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!

 

 

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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.

Continue reading

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.

video for USPATH

Here’s the video I made for Carey Callahan (and the others she was working with) to show along with a presentation on detransition at USPATH in Feb 2017!! Incredibly impressed with her for actually showing up there. I’m going to list myself as a USPATH telepresenter on a bunch of resumes now 🙂

Approximate transcription:

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, 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 content 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. I learned this wasn’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 that they 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, that I could be a woman even if I’d had a mastectomy, didn’t really like shaving, and would rather be called Max than Abigail. I learned that I’m a lesbian.

I loved the standards of care and used them to self-advocate in medical offices as a teenager who met the diagnostic criteria for GID and really thought I’d kill myself if I didn’t transition. 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. I have been diagnosed a lot of ways but haven’t talked to a doctor or mental health professional for almost anything except a bad flu 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.

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 noncompliant women that was regarded as revolutionary and even sought-after by individuals experiencing really tough stuff. I understand that others feel their transitions were lifesaving, I used to believe this about myself. Do others understand that transition can also do profound harm? Detransition wasn’t forced on me by anyone. This was a realization that was really healing for me, that I could stop transition and it was okay to be a woman the way i was. A lot of detransitioning to me was about listening to myself and believing myself that I had been hurt by this treatment.

better

When I was repressing the hell out of any complicated feelings about transition, it felt like my life would be destroyed if I let myself actually express even a tiny bit of that stuff.

Once I started connecting with other women who were up to talk about it, I had this excruciating sense of urgency about it. It felt like I was a balloon about to pop, and I could never release enough to relieve the overwhelming pressure. My whole Cymbalta withdrawal syndrome summer ordeal was pretty helpful here, honestly… I literally could not stop talking about any of this. Even after I stopped being physically sick from the withdrawals, I had entirely out of control mood swings and no control over impulsive speech, to a degree I have never experienced before or since. I spent an awful lot of my waking hours rambling about this stuff to somebody. I’m incredibly grateful that ended (months-long massive personality  changes are really disruptive!) but I’m also pretty grateful that it happened.

By the end of it, that feeling of pressure was pretty much gone. For the last few months I’ve felt a lot more like a balloon with absolutely no air in it, which has its own pros and cons. I’m not very energetic or talkative (especially compared to how I was over last summer) but I’m also not freaking the fuck out all the time. Seems like I kind of fast-forwarded through an amount of venting that might have taken me years if I had gone at a remotely reasonable pace. My feelings about transition aren’t something I have to think about all the time anymore.

When I was actively repressing everything, getting to a point where I’d let enough out that I was neither actively losing my shit or repressing any feelings about transition was unimaginable. It did not occur to me that this was something I could work through. It felt absolutely, incredibly insurmountable… and at the time, it probably was. I think denial was pretty adaptive here. At that point, I didn’t trust anyone with feelings like that. I wasn’t alone in the world or anything, but the relationships I had were not ones where I was ready to make myself so vulnerable. I’m glad that I bottled everything up until I had the support to handle processing it, and I’m glad that processing enough of it that I don’t have to think about it all the time didn’t actually end up taking the rest of my life.

It’s not like I’m done having any new thoughts or feelings on those topics. It’s like I’m done taking a giant piss after holding it very painfully for years. I’m sure I’ll keep having difficult feelings about all kinds of things. Like, my mastiff just died. I am so super not happy about that, but like… I trust the people around me enough that I just cried about it all the time for a week straight, and you know what? I feel a lot better than I did when my yellow lab died in high school and I just held everything in. It’s really nice to be in a situation where repressing everything actually isn’t the only way to cope. Really hoping it lasts.

worrying

Here’s a post where I think about my neckbeard for a while and then get wound up about Donald Trump. Classic!!

So… when I first told everyone at work I was really female and had been all along, it was after months of shaving my facial hair, ostensibly in order to make myself more believable. I kept shaving for months after that, specifically in order to make myself appear credibly female to others.

I still got read as male a lot of the time, and I still often got treated weird when seen as female, because I still looked like a fat butch lesbian with a completely flat chest. When I stopped shaving, it turned out the beard really didn’t make much of a difference. Seems like I’m already past some kind of freakishness threshold and out here, it’s kind of a free-for-all. There’s no real winning for women anyway. A lot of the time you might as well do what you want.

And I don’t like shaving! Removing my facial hair (besides a tiny little mustache that I’m not overly fond of aesthetically and do spend like 20 seconds shaving every few days) is not something I wanted to do, or something I was doing for myself. Other women have different experiences here, but this is mine. When I’m feeling at or better than my baseline state, which is most the time lately, I like the way I look. I look like a woman I’d be happy to see and happier to get to know.

I don’t always stick to my guns on this. I’ve shaved for my last few job interviews, now that my ID says female. I should probably stop doing that. A job that’s hostile to women who look how I usually look isn’t going to be a good fit anyway, something several different women with more life experience than me have expressed. I don’t really feel great about shaving for my driver’s license photo, either. It makes me feel like I’m still prioritizing other people’s ideas of who I should be and how I should look over what I actually feel comfortable with. I’m tired of feeling that way. I feel like I’m still trying to peel away all these bad habits, and trying to please others at the expense of being myself is one of them.

I’m not saying these feelings are intrinsic to hair removal. I know plenty of women whose descriptions of their relationships to their facial hair are really different from mine. But I’m not living their lives, and they’re not living mine. If someone else does feel good about removing all that stuff, that’s her business. It doesn’t feel good to me.

The more I give myself permission to stop caring what others think, the more relaxed and authentic I can be, and you know what? A lot of people like authentic, even if they also think you’re kind of a freak. Not being so nervous about others see you makes it a lot easier to connect sincerely. Yeah, connecting with a lot of people might also be easier if “being authentic” to me didn’t include usually not shaving my neckbeard very often, or if I wasn’t a butch lesbian, but that wouldn’t be my life. Getting hung up on lives that are so different from my own that they’re really entirely another (imaginary!) woman’s life is not helpful to me. I have stuff to do, and this is what I have to work with, and it’s enough. That’s something I keep coming back to: what’s left of my body might be less than ideal in some senses, and the process of that loss was difficult, but there’s clearly enough of me to continue living.

Anyway… feels kinda silly to keep on working through my feelings about my appearance right now. Really seems like things are about to get an awful lot worse here. I guess I’m still dipping in and out of denial about that. Really sucks to be too poor to have an escape plan or even start stockpiling more than a little survival stuff. We’re working on plans for some actual organizing where we are, and in the meantime we’re calling numbers and writing emails.

Redressalert’s post related to this stuff is good reading. So is Crash’s. One or both of them link to this really important article by Masha Gessen, a Jewish woman who has survived other autocracies. Gessen has written another article since that’s equally relevant.

There is no good reason I can see to be optimistic about the outcome of this election, and being realistic means challenging ourselves to remain present enough that we can react appropriately to the level of threat that is approaching very, very soon.

choice

Being isolated from others who have complicated feelings about their transition and being unaware of alternative ways to handle the feelings that led me to transition seemed to be the main factors that kept me from exploring negative feelings about this stuff. Without access to those, I think I would have continued transitioning indefinitely. It didn’t feel like a choice. I have a major beef with that- the idea that transition isn’t a choice.

I felt I had no choice but transition for a long time, and the reason I felt that way was because other choices were not offered to me. I didn’t know anyone who had survived feelings like mine without transition, and I didn’t have any ideas about how someone might do that. That’s a problem! How can someone give informed consent to transition when they believe the only alternative is a miserable life eventually cut short by suicide?  People who transition believing it’s absolutely the only way they can ever experience any relief are people whose community and healthcare professionals have failed them.

No doctor told me that getting a troubled shelter dog and training her as a psychiatric service dog, or being in a loving and supportive relationship, or having a bunch of friends with similar experiences, might provide enough relief that I wouldn’t have to live as a man in order to feel okay. They totally did, though. That definitely happened to me.

The fact that a lot of people see advice for coping with distress that doesn’t involve medication or surgery as inherently invalidating is pretty messed up. I’ve seen it expressed that anyone whose drive to transition can be addressed without actually transitioning (or continuing to transition) can’t possibly be experiencing as much pain as someone who’s really trans. Within this model, you aren’t even really suffering unless you believe they’re the only ones who can help. Believing that puts so much power in the hands of for-profit institutions.

The tools used by the medical industrial complex can help people, for sure, and everyone is entitled to decide for herself what approaches to try. But it’s just not true that, for someone’s distress to be valid, it has to be unresponsive to everything except pharmaceuticals or surgery. Finding substantial relief outside a doctor’s office does not inherently mean that the condition was any less serious.

A woman I know once said something along the lines of, if the top priority of all providers of transgender healthcare services was really to help people feel their best, they’d be banging down the doors of all these women talking about alternative strategies for coping with feelings currently or formerly diagnosable as gender dysphoria. I think this is entirely accurate, and I think it’s telling that it hasn’t happened.