Philly Trans Health Cancels Detransition Panels
Transcript: I want to respond to the recent cancellation of two workshops that were going to be presented at Philly Trans Health Conference. One was about detransitioning and was mainly addressed to therapists on how to support patients who detransition. The other was about alternative ways to treat gender dysphoria aside from medically transitioning for people who chose not to or can’t transition, people who transition and then end up detransitioning and for people who medically transition but find that it doesn’t address all their symptoms. Some trans people found out about the workshops from the conference schedule posted online and objected to them being presented because they thought the presenters had a “terfy” or anti-trans agenda or that their presentations would other wise be harmful in some way. They contacted the conference organizers and managed to get the workshops canceled.
I know one of the presenters, Carey Callahan and she’s a very talented, compassionate and insightful person. She has stated multiple times in her writing and videos that she thinks many people do benefit from medical transition and supports people doing what’s best for them. She has repeatedly resisted attempts by transphobes to use her work against trans people. She tries to speak to multiple audiences with different viewpoints and refuses to adhere to any specific ideology, which I think is one reason people find her threatening. She doesn’t bow to the prevailing trans ideology or the gender-critical feminist one for that matter. I personally respect her for trying to bridge differences between groups that have often wildly conflicting understandings of transitioning and trans identity and politics. That takes a lot of work and a lot of skill and energy. We need more people like her. Her writing and videos have helped me a great deal throughout my own process of detransitioning. Philly Trans Health is missing out big time not letting her present.
The organizers of the conference released a statement talking about why they chose to cancel the workshops. They acknowledged that the topics were valid but they didn’t feel they could be presented on without compromising the kind of space they were trying to create.
They said “The difficult decision to pull these workshops ultimately came down to the level of heated conversation and controversy surrounding the two workshops. This was detracting from our overall mission of the conference, to provide an accessible and respectful environment that centers the experiences of the transgender and gender non-conforming/non-binary (GNC/NB) community.
We do not like to cancel programming for the conference, but at the same time, there is a duty to ensure the conference environment is safe, accessible, and respectful for everyone in attendance; however, with the amount of overwhelming reactions around this topic, this was not looking possible.
We strive to be inclusive of diverse opinions and ideas. It is possible that one day in the future these topics can be a part of the conference.”
Ok, so there are a few things I want to address. First off, their decision to cancel these workshops does not send me the message that I would be welcome or respected as a detransitioned woman if I were to attend their conference. I don’t think the organizers are hostile towards detransitioned people, as far as I know they’re not but I don’t feel confident that they’d have my back if I went to the conference as an openly detransitioned woman and someone took offense to me being there or started harassing me. At this point, after seeing how some trans people respond to detransitioned people online, I’m sure that some of them would be hostile to us in person. There is a lot of misinformation and ignorance in the trans community about what we’re about and a lot of trans people think we’re a threat to them when we’re not. A lot of them would not understand why I would want to attend a trans health conference and may wrongly assume I’d come there to disrupt it or speak out against medical transition in general. On the contrary, I’d be there for perhaps some of same reasons they might be attending, because I have unique health care needs since I suffer from gender dysphoria and because I medically transitioned in the past.
I don’t need to be protected from disagreement or views that are different from mine. If I went to a trans conference, I would spend time preparing on how to respond to people who disagree with me because I know I’d encounter people who disagree very strongly with some of my views. I’d try to figure out how to deescalate and talk out our disagreements. It would help to feel confident that people organizing the conference would also have some kind of framework or strategy in place for mediating conflict if necessary. Conflict, disagreement and debate can be very productive in the right context. I’m impressed when event organizers can create spaces where conflict can be turned into something constructive. Perhaps the organizers are accurately assessing what kind of space they can presently offer. If that’s so, I would encourage them to work towards creating a space where controversy offers productive opportunities instead of being so threatening that it needs to be prevented.
It’s important to remember though, that detransition isn’t just a controversial subject people argue about online, detransition is something some people live through, people who often suffer and face difficulties accessing resources because our very existence gets politicized. Canceling a workshop about this life experience because some of the other people attending are uncomfortable with it does not help create a space where people who detransitioned can openly talk about our lives. It doesn’t send the message that the organizers think our interests and needs are worth defending or are as important as the discomfort other people feel about our experiences.
The organizers said they want to create “an accessible and respectful environment that centers the experiences of the transgender and gender non-conforming/non-binary (GNC/NB) community.” I would definitely consider myself very gender non-conforming and I still have many things in common with trans people, trans masculine people in particular. Most detransitioned women I know are also gender non-conforming. If I were to attend a trans conference, I would go there to bond with other people who are like me in some regard, people who deal with dysphoria, who know what it’s like to live as a gender ambiguous person in this society, who move through the world as a man but but feel being born female is significant in some way, who took t for a while and stopped and so on. I wouldn’t go there to convert people to any ideology or to talk people out of transitioning. If I talked about my detransition it would be to inform people about what it like so they could understand the experience better, not to convince them that they should detransition too.
One reason I might specifically attend a trans health conference like Philly is that I, like many trans people, have unique health care needs because of my gender presentation and past medical transition. I took testosterone for a total of four years. I don’t feel comfortable going to see any old doctor because of how my body is now. I’ve heard of people with transitioned and/or ambiguous looking bodies getting terrible and often dehumanizing treatment at the hands of ignorant medical professionals. I don’t want to experience that. I’ve gotten enough shit over the course of my life for having a body like mine.
So when I have to go to the doctor, I seek out people who are going to be respectful and knowledgeable about bodies like mine which means seeking out health care providers who treat trans people. I want a provider who’s not going to be freaked out by my presentation or the features of my body and who is going to be knowledgeable about what effects, if any, my past hormone use has had on my overall health. The easiest way to find a provider like that is to seek out people and clinics that treat trans people. But if I go to one of those, then I have to educate them about what it means for me to be detransitioned because I’ll likely be the first detransitioned woman they’ve ever seen. That’s what happened the last time I went to get something checked out. And the people who saw me were very friendly and respectful and it went well. Still, it would be nice if I didn’t have to do that, if providers working with trans people and transition related health care had a general understanding of detransitioned people and how our needs both align and diverge from trans people’s needs. I don’t want me being detransitioned to be a big deal when I’m trying to get health care. I don’t go to the doctor to talk politics, I go to get my health attended to.
I’m also curious about the general effects of taking testosterone, and specifically of taking testosterone for several years and then stopping. I know there’s not a lot of research out there on that and I wish there was more. Did I increase my chances of developing any health complications? Could my past testosterone usage impact me when I go through menopause? I wonder about a lot of things like that, not just potential health complications but just how is my body different now from taking t?
I noticed on the conference website that one of the workshops being presented is on recent research of trans health including the impact of hormones. The presenter say they’ll be presenting information that is hard to access because it’s usualy behind a paywall and also mention how they’ll be translating research from technical language to something lay people could understand. That sounds like a workshop I would definitely be interested in attending and where I could learn information that relates to me and would be hard to find elsewhere. That’s a perfect example of why I would want to attend a trans health conference.
The workshop on detransitioning was largely going to be directed at therapists who work with patients suffering from gender dysphoria. Professionals who could very likely end up some day having a client who detransitions. Carey in particular was going to present on how the process of detransitioning can resemble grieving. That has certainly been my experience and I think mental health care professionals could’ve learned a lot from her. Mental health professionals who work with trans and other gender dysphoric patients need to be knowledgeable about detransitioning and how to support someone going through that. Detransitioning can very psychologically intense and difficult. There need to be mental health professionals who are knowledgeable and competent enough to work with a detransitioning person.
I want there to be more resources for detransitioned people in general. Right now there’s very little outside of what we’ve created ourselves. Like I said before, if I went to a trans health conference I would definitely want to spend part of the time hanging out with people who’d had similar life experiences but I’d also feel obligated to use that as an opportunity to work towards making life better for detransitioned people. Mainly by talking to people there, both trans people and health care professionals, about what our lives are really like, dispelling ignorance and stating our needs and how I think think health care providers could support us better.
So those are some reasons I might attend a conference like Philly’s, mainly because I feel like I have a stake in trans and transition related health care because that’s what I rely on when I need medical care. Educating health care providers about detransitioned people is more or less about teaching them what we need to be well and happy. It’s not about pushing any kind of anti-trans agenda.
I think it says a lot about the state of detransitioned people in regards to the larger trans community that I feel like I have to explain why someone like me would have an interest in attending a conference like Philly and basically prove that I don’t have any ill intentions towards trans people. I know a lot of trans people are totally fine with detransitioned people and wouldn’t have any problem hanging out with us. But some trans people are hostile to us and this hostility is now effectively making it more difficult for us to work towards getting our health care needs met. How is teaching therapists how to support detransitioning patients anti-trans? Other people’s discomfort with us took away an opportunity to educate mental health care workers about our needs as detransitioned people. That’s not ok.
Again, detransition isn’t just a “controversial subject”, it’s life for some people. Messy, difficult, complicated life that people have to figure out how to work through. Just talking about it as a controversy that cause conflicts and arguments distracts from the issue of whether detransitioned people will find that conference a “safe, accessible, and respectful” space. If detransition is ruled out as a topic of discussion what does that say about us as people attending? We deserve to be able to attend, present and talk about our lives and other issues that effect us.
The organizers of the conference say “it is possible that one day in the future these topics [meaning detransition and alternative treatments for dysphoria] can be a part of the conference.” What are these people going to do to make it possible to present on detransition in the future and what are they going to do to make sure their event is “safe, accessible, and respectful” for detransitioned people? They claim that they want to create an “environment that is inclusive of diverse gender-identities and expressions as well as inclusive of diverse opinions and ideas” but right now I don’t feel included. I don’t feel like they’re willing to stick up for my experience of gender or my ideas and opinions. I think that by canceling the workshops they are favoring some opinions and ideas over others. They’re saying some people’s discomfort with me is more important than my health care needs.
I know that organizing events can be very difficult work. I’m trying to give the organizers the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re trying to do the best they can to live up to their stated values. It’s not easy trying to create space where a diversity of opinions, experiences and view points can co-exist. But people who are trans or gender non-conforming, who suffer from gender dysphoria and who medically transition are a truly diverse bunch. We’re not all going to think alike but we all deserve to have access to health care and other resources so we can lead fulfilling lives.
I hope the organizers understand they have a real problem on their hands that they need to solve. They need to learn how to create a space that can handle any heated conversations that could arise from the presence of detransitioned people. We should be able to attend and present because this conference focuses on issues that deeply impact our lives.
Those are my thoughts more or less. A lot of work needs to be done so that detransitioned people and trans people can work together where our interests overlap and learn from each other. Look, I don’t need trans people to agree with me about everything or see gender or dysphoria the same way I do but they need to understand that my experiences are just as real as their’s and I deserve just as good a life as they do and that they are not helping themselves any when they get in the way of detransitioned people working to get the support and resources we deserve.
Some trans people’s fear and discomfort with detransitioning just cost my community a chance to help create better health care for our specific needs. This isn’t just about what you are and are not allowed to talk about, though that’s also important. No, for me this is a problem because how it impacts our access to health care. Like did any of the people working to get these panels canceled think about how their actions could negatively impact detransitioned people struggling with psychological difficulties? How they could actually be making it harder for people to get what they need to be well? I’m tired of trans people not taking detransitioned people’s difficulties seriously. Again, you don’t have to like me but you do need to get used to me because who knows, one day we might end up in the same waiting room.