Episode 90

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Published on:

7th Oct 2022

90 — Tomboy at Tavistock: Ellie’s Desistance Story

Ellie was a gender nonconforming 90s kid in the UK. She became a patient of what came to be the Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) at Tavistock. She was seen at the time by Dr. DiCeglie, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and the GIDS founder. Ellie describes her psychological treatment with him and her decision, early on in life, that medicalization simply was not an option. She tells us about her family life and coming to terms with being gay in her teens. Ellie is now married to her wife and living happily. But she also talks about gender dysphoria being something she, and many lesbians, simply learn to live with. She offers some fascinating insights about the way technology is used, and social media, in particular, can mimic a kind of schizophrenia experience, with too many competing voices and opinions influencing the minds of teens today. She tells us about being featured in a BBC2 children’s program as a kid, and you can see the YouTube video of this segment in the show notes. We also discuss the book Hannah Barnes has written, soon to be published, for which Ellie was interviewed. If you’ve ever wondered about the desistance literature and hoped to tie a more human, personal story to the statistics, then you’re going to appreciate this discussion with Ellie.

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Extended Notes


  • From as early as two years old, Ellie rejected dress clothes.
  • Ellie has a theory that her sister’s ability to get attention played a part in her gender dysphoria.
  • Ellie thought life would be easier if she was a boy and only hung out with boys.
  • Why does being a boy or a girl matter?
  • Ellie’s mother was a nurse who was treated for a genital condition (DSD) when she was born.
  • Ellie’s mother took her to GIDS at Tavistock to treat her gender dysphoria.
  • DSD is caused by a recessive gene.
  • Ellie’s parents were freely naked in the house and on vacation at nudist beaches.
  • When approached with the idea, Ellie thought of medicalization and surgery as a ridiculous option.
  • Ellie was treated by the doctor who founded GIDS at Tavistock.
  • Some doctors are in the business for status.
  • Entering puberty Ellie did have one influential female friend.
  • Ellie’s doctor provided a Watchful Waiting period.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer offered Ellie a glimpse into the idea that women could be superheroes and embody their power.
  • Everyone naturally has a relationship with their gender.
  • The thing, Ellie says, she desired from masculinity is to have height. Surgery couldn’t provide that.
  • Gender dysphoria is not static. It is constantly changing.
  • Ellie had unrequited crushes on straight girls but her first sexual encounters were with men because that is who approached her.
  • Romantically Ellie is interested in women, physically she considers herself bisexual.
  • Ellie considers social media to be a drug.
  • Ellie was interviewed extensively for Hannah Brown’s upcoming book about the Tavistock Clinic.

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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

* We are sponsored by ReIME and Genspect.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving long term care for gender variant individuals. To learn more, visit https://rethinkime.org/

Genspect is an international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people. Parents are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support; many do not feel free to speak out about their concerns.
To learn more, visit https://genspect.org/
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.



Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.