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.