Last week, I interviewed 22-year-old Briana Ivy, who was born a male, began taking hormones at 15, and eventually went on to have sex reassignment surgery. I have never been more proud or more haunted by any interview I have conducted before.
Briana’s story is not one that is broadcast in mainstream media, nor is it one that gender clinics want anyone to share. But in the face of criticism, threats, and general pushback, Briana is bravely telling his story so children and teenagers (and their parents) who are considering a route to becoming trans can understand what real life will look like. He and his family trusted the path doctors paved and social media posts painted that trans life look like everything Briana had hoped for. What they didn’t see were the tragic stories of people who had gone down the path of hormones, blockers, and surgeries — life behind the Instagram grid, the TikTok video, and the social media posts. Briana bravely shared heartbreaking details of his experience to save others from the same hurt.
Going into this interview, I recognized it would come with tremendous consequence to Briana, but I also believed it is going to put him on a path of being a figure for those who are searching for help and need to hear this story. We started by discussing his childhood, and though Briana’s biological parents had a rather tumultuous split, his mother remarried (twice) and his now-stepfather has been a part of his transitioning process since the beginning. It was actually the experiences Briana incurred at school that were the cruelest, especially with other boys. Briana felt safest befriending girls, and at around 6 and 7, he remembers feeling uncomfortable “just being lumped in with other boys” because he was a very feminine young boy.
This made me think of one boy in particular I went to school with, and he played with dolls and stuck with the girls; today, he is a married gay man. So I asked Briana what made him think he wasn’t just gay but maybe trans. Briana explained that he felt “disgusted by the thought of growing up as a feminine man” and couldn’t envision himself as an adult gay male because “it just felt gross.” However, he did not know what being trans even was until he was about 12 or 13 and saw Jazz Jennings on television. He found more trans adults on YouTube and decided to write his family (mother, step-father, and sister) a letter to explain he thought he was transgender. They were receptive to this because, as he reveals later in the interview, Briana was so incredibly unhappy. He felt an immense amount of shame, saying, “I just didn’t like anything really about me.” So, they visited a gender clinic for guidance.
Briana was 14 when he went to the clinic, where he met with a clinical social worker for a quick 30-minute meeting, met with a doctor next, and then walked home with a prescription for hormones. It was that quick and simple. No meeting with a therapist, no unpack-your-childhood conversation, no decision-waiting period. Briana was prescribed a testosterone blocker medication and injection and saw his body change very quickly. I asked Briana how he felt during the first year of seeing those changes. He explained, “I felt good. I felt like I was finally being fully feminine in a way that I felt like would be more acceptable to people.” But after moving, changing schools, discussing restroom choices with school administration, and continued bullying, Briana’s mental health was not getting better. Even at 17, when he started passing as female (he describes “passing” to be when people begin recognizing you to be the opposite gender), his mental health was still declining. “The way I felt about myself didn’t get better. I was still so desperate for something.” He explains that people were no longer even questioning if he was female, yet he still felt a void. It was then that Briana says he became desperate for surgical intervention.
Briana turned to social media and found that surgery was considered an unspoken status symbol. The trans females who looked happiest were the ones who had every procedure performed. They appeared to live better lives, and it seemed as though people saw them the way they wanted to be seen. “They had made it,” Briana told me. He thought that is what he was missing because perhaps he hadn’t transitioned enough — so he kept going. Briana and I touched on the fact that people can appear happy on their highlight reel and reality is quite different, as Briana has found to be true. Briana talked with his doctor at the clinic, and he, his mom, and his stepdad were all reassured that Briana would now look like a biological female. He was told that the younger and faster he did the surgeries, the faster he would be considered a real female.
Briana actually found a surgeon for bottom surgery on TikTok, Dr. Gallagher, but after his first consultation, Dr. Gallagher relocated to Florida and referred him to Dr. Joshua Roth. He was given options for his surgery on “a blue piece of paper and it was like taking an order.” He chose the option that was presented as a “miracle.” After they submitted for insurance approval which came back in two weeks, the surgery date was booked just a few months later. Briana is not oblivious to the fact that some people apply for insurance coverage who are in life or death situations and do not receive approval that quickly, if at all. He is also aware that he is now a lifelong patient, as he will forever be on hormones since his body cannot make the ones it’s now dependent on.
In our conversation, Briana goes into great detail involving the 7-hour surgery. During his hospital stay, other doctors and residents came to his room, which Briana recalls: “I remember there was an intense fascination with what was being done to me. … [Residents and nurses] would look at me. They would tell me, ‘This is so cool. We’ve never seen someone as young as you have this done. We’ve never seen this surgery done here.’ … Dr. Roth would bring in multiple residents to just watch me while I was sitting there, and I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move. I was in so much pain.” That pain resulted in numerous complications (including DVT, blood clots, epidural, inability to walk), months-long excruciatingly painful aftermath, and the heartbreaking news that his body had rejected the surgery. Dr. Roth sent Briana to other doctors to begin rectifying the complication, and those doctors refused to operate, telling Briana he could experience worse complications or not make it through at all. After numerous attempts to get in contact with Dr. Roth, Briana has no longer been able to reach him.
Briana was used like a science project, and I cannot fathom the pain and grief that he, his mother, and family have been through. He is only 22-years-old, but Briana can see the truth now and he hopes to be able to have his story reach others before they fall victim to the lies he was told and false promises he was given. Briana told me, “When you go into the gender clinic and they’ll tell you if you want to look good and be treated better, start now. Start young. But then you give up everything.”
In recent years, Briana has had the desire to begin a family, but he cannot have children now. He told me, “No one who has ever started this as a kid is willing to explain what you actually give up to do this and the lies that they’ll tell you and the fact that doctors and these gender clinics will take vulnerable children and families and they’ll sell them a promise because they’re desperate.” The entire system preyed on Briana — and it failed him. He explains in the interview that he cannot take legal action unless other doctors decide if he can pursue action. (A board of certified surgeons must decide if they believe the surgery was, indeed, experimental.)
Though Briana has experienced loss, tragedy, pain, and grief, he is using his story to help others by telling the truth. Retelling this story was hard for Briana, but he is taking the chance to give people truth. He told me that even within the last few weeks, he was at a low point and turned to God, who he had shut out for a long time. He said he needed the Lord more than ever, and from that day forward, he’s known he has the chance to turn this into something good. Unlike some, Briana’s story doesn’t involve parents who were just wanting to make a political statement with their trans kid. They were parents who were trying to help their child but didn’t know what to do. And he wants to help those parents: “It’s parents that just want their kid to feel normal because they don’t want to lose their kid. They don’t know what to do. And that was my family. And I’m glad that I can show them that there is no need to let these doctors tell you to rush this because you just cannot go back.”
I believe the whole world is going to open for Briana Ivy because he is being exceptionally brave, and it usually takes bravery first for things to change.