Living as male again

As he was being wheeled in to the operating theatre in Thailand in 2006 for his vaginoplasty, Daniel was thinking “Don’t do it”. Waking up was hard. His thighs were black and blue. He had a bit of relief for six months after, but then the depression set in. In 2016, he was praying and he heard the voice of God, saying, “I created you male, you are walking around in a female role that is not your creation. You need to turn around and go back to your birth gender.” The same morning he emailed his pastor, sister and friends, and went on a mission to remove all traces of his Danielle identity from his home.

Or so he says now. We reimagine our histories and memories when we recall them, laying them down anew. He had an unhappy childhood. He lived with his mother after his father divorced her because of her alcoholism. She would bath him, and pay great attention to his genitals, telling him men were bad. He started wearing his mother’s and sister’s clothes when he was eight. He feared being male. He became alcoholic, and when he got sober in1994 he had a social transition, dressing female but without hormones or surgery. It was a shock to his US Bible-belt community. People avoided him. The isolation was too much, so he reverted, and moved north as a man. But then he was reading about transition, and got “tunnel vision”- he thought if only he could transition medically he would be happy.

He feels he was dishonest with the psychiatrist: he did not tell her he was abused as a child, and she did not ask him. (Odd- mine took a full history, back to childhood.) “I was living in fear of exposing those deep dark secrets.” Possibly, he has a different view of them now. Now, that experience of being bathed is a big thing for him. Perhaps then it did not seem so fundamental to his experience since. After all, trans women generally believe we have an innate gender identity. Having reverted, he has to find some reason why he was wrong to transition. So now he says his transition was his fault. He had breast removal and T injections to get his manly shape back. He has recently had an assessment for a phalloplasty operation, but the doctors found his liver function was not good enough. He will be reassessed.

Surgeons did not want to consider phalloplasty when they heard he was reversing a vaginoplasty. Eventually he found Miroslav Đorđević, who has completed thirteen phalloplasties for such patients. He has inserted a penile implant for sexual intercourse in six, and the others are awaiting assessment; and he has 25 new candidates. He says candidates are not properly assessed before vaginoplasty, and the patients are very distressed, regretting not just the result but the wrong decision.

He has found a wife through a Christian dating site. She is Latina, and they were using a translation app to communicate.

Trans people sometimes say most regret is because the result is sub-optimal, rather than because the decision was wrong. Dr Asa Radix, of the WPATH Standards of Care revision committee, says few patients have returned to tell her that they are detransitioning without some external factor, such as feeling unsafe on the streets, or losing their job. That would seem to indicate there had been no misdiagnosis, that the psychiatrists had been right.

In 2004, in Thailand, a psychologist at the hospital asked me if I was sure. She said they would be delighted for me to preserve my genitals.

Brian Belovitch, as a young gay man, ran away from an abusive and prejudiced working class neighbourhood to a trans ghetto. As a child, he had been mistaken for a girl. He became a vivacious woman, Natalia, a hostess on the New York club scene. He took heroin and crack. He felt he had four choices- being a trans woman with a penis, gender confirmation surgery, suicide, or undoing the hormonal changes and accepting himself as a gender non-conforming pretty man. So he identifies as gender fluid, and talks of retransition not detransitioning- he is moving on, not turning back.

We need to see these options before we have the gender surgery. The problem is transnormativity, the belief that gender dysphoria should be treated by a binary medical transition, and gender stereotypes, often with grudging acceptance of people who go through that transition greater than of people who are gender non-conforming.

Lilian Huck reverted because when she started oestrogen she had heart problems, so it was stopped. She found herself developing chest hair again. So she reverted. Then she saw a suicide prevention psychologist, who asked her how she would like to be buried- in a dress. She is living female again. None of these decisions are easy.

From the BBC World Service documentary he2she2he.

12 thoughts on “Living as male again

  1. This was so enlightening. I applaud anyone to do what they need to do to feel one in their body. I’d love to see them work through it more and become absolutely adoring and accepting of themselves and then decide if the surgery is right for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I awoke to the spiritual life in February 1999, transitioned in 2002 and went to Thailand in 2004, when my work on myself, self-understanding and accepting, was still going on. I am still doing it. The transition was what I absolutely had to do, I realised I would just have been stuck had I not done it.

      Welcome, Aria. Thank you for commenting. What a lovely, affirming blog you have.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Superbly written Clare, and heart wrenching too, it’s hard to know who you truly are when all you have are options contained within a set of rules; you must choose, prove you are dedicated to one specific recognizable category and that’s deeply unfair, cruel, backwards and life threatening often. If we only had the choice from birth to be. Be without fear or judgement. Theres no blame to be attributed to these folks, they, we, are born in a time that’s only slowly shrugging its mantle of gender and sexuality rules so set in stone for so very long.

    Esme Cloud x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you.

      I knew I did not fit the box marked “transsexual”. I still followed that path because it was the closest available to the one I needed. Brian here seems to be closest to being themself without fear or judgment. Daniel going through surgery, apparently because that’s what trans women are supposed to do, may still be happening, though there are countervailing pressures in the trans community, arguing we should be able to keep our fertility.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Do WE (as individuals) really know our ‘selves’? Our hidden, unconscious selves?
    I hate to offer ‘ammo’ to the fundamentalist religious fanatics*, but I ask and query how many ‘proto-transitioners’ have really done any personal reading on the ‘greats’ of the study of ‘the subconscious mind’. How many ‘protos’ out there have NOT done their own reading of the classics of probing ones own subconscious. Dont have the time? Yeah, it is a lot to read, and study, on many levels, but look how this person somehow, even given the assistance of ‘learned psychological counsel’ (dont get me started about MSW’s) did not get it right or right again? Or ever?
    I am NOT ‘ragging on you’, mind you, I am ‘RAGGING ON MYSELF’; — asking my SELF questions as well as cross examining the answers, as would two attorneys, one as prosecutor, one as defense, as I am sworn (to myself) to divulge the truth, in spite ones ego’s desire to LIE and PRESERVE its own illusory, not REAL ‘self’.
    The point is, I (you) need to be DEFENDANT(yourself), PROSECUTOR, DEFENSE COUNCIL locked in a Socratic thinking duel in order to find the literal, factual truth as well as the emotional truth. Literally, one must merge the thought in question to the hidden SYMBOL locked in your mind. The sudden revelation of the merging of thought and (subconscious) symbol causes much joy, emotional release and self awareness. If you have NOT experienced the sudden, eye opening revelation in the merging of ones emotions with conscious mind, in whatever therapy you attend before committing whatever gender reassignment you seemingly desire, you may merely be rationalizing -fooling yourself as to what your real desires and motives truly are. I would warn to you to tread carefully. IMHO, you have not had sufficient or even competent counseling.
    Am I consciously ready to make a commitment to ‘gender reassignment’?
    No.
    I dont trust myself, at this time. and perhaps, neither should you.
    Velma

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    • Before I transitioned I had a dialogue of Clare and Stephen, with my inner rationalist as chair and my inner toddler making one decisive intervention. Since transition I have come closer to finding a real self as an organism or process, creating its own responses in the moment, rather than a self-concept which is ideas of being brave or determined or sympathetic or gentle. I can be all those things and so much more. But before transition I was suppressing too much to be my whole self; so a lot of the energy of that organismic process was devoted to preserving illusory self-understanding.

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  4. one of the problems we face is that we can feel pressure to adopt the binary solution because the fear of being somewhere in the middle fills us with dread. Rather than being seen as a social freak we might want to opt for a wholesale change when that may not be right for us. As a prerequisite we should embrace ourselves and remove any self hatred or shame and then decide what to do based on an internal dialogue. If at the end of that process we are still certain we need to have the surgery then we should do it.

    The generation of my children is far less concerned with social pressure and they are more apt to be themselves which is why we see more openness and variety in the young trans community. Just be yourself no matter what form that takes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. I hope it is getting easier. Possibly, more people identify as non-binary in the UK than as trans, especially among younger people. Daniel(le) had the operation in 2006, and I hope things are getting better since then. There is less pressure within the trans community to have the operation, though that pressure still exists.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. While you make a good case for concerning ourselves with Type 2 errors (IIRC overdiagnosis, in this case of gender dysphoria) I remain far more concerned about Type 1 errors, although I will concede off the record in safe trans space that Type 2 errors are a problem and a thing that happens.

    I’m 27 years post-transition and 21 years post bottom surgery with absolutely no regrets of either. MSW-bashing aside, I also have no regrets to firing my aggressively gatekeeping PhD psychologist, first in favor of an osteopathic physician willing to prescribe estrogen without -ongoing- psychotherapy, and in the run-up to surgery (having accumulated the $) a series of two consultations at a psych clinic in a city 400 miles away from home, with a reputation as an informed consent clinic (a very radical concept back then). I know it’s a cliche, but my only real regret is not transitioning a lot earlier.

    Ideally, the trans healthcare provider community would be strongly dedicated to reducing both Type 1 and Type 2 errors, but ideally we get health care as a right not a privilege. The latter ideal is a much higher priority than the former, in terms of my own interests to be sure, but really, in terms of the greater good, to the best of my ability to discern that. In my country, America, it’s still in question whether universal access to healthcare is even politically feasible. Gatekeeping was an enormous financial burden on me. I lived a materially impoverished life for years to fund it. I’m not going to make common cause in any public policy debates with someone who recommends a psychological screening of comparable intensity to psychoanalysis; an unimaginably expensive undertaking for someone in my social class. Granted, her rubric is described above as Socratic dialogue not Freudian psychoanalysis, and most importantly seems to be a DIY undertaking. Honestly, though, I don’t know anyone trans who hasn’t been that self-critical. Perhaps it’s a cold thing to think, but maybe the new normal should be anyone who doesn’t self-examine at depth has only themselves to blame for any Type 2 errors they might make, and the end of protecting them from themselves does not justify the means of hobbling the intensely self-aware people who are also intensely dysphoric with endless speed bumps and crushingly costly barriers to their authentic lives.

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    • I am not sure what you mean by type one and type two, but the two mistakes which can be made are not treating someone who would benefit from it, and treating someone who regrets it later. I found this article on misdiagnosis which gives various classifications of error in diagnosis- error of process, and error of outcome. A person may be absolutely clearly transsexual, and it still be better to manage their dysphoria without transition because of personal factors or their social situation. Possibly Daniel(le) is truly trans, but because of her society and the social support she will receive if presenting male rather than expressing female is better detransitioned. That possibility means asserting she has to deny it even to herself.

      I am glad you got treatment you could, just, afford. I see the expense of intense self-examination with a professional as Velma suggests. Whatever happens some people will suffer. A moral response then has to mean more than picking a side, but working for reducing suffering of all. That could mean much more being spent on trans health care than is now, in the UK’s NHS as well as the US system.

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        • Thank you.
          Type 1- reject a true null hypothesis: false positive, believe findings are significant when in fact they occur by chance. Make unnecessary changes.
          Type 2- accept a false null hypothesisL false negative, believe findings not significant, when they really are. Preserve the status quo, when you should change.
          That is what a p value shows: p=0.05 means a 5% chance that the apparently significant finding comes from chance. Assigning p, you balance risks of type 1 v type 2.

          Liked by 1 person

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