The importance of doubt

I was banned from Reddit’s /r/asktransgender sub after making the following comment in response to a thread asking about regret:

“I ultimately found that transition didn’t actually cure dysphoria (except for temporarily) and just caused a bunch of other issues. I eventually transitioned back after 20 years. I still regret all of the lost time and what I did to my body, as I eventually learned I could have lived with a male body after all.”

Yes, that is right I was banned after stating that I regretted and had detransitioned in a thread about regrets! I do understand these issues can be sensitive and delicate and potentially triggering, but I surely thought it was okay to talk about regret in response to someone asking about regret!

I sent a note to the moderator and asked why I had been banned and received the following response:

“TERFs and folks from the detransitioning subreddit keep making throwaway accounts to come here and cause trouble. Trying to deride people and spread doubt about who they are and what they’re doing with their own lives.

Unfortunately, you fit that description to a T. To the point where I probably ought to message admin and see if we’ve banned you for these sorts of shenanigans before.”

I have no doubt there are people who do troll and try to disrupt the forum, this topic attracts a lot of vitriol. I also oppose deriding others, and have never derided anyone on this blog or on reddit. And I can understand the job of moderating this has to be a tough and thankless one. However, what I find troubling is the idea that people should not doubt. Hell yes, when making as big a decision as transitioning one should doubt! It makes me wonder what other voices are being silenced, and if there are people who never leave the bubble and seek multiple perspectives.

I will reiterate that I am not opposed to transition or hormones or other interventions. Each person must make that choice for themselves. It is clear that there are many people that have undergone these interventions and feel positively about them. What I am opposed to is the idea that it is the only way. There are plenty of people who have dysphoria and don’t transition, there are plenty of people who transition and still have dysphoria.

The idea that one shouldn’t doubt is a dangerous one and I worry when questioning, vulnerable people who pose questions are only presented with voices encouraging of transition, and other voices are silenced. The point of questioning is to question.

And please, if you are reading this do criticize my ideas. I’m sure there are things I am not right about. I have my own experience, plus my observations, plus I am well read on matters of psychology and the research, but I know my experience is not a universal one. One of the reasons I am writing this is to sort out what is more unique to me and what other people resonate with. Also, if you are reading this do read multiple perspectives on this issue, people that are happy with transition, long-term transitioners, short-term transitioners, cross dreamers and even folk that are gender critical all have something to contribute.

23 comments

  1. First of all let me say that I’m very positive about discussion about doubt, or detransitioning. I believe that transitioning and detransitioning (or non-transitioning) are equally valid ways of being.
    I know a couple of trans women who detransitioned after more then 20 years of often successfully living as women, and I understand the motives they shared (mostly too much social and physical stress).

    That said, I’m surprised that you describe your way of dealing with dysphoria/using trauma therapy as something new or rare.
    I don’t know how it was in the US, but in Europe this was the normative approach towards transgender until very recently, esp. for ftm trans people (aka. “you’re not trans, you’re just traumatised”).
    The assumption that transgender is caused by trauma comes up again and again in the literature, and in many forms of therapeutic treatment.
    Also the idea that the “natural” body is somehow the salvation.

    I believe there are people where trauma plays a large role in decision finding processes, and where it’s hard to tell if this has anything to do with their gender identity (or however you want to call it).
    I also think this is generally acknowledged in the therapeutic community, at least in Europe, and it’s the reason why some people are asked to do therapy for a longer period of time before getting their ok to transition.
    Where I have a real problem with your approach is when you describe the therapy methods you use as ideology free- from my own experiences, I can say that most therapists in the “body” area have a certain “nature” ideology going that sees the genetic sex as the “real” one, and believes that being a feminine man or masculine woman is generally ok while being transgender is not (reflecting the “progressive” social beliefs about sex and gender during the 1970s and 1980 when most of these methods were invented)

    Also, the assumption that transgender behaviours are connected to trauma is in itself an (unproven) ideology.

    Even if a therapist might not express anti-transgender opinions openly, such assumptions underlie most body oriented or feminist therapies that I had contact with. Most were essentially as anti-trans as many religious therapies.

    So I’m really torn here- it sounds like you have found a way for yourself to feel better in your body, and less stressed, which is certainly a good thing.

    I also agree with your theory that much dysphoria is not directly linked to gender identity issues but rather trauma-related.

    Physical transition and esp. surgeries are not ideal and can traumatise the body in themselves, and many hormones can seriously fuck with your health (even the natural ones), that’s nothing new to most women.
    so to find ways to live with as little intervention as possible is generally a good thing. Just as having many options and not being trapped in one “true” trans narrative.

    But I’m suspicious about the methods. I’ve seen so many gays and lesbians declaring themselves “healed” after contact with similar body therapy approaches in the 80s. They too described the origins of their homosexuality as trauma-related, and “returned” to the more “natural” way of being heterosexual, or at least were trying to.
    What I am wondering is why a self declared “neutral” therapy school like body therapy still has certain assumptions about “naturalness” (that have little or nothing to do with actual nature), and in the end always reproduces a very conservative sexuality/gender/sex pattern (or rather the internalized conservatism of the therapists?).

    So, if body therapy helps you feel better in your body, go for it. If detransitioning is your way to feel better, go for it. It’s understandable that controlling your voice, your body and your movements for more than 20 years is immensely stressful, as is managing fears about discrimination and being outed. And many people, including cis women and intersex people describe artificial estrogen therapy as unpleasant and potentially unhealthy, and often feel better with testosterone (which can have side effects too).

    But please don’t reanimate all the old dubious “imprinting” and “trauma” ideology that mainly serves to pathologize transgender behaviour in a subtle or not so subtle way.

    1. I think ThirdWayTrans means to refer not to trangenderism in itself, but more to the dysphoria/self-identification on part of “autogynephiliacs”(what I call masochistic emasculation fetishists).

      Where ThirdWayTrans places more emphasis on the trauma as influencing trans/dysphoric psychologies, I see the relevant psychological dynamics deriving from sexualization of the trauma, and parallels of such in countless other fetishes.

    2. Thanks for your detailed and well thought out comment.

      I think it is true that I am reacting to the state of therapeutic community in the US (and maybe even just the West Coast). I was surprised to hear you say that in Europe trauma is normally associated with transgender treatment. I do read about it in the literature, but an associated issue in the USA is that the therapeutic community often doesn’t talk to the scientific psychological community. I think that is one of the reasons I have been drawing attention to it. I keep seeing other clinicians see severely traumatized people presenting with gender issues, and don’t see even the possibility of connection between these two. No training I’ve attended on transgender issues mentioned trauma, and most of them didn’t even mention the existence of AGP. It is becoming increasingly the norm for clients to be seen for just 1 session before getting approval for hormones. I myself was only seen for 2 sessions, but that was not the norm back then. I think gatekeeping causes its own problems which I wrote about here

      I agree that nothing I am saying is ideology free, I don’t think it is actually possible to be ideology free. Science, our best attempt at that, often falls far short of the mark. As a therapist I do attempt to practice a neutral stance, but I understand it is only an approximation.

      I also agree with you about body therapists and the “nature” ideology, that “natural” things are better than “unnatural” things. That stance is also rampant where I live. I do not hold that belief. I support the use of medication and whatever else if it enhances health. I do believe that the there is a drive towards integrity and wholeness as Carl Rodgers has said, but I don’t think that drive always leads to a conservative position, nor do I support that. I support gender variance. I found the body oriented approach to be a profound benefit to me, but I think that may be more idiosyncratic to me, as I know I am unusual in the way I somaticize things. That is something I have been discovering as I learn which articles on the blog resonate with people.

      Speaking of homosexuality, I think even that has more complexity than acknowledged by the queer community. There are certainly people who have an orientation towards fulfilling romantic and sexual relationships towards the same sex, which I approve of. However, even there things like trauma and porn can play a role in sexual confusion. Gay therapist Joe Kort has a great article about this and the reasons that straight men might have sex with men.

      I don’t think if issues are caused by trauma they are pathological and if they are caused by genetics they are not. However, I know the public thinks of this way. Trans people sometimes claim to be intersex for the sake of legitimacy (and they are quite accurate in their perception that intersex conditions will be viewed more legitimately). This is same kind of prejudice that says mental health conditions are more shameful than physical conditions. People are likely to be shamed for having bipolar and not for having cancer. I greatly oppose this idea, but I know the public has it. The last thing I want to do is contribute to the shaming and pathologizing of those with gender dysphoria (I remember receiving it all too well!), and I agonize about that constantly. I do feel like finding ways to deal with gender dysphoria without transitioning will benefit people though, and so I press on.

  2. Firstly, I sympathise with you – it is absoloutely ridiculous that somone try and silence any narrative that goes contrary to the desired one. I also would add that in general I find your blog enlightening and useful to think about alternatives treatments for dysphoria.

    However, I also agree with the anon writer above (who seems an extremely wise and intelligent person I would very much like to talk to) that I find your emphasis on trauma, problematic. I wouldn’t really articulate it so much as the previous commentator… I just flat out – don’t get it. It makes no sense to me whatsoever.

    Whenever you mention it you do so in a way like you’ve already accepted a whole load of facts as given.

    I would like you to write a post explaining more simply and powerfully exactly the role of trauma in causing or feeding transexuality.

    Thanks very much,

    Leky

    1. I think I may have erred in overly focusing on trauma (I do think it is important). When I was starting the blog I wasn’t sure where to start. Initially I thought I would be writing for all detransitioners, and my initial readings of detransitioning blogs of mostly female detransitioners who talked a lot about trauma. Also, the way they talked about it really resonated with my own experience of recovering from trauma. Right before starting this blog, I attended the New Narratives conference, and the organizers also had a piece about trauma and mindfulness there, so I thought that was the place to start.

      In writing the blog, I have learned that the pieces about identity and erotic imprinting resonate more with my readers. I have also learned the importance of personal narratives and want to include more of that and maybe less theorizing. I have also learned that MTF-spectrum people are my primary audience, many of who are questioning, and that I should focus more on that perspective (even though I continue to learn a lot from the perspectives of female detransitioners). I think there is some overlap, but also ways in which we have to work through these things apart.

      The basic idea with respect to trauma is something like this: biological factors + environmental factors (including trauma)-> schemas and erotic imprinting –> (+ cultural narratives) cause identity. I will make a more detailed post about it eventually, there is so much to write about!

      In my own journey the trauma was definitely a hidden factor that I wasn’t aware of until the end. I was only consciously aware of the sense of identity as a woman, the erotic fantasies, and the tension in my body and relationship difficulties. My own trauma relates to constant violence I suffered for being at the bottom of the male hierarchy throughout my childhood and related feelings that it was both unsafe to be a man and that men were evil. I didn’t consciously hold either of those positions but they were buried underneath.

      I would love to hear more about what you find useful and what you find problematic. You are right there are probably a lot of things I take as given that I am either not aware of or just haven’t gotten to write about yet. Thanks for the feedback.

    1. I also heard this journalist. But I’d like to hear another “voice”! This is the only trans-critical journalist?
      However , I really don’t understand… 5%…10%…or 15%? I saw 14% of regret this afternoon :O … is there a REAL percentual?

      1. It depends on what you measure. If you ask people who transitioned if they regret it the numbers are quite low. If you measure their psychological functioning you get a different picture as this group has a high risk of suicide, psychiatric hospitalization and other issues: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0016885

        Once someone has already reached the point of transitioning it is hard to go back. If you would have asked me if I regretted it 4 years ago I would have said no, because I didn’t think I had any choice in the matter. Then when I healed enough to realize that was untrue I did regret it. Also, we need more long-term follow-up;

        There is a good point here, that we should actually compare people who transition to people who have dysphoria and don’t transition, which hasn’t been done: http://noregretsgendertransition.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/the-implications-of-the-swedish-study-part-1/

    1. I ve just finished to read this article. It is very interesting. But when I read when it was written I was shocked : 2004! So, ten years later, we are in the same situation?! What are we waiting for a major understanding of this condition?!?! Improvement in neuroscience? I cannot believe we have stopped the studies and only got improvement of sex surgery…

  3. Yes. It is shocking. The science has been there for decades. Sadly, this is hat happens when politicians and activists wrestle for control of the information available to the general population, Remember the old adage that “Knowledge is Power”. In order for the politicians/activists/government to maintain their hold on power, they MUST control the knowledge available to the populace.

    This is why you see such fanatical policing of what people say on the various TG forums. The following is a comment from a very knowledgeable guy made on Susan’s.org. where I am currently “Muted” which means that I cannot post or comment.

    Much like a popular media reporter on one of the major US news outlets was censured for “disrespecting the office of the President” for reporting that much of the reasons that the Democrats lost the US Senate was that voters were becoming aware of the disingenuousness of the methods used to pass “ObamaCare”, I have been censured on Susan’s for pointing out the obvious fallacies and inconsistencies with the TG mantra which must be strictly adhered to lest anyone learn the truth.

    Comment from Noah, as follows:
    It’s highly counterintuitive, but the sex you develop as has nothing to do with whether you have a Y chromosome or not. Instead it depends on whether there’s androgenic hormones (testosterone and DHT) present during your prenatal development.

    In normal male development, the presence of a Y chromosome causes the fetus to develop testicles, which then promptly start churning out the hormones required for male development. However, it’s the hormones and not the Y chromosome that cause the fetus to develop as male, and if anything prevents the hormones from being produced or doing their job, then the fetus will instead develop as female instead of male. There’s two medical conditions which prove this to be the case: Swyer’s Syndrome, and Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS). In Swyers Syndrome, the testicles fail to form and so no androgenic hormones are produced; in CAIS, the testicles form and produce their hormones as normal, however a mutation to the gene for the androgen receptor means that the cells throughout that person’s body are completely unable to detect or react to androgenic hormones, so all their development takes place as if those hormones weren’t there. Either way, a person who is genetically male (46,XY karyotype) develops as female, and people with these conditions look just like ordinary women, so much so that often the condition isn’t even picked up until puberty, when menstruation fails to start.

    CAIS is a particularly good example proving how the whole process of sexual development depends entirely on hormones, since, as rare DSDs go, it’s relatively common (there are thousands of CAIS women alive today), so people with the condition have been well studied. Also, the only difference between these people and the genetically male people who develop as male is that their androgen receptors don’t work (or are missing altogether). Everything else, including hormones, enzymes, Y chromosome and other genes, is unaffected. That basically proves that, in humans, male development is entirely driven through androgen receptors (and, without androgen receptor activation, female development will occur instead).

    The really important thing from our point of view is that CAIS women seem to behave exactly like ordinary women, and seem to be universally happy with being female. Out of the thousands of CAIS women worldwide, I’m aware of just a single recorded instance of one with a male gender identity (that one case on it’s own doesn’t mean a lot, as it could be due to chimerism, or a mutation to a gene somewhere that causes male brain development to take place even in the absence of androgen receptor activation).

    By contrast, male babies who were born with a condition called cloacal extropy (which has traditionally involved reassignment to female as part of the surgical repair), had very high rates of dissatisfaction with a female gender identity (in fact it looked like an unmitigated disaster in the paper I read – about half of the patients who’d been reassigned to female had spontaneously reverted to living as male, and even the ones still living as female didn’t sound happy about it).

    What this shows is that your gender identity later in life depends on brain development that took place before you were born, and whether your identity ends up male or female depends on on whether or not there were androgenic hormones present during the time that brain development was taking place.

    The thing I’ve been trying to make people aware of, is that doctors have for decades been in the habit of giving pregnant women drugs in doses that would suppress testosterone production in adult men, with most of the heaviest exposure to these substances tending to occur too late in the pregnancy to affect genital development or physical appearance, but during what appears to be the critical period when the brain undergoes its sexually dimorphic development. Either a male fetus is somehow magically immune to the effects of these drugs, or they’ve inadvertently created millions of people who look male but have female brains. Based on what I’ve seen of the effects of DES, it’s the latter, which would explain why there’s suddenly so many MTF trans folk about!

    Whether medical hormones can also cause FTM transsexuality I don’t know, however I suspect some can, and some of the replies to this thread appear to back up that suspicion.

    1. Good point. We cannot know if those drugs are theratogenic, because we cannot know if they affect the androgen receptor… since (from what I understand) they remain hidden even with the last analisys techniques.

      I also think that is our food that can be toxic for our organism. Especially in USA, where meat is treated with hormone more than Europe. Am I right?
      But to proove our theory we should know the statistic of GID in all countries…
      This is the same path used by phisician to understand if a particular food is useful for the prevention of a disease.

  4. There are numerous studies showing that DES, (diethylstilbestrol), given to pregnant women from the early 1940’s through the early 1970’s acts as a potent EDC, (endocrine disrupting chemical), by interfering with and/or blocking the androgen receptors of the developing brain of the fetus.

    1. Yes, but how DES is introduced in our woman? By food or smog as I said?
      And consider the fact that hundreds ago DES did not exist…

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  6. i find the exclusion of regrets and doubt from /asktransgender to be highly disturbing. Do the mods not care about the long term health of their subscribers?
    It is vital to question everything. I’ve no regrets, yet, 15 years after surgery, but i had my eyes at least somewhat open. It appears that reality is not allowed to intrude to deeply into the reddit sub, lest it hurt the feelings of some unfortunate soul. Apparently it is ok to tell a person they are trans, without ever meeting them, and push and encourage them into illicit hormone treatment and ‘grs’, but it is not ok to let them know how they may regret, how their expectations of being a hot girl are unrealistic and how hard life will be once you’ve deviated from the norms. Unless a person has been educated as to all the pros and cons of their choices, how can they make a good decision?
    I think that many TG people are simply gender role confused men, and in their cognitive dissonance, push away any view that might successfully challenge their shaky belief systems. They know they can win an argument about social gender roles with radfems, so they have to vilify them, then recruit naive, vulnerable, youngsters to back them up.
    I wonder how long it will be until i get banned, too.

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