I am a Common Woman Making Space for Other Common Women to Emerge
“For all the world we didnt know we held in common
the common woman is as common as the best of bread
and will rise
and will become strong-I swear it to you
I swear it to you on my own head
I swear it to you on my common
I don’t feel exceptional. I feel common, so very common. My situation is not that unique or unusual. A lot of women are traumatized. A lot of women, most women in fact, don’t fit inside the female role or ideal. Some of us try to conform but others of us can’t or don’t want to and you catch hell for that. You catch hell for that either way, actually. You can’t win if you’re a woman in a male-dominated society. A lot of women dissociate. A lot of women are dysphoric. Let me say it again, women are dysphoric. And our dysphoria can be as severe or as mild as any case of dysphoria can be. We can experience the full range of dysphoric possibilities, from cringing when we get called she to having a near constant sensation of a phantom penis. There is nothing women can’t feel including dysphoria.
How much of why dysphoric and detransitioned women aren’t taken seriously or listened to is because we’re women in a society that doesn’t value female voices? How much of this is another way of denying women’s suffering? Why is it inconceivable that women can’t experience severe enough pain that we’d change ourselves drastically, alter our bodies, live as men to escape it? And not just live as men for a while, a few months or years or ten years and then detransition, but live as men for good. Women can get to a place where they have to see themselves as men and live as men to survive in a world that hates them as women.
Trust me, listen to me. I know it could happen. I know it does happen. I know I could still be stuck, unable to think of myself as a woman or accept myself as female. My womanhood is not an innate gender identity hardwired in my brain since birth. It is not an unshakable feeling telling me who I am. It is something I learned about through reflection and experience, something that I will always be learning about because it is infinite. I am a woman because I am female, because I inherited social meanings and power dynamics along with my body. It is a biological, spiritual, historical and cultural reality and in a patriarchy this reality is obscured because women who know it become more powerful, become dangerous. It can be known and accepted or kept from consciousness, denied. I would have always been a woman, no matter how long I lived as a man or genderqueer, or how much I changed my body but it’s not inevitable that I would have become fully aware of and accepted my womanhood. My whole society has struggled against me ever finding out what women actually are.
Sometimes I imagine other ways my life could’ve gone. I could have gotten stuck in dissociation as a way of life. I could’ve grown more functional over time but I’d still be cut off from my root power as a female and never realize what I was missing. I consider myself lucky that I attained the awareness and understanding that I have now. I met brave women who helped me go to places inside myself that scared the shit out of me and move through them into new territories. Without their help I might still be trapped in old structures and ways of understanding myself that confined my possibilities and restricted my movements while leaving me unaware of that I was so limited.
It is so hard to face trauma that hurt you bad enough it made you want to become another person, that actually did make you into another person, split off and wrapped around the one who got hurt. It is much harder than transitioning. I know because I’ve done both. Transition was hard. Detransitioning has been so much harder. The only thing I can compare it to is working through my mom’s suicide. So when I look at how painful it was, it makes sense to me that some people aren’t going to be able to stand that pain or go into it. Not cuz they’re weak or not as strong or smart as me or other detransitioned women. Not because they’re inferior in any way but because this world is fucking dangerous and facing your trauma opens you up, makes you vulnerable, makes you feel. It can make you feel ripped open and if you’re already protecting yourself from a society that wants to rip you up, you might not be able to go there. You need some degree of safety and security to face trauma and not fall to shit. So if you’re not safe or you’re not feeling safe enough, you can’t afford to let go of your coping mechanism cuz it could literally be your survival that’s at stake.
I couldn’t start seeing how trauma lead to my transition until my life got more stable and I found a woman who’d also transitioned and stopped who I could trust and talk to. I had also been meditating for years at that point, which made it easier to detach from and cope with the extreme emotions and sensations that often come up when you’re working through trauma.
Some women who transitioned due to trauma are never going to get safe enough to drop their defense mechanisms. They’re not stupid, they’re surviving the best way they know how. But I want better for them and all women who transition. It takes a lot of energy to maintain a protective identity over your hurt self. You get used to it when that’s been your life for a long time. You may not know anything different. But if you get to a place where you can put that shit down, wow, do you ever feel lighter, freer, less burdened. It’s easier to move around and act because you’re not using so much energy to keep the world from touching you or maintain a protective persona. The wounded self you’ve been protecting can finally heal and when that happens you get even more powerful and strong.
I’ve felt freer and happier than I even thought possible once I started healing from how I’d been wounded as a woman. I had to drop the idea that I was a really a man or genderqueer or anything other than a woman. I had to accept that I was a woman and then I could see all the damage dealt to me as a woman that I’d been blocking out. I could see the restrictive ideas of womanhood branded into my mind and how they had scarred me so bad that I’d transfered the violence to my own body. That was real fucking hard to face. It was hard to face what other people had done to me and it was hard to face how I’d hurt myself. It was a hell of a lot harder than injecting t into my thigh and getting blood drawn every six months. But after I worked through that hurt, after I faced it and started to understand what happened to me, I started healing wounds I’d been struggling to close up and mend for years. I found strength, wellness and the power of my deepest self which has been better than anything I got from testosterone. I got all the physical effects I expected when I took t but I’ve reached places detransitioning that I never imagined. It turned my whole world and sense of self upside down in a grand way. I am happy that I have changed beyond my mere desires and expectations.
Facing my damage has shown me I am not broken, I am resilient and ever-growing and transforming. I don’t think anyone is broken or ruined or lost but I think there are plenty of women who are stuck at the present moment as I was stuck a few years back. They have protection. They have a strategy. They have a way of dealing with their struggles that’s become comfortable and familiar. They’re just trying to live and protect their already wounded bodies and psyches from more assaults and abuse. And I’m trying to create more space where these defenses aren’t needed. I’m trying to talk past the armor to the woman inside who’s so desperate to find a way to come out and walk in open air again. You might think I’m crazy, you might think you have no woman in you but if she’s there, she hears me and I want her to have hope. I want her to know I have her back and so do other women who have taken off their armor and disguises and survived. Not only have we survived, we’ve gotten stronger. Some trans people talk about killing their former selves but I don’t think they ever really die and I don’t think they ever stop looking for a way to live openly. They might never find it but they’re still in there, looking out in case it ever shows up. Doubts might really be hope for something better.
I know my woman-self was there all along searching for a way to be free. She kept me restless and questioning. She finally found her opening and she took it and let go of the illusions she’d cast around herself. I want to create more openings, more escape routes out of patriarchal mindfucks and trauma cages. There are so many women struggling to get free and I feel so much love for these women and I want to fight along side of them as they work to free themselves from their oppressors. Detransitioning is fighting back against your abusers and violators, whoever hurt you enough to turn you against yourself. Women become dysphoric and transition because others committed violence against us, physically, sexually, psychologically and spiritually. Imposing and reinforcing male-created ideas of what women are, brainwashing us into accepting society’s reality over our own is violence. We often bear its scars on our bodies. And the violence inflicted on our bodies digs deep into our minds, changes us, our thoughts and feelings, can shatter our selves into pieces. We resist by naming instead of denying this violence, articulating what was done to us and by whom, calling out the lies and distortions and telling our own truths.
I am a common woman. I am not an exceptional case. Most women have been hurt and violated, all women have been lied to about what we are and how powerful we are and most of us spend some time believing the lies. A history of dysphoria and transition makes me stand out but only so much and not as much as many think. There are many women like me. First I found one other and then I found more and more. We are becoming more common. We are finding new ways to defend ourselves that require less armor and grant us more movement. We are seeing each other and being seen. We are creating more expansive spaces for women to live in. As we create more space and raise more power, more and more women will come to that space and find their power too. And we will become very common indeed.