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.