Some people transition male to female, and then transition back. According to Lynn Conway, those who revert have only themselves to blame. I think it more complicated. This is a reply to her article in that link.
Have a look at Lynn Conway’s stories, and you see that her tag line, “what if you did it…for the wrong reasons” is an oversimplification. Her first example is Renée Richards, who Lynn says has a prominent bulge in her forehead which looks terribly manly. Lynn scrubs up well:
but I have heard that she has had the facial feminisation surgery she mentions, metal tools grinding away her skull. When I see the abbreviation FFS I always do a double-take.
Lynn also criticises Renée for being an “intense cross-dresser”. She was seen as a Transsexual, rather than as a woman as April Ashley was. For Lynn, Renée is the cause of the discrimination she suffered. But that is to say that we all must pass as “Normal”, our voices and faces and mannerisms conforming to a Patriarchal view of how women “should” look, far more feminine than many women.
I met a fat, ugly woman at the weekend, thick black hairs sprouting from her prominent mole, and looked at her curiously. She noticed how I was looking. Talking to her, I realised that she had transcended the self-consciousness that is enforced on us, which I seek to transcend- and I was encouraged by the encounter. Part of that is seeing the beauty of the whole range of human bodies, not just those of supermodels. Lynn’s message is, that is how the world is, conform to it. Mine, and President Obama’s, is Change it.
Lynn’s next example, Dani Berry, was an autogynephiliac.
I’m now concerned that much of what I took as a gender dysfunction might have been nothing more than a neurotic sexual obsession.
Paraphilia is not strong enough to cause a transition. Autogynephilia is a symptom, not a cause, of lesbian transsexualism. Dani, who died in 1999, took in to herself all the Blame from outside- “You’re a sicko pervert, and it is all your fault”. Perpetuating this myth, Lynn is one of the oppressors.
Sandra MacDougall has suffered verbal and physical abuse. So have I, and worse, I have restricted my life, not going to places because I fear that abuse. Yes we suffer discrimination, but that is not a reason to not be ourselves.
Sandra also expects to be celibate. When I had aversion therapy, the psychiatrist rightly said that far more women would find my male presentation attractive than my female expression, which then was unpractised. However, any such relationship died after a few weeks, because I was pretending to be something other than I was. I had to be who I really am before I could sustain a relationship. Trans lesbians do have relationships with cis lesbians. It is wrong for heterosexual women to look down on lesbians, whether cissexual or transsexual.
Lynn’s last example, Charles Kane, is hard to like, as she says blaming everyone but themself for their experience. But the things Charles disliked, the endless maintenance of their appearance, and the dismissive sexist attitudes of men show that Charles had fully accepted patriarchal demands on women. A bit of feminist consciousness-raising would have done Samantha, as they was, no end of good.
In deciding whether to transition, there are two questions:
1. Am I transsexual?
2. Will I be happier if I transition?
Depending on how restrictive your understanding of the term “transsexual” is, you may even come to the answers, 1 No, 2 Yes. What do you Want, is the question. In my social circles, I experience little discrimination, and it has still been a long journey to self-acceptance and then self-celebration for me. With Lynn Conway’s examples, I want to be clear that they are not to blame for their suffering, and they were brave, not foolish, to try to manifest their true selves.