What I’ve Learned From Women Who Detransitioned

boxing-butchHow does someone decide between living as a butch lesbian or a trans man? What if you make the wrong choice? What if neither identity feels authentic?

These questions stick with me through my journey. At first, and still to some extent, I was envious of trans men who were absolutely certain they wanted to transition. Who knew they were men. Who wanted everything to happen as fast as possible. Reincarnation. To make a clean break with their past.

I watched videos and read blogs. Some were too pat. Too insistent that everything was fabulous. They weren’t struggling, except to get coverage for top surgery. They proudly documented their changes on testosterone week by week. Then I watched a video about going off testosterone. They stopped because it didn’t feel right. Because they didn’t like how they felt on it.

Each detransition story I’ve heard is unique, but the unifying message is that they didn’t feel authentic being a man. It felt false, they didn’t recognize the face in the mirror, or they felt they’d lost their soul. Some accepted they were transgender, but were closer to genderqueer or non-binary than male. Some went back to butch. Some (re)embraced being female and gender non-conforming.

I don’t know if it is better to transition quickly or slowly. The traditional medical-psychiatric transition is a slow one-size-fits-all process. I have too much ambivalence for the gatekeepers. Callen-Lorde uses the informed consent model. It allows me to tell the truth, do my own research, and make my own choices. I can set my own pace. I can make my own mistakes.

Some detransition stories resonate with me. I wonder what would have happened if I had gone full strength ahead with an informed consent binary transition as soon as I realized I was trans. If I had believed that transition would solve all my problems. If I had a supportive partner and a therapist encouraging me to take testosterone. I didn’t go that route, so I can’t know how it would have turned out, whether I would have been happy or not. I might have realized a year later, with beard scruff and a deep voice, that I’d made a mistake. Instead, I meandered around trans and butch identities. I changed my name and got top surgery. I put off starting testosterone.

I read transition and detransition stories the way I read warning labels on medicines. I want to know the expected effects and the potential side effects. The range of experiences, good and bad. What I’ve learned, unintentionally, is to trust my judgement and go at my own pace. To listen to, but not necessarily accept, advice. To accept that I’m probably not ever (never say never) going to follow the classic binary transition route and that I’m just as trans no matter which route I take. To be ready for a less than optimal result; to be ready for a worst case scenario. To take full responsibility for my actions and inactions. To not place the blame on my parents, partner, therapist, doctor, or surgeon.

I respect women who detransitioned and still deal with dysphoria. Who are gender non-conforming and choose to live with all the crap that the heteronormative world throws at them. Who live with the permanent effects of testosterone and surgery.  I am not threatened by them telling their stories. They are telling their truth.

Detransition stories are  often used by politicians, clergy, and journalists as reasons for limiting access to hormones and surgery. I would rather see them used as proof that one can make mistakes and live to share them.

Notes: I wrote this post after reading crashchaoscats’ response to this article by Julia Serrano on Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation. crashchaoscats also has a tumblr site and links to other detransition blogs. A heads up that many of the bloggers are radfems.

The video about going off testosterone is by Jonah Womack (bluntedfsharp) on YouTube. Jonah stopped taking testosterone but did not detransition.

On a separate issue I’m going on vacation to Gloucester MA, and will not be posting for two weeks. I’m packing two pairs of board shorts and two rash guards for the beach.

19 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned From Women Who Detransitioned

  1. purplesagefem

    Obviously it’s up to you what you want to do, but I think it’s okay if you just stay in between butch lesbian and trans man. There’s no need to try to fit into categories, and it’s okay if your gender remains a question to which there is no answer. You don’t owe anybody an easy-to-understand category, you only owe yourself the comfort of being in a body you can relate to.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for your comment and support. It is true that I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but I did expect when I started that I’d end up one way or another – and most of my friends thought that it was inevitable that I’d decide to transition. The more I look at binary transition the less appealing it is for me as an individual – DIY transition to something that is not binary (maybe is non-binary) is a process that requires a lot of soul searching and weighing of options. The weighing of options is not a bad thing, but it does stress out the people around me and some of the medical-psychiatric practitioners are not prepared to work with it. I’m content to move slowly and cautiously.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. A Country boy

    try to remember to always do you… what feels right for you, not what anyone else says, you are the one who has to live with your choices,just go at your own speed , just go as as far as you feel you need to , don’t worry about passing as a guy or what society thinks, or even what the LGBTQ think ( there are some opinionated people there too ) … just be authentic and true to yourself. your post really resonates with me, because after nearly 2 decades I have stopped the testosterone, stopped transitioning , am I where I need to be to feel comfortable? … no honestly I am not, simply because i am now questioning how much of that transition was solely me, and how much was fueled by my late wife and societies demands? just do you okay, if you do nothing else in life, just be true to yourself, there is no rush , there is nothing, but what you feel comfortable with… that’s it .

    so , don’t dwell on it too much on your vacation, just go have a great time, do as you please and enjoy yourself 🙂 see ya when ya get back 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I think transition should be about finding a place where you feel like yourself – that once you are trans or gender non-conforming you are never going to have a perfect place in the world because you are always going to bring your dysphoria from your past (and your present) with you. The question is for each individual over time what is the best way to deal with it. There is no reason to keep the same regimen forever.
      There is a whole body of FTM over 40 who stop or cut down on their T for their overall physical and mental health without questioning their transness. Our health and happiness is more important than “what we are supposed to do”.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  3. writerspilecki

    I am grateful, I guess, that I was straight for a few decades, so the being female thing still feels normal to me, even though I would prefer not to wear dresses, heels, etc. I feel like just because I am a girl (woman) that doesn’t mean I can’t be a gentleman. And the breasts? Well, there they are. They were too small at B for the guys. They are too big at D for me. But I have been working out regularly at my gym for the last 6 years to lose the extra 35 pounds I gained in the last go-round at graduate school (turns out that masters degrees are collectible). I still have 23 pounds to go and have recently gotten some good medical/phys.-trainer advice on how to do my exercising the RIGHT way without re-injuring myself. My aim is to be a lean, muscular and fit chick by the time I turn 50, all too soon. And I am on track.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  4. Mrs Fever

    Like most things, Identity is not one-size-fits-all. Identity is what your post has me thinking of – gender identity, yes, but also sociopolitical identity and how group norms (marginalized groups have them too, of course) and expected conformity to those norms influence the choices we make and how we think about ourselves.

    For all that each individual wants to be seen as a special snowflake… Well, all those snowflakes rolled together and stacked look like snowmen. And if you’re not being a proper snowman, what ARE you being?

    I wonder how many choices people make that they otherwise would not, simply because of the pressure brought to bear by outside forces. Identity is, in one way, turning one’s insides outward. It is becoming on the outside who we are on the inside. And yet it is also the forged production created by the hammering of relentless external expectations.

    I admire your willingness to go at the pace that suits you, to research and learn and *then* decide (or wait to decide), rather than bowing to The Trans Narrative or to anyone else’s coercion in any other community with whom you identify. You do YOU, authentically and introspectively and often uncomfortably. I have learned a great deal from reading your blog over the past couple years and I appreciate your honesty.

    As usual, your post has me thinking.

    I hope you enjoy your travels. Be safe and have fun! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m fortunate to have an unconventional partner – even when she identified as straight (and coming of age in the 1950’s) she refused to get married and to have kids, got a PhD., lived for a year in Europe, and left California for New York because is was more interesting and less provincial. Because she never did (and continues to not do) what she was supposed to do, she can tolerate my rejection of both continuing as a very butch lesbian or transitioning to be some kind of straight guy. Plus, I’m easier to live with (even if I spend a lot of time on the computer).

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  5. Lesboi

    I found Crash’s response to Julia Serrano’s article very eye opening. I totally get how misogyny could make someone want to not be female anymore but I hadn’t considered that trauma could cause dysphoria. I do agree with Crash that more therapists should delve deeper into the reasons that someone wants to transition than they do. My experience with four gender therapists is that as long as you go in there and talk about always feeling like a male then they push you towards a binary transition and don’t dig any deeper. They also don’t really want to talk about any other options than a binary transition, in general. In some ways, I think our current notion about why we need to transition is rooted in cis-sexism, at least from a medical/psychological perspective. I admire your digging down into your reasons for what you want and not following the prescribed transgender narrative that is often pushed on us by the medical community to help us conform in society. If that is what’s right for an individual then that is fine, but it shouldn’t be the only option available. As others have said, just do you and enjoy your vacation. Safe travels, my friend.

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
  6. Jamie Ray Post author

    Four gender therapists might set a record – I went to one (outside of my regular therapist) and he was not much help except for confirming that he thought I was trans and that I’d have no trouble passing if I decided to follow through…
    I’m glad that you liked Crash’s post – I can’t say for sure where my dysphoria came from, but I think it was always there – from at least 3 or 4 years old. And it never went away – I got better at managing it my numbing myself out (until I finally accepted my transness). If I could have found another way to deal with it that was not self-destructive (alcohol, pot, eating) I might have kept cruising along as butch – but it was clear that I was not going to make it to old age the way I was going.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Lesboi

      Well, to be fair, one of the therapists was very young and fresh to the field and I only had one session with her so she may have been open to a non binary transition. Two of the other three retired during my time with them and the fourth just took a break due to having a baby. I’m done with gender therapists though as I think they’re a waste of my time, with the exception of a few excellent ones out there like Darlene Tando and Dara Hoffman-Fox.

      There’s a lot of food for thought in this post and I’ll be munching on it for quite a while I think.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  7. nic_rufio

    It’s refreshing to see your post about this. My spouse and I have this conversation a lot- some of the things you articulated are her exact hesitations. Gray areas are hard to accept, but she’s found the most happiness in embracing the area between butch and trans. It may change in the future, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad that you found my blog, and that it resonated with you. There are not a lot of people who opt to stay between butch and trans – even if that is theoretically the most authentic feeling place – there is more support (medically) for binary transition and more social support (pressure) to either be butch or to go for a binary transition. Staying in the middle (identity or physically) is usually considered a phase not a choice or and endpoint. Hopefully non-binary or generic trans will get more recognition and support in the future.

      Like

      Reply
  8. Pingback: Gender Perspectives, Vol. 16 | Valprehension

  9. Steph

    Thanks for the post. I struggled with this about 10 years ago when there was little gray areas that were being accepted. I felt like if you were trans and going full on man mode then things were great, sure acne and voice changes were weird but everyone I saw blogging looked and said they felt great.

    I went to a trans conference and met several guys who were so happy and watched several presentations where they happily ripped their shirts off displaying their newly minted chest. I thought… that could be me.

    Except when I started living more often as a man around 30 yrs old I didn’t feel right. I felt like I wasn’t special. As a woman I was special and different. I was the only girl in my shop classes, I was the only girl on the soccer team, I was the only… you get the point. As an adult I joined a women’s football team and got to live out the fantasy of playing football which was denied to me as a kid. I bought a Jeep and built it up myself for off-road and guess what… I was the only female driver in my club. So being a woman and showing other people that a woman could do anything and everything didn’t feel all that special until I was about to give it up.

    After several years of thinking about it I decide that I just didn’t want to live as a man. I enjoyed rocking the gender boat too much and found that it was not only something that came natural but it was important to me to do things that “normal” women just do not do.

    I’m still looking to get chest surgery as these boobs have never felt right to me since the day they arrived. I don’t mind living in the middle anymore. I’m almost 40 now and don’t feel pressure to please my parents or anyone for that matter. Their confusion isn’t my problem. I see people look at me a little oddly when they see I do not shave my legs, and I think… why would I? it’s a pain in the butt and more women should put down their razors.

    Again thanks, it’s nice to know that it’s not easy for everyone and I’m hopeful there is more info out there for those who are not certain that living full time as one sex can be confusing and it’s not something that has to happen. Gray is ok.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s