There is no doubt that transgenderism has become a hot topic across the country. It has sparked intense debate, not only in psychology and biology, but in politics, comedy, sports and in the classroom and workplace.
But a related issue is coming to fruition in Alabama as lawmakers and everyday Alabamians ask themselves whether the government should regulate sex reassignment surgeries for juveniles.
On March 2, Alabama lawmakers advanced a bill to prohibit doctors from prescribing puberty-blockers, hormones or sex reassignment surgeries to individuals under 18. Eighteen is a year younger than Alabama’s age of majority, when a person is considered a legal adult.
The bill will be presented to the Alabama Senate this week.
Some criticize the bill for being invasive. Others support it because they believe it will protect children from making decisions they might not be mature enough to make themselves.
We’ve talked to two people with Alabama ties with transgender experiences to get them to share their stories and voice their opinion about the bill.
Dorian Lewis was born a female but can remember feeling like a male as young as three or four years of age.
“It’s like being in the wrong body,” Lewis said. “It’s like everyone around you is telling you that you’re one thing, but your brain is telling you something completely different.”
Around age 23, Lewis discovered gender transitioning on YouTube, started testosterone injections at 25, and, at 30, received the first two out of three sex reassignment surgeries.
Lewis believes the issue of sex reassignment surgeries for children isn’t so black and white.
“I think there’s a lot of different spectrums and a lot of different situations that go into that subject," said Lewis.
“The hard part about that is that you do have, with every generation, kids that want to kind of jump on the bandwagon and, you know, be part of whatever is against the grain and the other side of that is the kids that actually go through things like what I went through and they’re kind of shadowed over by those kids.”
But Lewis doesn’t believe the government should be involved in those decisions.
"At the end of the day, I don’t think they should have any control over what anybody does with their body," said Lewis.
“I think that, as far as parents, you do anything you can do to keep your kid safe. And I think any parent, at the end of the day, would rather have a kid that’s alive than one that’s not. I think that’s basically what that boils down to.”
SEE ALSO: Doctors debate gender transition therapy for minors as legislators debate law
Ted Halley has a different opinion.
Halley grew up in Opelika and graduated from Auburn University in 1982. He served in the military for 24 years and now resides in Prattville.
Halley told us his story, which he said began when he was around eight years old.
"For some unknown reason, I felt an interest in my mother’s clothes,” Halley said. “I never really did much with it. When I was 14, I distinctly remember having very strong feelings of wanting to be the other gender, not associated with any abuse of any type. It just happened.”
During and after college, Halley cross-dressed a few times but didn’t do much else.
“In the late 80s, I got married, and that was kind of it for a long time," Halley said. "The marriage didn’t work out, and I dated a few ladies and stuff like that and, I don’t know, for some reason [they] just didn’t work out.
“...Around 2009, it’s like this stuff hit me full bore,” Halley said.
He started going to Atlanta on weekends to cross-dress. It was during this time that he decided to make the complete transition.
“I did that, all the medical and legal stuff one has to do," Halley said.
Halley said he received four different operations, which cost him “lots of money.
“In 2012, I transitioned at work, and I lived that way for about nine years,” Halley said.
Halley claimed he started feeling what he called “buyer’s remorse” in his first years in transition.
“I started having episodes of depression,” Halley said. “I’d been brought up in a church, and I believe in this time God was working in my heart.”
Halley’s life changed forever on March 14, 2021, when he realized he no longer wanted to be transgender.
“Some things you can medically undo,” Halley said about his detransition. “Some you can’t. But I’ve done everything legally and medically that I can.”
Halley has been to conferences with hundreds of people who identify as transgender, genderqueer and cross-dressers.
“I know many, many people,” Halley said, and he voiced his concern about the prevalence of suicide in that community.
“There’s still a very high, high outcome of people taking their lives both before and after sex change,” Halley said. “It does not fix the problem.”
Halley shared a book written by Walt Heyer titled “Gender, Lies and Suicide.”
Ted had two friends who took their own lives in the last three years. One was fully transitioned. The other was in the process.
“A lot of people don’t take into account the extremely negative response they can have from their family," Halley said. "You get the whole gamut. You have some families that embrace it, some that are totally ostracized. I was very blessed in that the two things my family told me was that they loved me, but they did not approve of it.
“I still knew that my family loved me, even though they did not agree and thought it was wrong."
Halley said he still has friends who identify as transgender who are content with their choice to transition.
“Like an expensive car, it’ll make you happy for a while," Halley said. "But at least, for me - I can’t speak for everybody - I had buyer’s remorse and, definitely now, wish I’d never gone down that path.”
When asked about children receiving sex changes, Halley admitted that most transgender people experience their feelings at a very young age. However, he emphasized the number of variables that go into making a decision to get a sex change.
“We have an age of 18 where you can be drafted to go in the military,” Halley said. “We have an age of 21 to buy alcohol. I honestly 100% believe that kids under the age of 18 - I’m not saying that’s the magic age - should not go down that road because there’s too many variables in life and, as we’ve said, some things are irreversible.
“A kid under the age of 18 - you just don’t know what you want to be in life. And there’s peer pressure, and there’s fads and things like that. You know, right now, being transgender or gender-fluid seems to me to be like a fad.
“I’m totally against any hormone blockers, any sex change and operations before a person can make a wise, informed decision of what they’re doing, and a kid cannot do that."
Halley said he doesn’t think there’s a consensus among the transgender community about the issue and called it a “mixed bag.” He claims he’s received pushback from transgender people for his position, but nothing major.
“It can be a lonely lifestyle,” Halley said. “People don’t count on this. I think it’s better to deal with the root problem - whether it's spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, from sexual abuse - than to go down here and then realize you made a huge mistake.”To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819News.com.