Much of the detransition experience is similar to the transitioner’s. Both find solidarity with people undergoing the same thing, and allies, both find opponents, chiefly online. Both might dislike their bodies and think that some process will make their body acceptable. Both want to be themselves, and find the stereotypes imposed by ordinary society oppressive. We should be allies. Why are we not, and what might be done about this?
Some of the most vocal allies of F-M-F detransitioners are anti-trans campaigners. They think detransitioners are proof that transition is wrong, and that sexism prevents young women accepting themselves when they don’t fit gender stereotypes. Some detransitioners, such as Keira Bell, enthusiastically join with that group. Others, like Ky Schevers, find it oppressive. The strongest analogy for transitioners is those who give us grudging acceptance, but want to police our bodies- the cis person who wants to know whether you have had genital surgery. In both cases, it’s all about them. The policers prove their tolerance, when they are phobic, by tolerating us if we have had surgery. The anti-trans campaigners want to use detransitioners in their campaigns. Both groups seek to define us.
Both transitioners and detransitioners see happiness or fulfilment at the end of a physical process- medical transition, or detransition. Where physical reversion is impossible, detransitioners may blame their unhappiness on the medical interventions they had- the woman who has to shave her face and worries about thinning hair, the man with breasts needing a binder. I would be happy if-. Both undergo long stressful processes most people would never undergo and can’t really understand, in an attempt to fit in as their true selves in society.
Both find medical care patchy and doctors and therapists obstructive or ignorant.
Even when we are different, we are different in the same ways. Both transitioners and detransitioners include some people who just want to live their lives quietly, and others who want to campaign. Both groups include some who think only their path is right- the transmedicalist who thinks only those who desire genital surgery are truly trans, and the detransitioner who thinks no-one should transition- and some who see it is hard to be gender non-conforming, and those who are should stick together, and accept each others’ different ways of coping.
Both groups are trying to find a way to live in a gendered world. We should be allies.
Both groups have had horrible experiences separate from being trans. How could you not sympathise with Y, an Asian-heritage lesbian, when she writes,
the decade of sexual abuse and misogyny I endured from my step-father made me truly hate being a girl… I still have nightmares of those years that wake me up, heart racing and on the verge of tears, in the middle of the night.
I am less sure what to say about her allegation of “casual racism and fetishization” in the trans community, except that racism is endemic in Western society, and allegations of racism are thrown around by trans and anti-trans groups to discredit the other side, rather than primarily to correct racism.
Y socially transitioned aged 14, and first took hormones aged 21. She says she passed as a cis male, and I don’t know what to make of that. Possibly it is because Asian people are even more strongly gender stereotyped than whites. When she was considering top surgery she put it off for months, in emotional turmoil, until she found community on the detrans reddit and lost all her old support group, who accused her of being brainwashed by TERFs or having internalised transphobia.
Well, of course she has internalised transphobia. We grow up in a transphobic society. I don’t think she was brainwashed by TERFs, though. She wanted to make sense of who she was, and how she could be herself and be happy as herself, but in her moment of maximum confusion the trans community rejected her.
She talks of her dysphoria. She has particular ideas about how it can be addressed, in a healthy way, and she says use of surgery or hormones is false ideology. She says she is “also an artist, pet owner, eldest daughter, trivia geek, and frappe lover”- that is, her transition and detransition processes are mostly over, and she is able to give energy to other things. Many post-transition people could say the same.
For me, greater recognition of nonbinary identity and nonbinary pathways among the trans community would help us to integrate with each other, better, rather than with campaigners who want to use us for their own ideology. Someone who wants top surgery, someone who thought s/he did but finds the idea revolting, someone who had it and regrets it, and someone who had it and feels fulfilled should be able to come together and see what unites them and their interests is so much greater than what drives them apart.
We should reject those cis who want to use us for their own ends.
We have gender dysphoria. We cope with it as best we may. We try to live as our true selves despite societal hostility. We must find a way to solidarity.