An Open Letter to Julia Serano from One of the‭ ‬Detransitioned People You‭ ‬Claim to‭ ‬“Support‭”

by crashchaoscats

Hey Julia,
My name is Crash and I‭’‬m a detransitioned woman.‭ ‬I blog about how and why I came to transition and then detransition at and at‭ ‬I‭’‬ve been talking to,‭ ‬hanging out and organizing with other detransitioned women for around three years now.‭ ‬In that time I have watched and helped our community emerge.‭ ‬I‭’‬m going to stick to talking mostly about detransitioned women and not touch on detransitioned men because I can‭’‬t speak to their experience.

Look,‭ ‬you say you want the trans community to support detransitioned people but you just wrote an article that distorts and misrepresent our reality.‭ ‬It doesn‭’‬t help me or other detransitioned people when you spread misinformation about us.‭ ‬You‭’‬re not the first trans activist to do so and I don‭’‬t expect you to be the last.‭ ‬I‭’‬ve been reading the articles trans activists write about detransition for years now and I‭’‬ve yet to see an accurate portrayal of our issues and experience.‭ ‬During that same time,‭ ‬we‭’‬ve also been writing about detransitioning as we‭’‬ve lived it.‭ ‬There are a lot more of us and a lot more of our writing available‭ ‬than ever before.‭ ‬But it seems as‭ ‬though many trans people who write about detransition are either unaware of what we‭’‬ve been saying or have been studiously ignoring us.‭  ‬Either way it‭’‬s incredibly frustrating to see the same inaccuracies about us repeated over and over again in the media.‭ You‭ ‬claim to want to support detransitioned people.‭ ‬Well,‭ ‬if you really want to support us,‭ ‬listen to what we‭’‬re saying and take it seriously.‭

We transitioned for a lot of different reasons.‭ ‬Many of us transitioned due to trauma.‭ ‬We lived through event(s‭) ‬terrible enough‭ that‭ ‬it‭ damaged our sense of self and so we created a new self to cope and survive.‭ ‬That self was our trans or male or genderqueer identity.‭ ‬We transitioned because we got raped,‭ ‬because we‭’‬re incest survivors,‭ ‬because we faced violence for being lesbians,‭ ‬because we were locked up in psych wards,‭ ‬because one of‭ ‬our parents killed themselves. We also live in a patriarchy that hates women and attacks female bodies constantly.‭ ‬Whatever trauma we lived through typically had something to do with being a woman.‭ ‬Sometimes bad things happened to us just for being female in a culture where women are violated‭ ‬every‭ ‬day and sometimes bad things happened because we‭’‬re the wrong kind of woman,‭ ‬maybe too butch or‭ ‬“masculine‭”‬ or loud or unemotional.‭ ‬One way or another,‭ ‬we didn‭’‬t fit in with what other people and our culture expected women to be.‭ ‬Sometimes our bodies themselves were deemed not female enough and treated as if they were freakish.‭ ‬That happened to me because I‭ ‬had traits like an adam‭’‬s apple,‭ ‬body hair,‭ ‬an angular face and so on,‭ ‬leading many to speculate on what sex I was.‭ ‬Eventually,‭ ‬other people‭’‬s judgments got inside my head and infected how I saw myself‭ ‬until‭ I started questioning whether I was really female too.‭

Trauma and misogyny led us to dissociate from being female and then to transition.‭ ‬Transitioning was itself further trauma.‭ ‬First others attacked and wounded our bodies and distorted our self-perceptions and then we hurt ourselves in response.‭ ‬Transitioning was an act of self-destruction,‭ ‬enabled by medical professionals who were supposedly‭ ‬“helping‭”‬ us to be our‭ ‬“true selves.‭”‬ It is truly horrifying to come out of that dissociated‭ ‬state and realize that not only‭ ‬were you suppressing and trying to destroy yourself but that other people were there encouraging and assisting you in doing so.‭ ‬Many of us came to see the‭ ‬“care‭”‬ we received as unethical or a form of medical abuse.‭ ‬Many of us believe that the present‭ ‬“trans affirmative care‭”‬ and‭ ‬“informed consent‭”‬ models‭ ‬are‭ misleading,‭ ‬irresponsible and‭ ‬do‭ not truly ensure that people make realistic,‭ ‬fully informed choices.‭

Some people detransition after a few months but most women I know were transitioned for years before they decided to detransition.‭ ‬I took testosterone for a total of four years and most of the detransitioned women I know were on hormones for at least a year.‭ ‬I know some women who lived as trans men for a decade or more before detransitioning.‭ ‬Testosterone in transition-level doses‭ ‬has profound impacts on‭ ‬a female body‭ ‬right away,‭ ‬including on the‭ ‬cellular level.‭ ‬For example,‭ ‬this study discusses mitochondrial damage and damage to the leukocytes in FTMs who have been taking T for‭ ‬12‭ ‬weeks.‭ ‬Many of the effects of testosterone are permanent and some of these irreversible effects,‭ ‬such as a deeper voice and in some cases facial hair,‭ ‬can manifest after only a few months of taking it.‭ ‬In many cases,‭ ‬the changes we made to our bodies felt right at the time but as we‭ ‬began to work through why we transitioned we came to feel very differently about them.‭ ‬The ways transitioning changed our bodies came to symbolize extreme self-denial rather than the self-affirmation we felt earlier.

We have to learn to live in a modified body and this usually involves grieving.‭ ‬All of us who took t,‭ ‬whether for a few months or for years,‭ ‬all of us have altered voices.‭ ‬There is a very deep,‭ ‬painful symbolism behind losing your original voice and having no way of getting it back.‭ ‬For many of us it is not the physical changes themselves that are troubling but what they represent.‭ ‬I am not disturbed by changes like my facial hair or my deeper voice in and of themselves but they remind me constantly of what I did to myself,‭ ‬how I rejected and betrayed myself,‭ ‬how deeply I took other people‭’‬s hatred into my own body.‭ ‬My body is now marked forever by that hatred and that can be a lot to carry.‭ ‬Many of us have struggled with feeling like we have ruined ourselves.‭

Detransitioning is as much about facing trauma as it is about figuring‭ ‬out how to live in an altered body.‭ ‬Transitioning was all about trying to get away from what hurt us and detransitioning is finally facing that and overcoming it.‭ ‬It‭’‬s about making connections between how other people have treated us and how we‭’‬ve seen ourselves and our bodies.‭ ‬It‭’‬s about remembering terrible,‭ ‬scary,‭ ‬upsetting memories and integrating them.‭ ‬It‭’‬s about making sense of what happened,‭ ‬giving up old explanations that no longer work and coming up with new ones that fit our experience better.‭ ‬In the process we often reject much of what we believed when we were trans because it no longer suits us or seems true.‭ ‬It‭’‬s about understanding how the society around us has influenced us and shaped how we thought,‭ ‬felt and came to view ourselves.‭ ‬It‭’‬s not just figuring out‭ ‬how specific people hurt us but how our culture has restricted and attacked us and all women.‭ ‬It‭’‬s about connecting both with other women who transitioned and then stopped and to women in general.‭ ‬Feeling like we couldn‭’‬t be women,‭ ‬being cut off from other women is one of our deepest wounds and healing it means finally finding common ground and community with other women.‭

Detransitioning is learning to accept and be fully present in your body.‭ ‬It is about finding different ways to cope with and heal from‭ ‬dysphoria.‭ ‬Transitioning is not the only viable treatment for dysphoria,‭ ‬however severely it may manifest.‭ ‬We have learned this through experience and often with great‭ ‬difficulty and sacrifice.‭ ‬And many of us found that transitioning made our dysphoria‭ ‬worse instead of improving it.‭ ‬Many of us found some relief through changing our bodies but found even greater peace and happiness coming to accept our bodies as female.‭ ‬I was very satisfied with the physical changes caused by testosterone.‭ ‬They never felt wrong.‭ ‬But changing my body did not get at my root problems,‭ ‬it only obscured them further.‭ ‬My actual problems were trauma and hating myself for being a woman and a lesbian.‭ ‬Since I started dealing with my trauma and finding ways to be more present in my‭ ‬body,‭ ‬I have felt a lot more joy,‭ ‬strength and power than I ever felt taking t.‭ ‬Learning to accept the body and fully inhabit it is an effective way to treat many people‭’‬s dysphoria.‭ ‬Many detransitioned and dysphoric women have found ways to re-connect with our bodies,‭ ‬such as meditating,‭ ‬yoga, working out,‭ ‬exercising or doing physical labor,‭ ‬and‭ ‬we‭ ‬combine these practices with working through the trauma that caused dissociation from the body in the first place.‭ ‬It is often a long and difficult process that takes years but the rewards are well worth it.

As I have explained,‭ ‬detransitioning,‭ ‬at least in regards to women,‭ ‬has much to do with trauma,‭ ‬dissociation and misogyny.‭ ‬Misogyny and trauma caused our dysphoria and drove our transitions‭;‬ detransitioning is about healing from this damage and coming back from dissociation.‭ ‬This is one of the main points I try to get across to people when I explain detransitioning and this is a point many other detransitioned women try to‭ ‬make too.‭ ‬But I have yet to see trauma or misogyny mentioned at all in any article by a trans activist claiming to explain detransition,‭ ‬including your own.

Instead,‭ ‬our suffering is typically dismissed as insignificant if it is even mentioned at all.‭ ‬It seems to be inconceivable to many trans activists that for many women transitioning has been disastrous and traumatic,‭ ‬increasing rather than relieving our difficulties.‭ ‬You do not talk about our grief,‭ ‬nor how we feel betrayed by the medical professionals that helped us transition.‭ ‬You do not really‭ ‬talk about us at all but about what we represent to you.‭ ‬To many of you,‭ ‬we are‭ ‬a statistic that needs to be explained away,‭ ‬a rare occurrence other people are needlessly fussing about.‭

You never fail to exclaim on our supposed rarity and cite studies that supposedly prove how uncommon‭ ‬we are.‭ ‬As a detransitioned‭ ‬woman,‭ ‬I can tell you that many of those studies are based on criteria that exclude our actual circumstances and that I don‭’‬t trust their accuracy.‭  ‬For example,‭ ‬there is a study presently being conducted in the UK on people who surgically reverse previous sex-reassignment surgery.‭ ‬They include both genital surgery and also mastectomy.‭ ‬Some detransitioned women would not qualify for this study because they took hormones but never got‭ ‬ ‬mastectomies.‭ ‬Of those who did get a mastectomy,‭ ‬the‭ ‬majority‭ ‬ do not chose to get breast reconstruction.‭ ‬I would not meet the criteria for this study and neither would any of the detransitioned women I know personally.‭ ‬Additionally,‭ ‬while many of us are unhappy with the results of our transition,‭ ‬not all or even most of us would frame our feelings as regret because at the time we felt we had no other choice but to transition.‭ ‬We had no alternatives that we knew of so we were not truly making a free choice we could later regret making.‭ ‬It is far more honest to say that currently no one knows how many detransitioned people there are because there is not sufficient information.‭ I know of no clinic or practitioner providing hormones who even attempts to keep track of how many people stay on them long-term. ‬From my own experience,‭ ‬I can say that there are many more detransitioned women now than there were only a few years‭ ‬ago and it seems most likely that our numbers will continue to increase.‭ ‬Furthermore,‭ ‬there is a lot of‭ ‬irony in‭ ‬your implication that‭ ‬because we are‭ ‬a numerical‭ ‬minority,‭ ‬that‭ ‬makes our issues less important.‭ ‬As a trans person,‭ ‬you are a member of a numerical minority in relation to the general population,‭ ‬but I doubt you would appreciate having your‭ ‬own‭ ‬issues dismissed on that basis.

Minimizing our numbers and our suffering,‭ ‬obscuring the reasons why we transition in the first place goes along well with a political agenda to increase access to medical transition‭ ‬at all costs.‭

I think this is what is really at stake when you and other trans activists discuss detransitioned people.‭ ‬To you,‭ ‬we are potential obstacles to making sure hormones and surgery are easily available.‭ ‬And that‭’‬s how you generally treat us,‭ ‬as an argument to be disproved,‭ ‬not as real people with real lives and hardships.‭ ‬Let me ask you this,‭ ‬though:‭ ‬what is the real harm in uncovering all the reasons people experience dysphoria and offering alternative treatments‭ ‬alongside transition‭? ‬For example,‭ ‬since trauma can lead to dysphoria,‭ ‬people interested in transitioning could be informed of this potential cause and offered the option of therapy to explore whether trauma is at the root of their own dysphoria.‭ ‬Many detransitioned women now say they would‭’‬ve benefited from having such an option and that it could‭’‬ve helped them avoid making unnecessary changes to their bodies.‭

At present your call for support and compassion towards us comes across as empty words.‭ ‬If you truly want to support us,‭ ‬you could listen to our criticisms of the health care we received and take seriously our recommendations for improving it.‭ ‬You could post links to our writings when you discuss us.‭ ‬You wrote a whole article,‭ ‬with many links to trans people and people writing about trans people,‭ ‬and never once linked to any writing by an actual detransitioned person.‭ ‬I‭’‬m telling you,‭ ‬some of us are quite prolific and have a lot to say–but none of what we‭’‬ve been saying was included in your piece,‭ ‬which purports to explain our situation.‭ ‬That‭’‬s not support,‭ ‬that‭’‬s erasure.

If you want to support us,‭ ‬you can start taking us seriously as people as real as you are.‭ ‬People who you might disagree with,‭ ‬who might say things that upset or anger you but who have as big a stake as these debates and discussions about transitioning as you do.‭ ‬Transitioning has changed our bodies and our lives forever and we have a right to talk about what really happened to us.‭ ‬We‭’‬re not going to put up with you or other trans activists explaining us away and spreading misinformation about us because our reality doesn‭’‬t mesh well with your political agenda.‭

We‭’‬re here and we‭’‬re not going to stop speaking out about‭ ‬our lives.‭ ‬I am no one‭’‬s pawn.‭ ‬Many of us were tokenized plenty of times when we were trans and we are‭ ‬beyond done with that.‭ ‬We do‭ ‬our own politics.‭ ‬I am writing now out of concern for my own well-being,‭ ‬that of my other detransitioned sisters and for all other women and girls who could be potentially harmed by transitioning.‭ ‬I know what happened to me,‭ ‬I know what it means and I came to this understanding through my own reflection and through talking to other detransitioned women.‭ ‬We have been developing‭ ‬our own analysis of dysphoria and transitioning and how it impacts women for some time now.‭ ‬We are a growing‭ ‬cultural force.  ‬We have already changed how some people on and off-line talk about and understand dysphoria.‭

Those of us who post our words publicly have already been told by many women how we have helped them,‭ ‬how they might‭’‬ve wrongly transitioned if they hadn‭’‬t read of our experiences.‭ ‬I have been amazed and distressed to learn how many women consider transitioning because they think they have no other option and how quickly‭ ‬ some decide against it when they find out they really do.‭ ‬I hear many young women talk about how they thought they were not women because they never knew other women like them,‭ ‬never saw any women like them depicted in the media or the culture around them.‭ ‬So many of these young women are lesbians.‭ ‬It is now a relatively common experience for young lesbians to question whether they are really female or a woman and to identify as trans or genderqueer for a time.‭ ‬I see these young women,‭ ‬lesbian and otherwise,‭ ‬finally find other women they can relate to,‭ ‬who also feel out of place in this society,‭ ‬who don‭’‬t fit the patriarchal myths and I watch them grow proud of being female,‭ ‬being a woman.‭ ‬It has been beautiful to watch and amazing to be a part of so many women‭’‬s healing.‭

You can‭ ‬choose to listen to us and change how you talk about us or you can keep repeating the same misinformation.‭ ‬In case you do‭ ‬choose to listen,‭ ‬I‭’‬ve included some links to other detransitioned women‭’‬s blogs and videos.‭ ‬In any case,‭ ‬we will keep speaking our truths because even if you‭’‬re not listening,‭ ‬a lot of women are and they need to hear what we have to say.‭ ‬More and more women are speaking out,‭ ‬women who detransitioned and women who considered transitioning and didn‭’‬t.‭ ‬Perhaps one day there will be enough of us,‭ ‬we will be loud enough that you will not‭ ‬be able to ignore our voices any longer.


Blogs and Videos of Detransitioned Women:

(more to be added as I get permission from more women. If you’re a detransitioned woman and you want your blog, writing and/or video(s) listed here, let me know.)

Redress Alert

Wow, a detransitioned woman exists! by Maria Catt

Words by Maria Catt

Born Wrong

Guide on Raging Stars

Response to Julia Serano: Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation

Hot Flanks

Hot Flanks on tumblr