Ky Schevers

Ky Schevers compares trans men detransitioning into “gender critical” circles to the “ex-gay” movement. Having spent time with them, and transitioned to male again, he says they are harmful both to trans people and detransitioners. He has written some perceptive Medium posts about his experiences. Any human being might recognise the tension between seeking acceptance from others, and being proudly who you are, which for trans people is particularly fraught.

At times I have needed to say different things about myself, and wanted different affirmation from others. Before I committed to transition, I wanted to, yet was too frightened, and I read up on “autogynephilia”, and told myself my desires were unreal. Then I decided I would transition, and joined Transsexual UK, a Yahoo group. There my desire to transition was affirmed, though it was nastily transmedicalist- not just the clear desire for hormones and surgery, but the implication that those who did not want surgery were perverts or transvestites and we should distance ourselves from them. And all the time I have wanted affirmed just for me, for who I am.

Since the March lockdown I have been powerfully affirmed here, Saturdays at 11am GMT. It is a space for everyone, not just trans, where we can show ourselves.

Ky transitioned female to male, then detransitioned, and joined gender critical groups. They would affirm him if he asserted that he was a woman, that being butch was fine but saying that it was in any way “masculine” was wrong, because that was a way some women were and all women were allowed to be if they wanted to. He used his strong gifts for thinking, analysis and writing on a wordpress blog which is now deleted. His crashchaoscats tumblr is now “Hemp Life Mag- CBD reviews, news and guides”, with no obvious indication it has ever been a detransition blog.

As a F-M-F detransitioner, part of his belief system was that he had undertaken a terrible act of self-harm caused by “transgender ideology”, and it was important to him to shield others for similar harm. His “Open letter to Julia Serano” remains, shared by another on facebook, and I copied it to a word document which I retain. He wrote to Julia, a powerful transadvocate,

I see these young women, lesbian and otherwise, finally find other women they can relate to, who also feel out of place in this society, who don’t fit the patriarchal myths and I watch them grow proud of being female, being a woman. It has been beautiful to watch and amazing to be a part of so many women’s healing.

You can choose to listen to us and change how you talk about us or you can keep repeating the same misinformation. In case you do choose to listen, I’ve included some links to other detransitioned women’s blogs and videos. In any case, we will keep speaking our truths because even if you’re not listening, a lot of women are and they need to hear what we have to say.

There it is. Beautifully articulate, powerfully expressed, definite, and he would say now completely wrong. Or at least if right for anyone not right for him. I wrote about him at the time.

There has to be a better way. As he says, people who transition and detransition have a lot in common with people who are transitioning or want to, or who have transitioned. It would be so much better if they could be in community together for mutual support. And yet they are pitched against each other, forced to argue that the other groups are deluded and perhaps that they personally have been in the past.

I want a Gender Variant community, of people who recognise that gender stereotypes do not fit them, and support any way of coping with that- living against the stereotypes, living with a particular presentation such as “butch”, having surgery- because we recognise what we have in common. I don’t know it is possible. Too many people are invested in their own way and want to save others from different, wrong, paths. There is a strong taboo in the wider community against body alteration- some people even condemn tattoos, piercings, or rhinoplasties, leave alone what we have done. He says,

People also need spaces where they can freely explore how their sense of gender may have been shaped by trauma and/or living in a homophobic transphobic patriarchy without being pressured to adopt a particular identity or interpretation of their experiences.

Ky now feels he was exploited by people with their own axes to grind- conservative Evangelicals who claim gender variance is a sin encouraged by feminism, parents of trans people who are disgusted by their children’s desires and encourage each other to oppose them, or conversion therapists who want to make money from them. “Ideologically motivated detransition is conversion therapy,” he says. We want to be accepted in community, because we are social beings, and so we seek out their conditional acceptance. But,

People invested in transphobic ideologies have no interest in helping detransitioned people heal because they want to frame transitioning as being as damaging as possible.

I needed to sort out who I was as opposed to what I had become in order to belong to the community.

Now, he says, it is “surreal” to accept himself as a trans man and lose that community. “I still care about a lot of detransitioned women but I no longer feel like I can be close to them.” How could he, when he sees them as perpetrating the same harms? Could he just be with them, without trying to fix each other? Could we each accept that my path is right for me now, and just because it is different to your path does not mean either is wrong? Could we support each other in such different choices? We need an identity, and feel such confusion when that identity changes- I thought I was a “man”, and now see I am a trans woman. An answer might be to cling less tightly to a rigid conception of that identity, but that troubles straight people and raises our internalised self-phobia.

He feels terribly guilty.

I betrayed the trans community by adopting and promoting transphobic views and creating material that was then picked up and used by other anti-trans groups. I betrayed the detrans community by coming out as trans, leaving the community and talking openly about how detransitioning hurt me. I further betray them by naming the harm done by the detrans community [including Keira Bell.]… The thing I’m really trying to figure out is how do I take responsibility for my past actions and do what I can to fix the damage? … I don’t want to harm others, even unintentionally… Those transphobic ideas harmed me but they also motivated me to speak and act in ways that harmed other trans people as well.

He has been writing. It is his skill. It is powerful stuff, and anyone interested should read him and engage with him, trans people, allies, and those he says are exploiters.

He is vulnerable. Not for the first time,

I am dismantling who I once was and still figuring out who I want to be now.
I’m working to heal from the damage of trying to erase an important part of myself.
I was in pain and I wanted it to stop.

The exploiters should have pity on us, but they too have their needs and identities to protect. I will have pity on him. Ky, you were seeking community and seeking to understand yourself in a blizzard of conflicting interpretations, anger, contempt and fear. You did your best to help others and find community. I will not blame you for anything you did, however mistaken you now feel it was.

These are Ky’s three Medium posts:
Detransition as conversion therapy: a survivor speaks out.
What is ideologically motivated detransition?
Moving between worlds deciding what to do next.

Falsehoods on detransition

A trans man commented on twitter that of 22,725 trans people operated on, only 62 regretted the operation, and only 22 of those “changed gender identity”- I think he means detransitioned. So I asked him where he got the information. He referred me to this article from PRS Global Open, the International Open Access Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr Sara Danker and others wrote to about 150 surgeons who had registered for the WPATH or USPATH, World or US Professional Association for Transgender Health, and asked them how many patients they had treated, and how many patients had regretted their transition or sought detransition care. 46 surgeons responded, and they had seen between them about 22,725 patients. 49% of respondents (I don’t know how it could be other than 50% or 48%) had never encountered such a patient. 12 surgeons had had one patient, the rest had encountered more, and the total was 62. 13 regretted chest surgery. 45 regretted genital surgery. 16 trans men, 37 trans women, and six nonbinary people sought detransition, a total of 59.

22 said their gender identity had changed. Eight said they were rejected by family and social support, and seven said they had difficulty in romantic relationships. Of the trans women, seven had vaginal stenosis (shrinking of the orifice, which is unsurprising. If you regret surgery you won’t dilate as much), two had rectovaginal fistulae- holes between their rectum and their vagina- and three had chronic genital pain. Two trans men had a urethral fistula and one had a urethral stricture.

If I detransitioned, I probably would not seek further genital surgery. Any surgery would have a risk of reducing sexual sensitivity even further. If I could afford it, I consider a hydraulic penis would be a poor substitute for the original. If I had a fistula, which sounds appalling, I would not go back to the surgeon who had originally performed the surgery, whether it was his fault or not.

To check the figures, I would want to know the incidence of recto-vaginal fistulae in post-operative trans women. If the incidence was greater than 0.0088% then I would not trust the incidences given here of regret or of other problems. I’m blogging. No sooner written than done: I googled “recto-vaginal fistula in transgender” and found this study, where 1082 trans women had 25 fistulae between them- that’s 2.3%.

I don’t trust the three in 20,000 figure for pain either. A trans psychotherapist, Iore M Dickey, says trans people experience higher rates of chronic pain. I would not go back to a plastic surgeon for pain relief.

I don’t trust this study. I have no idea how many trans people have transitioned or detransitioned. The Detransition Advocacy Network don’t give figures. Fantasist Walt Heyer, who has made a career of speaking and writing against transition after he reverted, claims “up to 20%” regret, but “up to” makes the “20%” meaningless. He writes of being “safe in the arms of Jesus”, to attract the batshit Evangelical market, and writes for The Federalist.

62 regretters out of 20,000 operations. Would that it were so. I regret my operation, and say so repeatedly, though I am not going to revert. I consider I had the operation because of social pressure, and it would be better for trans people to find a way of enjoying sex with the genitals they have rather than have them altered. I consider trans people are mostly glad of transition, and if some people regret, enough benefit that it should not be made difficult. It would be good to have the figures of those who benefit, but that short article is not it.

Hendrick ter Brugghen, ladies and gentlemen, follower of Caravaggio. The painting of fabric is exquisite, especially the clothes of the bagpiper, and the command of light and darkness follows the master well- in execution, but not in subject. He could not paint Judith like Caravaggio did, though there is foul sexual power here, and strong antisemitism.

Detransitioners

Trans children will face more and more barriers to treatment unless there is a better way potential detransitioners can be protected from it.

My heart goes out to Max Robinson. She started T aged 16 and had chest masculinization aged 17 with parental consent, but by age 22 in 2018 identified as a woman, though her facial hair meant she is often seen as a man. Also in 2018, Carey Callahan claimed to have met seventy detransitioners, and corresponded with a further three hundred. The Detransition Advocacy Network does not give figures but claims to have local chapters around the world. Threateningly, they claim to campaign for “expansion of detransitioners’ … legal options”.

There is a great deal of sympathy for such people. JK Rowling and Julie Bindel among others have said that if they were aware children were transitioning, they might have wanted to. Max tells a common story: she was a happy tomboy until puberty, when she had awful experiences of being sexualised. Around 14 she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She explored gender identity on line, and convinced her parents who had been sceptical at first. Her therapist referred her to an endocrinologist, who she said was reluctant, but whom she persuaded. When she had the surgery which she now calls double mastectomy, “I was convinced it would solve a lot of my problems, and I hadn’t accurately named a lot of those problems yet”.

She did not feel happy in the trans scene. She had felt clarity of identity when she started hormones, and again when she had surgery, but that feeling receded. Possibly some unwise transitioners are fixated on the next point in their transition journey, when at last they will feel complete: but that completion never comes.

Ideally, I want trans children to get the treatment they need, but children who desire transition when it is wrong for them not to progress to hormones or surgery. There will be people in a grey area: there is such transphobia in society that even a child who is certainly trans may have periods of extreme discomfort, which may manifest as regret. I don’t know if, in a society without gender norms, people would transition or not. Gender norms have some basis in human nature: otherwise, my feminine sexuality, which I have had such difficulty accepting, would not have persisted.

At this point my relentless inner persecutor speaks up. Ah, it says, your mother accepted you were a pansy, she did not expect anything else of you, she only made you pretend to be a real boy. If you had been brought up as a real boy you would be presenting male now. I write this to show the contortions I go through even now, how hard it is to accept myself. I know I would be no happier detransitioned, but societal transphobia keeps my internalised transphobia simmering. If only it were not this hard!

Detransitioners say that it is too easy to get hormones and surgery, and there is insufficient exploration of their other issues. On exploration, I agree. I don’t want a trans child to wait any longer than necessary for treatment, but if there were more psychiatrists available there could be a more in-depth assessment and greater confidence that the decision was correct. WPATH says “Before any physical interventions are considered for adolescents, extensive exploration of psychological, family, and social issues should be undertaken.” Detransitioners say that does not happen in practice. I want to ensure that there are as few mistakes as possible, because otherwise there will be an outpouring of anger- against “trans ideology”, against trans people saying our experience of transition is a good thing, and against all trans treatment, including that which benefits actual trans people. Some will never believe there are true trans people, only seeing us as mutilated simulacra, and detransitioners angry about their mutilation will make such people more convinced.

Both detransitioners and trans people could agree that to avoid mistakes we need, not greater suspicion, gatekeeping and delay, but more intense diagnosis, and treatment of any mental health problems. Possibly a trans child will have a supportive family and no mental health problems, and can progress immediately to hormones. A psychiatrist could gain a better picture of a child from their family, and even their teachers. That needs more funding, but surely such an important decision, which could lead to a lifesaving transition and a fulfilled life in the true gender, is worth the money? The alternative is detransitioners and anti-trans campaigners in an unholy alliance, making treatment for children unavailable.

I want trans children to be able to find out about transition from trans people, but detransitioners see them too. Claire saw the youtube channel of Miles McKenna when she was twelve, and began to wonder if she was trans. She researched it, including looking into binders and hormones. She struggled with mental health problems, and this article by Jesse Singal clearly implies the distress was exacerbated by her investigation of trans. If only she could have been protected from trans ideology! Fortunately, by age 14 she is certain she is a girl.

How do parents and the general public find out about trans children? How do children find out- peers who we want to support and accept trans people, trans kids themselves, and potential detransitioners like Claire who felt she was trans before rejecting the idea. Singal blames the youtube algorithm.

We need proper diagnosis on a humane timescale. Psychiatrists will suffer for every trans diagnosis they make when the person detransitions. We need to be talking about protecting detransitioners too, or anti-trans campaigners will persuade the general public that transition is too risky for children.

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.

Detransition Advocacy Network

Trans people should be allies to detransitioners. They like us have problems with gender stereotypes. The Detransition Advocacy Network was launched on Saturday 30 November.

They say, We are a group of detransitioners and desisters who have either decided not to transition or have stopped transitioning. Currently, there are no organized places for us to go for support.

We’ve started an advocacy charity to support people like us. Our aims (for now) are simple and will be built open over the next few weeks.

– Build a support network.
– Connect detransitioners.
– Record our numbers.
– Provide resources from professionals covering legal and medical advice.

We are officially launching our charity in Manchester on the 30th November.

You can follow us on Twitter.

Mumsnet said they were a group of women (F-M-F). This isn’t clear from their sites. It fitted the launch event: Make More Noise will be hosting an event discussing the ethics of the social and medical transition of gender non-conforming women and girls.

Nutcase anti-women Christians “Life Site News” were breathlessly excited. People are encouraged, affirmed and assisted in “coming out” as transgendered, often without one word about the dangers of that path. Today, the politically correct response expected from adults, especially parents, is to affirm children and adults in their desired gender. But affirmation gives people false hope that they can really become a different sex. It is a lie.

They quoted Charlie Evans, founder of DAN, I’m in communication with 19 and 20-year-olds who have had full gender reassignment surgery who wish they hadn’t, and their dysphoria hasn’t been relieved, they don’t feel better for it. Another detransitioner said she felt shunned by the LGBT community for being a traitor. So I felt I had to do something.

Well, obviously they are not traitors for detransitioning. They tried it, dysphoria continued, they are trying something else. It would be good to know how many detransition.

I would like psychiatrists to have time to consider other mental health issues alongside gender dysphoria.

We change our bodies so we can be seen as we really are. I would like us to be accepted if we just change our clothes. Charlie could be a man or a masculine person, pronouns he/him, without any changes to his body. In that case a psychiatrist could say, you can have T and chest masculinisation when you like, but I would recommend you try expressing yourself male for a bit by clothes and style. Unfortunately with all the fear-mongering about trans people, “male-bodied” people in women’s spaces, that is very difficult.

I don’t think we find greater acceptance generally from society after body modification.

They say Our aims briefly are to provide a support service to all detransitioners and gender-nonconformists of both sexes, and regardless of ideology. We have a formal document we will share soon (though probably closer to our official launch date).

Here is their Twitter account.

There are people desperate for gender surgery who cannot get it, and people who have had it who regret it. We need a better answer than to make it more difficult to get, distressing the transitioning group.

For me that answer is a push for social acceptance for everyone who is gender variant: those who would never transition, those who transition socially but not physically, those who detransition, those who want surgery. None of us gain if any rights of gender variant people are ignored. And detransitioning physically is difficult and should be supported. Charlie is not a traitor but someone seeking to help others and have their experiences heard.

Charlie appeared in this radio programme. She marched at Pride with a sign saying “transgender ideology harms lesbians”, which is untrue. She claimed that gender variant people had welcome and acceptance in the radical feminist community, which at best is true; unfortunately some want to use them to campaign against transition, and prevent trans people getting the care and acceptance we need.

When gender variant people oppose each other we all suffer.

Homophobic transition

Does anyone transition male to female because of homophobia? Yes. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini made a fatwa that transition was ok and God accepted trans women, but in his understanding of Shi’ism gay men were executed. So some there have vaginoplasties so they will not be murdered by the State. Does it happen anywhere else? Do lesbians transition from lesbophobia?

Possibly in some isolated cases. The child J may have been transitioned by their mother. But a judge passed them to their father, and they appeared happy presenting male. The mother failed. Did she do it because he seemed gay to her? Who could say. You may know your orientation long before puberty.

But Christians would not prefer transition to same sex attraction. The pope, apparently cautiously liberalising to gay men in some limited circumstances is utterly opposed to transition, which he calls as bad as mass murder: “Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

I searched for “Christian view transgender” and the first result was the Christian Institute, whose critique of “transgender ideology” was creepily close to terf screeds. There is the same feigned concern for us: instead of providing transgender people with the support they need to help them embrace the bodies they were born with, society is compounding their confusion, with damaging consequences.

The Evangelical Alliance is less overtly nasty than they were in 2000 when I was transitioning. Their introduction talks of “nuance” and how all people “need to be loved”. But the hate does not take long to appear. Gender reassignment is self harm, contrasted with “finding your identity in Christ”, illustrated by the story of Tim, the son of a trans woman. Tim discovered that his Mum had known for 34 years that his Dad had been cross-dressing. They had been supported
by social and medical services for 19 years for mental health issues and trying, in their words, to find a cure. As Tim processed everything he felt angry – that the family had
been let down, not only by their Dad, but also by the support services who had never engaged with those who would be massively impacted by the decision.

Third in that search was “Focus on the Family”.

There are accepting individual congregations, but there is hostility throughout the church. No Christian accepts trans without also accepting gay.

What about secular views, or modern political liberalism? The allegation would have to be that people are more homophobic than transphobic. Homophobia is rife. So parents or teachers see a boy who does not fit cliche masculinity, and are so repulsed by the idea that he could grow up to be gay that they transition him instead.

Does that seem likely? No one would admit to it. So anyone supporting transition could be called homophobic, if the mere fact of supporting transition is enough to prove that to you.

Or look at the testimony of reverters. Sam Kane, when they first reverted, made a complaint against their psychiatrist. They were not transsexual they said. It had been a nervous breakdown. People revert for social pressure. Charles had lost male privilege, and found that unbearable. They are currently presenting male, having gone M-F-M-F-M.

Julia Grant, subject of a BBC documentary in the 1970s, told an MCC pastor “I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body”. She regretted surgery and hormones.

Transition is difficult. We still have dysphoria from the bare toleration and sometimes open hostility of others. After reverting, people can be angry.

Allegations about detransition are one of the principle weapons of those seeking to delegitimise trans people. There is a great deal of hostility. Stonewall, the campaigning gay rights organisation, is a trans ally. All figures will be disputed, but they cite research showing less than 1% of patients who accessed NHS support went on to detransition. Patients who never transitioned but just questioned their gender identity don’t “detransition”. Some people for whom transition would be wrong consider it.

When I transitioned I knew there was a possibility I would revert later, but knew the only way I could find that was to transition now. I desired it so intensely that if I didn’t I would be stuck. The hostility of society held me back longer than was good for me.

Other sites say some people detransition therefore trans is wrong. All sites are biased, pushing one view or another. Some people may transition then find it is not right for them, but that does not mean it is wrong for everyone.

We don’t know. All that is certain is that the argument that people transition for homophobia is transphobic as it seeks to delegitimise AFAB transitioners attracted to women, and AMAB transitioners attracted to men. Just possibly some may, but it means arguing that homophobia is generally stronger and more widespread than transphobia, which is simply not true.

Misogynist transition, the allegation that teenage “girls” transition because of harmful gender stereotypes, is an entirely different argument.

I read of a Tory threat to rename the Government Equalities Office the Ministry for Freedom. The only freedom it would defend would be the freedom to hate.

Re-transitioning

What would it be like, to transition male to female, revert, transition again and revert again? To be living presenting male after having two periods of several years expressing yourself female?

David transitioned in Toronto in the 1980s. He said his initial motivation was transvestite. How would he know? Transvestites, or cross dressers, might dress occasionally or compulsively for a sexual thrill, but the thrill wears off and they want to dress normally again. Yet he saw a gender clinic and was prescribed oestrogen. He must have had some diagnoscible signs of transsexualism.

It seemed to me that he was being self-deprecating about his motivations. Living female, one might be motivated to express the desire to do so in positive terms: I am expressing the real me, being authentic. Having reverted, the temptation is to see it as a mistake, an aberration.

He was recommended to have vaginoplasty, but is pleased he did not. However not having the operation may have made him feel a fraud, inauthentic in his female presentation, and that might have made it less comfortable. Then he met a female partner, and reverted so they could be together. Having the operation may make it harder to revert, as you have burned your boats and can no longer present male- even though you rarely show your crotch, you are aware of the absence.

Early this century he transitioned again, and spent a few years living female and taking hormones. Then he reverted again. Now he appears to talk about his experiences in a sweater, leggings and tight wedge-heeled boots which come to just below the knee. Boots over trousers, a look I love, is out of fashion. He has an androgynous look, towering over me in his high heels. He has a full head of hair, though not thick hair, cut short. I don’t know how he would dress most of the time, but wearing one or two items of women’s clothing while presenting mostly male or androgynous is brave. He has done the work of self-acceptance.

He sounds regretful and dissatisfied. Neither expressing female nor presenting male has been fulfilling for him. He had a reasonable career as an academic and, now retired, is a councillor.

I think he wanted to fit in, and found with his feminine character he could not fit in to his satisfaction with either presentation. He will experience less respect from others than more “manly” men, often. It’s still better to be yourself than to try to put on a front, and he may be able to be himself better as an androgynous male than as a trans woman.

He came to talk to Norwich Quakers at their listening meeting, to hear experiences of people supporting a change to gender recognition law. He was ambivalent. Having your gender change recognised four times would certainly be easier if only a statutory declaration was required, rather than all the paraphernalia of two years’ documentary evidence plus a specialist psychiatrist’s letter, but vacillating like this might indicate gender recognition was a bad thing, encouraging people to waste their lives chasing a chimera (I’m being devil’s advocate here).

Whereas I take his story as supporting gender recognition. It shows the strength of the compulsion to express female full time, despite the difficulties, and if society supports that with a simple system of gender recognition, it will be easier and lives will not be wasted in the effort of transition and reversion, and all the soul-searching that involves. Certainly he is nothing like the Terf bogeyman of a pervert signing a form to get access to women’s spaces.

Also at that meeting was a trans woman who transitioned aged 54. She has a male voice, her own hair, and does not think she passes but she is accepted, mostly. She says we are harmless. She told of her operation and hormones, and stood up for the Stonewall figure of 500,000 trans people. She admired my presentation, saying I passed much better. I enjoyed the compliment, and regret that we are judged in that way. I

And there was a lesbian who organises Norwich Pride, and was robust in her support for us.

I got the train to Peterborough and cycled home, arriving just before nine. I cycled in the dark on a busy road then a quiet road with steep up and down movements. It was horrible, but bearable- the mode of transport I can afford. In intermittent light rain I was still too hot in a t shirt, jeans and sandals. I am always hot exercising, and blame the effects of the hormones.

Social Pressure II

There are people. Some of them are assigned female at birth, AFAB, some are assigned male at birth, AMAB. Some of them are intersex, they matter too, and my friend was fair pleased to learn she was Klinefelter’s- she had two X chromosomes! But I am writing for people who fit “normal” sexual development but not gender stereotypes, and find this uncomfortable.

The gender stereotypes affect AFAB and AMAB differently. Women do most of the caring for children and dependents, most of the housework, get promoted less, get interrupted more.

The stereotypes are rigid in childhood, enforced by toyshops and peers.

Many people don’t conform to those, perhaps most. “Patriarchy” is the concept that society is configured in the interests of the dominant males. Depending on personality, some people are happy in their own skin and happy not to conform- the boy who does ballet, the girl who plays rugby. Some try to conform, until that becomes unbearable. There is a spectrum, so some only differ a little from the stereotype, some differ a lot.

Some people are homosexual, some heterosexual, some bisexual. I don’t say “gay” and “straight” because, while there are men attracted to men, “gay” is a particular way of conceptualising that.

When you don’t conform, there are different ideas on how you can conceptualise yourself and your relation to the wider society, including “trans”, “non-binary” and “gender-non-conforming”. Non-conforming AFABs are not merely soft, non-conforming AMABs are soft, so there are differences in how they respond. Radical feminists can be very angry.

Each person is an individual, so no-one precisely fits those boxes; the boxes are fuzzy enough to include different people.

There is social pressure on the person who does not fit, to be trans. The wider society understands that, so if you are gender-diverse they may think you are trans and get confused if you are not. A GP once told me that one of the GP’s main tasks is to protect patients from specialists, who want to do stuff- and surgeons had the brilliant idea of implanting a womb in Lili Elbe, killing her by organ rejection. Surgeons busily remove wombs and gonads, and alter the appearance of bodies.

Many AMAB find dressing as women arousing. There are taboos against being visibly or discernably aroused in public and these extend to being cross-dressed.

Some people may have a physical sex dysphoria, and would want their organs altered even if there were no gender stereotypes. We can’t know. However, transition provides a relatively comfortable place for some people. I am happier transitioned than I was before, and I realised, before, that even if in five years’ time I was trying to make a go of life presenting male again, transition was the route I had to take to get there.

Because transition is a relatively comfortable place, I want transition, including physical alteration, to remain possible for people. I would also like people to feel accepted in their assigned sex, as gender non-conforming as they wish. I feel both groups are similar people with similar problems, and a similar interest in social acceptance of the widest possible gendered behaviour, for both genders. If I feel I want to do something which is particularly masculine I say “Today I am non-binary” and do it. This is liberating.

However, where there is social pressure to conform, the interests of each appear to be in opposition. Non-transitioners may feel pressured to transition, the “acceptable” way of being non-conforming. Transitioners may feel pressured not to, as transition is seen as harmful by social conservatives and radical feminists alike.

I want both choices to be accepted, but I take a side in the debate. Those who transition may see themselves as a class apart, really transsexual, AMABs who are really women, AFABs who are really men. It is not a choice of a particular course of action, it is the choice to recognise and affirm rather than suppressing who they really are. I say it is a choice. Yes, they really are naturally very far from the stereotype, but that does not mean they really are the other gender. I don’t accept theories of brain sex to justify transition, and ideas of a feminine soul or two-spirit are myths, stories to say why transition feels comfortable, appropriate, or the most desirable thing in the world, rather than a rigorous scientific this therefore that hypothesis. If it is generally thought that transition is a choice, it will be less acceptable.

Scientific studies are fraught. How many children detransition? Can you tell which trans kids will definitely want to transition as adults, and prevent their wrong puberty? People with a particular interest fight over the methodology and conclusions. Particularly, what should be the default when we don’t know? Why should it be that a trans child must undergo an assigned sex puberty, making transition later more difficult?

Some people detransition because of social pressure. Society forces them back in the closet. Some find a way to self-acceptance that does not involve presenting as the opposite sex.

Yes, it is a choice, but a choice made by oppressed people between unattractive options: given that you don’t fit the stereotype, you can pretend to fit it, live openly not fitting it, or transition. It is easier not to conform if you are comfortable in your own skin, but not everyone is, and people who face this choice often aren’t. Social Justice Warriors who want everyone to self-actualise, be valued, and reach their full potential should be very careful what they say. Social conservatives who value order and conformity should back the fuck off.

Social pressure

Do people transition because of social pressure? How could you know?

Now, I identify as a pansy, a feminine male. Before transition, I felt social pressure to conform to standards of masculinity, but I was aware of “transsexuals”. I felt liberated when I could express myself as Clare. In May 2000, I decided to transition. That decision lasted less than a week: I went to the local TV/TS group and sat with the TSs. None of them had jobs. They seemed miserable. They did not seem to pass particularly well. I thought I could not do it. Then at another group I found trans women who seemed to be able to make a go of life, and in November 2000 I decided to transition. I transitioned in April 2002, and still express myself as female. I have no plans to revert.

As I understood it at the time, there were two kinds of people with a Y chromosome who dressed as women. There were transvestites, who did it for sexual kicks, and transsexuals, who did it because they were really women. TVs were perverts, ridiculous and disgusting, but TSs had a medical condition, and were not to be condemned. I did not feel able to express my feminine self as a man, so the alternative was to transition. I wanted to transition, so I was TS.

In the Northern Concord, of those who did not proclaim themselves TS, there were still people who were like blokes down the pub who happened to be dressed strangely, and some very feminine types. I was friendly with the latter, and some later transitioned.

I wanted sex reassignment surgery. I paid for it. Now, I believe that I had it because of social pressure, because it was part of my understanding of what a transsexual was. Some of that pressure came from the transsexual support group, but also from cis folk, who talked of a “sex change”. Now, many who transition full time do not have SRS. We are “Trans”, which includes cross-dressers. We can make our own path within Trans, rather than being classified as one or the other of TV/TS.

There may be social pressure to identify as trans:

I discussed that article in detail. The mother finds professionals and others surprised that her daughter is not trans- there is social pressure- but mother and daughter are resisting it. It does not show that people transition because of social pressure, that someone comfortable with gender non-conforming behaviour will transition, and certainly not that anyone who could conform to the cis gender stereotype would feel any pressure to transition. It also supports the cisnormative default: the girl is thought to be trans, because she is not like girls are supposed to be. But she could still fit social expectations if she were trans, confirming how girls and boys are different- though the mother writes of others’ surprise, not disapproval. The gender non-conformist who refuses to transition is the real social pariah.

Talk of “social pressure” implies that we are in some way unfree, unfulfilled or prevented from self-actualisation. I would say that I felt I could be more myself if I conformed to the concept of the transsexual woman, so I leapt at the chance. Cisnormativity creates transgender: I would not have needed to transition had I been able to live as a flamboyant pansy, still male. (“Been” able or felt able? Social pressure was too strong for me.)  That is, there is social pressure on the gender non-conforming person to satisfy societal expectations, either by conforming to gender expectations of their sex or by transitioning.

Aged 51, I feel more able to resist social pressure, but possibly I am just ignored. I cycled to the station and took off my wig, unable to bear it. “You need a pair of long earrings,” said that woman. Um. Probably strong makeup too. There is an acceptable look for bald women, but it certainly is not my male pattern baldness, with hair thick round the back and sides but wispy or absent on top. I am paranoid about that even though I shave the sides.

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I tried that line on a trans activist facebook group. Cisnormativity creates transgender. One said Dysphoria is an emotional response to the gender variation of self, which may be a misunderstanding. Cisnormativity creates the idea that a boy should be “boyish”, and grow up to be “manly”. But it may be a disagreement. She is really a woman, she thinks. Another said she observed in children aged 2 or 3 distress at possessing a penis. I find it disturbing that the child, who is allowed to dress as a girl, should know that penis=boy, and not wholly credible without some parental pressure, but she believes that.

How you see it depends on your theory. I say we- transitioners, detransitioners, closeted people, open gender non-conformists, are all the same, all people who do not fit gender stereotypes, who respond to the difficulties that causes in different ways. She says she is a woman with a trans history, yes, really a woman. How you behave depends on your theory. I might not have transitioned had I not believed I really was transsexual. Later, I realised the question which mattered was “Will I be happier if I transition?”- what do I want to do, rather than who am I or what is my fundamental nature. I resisted transition, imagining I was not really TS: thinking I was autogynephilic instead. I say “non-binary” is a freedom-word, a claim I make when I want to act in a particular way, not a separate way of being human as bi or gay is. Different people might argue we are all NB, or all trans, or all GNC, and would act differently because of their theory. Which word you choose may either retrospectively justify your desire, or alter the way you express that desire. The way you do not fit stereotypes may be minimal or extreme, and how much that distresses you will differ.

It is not just we who debate these things. The doctors, and the wider society, debate them too. Some people, not personally affected, argue for what they think is good for the individual, some for the wider society, having different ideas of what it means to be man, woman, human. Ignorant people have strong opinions. Should people have access to cross-gender hormones and surgery? Should society repress gender non-conformity as a perversion, or only permit it to be expressed in a particular way? We can’t make our decisions isolated from the wider conversation, and we may be angry with people trying to push us into a path, or an understanding of the phenomenon, when it’s not the one we want.

On another trans group, person after person anticipates or celebrates their SRS. That I feel now I had it because of social pressure does not mean that anyone else did. For some dysphoria means a loathing of the body because it does not fit the person, which is cured by surgery.

All this is an introduction to the article in The Stranger, and particular responses to it.

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Katie Herzog wrote an article, The Detransitioners: They Were Transgender, Until They Weren’t. Julia Serano and others responded, Katie Herzog wrote again, woundedly saying she was only a journalist reporting people’s stories and experts’ opinions, and Julia Serano wrote again. Briefly, I feel the problem is that people want to make their own decisions- transition, detransition, surgery, hormones, behaviour- but feel that expressed opinions about others’ decisions may make their own more difficult. As Serano writes,  trans communities are highly aware of how notions of “social contagion,” “trendsgender,” and “cisgender people being turned transgender because of peer pressure” are routinely used by those who wish to rollback transgender rights and access to healthcare. We won’t get hormones if others are simply gender non-conforming and public pressure says taking cross-gender hormones is icky, they will not permit it.

But then I say we don’t make our decisions free of public pressure. We may feel that pressure in different ways, as there is no consensus. Detransitioners, social conservatives and TERFs say Transition is Bad. Social liberals recognise that men have been dressing as women since Deuteronomy and probably long before, and there is a tradition of trans surgery going back to Lili Elbe. Depending on the circles we move in or what we read, different options present themselves to us, and what attracts us to one rather than the other may be luck or chance.

Serano has also written, stop pitting detransitioners against happily transitioned people. Yes. We’re the ones who have to live with our non-conformity. We share a lot of common interests. We should strive to minimize unwanted irreversible changes, she says. Of course. But when I so badly wanted SRS in 2003, I did not know I would regret it later.

This is long enough already. I may come back to these articles. I want us all to be able to make whichever decisions feel right for us, to deal with gender issues- but we cannot do that in a vacuum, as if there were no social pressure. It is continued: Social Pressure II.

How feminine is Clémentine-Hélène Dufau’s portrait of Maurice Rostand!

Sam Kane

Not only am I a real woman; I would go even further to say that a transgender woman has more claim to womanhood than a “biological” woman.

A transgender woman has reached womanhood by the arduous path of achievement rather than by accident of nature. Those who climb Mount Everest have a greater claim to winning that peak than someone accidentally dropped there by helicopter.

Sam Kane has been interviewed in the Daily Mail again. I wish she would stop digging. “I have had it harder than cis women have” is not a winning argument. Some cis women feel they are dropped in a jungle to fend for themselves without proper training or defensive equipment, when these trans women appear to be on safari, as a holiday.

You don’t know how hard other people have had it. Consider my friend, enraged at men pressing her for sex from the age of 13, and not feeling able to say “I just don’t fancy you” because she is socialised into being accommodating, though her evasions are taken as a personal insult. “Only ‘I have a boyfriend’ was an acceptable excuse, because then you were someone else’s property”.

“Now, I intimidate men,” she said without a smile.

Sam: I met people at transsexual clubs who kept saying how fantastic it was to be a woman and how happy they were, and I thought it would be the solution to all my problems.

We went to different clubs, obviously. I met people who said how hard it was, but with determination and a lot of work they might just manage. When I transitioned, I thought my employer would find some pretext to sack me and I went ahead anyway.

Sam Kane, who has transitioned M-F-M, with vaginoplasty, then some sort of operation to create an “approximation” of male genitalia, has now transitioned back, but does not feel she needs further surgery. Does it really matter what’s “down there?” What’s in your head, heart and soul only matters. Well, that is the fashion. We all had The Operation back then, now increasing numbers don’t. And we object to journalists prying and disclosing what is between our legs, in prurient, sly, giggly articles for Daily Mail readers to get shocked or turned on over. Their very headline says she had her male organs removed in an operation.

The fast cars, the yachts, the competition to have the prettiest or the youngest girlfriends — it was all a theatre, a charade to fit into this male club I never really wanted to join. From childhood I felt female, but I was ambitious and the two were always in conflict, so I became almost a caricature of what a “real” man is expected to be.

Mmm. The job below my ability, because just living was difficult, the isolation because I was always pretending, the shame and discomfort and not fitting in my own skin- I too feel she is on safari. No-one has it easy as trans, and it is not always easier after transition, and I really want to sympathise with her struggles, pain and difficulty- but she alienates me.

During her marriage breakdown, Sam first thought himself bisexual then started to question gender identity. Some would query late onset, and say aha, they is not true trans. Not me. For me, being trans is made so difficult by society that if you claim you are trans, you are. But this line encourages the haters, like Jenni Murray quoted here: “simply choosing to become a woman”, as if it were a whim.

This is the bit I hate her for. Like many transgender women, I tried to turn myself into an ultra-feminine, perfect woman. I was trying to live up to the feminine ideal, so I wore sexy clothes and make-up. I learned how to walk and talk a certain way. I just wanted to be accepted. Like many trans women, I schlep around in jeans much of the time, even without makeup. I express myself feminine because I am feminine. Often, I have to defend myself against the allegation that my femininity is an act. I do not express myself so feminine because I feel that is how women should be, but because I am this feminine. We all “just want to be accepted” but being publicly trans, writing a book about her struggles, may not be the best way. Some will see her as courageous, some as ridiculous. Find the people who accept you, and ignore the rest.

She detransitioned because she wanted accepted by her family, but found she was not accepted as a feminine male by clients and peers. No-one is accepted by everyone. If people can wind you up by referring derisively to your masculinity or femininity, they will. The only way to survive is not to get wound up. As Charles, he went to his son’s wedding. It was very civilised. Everyone was very welcoming and no one said anything unpleasant, but I felt like an embarrassment and it hurt.

That begins to make me sympathise again. She is so sensitive!

I want to walk barefoot on the grass in the sunshine, but there is gravel between the front door and the lawns. I walk gingerly over the gravel, and it makes me think of the Little Mermaid, whose every step on dry land was like walking on knives. Yes, it is painful- but the pain is not the only thing, there is so much beauty! Our sensitivity is a burden and a delight, we are easily hurt but easily delighted, and we can sympathise with others, entering their woes and joys. You need to learn to be sensitive to your own sensitivity. Even now, I don’t think she gets it.

She has it hard. Someone pointed to her and asked, “Is that a real woman?” The next thing I knew, a fist was flying through the air and I ended up with a broken nose. The provocation is merely existing. We all have our stories like that.

Yet she is following her own desires again: Do you think I would have gone through all this suffering and sacrifice if there wasn’t something inside so strong telling me I am woman? The whole notion that a transgender woman is not a real woman is false. We are not talking about castrated males, or gay men in drag, we are not fakes. That would not convince my friend. She would accept the conviction, but say “woman” is physical, not emotional, so Sam is not a woman. As for me, I want to be treated as a woman. I want allowances made for my inability to present male, as allowances are made for disabilities. But insisting “I am a real woman” just encourages the haters.

Many mock, and she lays herself open to that. The quotes are taken from a Daily Mail article. Don’t give them clicks, it only encourages them.

I read somewhere that she had had her fake penis removed shortly after that article was published. In August 2019, though, I notice their barrister website is referring to them as “Charles” again.