Transcript: Buck Angel & Helena Kerschner On Trans And Detrans
A happily transitioned man and a happily detransitioned woman share a fierce independence of thought.
Buck Angel was a pioneering porn star — the only trans man to ever win Transsexual Performer of the Year at the AVN Awards — and today he’s a sex educator, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur. Helena Kerschner is a 22-year-old woman who lived as a man on hormone therapy for several years before detransitioning. Buck’s transition saved his life, while Helena’s transition was a bit of a calamity, but they share a resistance to the dogma of the trans activist community and speak forcefully and elegantly against it.
This episode is part of an ongoing Dishcast series on the lives of transgender people and the debates surrounding one of the most polarizing subjects of today, especially when it comes to kids transitioning. Our previous episodes welcomed two happily transitioned and brilliant women, Dana Beyer and Mara Keisling, both of whom pushed back against my views, with followup debate led by readers here and here. More to come. I have tried to get today’s more typical trans activists on the show, but they won’t respond to my emails.
The Buck and Helena episode aired on April 16, 2021, and you can listen to it here. Some money quotes:
Helena: “I truly think that this is one of the defining issues of our moment in time. Because truly, children are being hurt.”
Helena: “I got into a relationship with her and I was attracted to her, but I don't think I would have been able to be intimate with her if not for the testosterone.”
Buck: “Back then in the '70s, they made us all say we're just gay. Today they're flipping it: ‘Well, you're not a gay woman, you're definitely trans.’”
Buck: “We had to have notes from therapists, which now they call gatekeeping — that’s ridiculous. I call it safekeeping.”
Buck: “We are not men. We are trans men. We are not women. We are trans women.”
Here are some links to stuff we mentioned in the episode:
Helena’s tweeted photos showing her social worker assessment. “This took less than 30 min and cleared me to take testosterone w/ no blood work or further assessment,” she writes. She also points to “Tweets with my medical records showing that I was prescribed testosterone (at an unusually high dose) with no blood work on the first visit.”
“Gender identity is hard but jumping to medical solutions is worse,” an Economic piece written by Carey Callahan, a detrans woman, about her experience working at a clinic in California (not Chicago, as Helena put it)
A 9-year-old trans kid asking Elizabeth Warren a question at a televised town hall (not a 6 year old, as I mistakenly said)
“When Sons Become Daughters, Part III: Parents of Transitioning Boys Speak Out on Their Own Suffering,” from a series in Quillette.
“The He Hormone,” my 2000 NYT Magazine piece on testosterone
Andrew: Hi there. Welcome to another Dishcast. This one I'm really super psyched about. It's a subject I've been tackling. At the Dishcast, we have planned every now and again a real discussion of the trans issue. I'm not allowed to say the trans question, apparently, because it means I'm a Nazi. If I use that, literally, that's what happens.
So I thought, one of the things that we don't get to hear are genuine experiences, from not necessarily political people, but regular people who have had different experiences and different outlooks and different perspectives on the experience of being trans. You tend to get this image from the mainstream media that there's one position in the LBTQPLMSQ community. There's no divide, there's no issues and no debate, no questioning. Either you're a bigot or you're pro-gay, pro-LGBT, pro-T, or whatever.
And it's boring because, in fact, the world is more interesting. And the, whatever we wanna call it, the LGBTQ+ community is a bunch of human beings who have different ideas and thoughts and experiences and they communicate that. No one's an army.
Anyway, today the two people I've asked to come on — the first is Helena Kerschner, whom I met a couple of years ago. She came to DC as part of a group of detransitioned young women who went to talk to senators and congressmen and various legislative aides to raise awareness about this. I met her and a bunch of others, and we had a really fascinating conversation. She's 22 years old. She underwent transition and then came out of it, and she has many experiences. She is someone who many, many, many trans activists will tell you does not exist. Well, she does. And to prove it we're going to talk to her today about her own experiences.
Alongside that is someone who transitioned in her — his — twenties, sorry. Not that he's particularly fastidious about you getting every tiny piece of grammar pronoun right! But his name is Buck Angel. He's a man, a trans man, who has been an educator. He's done amazing outreach to trans kids and trans adults. He's been a porn star, no less. And he's got a mind, and very much a personality of his own. I thought having someone who has detransitioned and someone who has successfully transitioned would be an interesting combination.
And now one is a man and one is a woman. And they're both really fascinating people. I want to start with Helena, if I may.
Andrew: Tell me how this came about with you. At what point did you feel that maybe there was something wrong, and that becoming a different sex or gender would in some ways be the solution to that quandary that you were in? How old were you?
Helena: When this first started, I was about 15. Maybe a little bit into the latter half of my 14th year, but really when I firmly embraced the trans label, I was 15.
Andrew: Had you felt these things as a child? Or was it after puberty or was it during puberty? Was there a point at which these thoughts and feelings emerged in your consciousness?
Helena: As a child and even early into my puberty, I never had what you would think of, or diagnose as, gender dysphoria. But I did have a strong sense of alienation from other young girls. I never thought about it as being because I was meant to be a boy. That frame never really crossed into my mind, but I did always feel separate and awkward around girls and I preferred male friends.
But I also wasn't, I don't think, what you would consider tomboy. I liked playing with my makeup stuff. I liked my Barbies. I didn't have any strong preference for male typical toys or anything like that. I just always felt a little bit different, and that difference seemed stronger when I compared myself to girls than boys. I wouldn't consider that childhood gender dysphoria.
Andrew: No, I don't think many people would. It's certainly less than I felt as kid, feeling different than other boys and not quite knowing where to put that.
Andrew: So when did the possibility emerge that your sex was actually the source of these anxieties?