crashchaoscats

reflectin' & dissectin', thoughts on "detransitioning"

A Response to Right-Wing Christian Hypocrisy

Earlier this month, Laurie Higgins, a member of a right-wing Christian group called the Illinois Family Institute, published an article on the group’s website about detransitioned people. It was later reposted on Life Site, another conservative Christian website. The article took my words and those of two other detransitioned women out of context in an attempt to use them to attack trans people. All of us were disgusted with the misuse of our words, images and videos. Carey Callahan, who was among those featured in the article, made a video in response that can be viewed here.

Higgins quoted from a video I made about transitioning as a response to trauma. I made that video to reach out to other trauma survivors, not to smear trans people. Many of those who’ve transitioned due to trauma initially feel ashamed of what they’ve done to survive and cope. I wanted others who’ve gone through this particular struggle to know that they’re not fucked up and that they’re not alone. I also made it clear that even if someone’s transition is motivated by trauma, detransitioning is only one path towards healing and that trans men can stay transitioned and work through their trauma. People have to figure out what works for them and what’s going to give them the best life. Of course, Higgins skipped over that part when she was selecting quotes. It was particularly upsetting that she attempted to use this specific video to shame and stigmatize, to promote the very suffering and harm it was meant to combat.

I’ve had another of my videos end up on a right-wing site before this and I’m afraid that with the far-right becoming increasingly emboldened, this probably won’t be be the last attempt made by right-wing Christians to use the experiences of detransitioned people against trans people. With that in mind, I want to make a few things clear.

Seeing my words taken out of context by right-wing Christians makes me feel violated and humiliated. I’m a fairly private person overall. It’s not easy for me to talk about my trauma online. A lot of the time the only way I can push myself to get vulnerable is to think of other detransitioned women, often women I know in real life, who I know would benefit from hearing about my experience. It’s horrifying to see my words being used by the very kind of people who traumatized me in the first place, with the intent of hurting more people like me. I think of trans men as being people like me, more so than not. My life now is not too different from my life as a trans man.

Like trans men, we detransitioned women are not strangers to being called mentally ill or damaged for being trans. We know what it’s like to live as a trans person is this society and having to deal with others’ disrespect and ignorance. We know what it’s like to be treated like broken deranged women and we know that only increases the damage and creates more wounds to heal from. Treating people as “less than” because they suffer from trauma or mental illness makes it harder for them to heal.

No attack on trans people leaves detransitioned people unscathed. Any attack on their right to exist is an attack on ours. We are all stigmatized for having medically transitioned bodies, our dysphoria is misunderstood, our sanity is questioned, and we are treated like objects or symbols rather than people. Without fail, those who dehumanize trans people dehumanize detransitioned people as well, often by reducing us to our bodies, trauma and suffering. Selectively quoting our words to push an anti-trans narrative isn’t listening to us, it’s exploiting us for a political agenda that hurts our own well-being.

We put our words online to let other detransitioned women know they are not alone, not to make trans people feel more alienated. We talk about our trauma and dysphoria, how we’ve suffered from it and what we’ve done to heal in order to help others who are suffering, not to add to their difficulties or humiliate them. We talk about how we have been mistreated and dehumanized for not fitting into gender roles, for being “too masculine”, for being visibly lesbian, for being trans, for being what society considers freakish and unnatural. We speak out against how we and others like us have been wronged in order to end that injustice, not to give ammunition to those who wronged us. The Christian Right are prominent among those who create and enforce the misogyny, sexism and homophobia that drove us to transition. Therefore, when we speak out against social forces that drive women to transition, we speak out against right-wing Christians and the harm they promote as well.

Detransitioned women work together to undo the damage done by right-wing Christians and others who promote a restricted view of what a woman can be, who say you can’t be lesbian, butch, or gender non-conforming and be a “real” woman. We work to let other women know that they are not unnatural, sinful, disgusting, unhealthy or freakish for being the kind of woman they are, that they don’t have to change their bodies to be “right”.

So many detransitioned women have been hurt by right-wing Christians, either being raised in churches that teach us who we are is wrong or coming into contact with Christians who use their religion as a justification to reject our full humanity and mistreat us. I’ve felt the toxic social influence of right-wing Christians starting when I was a child. I grew up going to school with Christian kids who believed being gay was a sin. They bullied me for being “too masculine” and later for coming out as a lesbian.  I grew up in a town where the Unitarian church my family attended was called “satanic” by other churches in town for being gay-friendly. I grew up learning about how right-wing Christian organizations were determined to eliminate gay people either by trying to turn us straight or push us back into the closet. I knew gay kids whose conservative Christian parents threw them out or sent them to conversion “therapy”. I’m not surprised that many detransitioned lesbians I know had conservative Christian upbringings. Right-wing Christians provided us all with ample encouragement to reject ourselves. If there wasn’t so much social pressure not to be a lesbian or butch or otherwise “unfeminine,” we wouldn’t have been so eager to change ourselves and our bodies. Right-wing Christianity is one of the strongest social forces driving women to transition.

Right-wing Christians who exploit our words conveniently leave out the fact that many detransitioned women are now happily living as lesbian or bisexual women and are very often butch or otherwise gender non-conforming. They zero in on our pain and ignore our recovery, which often involves embracing much of what they reject as sinful or unhealthy. They use our mental suffering as proof that all those who deviate from their ideal of heterosexuality and stereotypical womanhood and manhood are lesser people, deserving a lesser place in society. Right-wing Christians will exploit our trauma but not take responsibility for their part in creating it. Right-wing Christians inflict damage on women, gay, trans and gender non-conforming people, causing us to suffer–and then turn around and use that suffering to justify their mistreatment of us. They work hard to make life inhospitable for lesbians and other women who fall outside their idea of proper womanhood, spreading lies about how we’re sick, sinful, how our bodies aren’t our own. This encourages more women to hate themselves and dissociate from their female bodies. Right-wing Christians contribute to the very conditions that lead some women to reject themselves and transition and then try to use the suffering they’ve caused in order to inflict even more damage. In truth, right-wing Christians don’t want us to heal or be well because we’re more useful to them when we suffer.

I won’t stay silent in the face of such hypocrisy. I won’t stand by when assholes try to use my words to prop up a political agenda that endangers both trans people and detransitioned women. I consider such misuse of my words to be a violation and an attack on my own person. I work towards a world without patriarchy, which means working towards a world without the Religious Right. I’m tired of right-wing Christians feeding off my suffering, as well as the suffering of other women, gay people, trans people and others harmed by patriarchal sex roles. I will do whatever I can to resist them and the damage they create.

If you want to support detransitioned and dysphoric women, resist the Right and join in struggles to keep them out of power. Right-wing Christians and other social conservatives are the source of much of our suffering. They work to create a society where we can’t exist as we are, which makes transitioning a very appealing survival strategy.  Uprooting right-wing Christianity will give all women more power and more space to be free.

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Video I Made for the Detransition Presentation at USPATH 2017

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Crash. I’ll give you a bit of background about my transition history. I started living as a man when I was eighteen. I started taking testosterone when I was twenty. I took testosterone for a total of four years. I lived as a man for about nine years. I detransitioned when I was twenty-seven, I’m thirty now. I detransitioned because I realized that my dysphoria and trans identity were rooted in trauma and internalized misogyny. I was severely bullied and harassed, starting when I was a young girl and continuing throughout my teenage years. First I was bullied for being a gender non-conforming girl and later for coming out as a butch lesbian. I also realized that starting in my teenage years and also in my early twenties I received a lot of encouragement for identifying as a trans man. People treated me a whole lot better when I passed for male or when I was seen as a trans man compared to when I was seen as a woman and I think that greatly influenced how I saw myself. I also see a connection between my decision to transition and my mom’s suicide. She killed herself when I was twenty and I started hormones about three months after she killed herself. We greatly physically resembled each other and I think one of my motivations for changing my body is I wanted to differentiate myself from her. So I looked back over my past and realized that my transition and my trans identity were coping mechanisms for dealing with traumatic events that I had been living through and that a lot of what I had experienced as dysphoria was a kind of dissociation that resulted, er, was a result of trauma. And since I shifted my approach to dealing with my dysphoria from seeing my main problem to being figuring out how to express an internal gender identity to seeing my problem as being how do I heal and recover from traumatic events that I lived through I’ve achieved way more relief overall. I did experience some relief from taking hormones and living as a man but since I started to accept myself as a woman and work through my trauma, I’ve gotten a whole lot more satisfaction and I feel much happier and much more functional overall.

Lost to Follow-Up/How Far Can You Follow Me?

[Re-reading this lately, I find there’s a lot I no longer relate to. I go through periods were I feel very distraught by my transition but more and more I’m finding ways to make peace with my past and accept how I got to where I am today. I will probably always have a lot of complicated and somewhat conflicted feelings about my transition. I was working through the ways transitioning had hurt me and my shame around transitioning when I wrote this. Many detransitioned women I know have felt extreme negativity about their past transition at some point and that affects our relationships to the medical and psychiatric professionals who helped us transition. I still thinks it’s important for those facilitating medical transition to know that detransitioned people may not be forthcoming about our experiences because our transitions are associated with trauma, self-destructiveness and shame, among other things.]

 

I haven’t told any of the medical providers who helped me transition that I’ve since detransitioned and accepted myself as a woman. Not the therapist who diagnosed me with gender identity disorder, not the doctors or nurse practitioners who prescribed me testosterone and took my blood for testing. I haven’t contacted any of these women (all the providers I saw happened to be female) and told them what became of me.

I wouldn’t bother telling them about my detransition without telling them why I transitioned and how it was a kind of self-destructive coping mechanism. The thought of telling my old providers about how transitioning hurt me is intimidating, overwhelming. I’d be making myself very vulnerable and I don’t trust doctors to begin with, not even the nice ones. Why would it be easy to tell those who prescribed me testosterone that doing so helped me hurt myself? Why would it be easy to tell them that they were enabling my self-destruction? Their good intentions makes it even harder to tell them.
Read the rest of this entry »

A Woman Can

I wrote “A Woman Can” about three years ago, when I was twenty-eight. Just being able to put my experience into words was a big deal because there was hardly anything out there at the time that described what I’d lived through. In the communities I’d been a part of so much of my experience was seen as categorically un-woman, un-female. Claiming experiences like transitioning, living as a man, seeing one’s self as a third gender and so on as things a woman could experience was very helpful and healing.

This piece appears in the zine Blood and Visions: Womyn Reconciling with Being Female, a collection of writing by detransitioned and re-identified women. Copies of the zine can be ordered here: http://www.greenwomanstore.com/blood-and-visions.html

 

Three Old Posts from NoGoingBack

These are some old posts I made on NoGoingBack, a listserv for people who stopped their transition, stopped taking hormones and/or detransitioned. Most the people on that listserv still identified as some kind of trans or genderqueer even though they’d ceased medically transitioning. Most of them were females who had taken t but for one reason or another had chosen not to stay on it. I’ve always known of way more people who transitioned FtM and then stopped than those who transitioned MtF and stopped but always saw the latter get way more attention in the media.

I originally joined the listserv when I was nineteen or so, after I’d started living as a man but before I medically transitioned. I wanted to read about the experiences of people who’d physically transitioned and then stopped so I could use that information to help me decide whether to take t or not. After I physically transitioned, I would occasionally post on the listserv when I was having doubts or rethinking my identity. I posted on there a few times during the first time I stopped taking t.

These are the last three posts I made on NoGoingBack. I wrote them over the course of about a year,  as I was gradually coming to recognize myself as a woman again and figuring out why I took testosterone and how transitioning had impacted my life in ways I hadn’t anticipated. By the time I wrote the last one, “feeling like i lost something”, the listserv was almost dead. Luckily for me, another detransitioned woman happened upon my post and asked me if I wanted to correspond. Read the rest of this entry »

Reclaiming Female/Speaking Back

Cut off from myself, wrenched apart, scattered into pieces, I mistook my wounds for what I was. Encouraged to live inside illusions, I gave my life to them to keep them alive and take what protection they offered.

I am a dyke coming back together after being severed and scattered, after learning to fear my own body and see it wretched and not enough, a place under constant threat I had to escape or change to survive in.
Read the rest of this entry »

Detransitioned Women Deserve to be Heard

 

outlinedetrans

I’m happy to see the Outline stand by the article Rachel Monroe wrote about my detransition and the growing detransitioned women’s community. A number of trans people have objected to the article, calling it, among other things, “irresponsible” and “transphobic garbage”. One gets the impression that if these particular trans people had their way, the story would not have run or would be heavily altered to bring it within their comfort level. I got the sense reading these and other responses that these particular trans people only viewed detransitioning in regards to how they think it affects them, how it could harm the trans community or affect their access to hormones and surgery. They were unable to consider detransitioned women on our own terms, as a group with specific interests and needs who of course will act to advance our own well-being. If that means telling stories and truths other people find uncomfortable, so be it. Read the rest of this entry »

Trauma and Transitioning

Transcript (edited for clarity):

Hey there. I’m Crash and I want to talk about how sometimes women take on a trans identity and transition due to trauma that we lived through. So I want to talk about a few things I think people should know about in regards to this.

First off, that it happens cuz I don’t think many people know this. My transition was largely a reaction to trauma that I lived through. I know a lot of other women who feel like their dysphoria or trans identity or transition were motivated as, they were a reaction to trauma. And for those of us who transitioned, we didn’t go into our transitions like thinking that we were reacting to trauma. We saw ourselves as men, as trans, as genderqueer, as non-binary. We had dysphoria that we were attempting to alleviate by changing our bodies. But somewhere during the course of our transition, we came to a different understanding of what our problems were. We realized that trauma played a significant role in how we saw ourselves and what we were doing. and then you know, we kinda shifted in how we thought about our problems and how we dealt with them.
Read the rest of this entry »

Getting in the Media

I got profiled by a journalist and she wrote an article about me you can read here. She talks about how I came to transition and detransition. This is the first article that I know of to talk about female detransition in depth. This is the first article on detransitioning I’ve seen that makes connections between dysphoria and trauma, dissociation and internalized misogyny. She talks about dysphoric women, acknowledging that having dysphoria does not necessarily make one trans nor does transitioning always relieve it.  It’s exciting to see this experience and information get out to a much larger audience.

One thing I would change is that I wish she had at least briefly mentioned that I am very critical of transitioning and trans politics. When we were still emailing back and forth, before the actual interview, she made it clear that she wanted to focus on my experience of transitioning and detransitioning, so I’m not surprised that she didn’t bring up my political views, even though we discussed them when she interviewed me. Overall I’m fine with that choice because detransitioned women are not especially visible and my story says a lot on its own.

Still, it would’ve been nice to spread the idea that one can be critical of ideas and practices advanced by the trans community while still having a stake in how trans people are treated in the larger society because we face the same challenges. As I’m quoted saying at the end of the piece “[f]rom what I’ve found, it doesn’t matter if you’re currently identifying as trans of not. Having a trans history, having ever transitioned, can definitely impact how people see you. They’ll objectify you, treat you disrespectfully, see your body as freakish. Coming off as gender non-conforming can cause a lot of hardships, no matter what you call yourself. Our lived experiences are similar in a lot of ways. We deal with a lot of the same problems.” I am also one of those detransitioned women who agrees with many of the criticisms Janice Raymond and other radical feminists make about trans identity and transitioning because their analysis fits with my own experiences. And I believe that people should be able to do what they want with their bodies. Including my critical perspectives along with my respect for personal autonomy and the observation that I still have much in common with trans people would’ve complicated the neat categories a lot of people try to sort this particular debate into. What I’ve lived through has made me very critical of transitioning and how many trans people understand dysphoria and gender and it has made me realize that all people with a history of transition and/or who don’t fit into gender norms face specific problems and struggles in this society. I have much in common still with trans people, particularly trans men and other female-bodied trans and genderqueer people. I would love to see more nuance in these debates and discussions, more recognition of common interests and experiences and less demonizing and black and white thinking.

Also worth mentioning is that many of the detransitioned women who went to Michfest did so not only with the intention of meeting other women of the same experience but to participate in or attend a workshop on detransitioning that I led with Redress. We presented our workshop the last two years of the Festival and it was very well-attended and warmly received. Many of us found that connecting with other women and experiencing a space centered on the experience of being born and raised female was deeply healing and empowering after spending years dissociated from our female bodies and womanhood.

All in all though I think this article is very important and I like how it came out.

The writer of this article, Rachel Monroe, is getting criticism and charges of “transphobia” from trans people on twitter for even writing about this topic and bringing up issues and opinions they find uncomfortable. If you like the article and think making detransitioned women’s lives more visible is important consider showing her some support and giving her positive feedback. Don’t bother going after those attacking her, their actions speak loud enough on their own.

Years ago, before I met another woman who’d transitioned and then stopped, when I was feeling incredibly isolated and was hunting for whatever information I could find about detransitioned women, I never thought I’d one day represent this experience in the media. I never thought I’d be telling my story to a journalist and telling her about the emerging community of detransitioned women. I hope this article helps complicate people’s understanding of gender, trans issues, and how people sort out who they are versus how their society forces them to exist. I hope it reaches women struggling with dysphoria, women with a history of FtM transition, and people questioning their transitions and/or trans identities and makes them feel less alone

 

 

Journal Entry from 12/8/12

I wrote these notes near the end of my twenty-sixth year, a few months before I started corresponding with another detransitioned woman I met online. I had already worked out quite a lot on my own. I was still living as a man when I wrote this. A few close and trusted friends knew I was questioning what I was again and that I was starting to think of myself as a woman/dyke more and more.  I’ve added a few notes for clarification. I’m not sure why I put quotes around word transition.

things i think contributed to my decision to “transition”
living in a patriarchal society:
-getting a lot of shit for being a “masculine” woman
-getting treated better when i passed as a dude
-making more sense to people when seen as a trans dude rather than a girl
-internalizing standards of male masculinity [As opposed to “female masculinity”, which was still a concept I used at the time. I was referring to how I tried to fit in with men, those born male and raised to be masculine. How I measured myself against the men in my life and depictions of men in culture and media.]
-people didn’t know what i was and would remark on it, assume i was a hermaphrodite, that i had a dick, etc
-not wanting to be treated like most women are in this society
-wanting to be respected by men and treated like “one of the guys”
-not having many cultural or media references depicting women like myself
-not having many butch women as mentors or role models
-identifying with cultural depictions of men, specifically queer men because i could relate to them a lot better than depictions of women
-feeling like dyke sex wasn’t as real as hetero sex [For example believing that what two women do together isn’t real sex or isn’t as real as sex between a woman and a man. I remember kids I went to high school telling me this, that lesbian sex isn’t real. Having sex with women who mainly had sex with men was a big deal to me because it “proved” I was as good as a man sexually.]
-threats of rape from men
-feeling invisible in this society, like people like me don’t exist

Psychological factors:
-self-hatred and depression
-became a coping mechanism and obsession
-using t as anti-depressant
-looking for meaningful, transformative experience
-wanting to separate myself from my mom and her illness
-dissociate from the past and a self i despised
-discomfort with my body
-curiosity and self-exploration
-obsessed with idea of body modification
-anxiety, wanted to become more real, felt my masculinity wasn’t substantial enough
-trying to become a new person/kill off an unsatisfying sense of self

trans/queer culture:
-trans issues were hip and cool, talked about a lot in academic scene i was in
-queers expressed discomfort with my gender ambiguity, wasn’t sure what i was, rumors at my queer group that i had tits and a dick [the queer group mentioned was one of two that I attended in high school]
-queers and others assumed i was trans because of my name, appearance and presentation, used he/him pronouns for me without asking my preference
-many trans dudes at the time hostile to genderqueerness [At the time of writing I still identified as genderqueer. The hostility I encountered towards genderqueers pushed me to more strongly identify as male and transition to prove my “realness”.]
-most dykes i met didn’t like being mistaken for a dude [In contrast, I found it intriguing and generally liked passing for male. I concluded that this made me something different from these women.]
-gender crossing, transsexuality fetishized in academia, trans people as holders of secret knowledge from changing social genders and hormones, body
-being trans friendly, to trans guys at least, was hip so i got treated well as a trans guy, though also tokenized and “othered” too

Capitalism:
-society teaches people to be dissatisfied by their selves/bodies
-sells idea that if you buy shit, undergo procedures you can have a “perfect” body or one closer to it at least
-sells technology as solution for unhappiness
-promotes the idea of changing the person over changing society