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.