s apple shave, and a brow shave. The surgery was tough, and doctors had a hard time stopping the bleeding from the ‘new vagina’ they had created.” Burleigh underwent more surgeries over the next three years.

Seven years into a transgender identity, Burleigh “found he had more problems than before he had begun.” Despite all the surgeries—which “left him with a deformed, scarred body”—he still saw “a man staring back at him” in the mirror.

Around age 40, he began to detransition. Now, Burleigh is 56, “his thoughts are clear, and he has the peace of mind he had sought his whole life.” He is happily married with two stepdaughters and has grown through discipleship in his church.

Burleigh says the health industry failed him in three areas: no mental health professional counseled him on his “need for acceptance, significance, and security;” therapists “simply assumed” that transgender identity was the only way to make him “mentally healthy;” and therapists failed to uncover or address his childhood issues.

“In his experience, the mental health profession is so quick to ‘affirm’ what is perceived to be a transgender identity that a gender transition is presented as the only real solution for those struggling with gender dysphoria,” the brief notes.

Heyer (82), Halley (mid-60s), and Burleigh (56) note that they have more life experience than the plaintiffs—28-year-old female-to-male August Dekker, 20-year-old female-to-male Brit Rothstein, and 12-year-old plaintiffs referred to by pseudonyms—and they had presented themselves as transgender for longer periods than each of the plaintiffs has. They do not presume to predict that the plaintiffs will ultimately reject their transgender identities, and they sympathize with the plaintiffs’ position, but they note that their “perspective changed over time.”

The detransitioners “know from experience that at least a significant number of people with gender dysphoria will one day regret their gender transition interventions and will wish that the government had tapped the brakes and pushed them to seek out counseling instead of signing up for harmful and irreversible hormones and surgeries,” the brief states.

Their experience shows that it is “reasonable” for Florida to consider these medical interventions “experimental” and to bar them from Medicaid funding, the brief argues.

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