Why I am writing this blog

My last post made me realize I did something I want to avoid, which is to get into the ongoing fight between radical feminists and trans activists. That is not really my goal for the blog. In fact one of the reasons I do this is so that there is someone other than radical feminists or religious conservatives talking about some alternative ideas around this issue!

I am no radical feminist, I am unabashedly pro-male for one thing (and pro-female too!) One of the things I had to get over in my retransitioning was a distorted view of men as being evil. Being around several kind, compassionate, and gentle men helped with that. I do however, agree with the radical feminists, that people should be free from a mandatory class system around gender. Retransitioning is certainly not about becoming a stereotypical man! I work in a female-dominated field in psychology, I like to cook and even bake, I do a lot of dance, and my favorite color is purple. I don’t have to be a woman to do any of those things! I just no longer have to use my voice in affected ways, or wear clothes that aren’t built for my body, or move in unnatural ways, or suffer poor health effects from hormones that don’t belong in my body.

When I was contemplating retransitioning, I had people assume my current state of thinking on my gender based on what clothes I was wearing. This was nutty, as if I was feeling more male because I was wearing black or more female because I was wearing purple!

Neither am I a religious conservative. I have no moral or ethical issues with transitioning. I just think it frequently does more harm than good, and is not the only response to gender/sex dysphoria. I see transitioning as the most drastic possible response to dysphoria, and therefore not the one that should be attempted first. It is a general principle of medicine that we try the least invasive treatments first. Full gender transition is the equivalent of high-powered chemo for this issue. Still it can be right for some, also the alternatives aren’t completely documented and known. I am hoping to help with this issue.

I have a few different goals for the blog. One is to tell my story to get it out there. Another is to share the map I have gained as a result of my journey back home in the hope it is helpful to others. A third is to give and receive support particularly to retransitioners and people that are contemplating retransition. This can be an even lonelier journey than the first one! Also, I hope to help those that are contemplating transition to have an alternate perspective. I think there might be a surge of retansitioners (and it may be already starting) as the ramifications of the surge of transitioning in the last five years start coming to the surface.

I also hope to work with the psychological community as I feel like my experience exposed some holes in the idea of gender identity. I thought I had to transition because I had an immutable gender identity and this turned out to be untrue, having that idea in my head made it a lot harder to get out of it. I see a lot of people blindly encouraging and supporting transition both in the queer community and the therapeutic community and I don’t think this is good. I feel that my transition did tremendous harm to my life, and there is definitely a part of me that is angry about it.

So I’m trying to write to a lot of different audiences at once, but I want the blog to be more for general audiences. I’m also contemplating writing a book, or an academic paper or doing some research on this topic. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that yet.

Are there any suggestions of what you might like to see more/less of?

6 comments

  1. Where does gender identity come from? Is a person born with it or is it somehow acquired? Is it fixed once established?

    1. That’s complicated. I think part of what happens with these issues is the term “identity” is overloaded. Identities are stories, and in that sense they are constructed. However there are precursors to identity that are fixed at birth or become fixed through the process of imprinting. Examples of these are biological instincts, and erotic imprinting. We need different terms to refer to these high-level narratives, and these low-level instincts or otherwise things become confused. Currently they are both referred to as identity.

      I believe that transgender impulse are generated by lower level functions, some of which are fixed, however transgender identity comes from a combination of these drives and the story one tells oneself about the drives. The story can be changed, but the drives in many cases cannot. I hope to elaborate on this further in future posts.

      1. I wrote a little on this issue on my tumblr that may be insightful, but since it is pretty NSFW,

        There is no inherent way in which one can identify as a gender, because there is nothing that defines the constitutive “maleness” and “femaleness” beyond the style they happen to be differed from each other.
        Historically “femininity” and “masculinity” derive from the female-like and the male-like, and this itself derives from culture coming to distinguish generalised notions of two types of bodies, in “female” and “male”. In our culture, people come to identify as female or male based on their physiological sex, and come to identify as a “gender” based on historical cultural associations related to either sex.
        In other words, the “feeling” of being a gender is a vague aggregated generalization of one’s relationship to masculine and feminine associations. One will reflexively state something like they feel masculine because they like football, or conversely that they like football because they are masculine.
        Physiologically, it is thought that the amount of testosterone in the womb produces a collection of differences of degree (not type). The more crucial differences are statistically more polarised, such as the range between penis and vagina, whilst capacities such as empathy and aggression are less polarised. These dimensional differences will usually correlate with the individuals gender socialization, whilst there is no inherent way in which they figure in how one happens to think.

        1. People do identify with certain genders and those identities don’t necessarily have anything to do with masculinity/femininity, biological sex, or anything else. It is possible for identity to become completely disconnected from any other part of the psyche. You can just read tumblr and see this in action. 🙂 Ideally there should be some integration between high-level concepts such as identity and low-level biological instincts, this is a sign of health. Usually when someone adopts an identity that is disconnected from everything it is a sign that they find reality unbearable in some way (often due to trauma)

  2. “People do identify with certain genders and those identities don’t necessarily have anything to do with masculinity/femininity, biological sex, or anything else.”

    I agree with the disconnect, but what people mean when they say “I feel like a man” or I feel like I am of the male gender, is that I am affiliated with this or that property which is associated with being male. This can be at odds, or even incommensurable with other aspects of the individual’s psyche.

    Also I don’t really see anything pre-symbolic that can meaningfully be attributed with “gender”. For the reason that people tend to project gender constructs onto what seems to be nothing more than a collection of dimensional differences between the sexes. For example, a generally higher emotional intensity in females.

    1. I think people mean lots of diffferent things when they say “I feel like a man” (although it is true that it often has to do with stereotypes). That is part of the difficulty in communicating these things, as people assume they are saying the same thing when they often are not.

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