Experimenting with trans

What is happening when teenagers say they are trans, and then a few years later say they aren’t?

Possibly, they are really trans but societal transphobia is so bad that they have gone into denial again. The relentless opposition of parents may be insurmountable. The desistance myth, that they are in some way “cured”, that they have regained a healthy sense of self, is part of that transphobia.

What does “really trans” mean? Compare “really gay”. Some men are attracted to other men. Society calls them “gay”. From vilification and prosecution in 1966, there has been increasing tolerance from mainstream society and gay pride pushing boundaries, asserting gay men’s right to be who they are. Some people are born gay. Some people are bisexual. Most people are straight. And prisons alter that narrative, for some people choose to have sex with other prisoners, who were straight on the outside. Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian ideas of what same sex love or sex was don’t fit, either.

There’s a mostly accepted concept of “really gay”, so that people identify as gay, are seen as gay, are accepted as gay, share stories of knowing they were gay as young children. Teachers say they can spot them young, too. Conversion therapy is going to be made illegal.

There is some conception of “really trans” which fits some of that: knowing when young, having particular attitudes to your body. I fit that. I despised my body. I felt detached from it, as if I were a separate intellect. Then I transitioned, and I love my body, I feel it is me. Transition cured the detachment. Yet, there is fierce opposition to making anti-trans conversion therapy illegal. What if the trans identity is a delusion, and the person can be made comfortable in their birth sex, which some would call their real sex? There is even the allegation that transition is anti-gay conversion therapy: gay men transition to female and are thereby “converted” to being straight. ICD 11 says trans is not a medical condition, but many people have not got the memo.

The “detransition voices” website would have you believe trans is a poisonous myth. Rachel was born in 1990, came out as lesbian aged 22, having been molested by her father when she was four. She was homeschooled into repressive Christianity, with strict gender roles. She was raped four times, the first when she was 14.

She identified as trans aged 22, and detransitioned five years later, having taken testosterone. Now, she calls transition running away from Patriarchy and its oppression of her female self, a quick fix. It was a fantasy, it failed, she had to cope with reality, to “deal with my shit on my own”.

The detrans voices site recommends Lisa Marchiano in Quillette, who writes an easy morality tale of Carl Jung. Aged 12 he was shoved to the ground by another child, and hit his head on the pavement. Later he wrote, “The thought flashed through my mind: ‘Now you won’t have to go to school anymore’.” He started having fainting spells, which felt real to him but doctors could find nothing wrong. He had a six month “picnic”. Then he overheard his father say, “What will become of the boy if he cannot earn his own living?” Jung called this “the collision with reality”.

I met a woman who may have been like that. After a car accident aged about 12, she was still an invalid in her early twenties. Her immigrant husband by arranged marriage was her full time carer. The doctors could find nothing wrong with her. Seeing his complete subjugation, we called him “Mr Bibi”.

Marchiano says trans is “victim culture”, a way of avoiding our fate by imagining ourselves sick. Her answer is the Stoic Marcus Aurelius’: “I am rising for the work of man”. There is a happy ending- people taking control of their lives and finding health and energy- but there is also a living Hell, for those who persist as seeing themselves as victims. It’s a neat moral for Quillette: the poor have themselves to blame, the rich are meritocrats.

In your teens you find who you are. This shocks parents and the old: sometimes, what the young come up with is entirely new. Death and birth is how human culture advances. Why not try on a number of identities, to find which one fits? If gender stereotypes do not fit, that does not mean that you are trans, but exploring that identity to see if it fits might help you know yourself better. Rachel found absolute clarity about what she did not want. Someone else might tease apart the various strands in this concept of trans, and find some work for them, some don’t. Nonbinary is more capacious, variable to fit the individual. Surgery becomes an option rather than the obvious course of action for someone who fits the trans box. Experimenting is how we find things out.

If someone identifies as a “desister”, they might look with horror on the trans community, and be glad that they have escaped medicalisation into loving their bodies, genders and whole selves. If they see themselves as having experimented, they will be grateful to others who experimented alongside them, all working to find out who we are. If this is impossible, that is because of society’s extreme transphobia.

Detransitioners

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.

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. Added: Checking back in 2021, there is little left.

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.

April 2021: Their twitter account was suspended for breaking twitter rules. Charlie Evans also ceased to tweet. Their website, detransadv.com, is no longer active, and it all seems to have collapsed.

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.