Companies cash in on transgender trend
A new app supports cheap, easy, and quick sex changes, potentially at great human cost
At age 25, Laura Perry met with a therapist three times to obtain a note saying she had gender dysphoria. Before diagnosing her, the therapist suggested Perry’s strained relationship with her mother could have something to do with her desire to be a man. Perry scoffed.
With the note, she met with a doctor who prescribed testosterone. That night, she injected the hormone into her thigh muscle. It was the start of nine years involving monthly hormone injections, a double mastectomy, and a full hysterectomy—but no reprieve from her depression and dysphoria.
Perry detransitioned in 2016 but lives with scars, missing body parts, and cognitive and muscle problems she attributes to testosterone. She still shaves her face every day. Perry now believes the therapist was right––her dysphoria was rooted in deep familial wounds––and wishes someone stopped her from treatments and surgeries.
Perry’s scars and regret are lost in today’s transgender movement, intent on making access to cross-sex hormones and sex change surgeries easier, cheaper, and quicker. Now, a Denver-based startup called Plume, available in 38 states, allows anyone 18 and older to get prescriptions for cross-sex hormones and letters of medical recommendation for sex change surgeries without physically meeting with a doctor.
Plume advertises an app that users download onto their smartphones. A medical questionnaire takes a half hour to fill out, according to the website. For $99 a month, members get “gender-affirming care,” including a digital video appointment with a “trans specialist medical provider;” ordering and analysis of lab work, letters supporting name and sex changes on official documents, and a “trans and queer-led team cheering you on every step of the way.” The company also offers a one-time letter of medical support for sex-change surgeries—mastectomies, castrations, and hysterectomies—for $150.
Plume verifies users’ ages with any ID that has a photo and date of birth or with multiple forms of ID such as a student ID and a separate document with a date of birth, according to a company representative.
Plume started in May 2020 and is “expanding rapidly,” an Instagram post read. On Feb. 1, it announced it had raised $14 million in venture capital to meet growing demand.
About 1 in 6 members of Generation Z, ages 18 to 23 in 2020, now identify as LGBT, according to a Feb. 24 Gallup poll. Between Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1980, and Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2002, the number of people who identify as transgender has increased by 800 percent.
Plume is not the only company expanding its services. Alix Aharon started a Google “Gender Offender” map marking facilities providing puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex-change surgeries thinking she would find 50 or 60. So far, Aharon, co-founder of Partners for Ethical Care, an advocacy group challenging the affirming medical approach for children with gender dysphoria, has identified 773 facilities in North America and Australia.
On Thursday, Aharon’s map, which also tracked complaints and testimonials from people who visited the facilities, was no longer available on Google “due to a violation of our Terms of Service and/or policies.”
Planned Parenthood is one of the largest U.S. providers of cross-sex hormones. In a Feb. 8 Substack column, author Abigail Shrier interviewed a former Planned Parenthood employee who said she saw up to two new female teen patients a day seeking testosterone. She called trans-identifying kids the abortion giant’s new “cash cows” since hormone drugs require regular blood work and follow-up appointments, “whereas abortions are (hopefully) a one-and-done situation.”
For women, taking testosterone carries known risks including infertility, bone damage, blood clots and strokes, endometrial cancer, and increased red blood cell count, among other effects. While on testosterone, Perry’s doctor required her to donate a pint of blood monthly to normalize her thickened blood and prevent a stroke.
“This is a life-altering decision, and yet it is completely unregulated,” Perry said.
Activists often impede efforts to study transgender regret and long-term health effects. Perry has shared her story through a Christian nonprofit called First Stone Ministries and in four states considering bills restricting puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex change surgeries for minors.
Aharon seeks to bring attention to the issue through her work with Partners for Ethical Care and a website called Transgender Abuse. (Warning: The website includes graphic pictures).
“Right now, Plume is operating with complete impunity,” Aharon said. “But all it takes is for one person to sue them. … It’s just a matter of time.”
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