Navigating Gender Transitions and the Importance of Forgiveness with Alex Nitsche

Alex Nitsche tells the story of experiencing gender dysphoria, and later transitioning in high school. Then, social worker Bonnie Wheeler discusses acceptance, forgiveness, and the grief that family members often feel with gender transitions.

The Science of Grief, produced by WDET and Science Gallery Detroit, explores the stories, science and solutions around grief and mental health, making space for young adults to share their stories, but also lead the conversation.

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Alex Nitsche used to feel uncomfortable with his voice. The sound of it just didn’t feel right, he says.

“I would have this sense of getting a mixture of angry and sad. Why do I sound like this? This isn’t how I want to sound. This doesn’t feel right, this doesn’t fit who I am.”

But there was more to Alex’s discomfort than how his voice sounded.

In middle school, Alex started to experience gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is the discomfort or distress caused by a mismatch between someone’s assigned sex at birth and their gender identity.

Alex began to feel like he wanted to experiment with new gender identities. He first transitioned to being gender-neutral, then he transitioned to male.

When he started transitioning, Alex told people he was a male, but often with a disclaimer that it could be a phase.

That disclaimer, Nitsche says, was partly fueled by fears of what people would say if he ever changed his mind. 

“It took time. It was something you had to be patient about.” — Alex Nitsche

There is a stigma attached to experimenting with new gender identities, Alex says. But time went on, and he did not change his mind.

In high school, after extensive research, patience, and discussion with his therapist about the risks and rewards, Alex decided to start taking hormone blockers, and later testosterone.

“It took time. It was something you had to be patient about,” he says.

“I had to sit down and [my therapist and I] had to make sure, like, ‘Are you really trans? Are you really a guy?’ I’m putting that way more simple than it is like, I’m not trying to make the therapist sound insensitive,” he explains. “They just want to make sure because this is something that is very, very, like life-altering, very life-altering. Because … there have been people who have detransitioned because they didn’t like where it was.”

Alex’s family also needed time to adjust to his new gender identity, especially his father.

“For a very long time, he was grieving in his own sense, because he felt like he had lost someone, you know, because I was changing, you know, and it felt like, who I was, was going to be gone forever, and that person was dead, you know. And that really took a toll on him. And for a while, and it was like, I could see that he was sad about it.”

“But you know, it’s gotten to a point where it’s like, I think he realized that he wasn’t actually losing someone, I’m still the same person, I’m still his child. And, you know, I am just now his son, instead of what I was before.”

In this episode:

  • Alex Nitsche on learning to appreciate his voice
  • Acting as a peacemaker with parents as a child
  • Experiencing gender dysphoria and transitioning
  • The stigma around experimenting with gender identity
  • Social worker Bonnie Wheeler on forgiveness, acceptance, and grief associated with transitioning
  • Going through grief, acceptance and forgiveness with his parents
  • An original poem from Natasha T Miller
  • Alex Nitsche’s song, “Work In Progress”

WDET first heard Alex Nitsche’s story when it appeared as part of Generator Z.

Previous Episodes of Science of Grief

Seeking Help

While this podcast is meant to make space for sharing stories and solutions, it is not a substitute for professional help. If you have a mental health concern and need someone to talk to, please contact a mental health professional or your doctor.

If you are in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

The Science of Grief podcast is a collaboration between WDET and Science Gallery Detroit, and is supported by the Children’s Foundation of Michigan, MSUFCU and Science Sandbox.

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  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.