Deciding to stop t and deciding to come out as a woman were two separate decisions.
When I decided to stop t, I still thought of my self as genderqueer, as multiple genders, and that included seeing myself as a man sometimes. At this point I realized that I was different from male-born men and I felt different from most trans men too since they seemed a lot more male-identified that I was. I’d always seen myself as a genderfreak overall but other people usually read me as a trans man because I passed so well. Passing as a man felt good and right sometimes and off other times. It was still very easy to identify myself with men. I thought the problem was that I wasn’t just a man, I wasn’t any one gender, my sense of gender shifted around. That’s just how it seemed to work.
I knew I had been rewarded for being so passable. People out in the world treated me much better when they saw me as a man than when I was seen as a butch woman or ambiguously sexed. People who knew I was trans were impressed with how well I passed and I had multiple trans dudes compliment by telling me that they hadn’t even known I was trans when they first met me. I thought my problem was that I’d overemphasized my male side due to all the positive reinforcement I was getting and let it dominate the other components of myself. I decided I liked it best when people could see me as multiple genders and I’d settled with having only one side of myself recognized because that part of me was easier for people to see and understand .
I had had a hard time accepting that my sense of gender shifted around. It really fucked with me. I’d come to a place where I was ok with that for a while and then it’d start aggravating me again. I wanted a sense of self that felt more stable but the only constant seemed to be movement between different genders. After watching myself for years shift back and forth from feeling like a trans man to feeling like a butch (either dyke or as a third gender) to feeling like a genderfreak and sometimes feeling no gender at all, I decided that this was just how I was and I ought to accept it. I was starting to think that I’d learned how to see myself as various genders from living in a culture that’s capable of gendering just about anything. I didn’t think of myself as having a gender identity because I had no stable, solid sense of being one gender. Instead gender was more like feelings I had that came and went. Sometimes I had multiple feelings of gender at once and sometime I had no feelings of gender at all.
I still saw myself this way when I stopped t. I stopped for several reasons, one being that I wanted to look more visibly queer. I was hoping I could pass for male sometimes but also pass for a dyke or as ambiguously sexed some of the time too. I had all the permanent changes I wanted from t, like a deeper voice and facial and body hair and I planned to maintain the more reversible changes like muscles and fat distribution by working out and staying active. I was also sketched out about being dependent on doctors for the rest of my life because I didn’t trust them or the medical industry. As much as I enjoyed the effects of testosterone, I was uncomfortable about being dependent on an external substance, having to go in for blood work and all that.
The main reason I stopped was that t was fucking with my head. I first started t when I was twenty, took it for over a year and then stopped taking it for around one and a half to two years, started again and took it for over two years before quitting for good. Both times I took it I had negative psychological effects. Right before I started it again, my new doctor was looking over my old blood work from the last time I was on t and told me that my t levels had been way above what they should’ve been. So I thought maybe the mental effects were from too much t. Both times I took t, the psych effects took over a year to show up and before that I liked how t seemed to effect my mind. It calmed me down and made me feel less depressed. I didn’t have as many mood swings and felt more in control. After being on it maybe a year and a half or so, I felt numbed out, had trouble thinking of words, felt less creative, and just felt like my mind wasn’t working properly. I tried changing my injection schedule. I tried lowering my dose, which helped some but not enough so eventually I decided to stop. I didn’t want to stop but I felt that as much as I liked the way t changed my body the state of my mind was more important. And I decided that my body had changed enough that I could survive living in it off t.
As I gradually began reducing my dosage until it tapered off to zero, I had no idea where I’d end up in the coming years. I didn’t know I’d stop calling myself genderqueer or that my entire understanding of sex, gender, what a woman is and all that crap would change so much. I knew I had some misogyny issues. Looking back over some of my journals, I found that throughout my early to mid-twenties I occasionally wrote that maybe I was a woman transitioning because of deeply internalized sexism. Since I had a changing sense of self I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was and that speculation was one among many. It didn’t stay in my consciousness for long and my habit of smoking lots of weed probably contributed to that. Every once in a while that thought would surface and maybe I’d write it down but in any case I’d forget about it and get caught back up in dissociative coping strategies. That thought didn’t have a place to go yet, I wasn’t ready to take it seriously and see where it could take me.
Between stopping t and deciding to tell my friends and family that I saw myself as a woman, I spent many months thinking and writing in my journal and talking to various friends, including another woman who’d taken t, lived as male and then went back to living as female. I miraculously found her on a nearly dead listserv for people who’d started transitioning and then stopped. She replied to something I posted on there and asked if I wanted to correspond. I said yes and the ensuring conversations I had with her changed my life in ways I never imagined. We explored territory together that we were too afraid to look at on our own. She was there for me when I started coming out to people as female and it made a huge difference knowing there was someone who had my back.
I was terrified of telling people that I was a woman. I thought people were going to think I was crazy for changing my mind. I thought people weren’t going to believe me because I had no intention of changing my appearance or mannerisms beyond shaving off my beard and I still passed really well. This might seem like an odd concern but I’d had so many experiences at this point of people projecting maleness onto me. I got the message that a lot of people seemed to want to see me as a man because that was more comfortable than seeing me as a non-conventional woman or genderqueer or whatever. I had also put a lot of work into transitioning and I felt like I was giving that up. Even though at this point I knew passing was a coping technique it still worked for me a lot of the time and letting go of that security was scary. I had this fear that as soon as I said I was a woman other people would start forcing femininity onto me, start seeing me as less than. I associated being respected and being treated how I wanted to be treated with being seen as male so I was afraid I was going to lose that.
What happened was I thought about telling people for a long time and I’d be hanging out with my friends thinking “Should I tell them now? How do I bring this up? Ok, when there’s a space in the conversation I’ll tell them. Too anxious, well ok, maybe I can tell them in the next break..etc etc” until finally I did manage to get some words out of my mouth like “Hey, I see myself as a woman now and I’d like you to use female pronouns.” And my friends were like “Ok, cool,” and that was it. When I told my best friend and my partner we had more involved conversations about it but pretty much everyone else was like “Oh, ok. Thanks for the update,” and then went back to whatever they’d been doing before. It wasn’t that unusual among my friends for people to change their name or pronoun, so my announcement was filed away as another instance of personal fluidity.
After I started coming out to more and more people in my life, I realized a lot my fears were my own insecurities projected onto other people. I still had a lot of hang-ups about being a woman/female. I had a lot of fucked ideas of what a woman was, basically some kind of inferior being, and I was worried other people would view me through that lens. Coming out to others helped me see where I still shit to work through.
I’ve told far less people why I transitioned and lived as a man/genderqueer or only told them part of the story. I told many of my friends that I transitioned because of internalized sexism without going into much detail and they took that just fine. They were open to the idea that social factors could lead to transition. I’ve told way less people about how shit like my mother’s suicide and dissociation played a role. It’s easier to use more abstract words like “social conditioning” than talk about particular painful incidents that still hurt long after they happened. I don’t like talking about fucked up shit I’ve been through with most people, so even having this blog is a bit of a mindfuck. I’m mainly writing for other detransitioned women and females with dysphoria. I know how alienating and crazy-making this experience can be so I put my personal life out here in a way I normally never would.
Out in the world, I typically tell new friends and acquaintances that I’m detransitioned pretty soon after I meet them. I feel like I need to explain my body, why my voice is so deep, why I have facial hair and so on, which is about proving that I’m really female even though I have these traits. It’s a lot easier to tell people that I used to take t and live as a man than it is to go into why. Among certain groups of people, queer and trans people for example, I feel like my experience in and of itself is controversial, so I tread very carefully. And I feel like I’m fucking it up big time because my reality is going against the reality of the community where I spent most of my adult life. Taking t and passing as a man hurt me. It also was a very creative way of keeping me alive and I can’t reduce it to just a bad thing but I also can’t get around the self-destructive part of it. Thinking about it as a fucked up thing makes me feel crazy and like I’m doing reality wrong because I spent so much time living in a world where transition might not be the right thing for some people but it wasn’t supposed to actually fuck your life up. If you took t and then changed your mind everything was supposed to be fine still, you just moved on with your life, continued your “gender journey” or whatever. It was pretty common to find people who took t for while and then stopped because they decided they were genderqueer instead of trans male. I was headed for that track and sometimes I wish I still thought of myself as genderqueer because then I won’t have to deal with this rift between my present way of seeing things and my old friends and community. Shit just doesn’t make sense the way it used to and it drives me insane and makes me feel like an asshole because I don’t see my genderqueer and trans friends like they see themselves.
I know that I have been pushed and pulled by all kinds of experiences and social forces to get to where I am today but emotionally I feel like a crazy fuck-up. When I think transitioning fucked up my life I feel confused and messed up because it sure didn’t feel that way when I was doing it. How taking t went from being this amazing life-changing experience to being one of the worst things I ever did to myself is not something I fully understand and it makes me feel like I lost it. Or if it truly was an awful thing that seemed like a wonderful thing at the time I must have been really, really deluded. And all my friends went along with my delusions and were cheering me on as I destroyed myself. I think this and I’m like “This is my life? Really? WTF?”
I don’t generally go around sharing my views of why people transition partially cuz I’m still figuring out my shit and I don’t want to bring up all this painful crap. This isn’t some abstract topic, it’s some of the most intense shit I’ve lived through and it’s complicated and I don’t trust most people. I will sometimes mention how I think sexism and (if I’m really feeling comfortable) trauma play a role in people transitioning. But out in the world I’m mostly focused on living. I’m still learning how to live as a woman with a history of FtM transition who frequently passes for male. I have energy to give to other detransitioning women and dysphoric females looking for ways to cope other than transition, I’ll work to make sure we all make it. I’ll discuss my perspective on transitioning and trans identity when it seems worthwhile but I don’t have the energy, nor the desire, to try to control how other people live. I have a hard enough time making it through my own life.