In this series I want to talk about some principles of healing from trauma and how it relates to transgender identity. As I said before, I do not think trauma is the whole cause of transgenderism, but it does play a role, and healing from trauma is beneficial whether it be childhood trauma, or trauma associated with transphobia after adopting a transgender identity. There is no question that gender-variant people suffer from a lot of trauma in our society.
I didn’t actually see my female gender identity as something that was problematic until the very end of this 20 year long journey after transition. All I knew was that I had a lot of tension in my body and had difficulty in forming relationships. There was a part of me that knew something was wrong and drove me to all of these different spiritual and psychological practices, including neo-paganism, meditation, 5 rhythms, biodanza and eventually psychotherapy and my own study of psychology.
In any case, healing from trauma is a reward of its own, and can help one make choices about transition that are in one’s best interest rather than coming from a place of wounding.
In my experience healing from trauma will:
- Reduce the amount and intensity of triggering experiences
- Allow for more pleasure-based “moving towards” and less pain-based “moving away”. Acting from trauma is always an attempt to move away from aversive experiences rather than move towards nourishing ones. This is one of the reasons I am suspicious of “dysphoria” as a healthy motivation. It seems too often to be a running away from rather than a moving towards. This is an example of applying general psychological principles to transgenderism
- Create more embodiment, and a greater sense of connection to organic desires.
- Allow for more flexible, open narratives. This is an example of how trauma interacts with narratives, two parts of the three-part model. Flexible narratives are a sign of psychological health, and rigid narratives are a sign of poor psychological health
Healing from trauma will not:
- Change erotic imprinting (much). I believe trauma plays a role in erotic imprinting as well, but once the imprinting has happened, healing the trauma won’t heal the imprinting. It might however allow for expanding what one likes, being more connected to the body, and opening repressed behaviors. I managed to repress most of my attraction to women due to trying to fit in with my trans narrative until I connected with my body and discovered that was what my body craved.
- Change the role of sex-hormones in well-being. A lot of people say they feel better on one hormone than the other. Discovering that I felt so much more functional on testosterone was an important consideration in my retransitioning. However it is important to note that feeling better on one hormone or another is not proof of any essential identity. Also hormones can be like a drug that makes you high, and the short-term psychological effect is not the same as the long-term, necessarily. That is a topic for another post.
Topics I hope to cover in this series include safety, control, titration, mindfulness, embodiment, community & witnessing, coming back from dissociation, and how therapy can help.