Detransition

Crash is concerned people are calling her “transphobic” and not listening to the nuance of what she is saying, but unapologetic, saying that she of course will act to advance our own well-being. If that means telling stories and truths other people find uncomfortable, so be it. She spent four years on T, presenting male, and has reverted. Yet she wants transitioned and detransitioned people to be allies, and is not helped by people using her story as a weapon against transition. So, how could we be allies?

I don’t know of any detransitioned woman who doesn’t believe that adults can decide what to do with their lives and their bodies, including to transition if they decide that’s what’s best for them. No, that would be a detransitioned man, Charles Kane, filled with resentment for what he did to himself. That might be something about female socialisation, growing up to make the best of it and see others’ point of view. However she wants to speak out for detransitioned and dysphoric women… because no one else is looking out for us.

She bears the scars of transition- chest masculinisation, T use- and has a deep voice and facial hair. She is forging a new path: transition is well-travelled, with many books and support groups on what it means, but on detransition she found only a few blogs.

First, I found her blog post about the backlash from the article about detransition in a new online magazine The Outlook, then went to the article itself. I would like us to be allies. Anyone who transitions has had difficulty living with themselves in a gendered society, even if they detransition. We have a lot in common. Why is she called transphobic? This quote from The Outlook may give a clue: The bloggers write about how they’ve come to understand their own transitions as a response to trauma, or an expression of self-hatred stemming from living in a patriarchal world, or a capitulation to social pressure. I might see their detransition in the same way- the only word I might change is “patriarchal” to “transphobic”, and even that is not absolutely necessary.

I have thought about detransition a lot, and always called it “Reverting”. That’s a different way of framing it, as a failure. This is how we are opponents in a zero-sum game: if detransitioners are people who should never have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria in the first place, but treated otherwise than by transition- people who have been wronged by the system- then it should be much more difficult to get hormones or surgery.

I should be accepted as a woman because I really am a woman. This is the basis for our argument that we should enter women-only spaces, be treated as women, be recognised in law as women. Psychiatrists who specialise in us have the expertise to diagnose gender dysphoria, for which the treatment is medical, surgical and social transition.

But it’s a zero-sum game. Crash could not have been prevented from transition without it being made more difficult for the rest of us. The Outline cited studies that regret is 2.2% or less- making transition more difficult stymies forty people for the sake of one. Arbitrated by fairness or Utilitarianism, my side should win the zero-sum game. And, possibly, many who reverted might not have taken no for an answer when they transitioned.

I really am a woman. Or, the only treatment for gender identity disorder is transition. Crash says she suffered from internalised misogyny, trauma and dissociation. I learned The Script, what I was told I should say to ensure I got the right diagnosis. The Script was not true for me, I told the truth, and got the diagnosis and treatment anyway. If Crash could have been protected from transition, a real trans man might have been wrongfully refused it- and given that hormones and surgery are so invasive, psychiatrists might err on the side of caution. But when we transition, we really really want that treatment.

I do not trust the psychiatrists. I don’t think there are clear discrete groups, one of which suffer from gender dysphoria who should transition, and another whose symptoms mimic those of the first but who suffer from some different diagnosable condition, dissociative disorder or something else. My psychiatrist told me I was “not psychotic” but I don’t know he was right about that.

I don’t think I am dissociative. I hated my body before transition. Now, I love it. What would I know? On what basis is Crash diagnosed as dissociative- is it just because she has decided to revert?

I wish diagnosis could be certain, but it is more messy than that. I want Crash as an ally, because we have a great deal in common. We are both people who did not easily fit the stereotypes attached to our birth gender, the social construct of “man” in my case, “woman” in hers. We try to make our way as best we can. We live in gendered societies, with expectations about what a man or a woman ought to be like, even if those expectations are broader and more inclusive than I, desperate because I saw myself as less than a real man, imagined them to be.

There are those who would argue that Trans is a great lie, that the removal of breasts penises and gonads is a vile mutilation, and we should accept our bodies. Some of them are religious nutters with rigid ideas of what “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” is, and some are radical feminists who think gender roles are a misogynist social construct imposed by patriarchy. Yet we desperately want social and/or physical transition.

When I transitioned, I thought it was quite possible that I would revert within five years, but transition was the only way I could find that out. I wanted it so much. I had to try it. I have not reverted yet. This might escape the zero-sum game: that detransition is right for a person does not mean that transition was necessarily wrong. Or, alternatively- I am not a woman, or even a person who particularly well fits the social construct of “woman” in my society; only someone who has chosen to identify as Clare, and I have a right to identify like that, or as Stephen, or Hillary. That detransition is right for someone does not mean it is right for everyone, or that anyone should be stopped from transitioning because they might revert later. It is not clear cut, but confusing, and people make mistakes.

Whatever, I want to extend a hand of friendship to Crash. We are both people who have been uncomfortable with gender roles, and have done what we thought best in response to that. Let us honour our choices and mourn our mistakes together. I doubt I could have been saved from myself. None of these choices are easy: that we have all faced them is a bond. (That’s just me- I like to see things in terms of common interest and common experience.) Crash linked to this video: “We’re not recruiting, okay?” says the detransitioned woman. “This is about people’s well-being”. I want their well-being, as well as my own.

Continued here: Detransition II, on Callahan, a detransitioned woman whom people call a trans excluder.

The Outline.
Crash’s blog. Crash’s video.

breslau-the-artist-and-her-model

4 thoughts on “Detransition

  1. Thanks for your post – thoughtful as always. I wish – how i wish – we could get away a bilateral, gendered society. There is no need, is there, to state on every form whether we are M or F, is there! We might be MFF, FMF, FFM, MMF, MMM, FFF, and who cares anyway?? I, as a liberal, am of course, guilty of assuming everyone else is liberal too, but at least that means I offer others the benefit of the doubt.

    Being threatened by others is simply about fear. Do we embrace others we might otherwise never meet and get to know, or do we live within our own understandings, finding steadiness from them? What we choose to do is our choice. Where it becomes more of an issue, for me at any rate, is when those living one way insist we live the other way – and to insist that bigots should move away, is to miss the irony: both insistances are equally judgemental. So then we have to keep to our own paths and hope that our examples provide enough of an incentive, enough of a hope for others in despair. Lots of love, angel. ((xxx))

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    • Crash linked to Callahan’s video- that is my first linked video, above- which shows a woman who seems confident and not visibly affected by taking testosterone. Crash’s own video shows a lack of self-confidence, even fear. She has facial hair. My heart went out to her. Having not fitted in, now she visibly does not fit in, and if she wants to pass as ordinary female she will need facial hair removal and probably some voice work. The most vulnerable people have the greatest difficulty. I recognise my fellow victim. I am not going to police what she wants to say, though I would rather she did not seek affirmation by associating with radical feminists; though they would use her to preach against transition, and I don’t think she wants that. I hope she can find a nurturing, accepting community and also self-acceptance.

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  2. Clare I completely agree with Fran. The issue is that many of us would benefit from freer range of gender expression and be fine and thinking that things will magically improve with transition some of us are disillusioned. You don’t seem to fit into that category Clare which is fine because you are who you are and because your dysphoria level demanded the response you chose. I don’t think there is one formula for everyone which is why the danger lies in thinking that someone else’s path will work for you. This is patently false.
    The system needs to discourage transition and only use it as a last resort for deep and persistent dysphoria that will not respond otherwise. Detransition is a perfectly legitimate response to something that didn’t work for you. It doesn’t make you less transgender because of it. It only means that as a response it exceeded what the person truly required.

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