Where did I go?

Where did I go?   I fell into a grad school hole.   I started a PhD program in clinical psychology this fall, and our workload for the first quarter was very demanding. I ended up regularly working 60-70 hour weeks and the last thing I wanted to do was more writing. Now the quarter is over, and I am back.

I am questioning whether school is something I want to continue with or not.   I was hoping to get more involved in the scientific/research end of psychology in addition to the clinical end which I really can’t do with counseling degree.   However, I am wondering if this is interfering with my work rather than aiding it. This path greatly delays the amount of time it will take until I will be able to be in independent practice, something I could do in about 1.5 – 2 years at the Master’s level, but will take more like 5-6 years on this path.   Also it will be several years before I can actually do any kind of research on my own interests. I do feel it is very complimentary to my previous training, my master’s program was in holistic counseling, and this program is very much in the academic/scientific tradition which has a totally different culture to it.   So, that is something for me to figure out.

It has been good to take a break from writing the blog, I find it very difficult to avoid getting sucked into all of the toxic politics around these issues. My primary goal for this blog is to help people dealing with dysphoria, and finding better ways to deal with their dysphoria than transition.   I don’t expect those ways to work for everyone, but even if they work for some people that is a good thing.   I don’t have any moral or philosophical objection to transition, hormones or surgery. I just think they are awful experiences that people should not have to undergo unless necessary. I feel that I lost a lot of opportunities as a result of this, from not being able to have a family, to dealing with social stigma, to relationship difficulties, and various mental health issues stemming from untreated trauma and taking too high dosages of estrogen.   On the other hand I recognize that some of the challenges of transition arise directly from stigma, and I don’t want to contribute to the stigma faced by trans people either.

Although, I do have a secondary goal of bringing awareness of these issues to mental health professionals, both the issues of detransitioners, and even more importantly working to find ways to prevent unnecessary transitioning.   Increasingly, at least in the USA, there is no exploration happening at all, and some therapists even find it offensive to explore or question with their clients. I think a lot of this ties into “social justice” ideology, which I wrote about a little bit here. and guest poster Lane on the blog also wrote about.   I will write some more on this, as I am finding this ideology very prevalent in my psychology program, I don’t know if many people realize the extent to which it has taken over many parts of the field. It is important to note that one can oppose social justice ideology, without being against its goals of equality or ending oppression which are admirable.   Indeed one important reason to oppose it is the harm that it can cause to minorities and particularly vulnerable people dealing with gender issues.   Jonathan Haidt and others write about the issues of political monocultures leading to groupthink and blind spots and the people at Heterodox Academy write about these issues well.

Also, I have been taking some time to reflect upon detransition.   It has been over 2 years since my detransition, and over 3 years since I started on T. There have been things that are good about detransition, but there have been some losses as well. It is not possible to fully restore things to the way things were.   In some ways things are better. It is so great to let go of having to speak with a voice that was not my own, and to just be able to be myself without worrying about how my gender is perceived. I also find much to my surprise that I really enjoy hanging out in groups of guys as a guy, I feel like I fit in there. None of the guys I hang out with are “dudebros”, some of them are gay/bi, a lot of them are nerdy or psychology people, but it feels really good to hang out with them. Also being on testosterone has granted me more vitality and energy, greater emotional stability and generally sharper thinking.

However there are still problems that remain. For one it is impossible to get my hormone levels right. I have experimented with a wide variety of different levels and gotten it the best I can. If my levels are too low I suffer from low energy and fatigue, if they are too high I end up with too many angry thoughts and too much sex drive. I find the best middle I can but it doesn’t quite work right.   I even experimented briefly with not having it, which leads to feeling calm and peaceful but not quite alive. Also going without sex hormones is bad for long-term health. But, who knows what the long-term health consequences are. I have no idea if I am helping or harming my health by taking T, compared to nothing at all or E.

Another problem is I keenly feel a loss of community.   I was an active part of various queer communities for the past 20 years.   When I was younger I was largely focused on the bi community but also spent time in general alternative sexual minority communities.   I once co-hosted a radio show on bi issues, went to conferenes of various kinds, and worked in a queer counseling center.   The queer community was my people, and now I feel alienated from those communities due to my detransition and critical views around gender.   It is hard to go against what I considered to be my people, but I think it is very important to speak truth.

It is especially strange to be doing this right in the middle of time where there are more out trans people than ever and in many ways trans people are celebrated. I don’t at all mean to say that trans people don’t suffer a lot of stigma and problems, but there are certain subcultures where this is well accepted.   They happen to be the subcultures that I mostly live in, and I feel like I will get in far more trouble for being critical around gender issues than for being trans.   Letting go of my trans identity right at the moment when more acceptance is happening feels especially strange. I still struggle with shame around transitioning in the first place and ending up in this place. I haven’t shared about my transition/detransition with my grad school colleagues or many of my newer acquaintances/friends.

Another area that is especially challenging is dating. Even though dating as a trans woman was definitely a challenge, there were actually quite a lot of people that were attracted to me. Some of these people also didn’t have any problem with my being trans. The irony is that the real problem was me. A lot of people that were attracted to me were attracted to aspects of my androgyny or even appreciated that I was trans. However, that was unacceptable to me, as I was so wrapped up in my “gender identity” that I was very closed off about talking about being trans, and wanted to people to validate my identity, so if they were attracted to my being trans or masculine qualities that was very uncomfortable and unacceptable. I became very difficult to get close to, and that closed offness was a bigger barrier to relationships than being trans was actually.

Now, I just feel invisible. I do get read as male, but still have quite a bit of breast growth and barely grow any facial hair. I am pretty sure I will do something about my breast growth, and I think it will feel better not to feel the need to wear baggy clothes and conceal things all the time. Part of me feels good about doing that, but part of me procrastinates because it feels like it is doing the same thing again, changing my body so I can be myself.   I did briefly date a woman who was a friend that I knew before detranstion, but since then haven’t met anyone. I think I am reluctant to approach people because I don’t know how to explain my body to them, I know that is something I need to get over. I just really wanted to share the good of detransition as well as the bad, I think that is important.

That is where I am now, I am hoping to get a few more posts out over my break, and catch up with people.

18 comments

  1. “I think it is very important to speak truth.” I am glad you have the courage to do that. Your friend Joel Nowak seems to enjoy hiding in the shadows, afraid to step on any toes, or insult the “Community;” while you and the Cummings (Real Talk) are not ashamed to rattle the cage. Playing the Middle ground, will not stop the carnage and devastation that Transition often brings even to the most sure and prepared. (From a follow post-op, detransitioning person.)

    1. Joel and I do not have exactly the same approach, but I would not agree that he is someone that hides in the shadows. In some ways he shows more courage than I do in his willingness to share his story so freely with people, and be publicly out there.

  2. I would also like to forward my thanks. Your experience with this whole thing and your writing on it have helped me greatly understand my own choices and experience. I always point people who are questioning towards your blog.

  3. Thanks for the update TWT. I hope we can catch up during our breaks (mine starts on after the 11th.) After being a ghost on my blog for the first 2 months of school ended up getting a little more active on my blog but it was to the detriment of my studies I fear (and I am paying the price with massive workload last few weeks.) I look forward to what you have to say in upcoming posts … and when I have time I want to look at some of the links you have provided they all look interesting.
    As I am getting my masters in social work we are all about “social justice”. And this is not a bad thing. But I do see a lot of my cohorts (and a lot of social workers in general) eager to look for a good “oppressed” population to champion and Trans is certainly fits the bill for many and that’s why I think a lot of people are blindly advocating for what they consider “pro-trans” policies when they really might not be serving anyone’s best interests. I keep thinking about the National Association of Social Workers of which (I am a member) trying to limit therapists ability to try to make kids be ok with their sexed bodies by deliberately confusing the public (and pulling emotional triggers) by drawing an unproven association with horrible gay reparative therapy under the Leelah’s Law stuff they have issued official policy statement endorsing.
    I do have hope for change though. I have gotten a lot more involved for the first time in years with LGBT activism, in particular at my school. (I will tell you more about it later.)
    Speaking of studies, I got to get back to mine. Welcome back.

    1. The problem with social justice ideology is not the desire to help oppressed people, that is admirable. It is like you say, the aspects of the philosophy that lead to the uncritical acceptance of things like blindly equating gay reparative therapy with working on gender issues by psychological means. Also the extreme relativism, and the idea that you must accept people’s narratives at face value. (especially if they are members of minority groups)

      I look forward to hearing about your activism and school experiences when your semester is over.

  4. Following your advice I have successfully gone from being almost suicidally dysphoric and desperate to being mildly dysphoric and lately have had strange feelings of really being in my/connecting with my own body for the first time in ages. I’m so grateful.

    1. That is great news! If you don’t mind sharing I would love to hear more about how specifically you were able to reduce your dysphoria. I think it is important for people to hear stories of how people have reduced their dysphoria successfully without transition/hormones/surgery etc.

      1. I tried to make a list of things but so many thoughts came to my mind and I have made about a hundred of notes to myself about things. I will try to sort these out.

  5. Great to hear some personal news from your life. Looking forward to new blog posts. Considering you can have fans ranging from Felix to WXUP I think it’s clear you’ve created your own mini community around your excellent work. xx

  6. Thanks for speaking out TWT – I saw an interview that you did with Real Talk. I think it is important that you are speaking out to help others. Our life stories are very different but we share some parallels. I also find that I am now marginalized by many people in the LGBT community simply because I ask difficult questions and because I speak my truth (which is inconvenient in it is incompatible with much of the dominant transgender theory narrative.)

    But how can people choose was is right for them if they only hear one story about gender? How can a young person learn that there are other ways to live as a radically non-binary person when they hear that the only “cure” for body/gender dysphoria is to transition with surgeries and hormones?

    I feel that those of us, who have taken different paths to wholeness have a responsibility to speak up.

    I support transition for those who need it and choose it as an adult but it concerns me that transition with hormones and surgeries is becoming increasingly common. It is painful to watch friends suffer when the surgeries and hormones cause more pain and more complicated problems than what they began with.

    It is painful to read of young people who die by suicide AFTER transitioning or to read of trans-activists who die at relatively young ages (look at the FtM’s who have died or are very ill) with rare hormone related cancers or heart disease at early ages.

    We should get to choose how to live our lives. I want to help people have a viable choice by learning of all the ways that people live and heal from body and/or gender dysphoria.

    There are more options than surgery and/or hormones in healing from body and/or gender dysphoria and there is nothing transphobic about discussing this reality. In contrast, this should be a hope-filled and positive conversation in support of all people who are gender questioning.

    Thanks for what you do TWT. This forum allows a wider variety of gender non-binary people be visible.

    1. Thanks! I am glad you liked my interview.

      I was part of the LGBT community for a very long time in one form or another (although mostly the bi/poly/nerdy part) and now I don’t really feel much part of the community any more and feel like my ideas would not be welcome and I cannot speak my truth there. The loss of community has been painful.

      Seeing the people who do have social support and transition and still either die young or commit suicide shows me that something more is needed. It is especially frustrating when people just say everything would be fine if they just weren’t dealing with oppression even when confronted with people that are supported and still have problems.

      I also have friends that are suffering from long-term problems who transitioned some time ago and thinking about them is one of the things that keeps me going. I don’t think it is transphobic at all to want to help people find less-invasive solutions for their dilemmas. We can still support them if they do transition too.

  7. I mentioned your blog at:
    TEDxBeaconStreet · Filmed November 2013 · 16:53
    Norman Spack: How I help transgender teens become who they want to be

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