Zahra Cooper's transgender regret story 5: She looks at the floor, and hunches her shoulders as if trying to hide herself in her black Batman sweater. Or, as they say in the transgender community, she was assigned as female at birth. Photos show a smiling child with an impish grin, dark hair, round cheeks. She was shy, a little naughty. Her family split up, and Zahra moved between Whangarei and Kaitaia. At school, she struggled to make friends, preferring to spend time with her animals while feeling constantly out of place.
Everyone thought she was a typical tomboy, wanting her hair short, asking her mum if she could wear blue or black clothes. I hated my boobs at the time. Everything on the body, I just hated it. But after searching the internet and watching YouTube videos about transgender people, she realised she felt more like she was trapped in the wrong body. She began to think about formally transitioning — taking hormones to become more masculine.
Her first doctor, in Whangarei, refused to even discuss the issue. They wrote a referral for a second GP, who arranged an appointment with an endocrinologist, who could prescribe testosterone — a first step on her journey to becoming male. Zahra has struggled with her gender identity.
Facebook It took eight months to see the endocrinologist because of long wait-times in the public health service. In December , Zahra began taking testosterone, at first swallowing pills three times a day, and then via injection.
After what seemed such a long wait for treatment, she expected to feel elated. But the euphoria many trans people describe at that point never really set in. I was like, why am I depressed?
I should be happy. She fought with family, often storming out of the house. Zahra tried to kill herself. Her grandfather, Victor Rakich, found her, comatose after an overdose, and helped to save her life. Zahra had been living with Rakich, a retired farmer, for four years prior to her transition. He refused to call her Zane, despite wanting to support her.
She watched more YouTube, began to look for other people who had detransitioned. It began to dawn on her that she too wanted to go back. There was, however, an issue. Zahra had begun dating a transgender boy called Tyson Kay. Going off testosterone meant more mood swings, and an unpredictable end result. In the end, Zahra texted him saying: Initially he thought she was kidding. His beard is just coming in.
He has always felt male, and waited for years to finally be allowed to take testosterone, which he loved from the first injection. The Youth survey found of New Zealand secondary school students, were transgender and were not sure of their gender.
Statistics from Britain estimate a prevalence of 20 per , There are no local figures at all on detransition. Occasionally it will happen, even with the very best provision of service, although it does happen more frequently when pathways are not followed. As a boy, Zahra says she looked similar to how she does now. A short pixie haircut, black jeans, paired with sneakers and T-shirts. Getting a full gender reassignment is near unheard of through the public system, with funding for only one female to male operation, and three male to female, every two years through a high-cost treatment pool.
They said that I would probably get really angry because of the testosterone wearing out. She still lacks confidence but Tyson is helping with that. Tyson and Zahra have moved in together, a two-bedroom off the main road, with two little birds in a cage, and a tiny black kitten named Hazel. It is in stark contrast to this time last year.
But when she changed back she was much happier. She smiles a lot. He still slips and calls Zahra the wrong name sometimes and she teases him about it. Access to transgender health, trans activists say, is an ongoing issue in New Zealand, where the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of medical services required to transition — particularly outside of main centres — has long been problematic. As yet, there are few regional specialist services, and no national guidelines for transgender health.
None of those are compulsory, however. It urges ongoing monitoring of the patient and vigilance around side effects, particularly in young people. Patients are required to be seen every six months by the endocrinologist — something Zahra says did not happen despite her requests. Suicidality is a particular safety concern. Rakich says he does not think the required standards were met.
But sometimes young people are just wondering. Just because someone has questions about their gender does not mean they are trans. People who are transphobic will see cases like this and think liberal health services are pushing kids who ask questions to be trans.
I would have understood myself more. But then she laughs. This story originally appeared in the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.