Why I Speak Out/Overcoming Shame
One of the biggest difficulties of being detransitioned is that I don’t get to just be a person. My existence gets politicized, people don’t just read my story to learn about how one woman has lived her life. They read it for evidence, they try to use it to win an argument, they pick it over for information proving or disproving a certain point. I know I’m not the only one out there who has this problem. A lot of people aren’t seen as humans with complicated lives but are instead treated like symbols, case studies, objects. I try to use my experience to enhance my overall empathy. Knowing I’m far from being alone doesn’t make this any less exhausting. The more visible I’ve become the more careful I’ve had to be about what I do and don’t say. Not just because I’ve become a representative of sorts but to protect myself. There are some parts of my life that I’m not going to make public because I don’t want to expose those parts to other people’s distorted projections and misinterpretations. Maybe I just need to stop paying so much attention to other people’s reactions. It’s hard though because I want make sure I’m effectively communicating and so I look for feedback, for how I’m coming across.
I find that many trans people interpret my words in ways I never intended. Many of them apparently think I and other detransitioned people are telling our stories in an attempt to scare people away from transitioning. I can’t entirely blame them for this misunderstanding because a lot of people do try to use our stories to demonstrate how horrible transitioning is and why no one should ever do it. These trans people confuse our intentions with those who try to use our stories for their political agenda. When trans people see stories like mine as scare tactics I get the sense that on some level they’re afraid of ending up like me, they’re afraid of ever having to detransition. I can’t totally blame them there either because detransitioning can be very hard and I was terrified when I realized that’s what I needed to do. But I’ve been working hard to make detransitioning less difficult for those coming after me. I don’t want detransitioning to be scary or threatening. One of the reasons why it was so hard was because I was isolated, had little information or models to go on and basically had to figure things out as I went. This motivated me to work with other detrans women to create community and resources. Detransitioning doesn’t have to be as difficult as it often is. The more people know about it, the less it’s feared and stigmatized and the more support networks there are, the easier life becomes for those who detransition.
Even if I wanted to scare people away from transitioning, I know such attempts would be futile. I remember what I was like when I was convinced I needed to transition. I highly doubt anyone could’ve talked me out of it. You can’t talk someone out of their desire to transition if they really believe or know that’s what they need. Before I transitioned, I read quite a few stories about people who detransitioned or stopped taking t. None of them scared me out of transitioning. Neither did learning about how many people thought transitioning was mutilation. All that told me was that some people would see me as a sick freak for changing my body but that didn’t matter much to me because people already thought I was a sick freak for the body I was born with. If I had come across a story of a woman who’d transitioned and then realized she’d been motivated by past trauma and lesbophobia, maybe that would’ve made a difference but maybe not. Like I said, I read the stories of people who’d stopped their transitions, including some butch dykes who’d realized they were acting out of internalized misogyny. These stories certainly made me examine my motivations more thoroughly before starting t but I still didn’t recognize my own internalized misogyny and lesbophobia until many years down the line. I do tend to be someone who learns by doing and experimenting. I learned a whole lot about myself by living and passing as a man that I don’t think I could’ve learned any other way. Also many memories of my past didn’t return to me until after I’d been on t a while, as if changing my body and enhancing my ability to pass made it safer to look back on old wounds.
When I talk about how parts of my transition were driven by self-hatred, rejection, repression and so on, when I talk about how in some way it was an act of self-destruction, I am trying to talk honestly about my experience. And I’m writing mainly for other detransitioned women, above all else. These are the women who really need to know they’re not alone, they’re not the only ones suffering through this. I would be lying if I said that coming to terms with what my transition was actually about has not been challenging and painful in many ways. The psychological side of detransitioning has been the hardest and I never would have survived it without the help of other detransitioned women. I can’t personally talk to or comfort every women struggling with this but I can make parts of my story publicly available. I don’t want other women to feel as alone as I once did. I want to use my own experience of suffering to lessen the suffering of others. I want to transmute it into a way others can find relief. The whole point of talking about the self-destructive parts of my transition, is to help other women in similar situations get past their self-hatred and shame, let them know that there is way through. These are some of the most painful parts of my life and I couldn’t write or speak openly about this if I wasn’t keeping other detransitioned women at the forefront of my mind. If other detransitioned and dysphoric women didn’t tell me how much my writing and videos have helped them, I would’ve stopped doing this years ago.
I don’t see my past transition as purely self-destructive. It took up almost a decade of my life. I can’t sum it up as a good or bad, right or wrong experience. Many different events, experiences, thoughts, feelings, motivations, and so on made up my transition. I have many different feelings about it, many of them conflicting. I’ve grieved who I could’ve been I hadn’t transitioned and I’ve missed the trans man I used to be. I’ve felt ashamed for transitioning and felt like I’ve ruined myself and also gotten angry and disappointed that my transition didn’t work out. There’s a lot I value about the experience but I also can’t deny how it hurt me and how I had to sacrifice other possibilities.
It’s frustrating how many people want to simplify this experience into something black or white. If anything, one of the main ideas I want to get across is that transitioning is complicated, messy, often full of unintended consequences. Taking t can be an act of self-expression and self-denial at the same time. Taking testosterone helped me explore and express parts of myself at the same time it made huge chunks of me invisible. I used it to create and erase myself. It destroyed one possible self I could’ve grown into and made me the woman I am today. I now accept my transition as a vital part of my history but it took me years to make peace with it. And part of that acceptance it realizing that some parts will always hurt and I can live with that. I can live with it because I’ve learned how to use my suffering to help others, use it to make connections with other women like myself.
I’ve been told by many detransitioned women how much my writing has helped them. I’ve been told by many women that my story has helped them realize that they don’t need to transition and that they’re better off managing their dysphoria without modifying their body. I’ve been told by women who’ve transitioned that reading my story helped them figure out their real motivations for transitioning and helped them make the decision to detransition. I put my story out there to help other people.
I confess that at one point I was more concerned about preventing people from transitioning. At the time, I was still very upset about my past transition and very concerned that I had been permanently ruined by taking t. In my mind, the ideal butch woman was a woman who was firmly female-identified and had lived as woman her entire life. She didn’t transition, and even if she was mistakenly read as a man because of how she looked, she never intentionally set out to pass. Needlessly to say, measured against this ideal I was an abject failure. This is the kind of woman I imagined I could’ve been if I hadn’t stumbled into trans identification and transitioned. Since I now I’d lost my chance to be her, I had urges to stop other people from “fucking up” like I did and missing their opportunity.
I also had a hard time not projecting my feelings about my own transition onto other people who were transitioning FtM. This made me feel crazy and I didn’t like how I reacted but I couldn’t stop. It felt like an intense trauma response but like many trauma responses it also felt extremely compelling and real. I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of language, but you could say that I was “triggered” by other people’s FtM transitions. Emotionally, transitioning seemed like this disaster that needed to be stopped or prevented at all costs, intellectually I knew it was not my place to decide what other people were or how they get to live and that I was projecting.
I had urges to convert people to my perspective and these urges caused me a lot of turmoil. They went against my values and felt wrong. I’ve valued autonomy all my life. I was raised to believe strongly in personal freedom, that people get to decide for themselves what is true, who they are and how to live. Wanting to to influence people felt wrong but I also couldn’t stop those feelings. I had this strong sense that there were ideas that I needed to get across to people, that were absolutely urgent to communicate. I tried to balance my conflicting feelings as much as possible, trusting that I did have important things I needed to say but tempering this with my self-doubt, thinking that my urge to persuade could get out of line if I wasn’t careful. I wanted to challenge people in the trans community to think about dysphoria and transitioning in ways they maybe hadn’t before but I still wanted to respect other’s ability to make up their own mind.
I stopped caring so much about other people’s transitions when I stopped being upset about my own, when I began to accept the woman I am now instead of missing the women I thought I should be. I got over my shame and stopped feeling like a fuck-up. I decided that it wasn’t my job to “save” other people from “ruining” their bodies and that taking on or being put in that role was bad for me. I started to look at how the way other people framed detransition affected me. I saw that the way critics of transitioning use our stories to illustrate how harmful it is influenced how I viewed my past transition. This kind of framing is really bad for me. It encouraged me to stay in mindsets and feelings that I’m better off challenging and working through. It might benefit some people’s political agendas if my past transition is a pure tragedy but that doesn’t help me have a better, happier life.
I’m better off if I can be honest about what my past transition was like, not denying the hurtful parts but also being able to appreciate however it might have benefited me. The more I can turn my past into a source of strength, the more I can use it to help other people the better.
I looked back on much of the past four or so years and realized I’d suffered more than I ever needed to. I’d felt ashamed of what I’d done, I’d felt like I’d done something terrible to myself that I could never come back from. I realized that was all bullshit, that I was creating more pain for myself because of how I was interpreting my past. I let go of my ideas of who I could’ve been and accepted this is who I am and who I am is just fine. I stopped seeing my past trans self as a mistake or evidence of how fucked up I was and accepted him as essential part of my story, how I got to be where I am now. I appreciated all that I did to survive and grow. I grew my beard out to claim how my body is different now. I stopped trying to erase the signs of my past transition and gave myself permission to fully enjoy some of the permanent changes t has given me. I worked to accept all the contradictions of my experience, everything transitioning had taken from me and everything it had given me.
I know a lot of other detransitioned people who have felt shame about what we’ve done, who’ve felt like we messed ourselves up real bad. Both medically transitioning and detransitioning are stigmatized. Many people, including not a few trans people, see detransitioned people as fuck-ups. Our sanity is questioned. People feel entitled to decide what our lives mean, even going as far to say that they know what they mean better than we do. People say demeaning things about our bodies or offer unsolicited advice about how to “fix” them to make them more like “normal” female or male bodies. We are not treated as if we are valued or respected. We’re treated like problems to solve, evidence of damage, blemishes to be covered up or corrected. We treated like we’re broken.
I am not broken. I am not mutilated or ruined. If you can only see me as a mistake or a tragedy, you do not know me. I am a woman who has been through some serious shit and I have plenty to say about it. I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed about doing what they thought they had to do to survive or have a better life. I don’t want anyone to hate themselves because they think they ruined their body or their chances of having a good life. I think there are going to be more and more detransitioned women and I want us all to have the best life possible. We have to take care of our own. I want us all to find ways to make peace with our past, to heal our past wounds as much as possible. We’ve been through enough, we don’t need to feel bad about ourselves anymore.
I’m not saying anyone should deny how they’ve been hurt or pretend things aren’t as bad as they are or were. But it’s possible to learn how to use suffering to get stronger and grow. You can use it to become wiser, more compassionate and empathetic. You can use it to connect with people instead of feeling set a part. I want to help people learn how to turn their pain into power and community. This is my work.
I’m saying these words partially to remind myself. Because it is hard when people misunderstand you or get defensive or try to twist your story up in ways you hate. It can get very discouraging when you feel like you’re doing all you can to communicate and it’s not getting through. So I remind myself what of I want to accomplish. I want to help other detransitioned and dysphoric women have good lives. I want to talk about how such things as internalized misogyny, lesbophobia and trauma factored into my transition so people can use that information while making their own choices. I want to spread information about alternative treatments for dysphoria. I am trying to change what life is like for detransitioned and dysphoric women because it doesn’t have to be this hard. I don’t want other women to suffer like I’ve suffered. I don’t want any woman to feel as alone as I once did. I don’t want any woman to needlessly hate herself or feel shame for her choices.
I do want more trans people to have a better understanding of detransitioned people. I don’t want trans people to be afraid of us, I don’t gain anything from such fear. I still have a lot in common with many transmasculine people. Look at me, I pass for a dude almost all the time, especially with my beard grown out. My life now is not that different from what it was like when I was trans.
Something for trans people to keep in mind when reading my words or watching my videos, my main intended audience is often other detransitioned and dysphoric women. What’s helpful for us to hear might be upsetting or disturbing to trans people. Or maybe you read something I wrote back when I was still working through my shame about transitioning, when I was projecting my discomfort with myself onto other people. I’m sure some of that will come off as trying to influence someone transitioning or considering transition. Remember I was working through my own shit about my transition and it’s not really about you or other trans people. I try to remind myself of that when I see trans people getting defensive about detransitioned people and misunderstanding us. It’s not really about me, it’s their insecurities coming out. It makes sense that we can get each other riled up and touch on each other’s anxieties and fears. We’ve all been through a lot, we all been attacked for trying to be who we are and have a good life. I’m not going to lie, sometimes how trans people respond to me gets me so mad. How some trans people reacted to the Stranger article on detransition made me furious. But I try to stay compassionate, I try to have empathy. I hope more trans people can try to see where I and other detransitioned people are coming from.
Underneath all the crap people want to put on me, I’m a woman who’s had a weird fucking life. In a lot of ways it’s not that different from other people’s lives. A lot of people’s live are messy and surreal and end up teaching them things they never expected to learn. I’m more than my politics or philosophical world view, I’m a lot more than my past transition and detransition. I spend a lot of time talking about that part of my life to help people. It does help some people and then other people take what they see and try to use it push their own agenda or interpret it in ways I never intended. I can’t stop people from doing that but I can vent about it at least. I can talk about how that’s part of the detransitioned experience at this particular moment in trans politics. I can try to clarify my intentions and in the process remind myself of what I’m trying to do.
I want to thank all the detransitioned people who’ve been speaking out, in particular other detransitioned women, both those I know personally and those who are strangers to me. Thank you for all the work that you’re doing. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been helped reading and watching other women like me. It keeps me going. Thank you. I want to end this video on a note of appreciation and pride in all the work we’ve been doing. Hope everyone watching this video is doing well. Wishing you all peace and strength.