mental health

“Psychology suggests that only after healing yourself can you begin to heal the world. We disagree. People do not have to be perfectly functioning, self-actualized human beings in order to create social change. Think of the lesbians and feminists you know who have been influential in the world, and who have worked hard and effectively for social justice: have they all loved and accepted themselves?”

– Celia Kitzinger and Rachel Perkins, Changing Our Minds: Lesbian Feminism and Psychology 

I am so tired of people assuming that I believe “better” therapists (or therapeutic guidelines) are the solution to the existence of women who stop transition. It’s a reflexive defanging of my actual position, which has often already been clearly stated: I am deeply hostile to the concept of paying a professional to act as an authority figure regarding my inner life. Avoiding therapists has done me an awful lot more good than going near them ever did. I read Changing Our Minds recently, a book by two lesbians trained as psychologists, which argues that the whole concept of psychology contradicts many aspects of lesbian feminist politics. It was incredibly insightful and I really, really recommend it to any women curious about the details of the positions I’m talking about in this post.

From a section titled Therapy Is Wrong:

Therapy is taking over our everyday lives as lesbians. Although we have criticized many individual therapists and therapists in this chapter, our main objective has been to point out that the very idea of therapy is wrong. We do not think the situation is improved by ‘ethical guidelines’ for therapists, however efficiently these are enforced, because we think therapy in and of itself is a fundamentally unethical enterprise… if something is bad, it doesn’t become ‘good’ just because more people have access to it. The fundamental problem is not the abuses some therapists perpetrate, nor the racist, classist, and able-minded conditions of access to therapy (although all those things are problems too). The fundamental problem is the nature of therapy itself.

We would like lesbians to know the difference between therapy and feminism (even if they sometimes still choose therapy). We would like lesbians to believe that most of us, most of the time, are strong and capable human beings who do not need to be ‘cured’…and that on those occasions when we are not strong and capable, we are- or should be, could be- able to take care of each other. To the extent that we are not, that is an indictment of our movement.”

I agree with this. I know others who say they’ve benefited from therapy, and I’m not arguing that they didn’t. At its best, therapy resembles friendship, and some friendships are incredibly helpful, but being licensed as a counselor of some kind in no way guarantees that someone is capable of helping another person. I suspect that the people who’ve gotten a lot out of therapy would have gotten even more from an actual friendship with that same therapist, on equal footing. Providing support to each other should be a primary function of community. Outsourcing our needs might feel very necessary, and on an individual scale, I wouldn’t fault any woman for feeling the need to do so. On a broader scale, though, relying on paid professionals to help us takes away part of what drives us to work together, and can easily cause us to personalize what we face- to the exclusion of politicizing it.

Another one of the ideas in this book that really got me was that, in many ways, how we feel isn’t always necessarily that important, and eternally turning inward to try and resolve the problems you see as personal can be considered an action that runs contrary to feminist beliefs.

“When I first heard . . . that Gloria Steinem didn’t have self-esteem, my reaction was: “Who cares? Look what she’s done with her life! It’s the life that matters in the end.”

– C. Sternhell, as quoted in Changing Our Minds

I was floored when I read this. It had never occurred to me to question the inherent importance of constantly examining every detail of our inner lives. I felt like the more issues I had, the less politically effective I could be. In some ways, yeah, problems like being unwilling to go outdoors in daylight have had material consequences, in terms of what I can do for other women. Even then, though, I didn’t start going outside more often because of psychologists. Initially, I started going outside more because I got a dog to help me with certain stuff and was training her for public access. I got more resilient about how other people saw me because my beliefs changed around the meaning of my appearance and how others interpreted it. That resistance to leaving the house was not a “personal problem”, either- it was a direct consequence of being told by the trans scene I was in that being seen one way or another was supposed to feel validating, and my gradual realization that (at the time) there was no way others could view me that didn’t make me feel sick. I found relief through practical changes in my circumstances and through shifting my ideological framework. Basically… the idea that public accomplishments could matter more than one’s internal world, past or present, was really freeing to me.

Shortly after I read this book, I learned about a woman whose life really exemplifies that concept: Pauli Murray, a black lesbian who overcame huge institutional barriers to help found NOW, contribute to the Brown v. Board of Education victory, write papers used to uphold the ERA, organize influential early protests against segregation, and much, much more.

The same New Yorker article that writes glowingly of Murray’s many successes also devotes a few hundred words to a more private struggle of hers. Murray’s complicated feelings about being female as a black lesbian in the 1900s are distilled to “Murray, the passionate advocate for women’s rights, identified as a man.” This position seems to be based on the interpretation of Murray’s documents found in Rosalie Rosenberg’s book, Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray. It’s noted that Murray sought transition well before the 1960s but did not find medical services available. What, then, of the rest of Murray’s life? She died in 1985. FTM transition was not so inaccessible by then, at least not for a tenured professor. The simpler explanation is that Murray found a way to live without transition, as necessary as it may have felt at some points. Murray, for her part, wrote her own autobiography that made no mention of these issues.

Rosenberg’s interpretation as represented in this article, that a woman who seeks transition at one point must not be a woman after all, speaks of a fundamental misunderstanding of the social forces impacting women, and possibly of a lack of intellectual honesty concerning the life and works of other women. These same qualities are evidenced in an earlier project of Rosenberg’s (as described in Susan Faludi’s Backlash): testifying against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the Sears corporation. She stated that their female employees are consistently passed over for high-paying commission sales positions because this was the “natural effect” of women’s “differences”, and that to mistake this sex-based discrepancy in hiring for sexism was “naive”. Rosenberg was friendly with the Sears chief defense lawyer, who had once employed her ex-husband. In preparing her testimony, she chose not to speak with any women employed at Sears.

“In forming her opinions on this case, Rosenberg didn’t conduct any independent research. She didn’t talk to any actual saleswomen or interview any female employees at Sears: ‘I just pretty much relied on what [the Sears legal team] gave me.’ To help the Sears lawyers, she culled evidence from other scholars’ books, evidence that she said showed that women traditionally prefer ‘different’, more female types of jobs. She handed over this material to the Sears lawyers. They wrote her court statement for her, she says– then handed her the completed brief to sign.

…When the EEOC lawyer received a copy of the written testimony, they passed it on to Kessler-Harris for her comments. ‘This is not an argument that any reasonable historian would make,’ Kessler-Harris recalls thinking at the time… When Rosenburg did proceed to court, Kessler-Harris agreed to testify for the EEOC to correct the record on her own writings.

In court, Kessler-Harris pointed out where Rosenberg had twisted the meaning of her work, mostly through the creative use of ellipses. For example, Rosenberg had quoted Kessler-Harris as saying that women quit industrial jobs in droves after the WWII- as historical evidence women have ‘chosen’ not to hold traditional male jobs. But she skipped over the part where Kessler-Harris said women hadn’t willingly abandoned their posts, but had been forced out to make way for returning soldiers. Rosenberg had taken similar liberties with the work of other scholars. One of the distortions of Phyllis Wallace’s study of the AT&T case was so egregious that, when challenged in court, Rosenberg retracted it and asked it to be expunged from the record. ‘It was a mistake,’ she says now, made in the rush of compiling her evidence for Sears.”

-Susan Faludi, Backlash

I’m glad I was reading Backlash when I found out about Rosenberg’s interpretation of Murray’s experiences; the context Faludi provides regarding the nature in which Rosenberg has approached “scholarship” in the past was really helpful. When someone else writes your story, they can say whatever they want about what your feelings meant, but they can only misrepresent your actions to the extent that they were never documented honestly. I agree wholeheartedly with Sternhell – it’s the life that matters in the end. Murray was amazing either way, and her emphasis on taking action rather than viewing herself as the problem is an inspiration.

Seeing my own pain as political can make me feel hopeless at times, because it reveals the overwhelming extent of what’s wrong with our society, but viewing my problems as purely personal is what actually removes all hope for change. I don’t want to do that. Identifying what’s going wrong is the first step to formulating a coherent strategy of resistance.

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am i still trans?

Am I still trans, regardless of how I choose to describe myself? I get this online and in real life. People who are familiar with transition as a concept have a hard time understanding how someone could look butch with a visible history of medical transition and still acknowledge herself as a woman. On the other hand, those with less awareness of transition accept pretty readily that I’m an unusual-looking woman, whether they like it or not. Anyway… when these more socially aware coworkers or friends ask me if I’m transitioning to become a man, this is generally a question intended to be sensitive and considerate. I reiterate what I’ve generally already stated pretty clearly: I’m a woman. Then they tell me about each individual trans person they’ve met and I nod politely. This interaction sometimes happens more than once with the same person.

Online, it tends to be less a question and more an accusation- i.e., “such a repressed trans man lol”, etc. This comes off as a reflexive dismissal that a woman could ever look like me, or live my life. Interestingly enough, online this tends to come from people who would generally tell you that trans people are exactly the gender they identify as. I guess that self-determination ends when you start telling people you’re not trans anymore.

With both people in town and strangers online, it seems like my identification with my femaleness is mainly in question because of how I look. If I made efforts to hide the physical evidence of my history of transition, or my disinterest in assimilating with mainstream cultural expectations of womanhood, I’m pretty sure I’d hear this specific dismissal less often. Not that my descriptions of my own life would get more respect if this was the case- they so wouldn’t. But I think the strategy for proving my voice doesn’t matter might shift.

“You were never trans” attempts to exclude me from my own experiences with transition. “You’re still trans” attempts to exclude me from my sex. People who feel threatened by the perspectives of detransitioned women often seem to make strategic choices about how to attack an individual woman’s credibility in a given situation. It’s all very political 😉

Accusing a butch lesbian of wanting to be something other than a woman is a statement with a lot of baggage. Historical accounts include anecdotes of homophobes saying really similar shit, decades and decades ago. Then, like now, it demonstrated the speaker’s narrow ideas about how women should behave and cast any variation as pathological.

And just to be clear: I don’t want to be a man (or a nonbinary person!), not anymore, because I no longer hate being a woman. I used to, largely because I equated my own femaleness with the beliefs others expressed about what womanhood meant, beliefs I internalized in complex ways that are difficult to untangle. I saw women abused by men, over and over, and I blamed my own body for the way men’s actions harmed me. I believed transition would resolve the intense disconnect/hatred for my own sex and general dysfunctionality I felt. I thought I looked and acted the way I did because I was a man, and being mistaken for a dyke was humiliating.

That’s not the case now. Now, I understand my complicated feelings towards my physical self as an understandable reaction to living in a fucked up world, and I place the blame where it belongs: with men. I tried transition and saw that it did not fix me, because my body was never the problem. I still have really intense, challenging feelings about being female because I still live in a fucked up world and have a brain impacted by past trauma. I can handle those feelings by talking it out with other women, reading about others who have been through similar stuff, exercising, spending time with animals, connecting with nature, meditating, journaling, or using other tools. I see the way I have always preferred to dress and act not as an expression of an innately not-woman identity, but as an aspect of how I, personally, responded to the enormous pressure put on women to look some specific way or another; I see it as part of my innately female self. I am no longer ashamed to have my similarities with other lesbians, including other butch lesbians, recognized.

I value my connections to the trans community; I will always be visually identifiable as someone who once understood myself as a part of it. I will continue to encounter people who don’t believe me when I say I’m not trans. That doesn’t make me any less a woman. What happened to me happens to women. I know, because I’m a woman, and it happened to me.

These are conclusions I came to about my own life as a result of applying feminist consciousness raising principles in interactions with other women with a history of transition. They are just as organic as the conclusions I came to about my own life when I applied what I had learned through transgender community, if not more so- there’s a much wider diversity of opinions in my current circles than my old ones, and an awful lot less policing of each other.

I was encouraged by transgender community to be open to changes in how I understood my relationship with gender when I went from not knowing I was trans, because I’d never heard of it, to knowing I was trans, because the new information I had changed how I understood my feelings about my body and social role. The same people who strongly encourage that type of questioning are often the ones who are outraged by women like me, who continue to question, and who eventually find some ideas that work better for us than a lot of trans ideology did.

was i ever “really trans”?

Was I ever really trans? This depends how you define trans. For the purpose of this post, let’s try two common ones.

The first one is the definition that was more or less common usage within the transgender communities I participated in. In this community, “transgender” was used to describe anyone who identified as trans. It was also used to describe anyone (celebrities, historical figures, fictional characters, etc) who hadn’t explicitly stated they were not trans, as long as they “seemed trans”, a totally subjective matter (although gender non-conforming people “seemed trans” an awful lot more often).

The other is the medical definition. From the DSM-V, quoted from crashchaoscat’s helpful post with the exact text- “Gender dysphoria refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender.”

I was trans, as much as anybody else ever was. I identified as trans and had diagnosed dysphoria. The feelings that were diagnosed that way absolutely did exist, and continue to exist, although I understand them differently now. I sought and obtained legal and medical transition measures. I was seen by a half dozen different mental or physical health professionals in a context relevant to my transition, all of whom were convinced I was transgender. There is no trait I had that does not also exist in FTMs who did not stop transition or report negative outcomes.

I don’t describe myself as trans anymore, but by some definitions, I could still be described that way by others- and still often am! People who have been introduced to me as a woman still ask me if I’m trans. Strangers online say that I’m just repressing my true transgender self.

Some legal and social complications due to legal identification forms perceived (by oneself and/or by others) as incongruous are also held in common between many trans people and me. My passport still says male, at this time. Strangers generally assume I’m male, and are surprised by what they see as a disparate sex on my license, which I’ve changed back to female. I haven’t gotten through the paperwork to change my sex back to female with my healthcare provider; this has led to inconsistent pronouns in medical documentation I needed to obtain disability accommodations.

I experience a sense of alienation from my body and often wish many of my features appear more male-typical. I cannot function normally in clothes that I feel make my body appear more obviously female, due to the amount of distress my appearance causes me under those circumstances. I am deeply upset by how female my face looks when I shave my facial hair. Despite this, the relief I got from actually making my body appear more male-typical was fleeting, and my quality of life has improved dramatically since stopping transition.

The premise, “people who detransition were never trans”, is frequently assumed to be free-standing, with no defense provided. This is convenient to those who are highly invested in dismissing detransitioned women as credible witnesses to our own lives, but ignores the many, many points of similarity that tend to be held in common between those who continue transition and those who find other ways to cope.

Women who detransition absolutely were trans at one time, at least according to many definitions. We all identified as trans and had a strong drive to pursue transition, in some form or another, at one point. Many of us were diagnosed officially. There is not any common trait, or set of traits, that set us all apart from those who continue transition.

The belief that only those who are not “truly trans” could experience relief through strategies other than transition puts a whole lot of power in the hands of the professionals who profit daily from the current framework, wherein transition is considered the only treatment for virtually anyone motivated to seek it persistently. In contrast, the belief that there are many potentially useful strategies for handling the experiences diagnosable as dysphoria (alongside or instead of transition), many of which can be successful without any contact with mental health professionals or physicians, puts more power in the hands of individuals with those experiences. In many ways, this is analogous to the belief that someone who experiences relief without utilizing the psychiatric model of care was never really suffering, because those who are truly suffering require psychiatry to heal. Both empower doctors, at the expense of everyone experiencing direct psychological and physiological consequences from the choices those doctors make about their treatment.

In both cases, it makes sense that professionals tend to be emotionally invested in a narrative where their care is the only barrier between suffering and suicide. Seeing yourself as a savior feels really good, whereas seeing yourself as someone who sometimes does totally unnecessary harm feels pretty bad. Sunk cost bias applies to doctors and therapists as much as it applies to anyone else. I understand the resistance to what myself and other detransitioned women are saying.

beef post

First of all, the article (I don’t really feel like linking it- sorry) absolutely could have been worse. I understand that when you talk to a journalist, you lose control of the narrative to a significant degree, and we willingly signed up for that. It was a gamble and the outcome was middling, where “good” is Katie Herzog’s article and “really bad” is a Daily Mail shock piece. I wouldn’t highly recommend media contact with Charlotte McCann to anyone in detransition community, even so. Making yourself that vulnerable on a very public scale isn’t worth it for a “could be worse” article. It’s worth it for a genuinely good one.

I’m not trying to stop people from sharing it or anything. I’m really glad others are finding value in it and if I was able to be more objective, I might like it more, but some of the stuff that bothered me feels really personal and is hard to be perfectly diplomatic about. Honestly, I really liked Charlie, too. Would absolutely still recommend her as a house guest. The photographer was totally cool to work with, too, super nice about our various neuroses.

Anyway, this response is mainly for talking about with people who know me personally, so that I don’t have to keep explaining everything I found frustrating, and for myself, so that I stop reciting in my head everything that’s bugging me about that article.

  1. Our house is not a trash hoard, in case you were wondering. We have some thrifted paintings and ceramics that apparently some people might think belong in garbage cans. Fair enough, different strokes, but I would have appreciated clearer language there. “Full of junk” implies our house wasn’t clean. It was.
  2. The guy who died a few months ago, the one I was supporting at work whose picture is on my wall, isn’t any type of Asian, and neither of us ever said he was. He was Alaska Native. I’m assuming she just guessed based on the photo. If a reporter is going to describe someone I cared a lot about, whose death really messed with me, with very little information other than his race, it feels to me like it wouldn’t be that hard to ask where his family was from. Honestly, this is what’s bothering me the most and probably a big reason why I’m feeling so cranky about the whole article. I worked really hard to meet his needs and advocate for his rights when he was alive, but now he’s dead, and there really isn’t anything I can do about it. It sucks. Feeling like his picture on our wall is being used as a vehicle to make some weird assumptions about me and my partner’s life, and have disrespectful assumptions about his race thrown in, is pretty shitty.
  3. My face was never sharp. I’ve been at least kind of fat as long as I was on testosterone. I had more masculine facial fat distribution when I was on HRT, but “sharp” is a serious stretch. Anyway, I didn’t show her any pictures of myself on testosterone. Since neither of us said my face was ever sharp and we never showed her any pictures, I found that comment weird. My skin wasn’t rough, either. I get cold easier now because testosterone makes your skin thicker. I haven’t noticed my skin feeling softer, just the difference in cold sensitivity. Again, weird, since we didn’t say it and I feel like I would remembered this lady having touched my skin a couple years back.
  4. I was diagnosed as ADD and bipolar three or four years ago, not exactly recently.
  5. “FTMTF” is not how I understand myself. I’m actually pretty sure I recall the term coming up, and us saying something along the lines of, we don’t know anyone who uses that language for herself and we don’t feel it’s accurate. I was really, really clear that I have been female this whole time. I have never used that term for myself and actually find it pretty distasteful.
  6. I felt the off-and-on he pronoun thing was gimmicky, distracting, and inaccurate. Like… the sentence “When Max was 19, just over three years after he came out as transgender, she realised he’d made a mistake”? Geez. I’m actually one person. Just the one. I don’t feel separating myself into at least two, if not more, is actually gonna do me any favors.

    I didn’t use male pronouns for myself at any point in our conversation. I was very clear that I have been a girl/woman and a lesbian the entire time. I notice at another point in the article, when describing a theoretical “pre-everything” three year old ostensibly beginning identify as a transgender girl, the preferred pronoun of that hypothetical toddler is used. In contrast, I was referred to as male intermittently throughout, although I was super clear about not identifying that way. Just something I noticed.

    We did talk about this before the article came out- Charlie asked me how I felt about it, I expressed that I hated it and why, she said that she could try to talk to her editor if I absolutely insisted but she firmly believed that would ruin the story. At that point I repeated that I hated it but that obviously, she was the journalist here and it was her call. Which it was. I requested that, in spite of the pronoun switching, she made it clear that I believe I have been female the whole time, that transition happened to me as a girl and as a woman. She assured me this would be clear. I don’t feel that “Max is a woman and has been one for two years” communicates this at all. In fact, it specifically communicates the opposite.

  7. “Max detransitioned for several reasons; the most significant one was that she is not transgender” is an oversimplification that I specifically addressed during our interview. I told her that while transitioning, I was as transgender as anyone else, that there’s no single part of my experiences that applies only to women who would eventually detransition, that everything you could pick out as a reason why I “wasn’t ever trans” is something that applies to a bunch of people who haven’t stopped identifying as trans. I said that by some definitions, I still am transgender, although I don’t describe myself that way: I pass as male frequently, I’m butch, I have issues with people feeling my legal sex doesn’t match my appearance. I told her I still experience the feelings that motivated me to transition, and that I don’t see an inherent difference between me and those who continue transition. Kitty and I explained that we feel transition is one strategy for coping with dysphoria, but that both of us now utilize other strategies. I do not feel that any of these nuances were conveyed.
  8. The reporter only spent time in our living room and bathroom, where we don’t have any pictures of ourselves up. There’s actually a bunch of pictures, including both of us and many of our friends, by our kitchen table, on our cork board. She never asked about this and it never came up, as far as I remember. Kinda makes all the extrapolation about why we don’t have those pictures up seem silly.

Basically: reading this article makes me feel like a lot of what I said in that interview wasn’t actually heard. I’m having a hard time being objective about it. That being said, I still hope it can do some good, and I feel this was a productive learning experience for me and my partner.

seriously, fuck walt heyer

Walt Heyer, the king of religious conservative ass-kissing in the world of male detransition, has once again laid himself low in the interest of being a good, compliant “redeemed” freak (speaking as a fellow freak who has not found God’s light remotely helpful). His article addressing Trump’s tweets about a military ban on transgender people is exactly what one would expect: more ass-kissing.

Positioning state-sanctioned murder as an act of valor is hard to defend without resorting to nationalism for its own sake. Heyer certainly doesn’t feel the need to defend it any other way in this piece. He takes it for granted that supplying Donald Trump with the highest quality of soldiers not only is, but should be a top priority. Obviously, this is the function of the military. That’s an issue! If you don’t trust the government, it doesn’t make sense to valorize the military it trains into total compliance (using methods that would be described as cult-like in many contexts) and deploys according to the strategic goals of the state. That’s some bullshit.

The military is not our friend, and it is not an honor to be included. In theory, yeah, I would prefer Trump had no army to command. That’s not what Trump would prefer, though. Excluding a group from an institution he sees as grand isn’t anti-colonialism. It’s testing the waters in terms of what will be tolerated, and it’s going to be part of an on-going effort to scapegoat transgender people (among many, many others) in order to distract from other issues and drive a wedge to exploit in 2020.

This isn’t about our army being at its best. Transgender people have demonstrated clearly an ability to participate equally in the military. There may be times when a transgender member of the military can’t obtain treatments due to service conditions, or times when they aren’t eligible to serve due to treatments an individual may feel to be necessary. This could be true of anyone else who might consider service, too, though; none of us can be guaranteed a life free of medical or personal difficulties that might impact our ability to serve as a cog in the war machine.

The whole “it costs too much” thing Heyer brings up is dumb, too; Viagra is a much larger expense than transition for the Pentagon. Yeah, we could argue about whether transition is a consistently effective, ethical treatment, but it’s pretty clear that Trump didn’t make those tweets because he’s been reading a lot of detransition blogs and he’s concerned doctors might not have our best interests at heart.

Heyer also talks like the higher rates of suicidality in the trans population represent a threat to our nation’s “defense”. What? The US military already has a serious problem with suicide, even among soldiers who were never deployed. If that was an issue that was considered a high priority, you’d think it would have been addressed a little more effectively by now. With no data to support that transgender soldiers are any more likely to suffer from the 20-25% increase in suicide rate compared to the general population, it’s dishonest to act like that’s a solid reason to bar a group from service. The military itself is directly causing a shit ton of suicides (not to mention murdering people!).

The article also fails to address a pretty major concern about all this: how is “transgender” even going to be defined for the purpose of these proposed changes? Trump didn’t say, and it’s an incredibly nebulous term. It’s hard to imagine how someone seriously concerned about the needs of people who seek transition at some point in their life would fail to show any interest in the way that line is drawn.

Re: “the military is a fighting force, not a gender clinic”- yeah, it’s not a clinic, period. Yet VA hospitals are totally a thing. What gives? It’s almost like healthcare is a service contractually promised to members of the military!! Come on. Nobody’s saying we should be performing mastectomies in the trenches. But plenty of military members get all kinds of operations and treatments using money allocated for their medical care.

If he just wanted to talk about the ways he feels transition differs from other forms of care, that’s a conversation I feel is worth having. That isn’t enough, though. That conversation isn’t nearly as interesting to a lot of people. “The military is awesome and trans people are too crazy not to fuck it up” is a lot easier to get published so that you can get more traffic to your weird evangelical detransition website. Whatever, Walt! Damn! Whatever!

 

 

conservatives

I’m posting here the statement I made on behalf of Re-Sisters that’s being read on Women’s Liberation Radio News. Here is the episode where it was included.

My name is Max Robinson and I’m a member of Re-Sisters, an organization for detransitioned and re-identified womyn, as well as female-born trans people. Re-Sisters formed to build solidarity between these populations and to fight for female liberation, particularly when the battle at hand will be better fought when armed with our perspectives.

I’ve done a lot of speaking and writing about being a woman who stopped my ftm transition and re-claimed myself as a lesbian. Right-wing Christians have often moved to co-opt my experiences, and those of many other women like me, trying to utilize us against our own interests and the interests of females as a class.

Having my words taken out of context and used by the right led me to understand a lot about the dynamics at play when fundamentalists decide to “include” radical feminists in their platforms. They wouldn’t do that unless they knew that ultimately, the supposed “alliance” would serve their patriarchal order.

I could list many examples of hard-right-wingers utilizing the words of detransitioned women—for one, Michelle Cretella, formerly a Board member of NARTH, the foremost anti-gay “conversion therapy” organization in the US; and current president of the American College of Pediatricians, an activist group of conservative physicians against gay and lesbian parenting. Cretella recently wrote a glowing endorsement of feminist anthology “Female Erasure,” specifically mentioning all the detransitioned women’s narratives. Was this a heartwarming moment of female solidarity across political lines? No, Cretella blatantly lied about our essays, utilizing the idea of us for her own agenda. Conversion therapy advocates believe that being gay or lesbian is linked to childhood gender role confusion. They believe a wholesome Christian family—a Gender Correct Father and a Gender Correct Mother—prevents children from being gay or lesbian. Their issue with pediatric transition is that they believe it’s against God’s plan—that it makes permanent the “role confusion” of homosexuality, which should instead be “straightened out.” They think women like us are potentially useful as pitiable rhetorical objects. Or that we can be “perfected” into stereotype-conforming heterosexual women.

Most women who stop ftm transition are lesbians; many of us have no intention of leading stereotype-driven lives; many of us will continue to live socially passing as men whether we want to or not; and all of us want the best possible lives for our friends and loved ones who still live as transmen. Nothing that hurts gays, lesbians, and transmen is going to be acceptable to us. We don’t welcome someone like Cretella to use our words against us.

But this is one example in a larger trend. The Federalist put a reporter, Stella Morabito, on the “gender identity” beat. The Alliance Defending Freedom started funding a group calling itself Women’s Liberation Front. The Heritage Foundation hosted a panel discussion titled “Biology Isn’t Bigotry: Why Sex Matters in the Age of Gender Identity.” The power differences between these “allies” ought to tell us a lot. Why is the powerhouse think tank that helped elect Trump hosting radical feminists on a panel?

Who hosts the events? Who publishes the articles, or airs the news segment? Who’s got the money in their hands? Usually, it’s not radical feminists. Conservatives have demonstrated time and again that they are capable of extremely effective strategizing.

Their current strategy relies on exploiting the inherent weakness in LGBT “inclusion” practices which fail to differentiate between the needs of lesbians, gay men, transmen, transwomen, and other queer-identified people. By fighting against what they call “SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) laws”—which is any legislation impacting any member of these obviously distinct and internally diverse groups, the right utilizes legitimate feminist resistance against the excesses of “gender identity” against the entire range of lesbian, gay, and trans people, as well as women overall.

A feminist response would need to hold some nuance—defending lesbian, gay, and transgender housing and employment rights against the likes of the Heritage Foundation, for example, while also resisting laws which would render sex a meaningless category. A feminist response must be a real alternative, rather than throw weight behind either “side” when neither side represents the interests of females as a class—that is, all females, whether lesbian, straight, transgender-identifying, or other.

There is a difference between laws that allow gender-nonconforming people—trans-identified or not—to participate fully in society, versus laws that entitle someone with a penis to housing in a women’s shelter based on a stated “identity.” A feminist response needs to account for this discrepancy. There’s nothing feminist about allying with those who want to make discrimination against transgender, lesbian, and gay people as legal as possible.

When women are used to promote conservative values against our will, we have even less control over how they choose to represent our beliefs and experiences. Co-optation, whether consensual or not, undermines the goal of female liberation.

Under the cut I’m going to longer, unedited version.

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extended!!

Carey hooked me up with a very cool opportunity to share my perspective about why I detransitioned with a large group including a lot of medical and mental health professionals serving the transgender community. I’m super excited about it. The topic and time limit made complete sense for the presentation she’s working on, but when I finished making my video, there was a lot I wanted to clarify that didn’t fit inside 3 minutes talking. So here’s a longer version of the script I wrote for that video!

At the time when I started to detransition, I was already getting a lot of relief from coping strategies other than transition- relationships with animals, spending a lot of time in nature, connecting with other women with similar experiences, and being in a supportive relationship and having a home environment where I was able to relax.

On some level, when I was transitioning at 16, I had thought of “being a woman” as everything I wasn’t- pretty, compliant, content with the way i was treated as a woman and with my female body.

I thought that women didn’t ever hate their bodies the way I did or believe they’d be better off as a man. This isn’t true. I learned many women, especially lesbians, have experienced periods of wanting to be men in intense and visceral ways, ways that met the diagnostic criteria for GID or gender dysphoria, but were eventually really glad that they had instead made peace with themselves as one type or another of unconventional women. I learned, from connecting with other women, that womanhood could hold women like me. I could be a woman even though I had a mastectomy and didn’t really like shaving and would generally rather be called Max than Abigail. I (re)learned that I’m a lesbian.

People supportive of transition tend to think I’m some kind of nonbinary now, and/or that transition was just another colorful stop on my rainbow of a gender journey. It seems like these people are more invested in fitting my experiences into a framework where they doesn’t challenge any pre-existing beliefs than in actually hearing what I have to say. Women can go through FTM transition, and they may not ultimately describe it as a positive experience, even if they were once enthusiastic about it.

I loved the WPATH Standards of Care. I used them to self-advocate in medical offices as a teenager who met the diagnostic criteria for GID, believing I’d kill myself if they didn’t give me what I needed. I didn’t know there were ways to get relief from those feelings that didn’t come from a therapist, endocrinologist, or surgeon. I generally refused to talk to my old gender therapist about anything except wanting to transition.

Transition absolutely had some benefits for me. At the time I transitioned, given my lack of alternative coping strategies, inability to trust any mental health professional, and the fact that I did not have access to the support of peers going through something similar, it is possible that the high levels of distress I experienced on a regular basis might have been more likely to result in suicide attempts or completion, had I not transitioned.

Passing, hormones, and my double mastectomy facilitated repression of trauma incurred as a result of misogyny and the culture-wide hatred of lesbians. Not having breasts or being otherwise visually identifiable as female by strangers made it much easier to stop thinking about the shitty ways others had treated me for being a butch lesbian, at least for a few years. Having a set of steps to focus on completing in order to acquire some peace of mind gave me hope and a sense of direction for a while, until I had completed all the steps I had wanted to accomplish and was extremely disappointed to find myself still facing pretty much the same issues I had as a teenager. Here’s a post I wrote about why I feel that so many people believing it’s either transition or suicide indicates that professionals serving transgender populations are letting them down in huge ways.

I have been diagnosed a fair amount of things, in terms of mental health. Even so… I haven’t talked to a doctor or mental health professional for anything except a bad flu and some phone calls to renew my Adderal prescription in a couple years, and I feel better than I can remember ever feeling in the past. The dynamic of relating to another person as an expert on my body and/or my problems is something I avoid whenever practical now, and it’s working out pretty great for me.

I count myself as extremely lucky that I had misgivings about the hysterectomy I was about to schedule a while before I stopped transitioning. I am extremely grateful that, at this point in my life, I can usually stay far away from the fields that I feel did me an awful lot of harm. The history of psychiatry is riddled with examples of medical/psychiatric abuse of non-compliant women that was once regarded as revolutionary. Treatments now widely regarded as unethical were sometimes even sought after by individuals experiencing really tough stuff. An awful lot of my friends who have detransitioned or are otherwise reconciling with their femaleness are lesbians. Our stories are not unrelated to other historical medical treatments intended to “cure” noncompliant behavior in women.

I know others who feel their transitions were lifesaving. That’s their story and they’re free to tell it, just like I was free to tell the same story when I believed it to be true. Now, this is my story. I understand why someone would feel transition saved their life.Do others understand that transition can also do profound harm?

I didn’t stop transition because I “was never trans”. I stopped because I found other ways of coping that worked better, did less damage, and in my case, allowed me a higher degree of autonomy in that I no longer relied on anything from endocrinologists- a luxury not afforded to those who received hysterectomies as a part of their transition.

During my own transition, I was not discernibly “less trans” than any of the other FTMs I knew then, as indicated by the fact that a WPATH member wrote the letters allowing me to access medical treatment, and the reputable Dr Curtis Crane was willing to remove my breasts for cash. There is no screening protocol that would effectively prevent women like me from accessing transition without also excluding individuals who wouldn’t have stopped transition. I doubt there was anything my therapist could have said to dissuade me from transition, either. I can’t experience a trusting relationship with someone who is obviously in a position of authority over me.

Detransition wasn’t forced on me by anyone, or by any circumstances. Realizing I could stop transition was extremely challenging at first- I had years of unexpressed emotions to work through when those walls started coming down. Ultimately, though, reconciling with my femaleness has been profoundly healing for me. A lot of detransition, for me, has been about listening to myself, and learning to take the pain I experienced as a result of transition seriously. Paying Dr Curtis Crane to cut away healthy tissue from my body, being seen as a man when I’m not one, side effects from testosterone… I can name the ways they hurt me now. I am grateful for the perspective transition has given me on how the medical-industrial complex fails women and girls in pain.