Health and Medicine

Why This Detransitioner Is Suing Her Health Care Providers

“I thought that if I changed how I was perceived socially and how I was treated socially, then that was going to improve everything else in my life.”

Michelle Zacchigna is one of a growing number of women who are suing their medical providers for giving them a misdiagnosis of gender dysphoria and then mistreating them. Zacchigna had her uterus and breasts removed, rendering her infertile. She is 35 years old and lives north of Toronto.

Michael Shellenberger: You are the first known detransitioner in Canada to sue their health care providers. Can you describe your lawsuit?

Michelle Zacchigna: I believe there’s a growing trend of recklessness in so-called “gender-affirming care,” and I think my experience with it exemplifies that trend. I have filed my suit against eight healthcare professionals, including doctors, psychologists, and therapists to have that belief tested by the justice system. Distress related to my gender was treated to the exclusion of other serious mental health issues which went undiagnosed for years. Blind affirmation of my stated identity closed the door to alternative treatment options.

What happened to me should never happen again. I was prescribed testosterone hormone therapy in 2010 after three appointments. My doctors did not do a fulsome screening of me for other mental health diagnoses or developmental disabilities. In 2012, with my doctor’s recommendation, I paid to have my breasts removed.

But the drugs and surgeries didn’t address my mental health needs; the parts of my life that I expected to change never did; and I stopped taking testosterone in 2016. I continued to identify as transgender until the end of 2020.

Did you ever get a proper diagnosis?

Seven years after I’d first been prescribed testosterone, I asked to be referred for a psychoeducational assessment. I suspected I had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After six hours of testing, the psychologist diagnosed me with autism spectrum disorder, borderline personality disorder, clinical depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress. It took a few years to really process everything. By late 2020, I began to question whether I had ever been transgender or even met the criteria for gender dysphoria.

Do you think you can win your lawsuit?

I know I face an uphill battle. Doctors win the majority of medical malpractice cases in Canada. Mine is very much a David vs. Goliath effort. But I feel a moral obligation to act, to effect change in healthcare or at least begin the discussion in Canada. Things in Europe are starting to change. There are conversations starting in the US and legislation being introduced at the state level. But there’s nothing like that happening in Canada. None of the major political parties are talking about it.


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