TWT – Now on video!

I haven’t written much recently. A lot of that has to do with being in grad school, the last thing I want to do is even more writing. 🙂 So I’ve decided to start creating some videos. This is the intro video where I tell my story and I eventually hope to make more videos about detransition and alternative ways to deal with gender dysphoria.

Transcript:


Hello, my name is TW. I am the author of the blog Third Way Trans and I thought I would make a video about detransition and also about different ways to deal with gender dysphoria. This is inspired by several of the detransitioned women that have been recently making videos and so I decided that there should be videos from the detransitioned men as well.There’s already a few and there should be more. This is going to be the first in a series.

This is just an introduction. One of the reasons is to help other people who are transitioning so they feel like they’re not alone and they can have someone to talk to. So if you are ready to detransitioning or considering detransitioning you can definitely email me at the address that is given by the video and you know i would be happy to chat with you. A second reason is also to help people deal with their dysphoria. One of the things that I discovered in this journey is that there were other ways to deal with my dysphoria that would work better and also would have been less harmful. I had to go through this whole transition first in order to figure all that out and I had to spend 20 years being transitioned. I transitioned when I was 19 and detransitioned when i was 39. I’m 42 now. I spent all this time transitioned and modified my body in many ways which is still causing problems to this day and I want to help people be able to deal with these issues without having to go through that. To be clear, I don’t oppose transition and I really understand how debilitating gender dysphoria can be.  So I don’t propose to ban transition or eliminate it, or to eliminate treatments like hormones and medical treatments.

I don’t think these treatments should be eliminated but at the same time we should help as many people as possible to work through these issues without having to go through that because it’s a horrible thing to go through, and it’s imperfect and leads to social problems and potential medical problems including sterility. The last is very important. Having children is very important to many people and may not seem so important when you are young.

Transition has become much more visible as many more people are identifying as trans than there used to be. I remember when I first looking at these issues back 20-25 years ago the reported incidence was about somewhere between 1 in 10,000-100,000. 10 years later the incidence numbers look more like 1 in 1200 – 3,000. Recent numbers used at this point are 0.3% or about 1 in 300, and a recent survey shows something like 0.6% which is about 1 in 150 or 1 in 125 or so. The question is what is this? Is this because of greater social acceptance as some people say? Some people say, oh it’s great people can be themselves. Or is there an element of social contagion which is leading more and more people to jump on the bandwagon of trans. I think it can be both.

I definitely think that there are benefits to having more social acceptance because a lot of the issues to do with being trans have to do with lack of social acceptance and all of the
stigma. That will help trans people to live better lives but at the same time I think there’s also some elements of social contagion. People who would have not transitioned in other times but in this time consider it, are probably the ones who maybe have better ways to deal with their issues and so I think there’s definitely a problem going on. I think it’s a problem with therapists that rubber-stamp people’s transitions. For example, seeing them once and approving them for hormones which I think is pretty bad practice. Especially because I have training as a therapist. I have a master’s degree in psychology and I am now in a PhD program in clinical psychology. I worked in three different clinics seeing a lot of clients including trans clients.

One of the things I learned in my clinical training is just in general how little you know about someone when you see them once or twice or three times. There’s so much we don’t know.  They don’t really trust you as much in the beginning.  If you’ve been a client in therapy you probably know  what it is like to work with a new therapist or psychologist.  You don’t really know them and it takes time to be comfortable with them and to be able to tell them things. As the therapist it also takes time to figure out what is going on. It takes time. I mean, the places I work we don’t even make a treatment plan until three or four sessions because we don’t really know you, like we have to figure it out. If you are writing a letter to somebody after one session you don’t know them. You don’t know enough There’s no way even really great therapists can know enough. Again, I do think people benefit from this practice, and I do think it should exist, but I also think there needs to be a lot more exploration beforehand.

Particularly, people who transition often talk about issues of trauma. They talk about abuse, sometimes there is sexual abuse. Sometimes there is kind of aversion to being their sex because they hate their sex. For example if you’re a woman that hates being a woman because they don’t like dealing with men or things like that. These are things that can be worked with psychologically sometimes.  OCD can be there sometimes too. I think there needs to be a lot more of this kind of exploring beforehand and definitely more than just 1-2 sessions. I don’t know how someone can have the clinical training I have and think that is good practice. Especially someone who has been with clients and known how much complexity they have and how much depth they have and how much you don’t know about them.

I guess I’ll also talk about my own story. When I was a child I experienced trauma issues with bullying. When I was young I was physically the slowest boy but also very intellectually advanced like a child prodigy. By fourth grade I was going to the high school to take high school math, and on the other hand I was the weakest. So I was singled out for being a kind of super nerd. This didn’t make me popular at all. It made me popular with the adults actually but not my peers. So I suffered a lot of bullying and violence. It peaked in middle school where every day I would have some sort of violence directed at me.

When I was a child I started to have this fantasy of being a girl, because it meant I could be safe and not suffer from this violence due to being at the bottom of the male hierarchy. I could also be more soft. I used to cry a lot and that was also something that was not seen as good for a boy. I could be free of all of that and also still be intellectual because everyone was saying that girls can be smart too.  Of course I did’t understand the complexity of society then and all the prior sexism behind that message because I was six. It became a fantasy that kept me comfortable, not something that could really happen, more like a fantasy I had.

Then when I got to adolescence it continued and became tied to sexuality. I was also attracted to women so it was confusing, and my dating life didn’t got well when I was a young teenager. I was a late bloomer but eventually once I got to be a junior in high school I did have some success in dating and had several different girlfriends. After that my gender dysphoria declined.

When I got to college, in the first few months I didn’t meet any women and it felt like a real step back and my gender feelings resurfaced again.  Now I understand that one of the reasons I was successful in dating as a high school senior was because I was at the top of the heap and then when I became a freshman in college I was at the bottom of the heap. This was in 1993, so I was on the early pre-WWW internet and at the same a trans newsgroup was created on Usenet, and I heard people who had similar feelings to mine and it was like a revelation! Other people had these feelings too and I could relate to them. It meant you could really do this. It could really happen!

One of the first things I did was go to my university counseling enter and talk to the intern there. He seemed freaked out. Then I went back a second time and he said this was beyond the scope of the counseling center but we have these referrals to give and they gave me a referral to a gender clinic. I was kind of mad at that because I had to pay for it. The counseling was free at school, I didn’t have much money as I was a student. Ok, I went to the clinic and told the psychologist my story and that I wanted to be female. I didn’t talk about bullying and I was unaware that it was related in any way. This is something I sorted out later when I was in real therapy.

So, I was just like this is who I am and this who I want to be and they were like that’s great. There was no kind of anything, just two session and I was given hormones. One thing I’d like to point out that is kind of ironic is that at the time this was not considered good practice and a violation of the standards of care. At that time they said you had to have at least 12 sessions of therapy for hormones. That’s not true any more. Lots of people are doing it after just one, two or three sessions. This thing that was harmful in my life has now become standard practice in the clinical community.

This really became my identity, and I was young and there were very few young transitioners then, so it wasn’t actually that hard to become seen as a woman, and I started to get a lot of positive attention. That felt really good, I felt like things were going well, but objectively that wasn’t the case. I always got really good grades, but I was put on these really high doses of hormones which were crazy. We don’t do stuff like this any more but I was on the equivalent of 17 birth control pills/day at some point. Just unbelievable! It seemed like the medical community was like okay we are just going to do weird stuff with you people and not follow any good practices. That has actually gotten a lot better over the years.  I think there is a lot more understanding now of hormone practices.

This caused me a lot of problems like my brain wasn’t working right. I was not able to do my work in school. It was also hard because my transition was very visible at a small school and this wasn’t common then. Also there were still things that were wrong. This was supposed to cure my dysphoria, however what I found is that it didn’t actually do that.  It just made me uncomfortable with different parts of my body that weren’t feminine. I had really big hands and a big jaw and so I still had the same problem of hating parts of my body.

Now, I had additionally the problems of being trans in the world, like a lot of social problems. Sometimes people would be aware I was trans and sometimes they wouldn’t and all of those were problems. If they weren’t aware there was a sense of I can’t tell them about it, and that really closes off intimacy because you can’t share this really important part of your life. If they did know about it there would be lots of different reactions. Some people were fine. A lot of people were fine on the surface, but they would really act differently towards me. It almost felt like having no gender at all and being outside of humanity. It was a really awful feeling.

I really thought this was was my identity and what I had to do. Even though there problems I thought it was something I had to do because it was my truth. There were other problems too. My body was really tense all the time and I was disconnected from my body a lot and had a lot of dissociation. I wasn’t even aware it was dissociation, it was just kind of the way I was. It is only now that I am in my body that I understand the difference. So yes, there was a lot of problems.

I had difficulty romantically too. There were actually a lot of people interested in my but I was not able to bond with people. This was really frustrating and eventually I started to go to therapy. I wasn’t working on my gender, but on why I couldn’t have relationships and why my body was so tense.  I started to do therapy and all of these embodied practices. I got involved in meditation. I got involved in doing dance practice. I got involved in doing a practice called Biodanza which is a sort of practice where you learn to connect to yourself and other people. I eventually became aware I was really disconnected to my body. I eventually came to the realization that a lot of this had to do with my attempt to present myself female which was unnatural for my body. I was holding my shoulders in and holding my butt out, and doing all sorts of things that were outside the natural movement of my body. This was causing strain and stress on my body.

I came gradually to the realization that this was actually a problem. That this whole transition was actually a problem. It was still difficult because I still had this feeling like maybe I should be a man, but it was totally unsafe emotionally and I couldn’t do it. I did a lot more therapy and eventually came to understand the roots of this with the bullying and feelings unsafe about being myself and a man in the world. I didn’t see things this way in an intellectual sense, but in a visceral. So, it was a long process and eventually I worked through. It was also a big revelation because I thought my gender identity of being female was fundamental. It seemed like an absolute truth and an absolute axiom, and then it turned out not be that at all. It turned out to be something that could be change.

This was very surprising to me because there is all this thought around gender identity being something that can’t be changed and that it is permanent. Although now it is getting kind of confused because it’s permanent but it also can be fluid and it can also change but it doesn’t change and there is no real kind of consistency in the whole ideology behind it.  Having learned that it could be changed, its really something I would not have wanted to do through because it’d be much better have dealt with my issues without changing my body so that I wouldn’t have the difficulties I have now.

I can’t really get my hormones right. I take testosterone but it doesn’t work right, its always a problem because I can’t find the right balance of it and never get it right. I know I can’t recover my body all the way. For example I look way younger than I am which people think is positive. I don’t like it because it reminds me it isn’t right. I want to look like a 42 year old man because that is where I am and not being seen as that is frustrating sometimes. There is also breast growth and stuff like that. I could get rid of it but it also feels like that is just changing my body more so it brings issues.

If you’re interested in the clinical implications I experienced this and other people have experienced this and they are talking about they have dealt with dysphoria A lot of women have gone back, and there are some men as well that found ways to deal with dysphoria. They found ways to work with it, and it is very important for the clinical community to be aware there are ways to work with it. We should be working on this a lot more even if we support transition. I do support it for some people. We should still simultaneously be working on how we can help people deal with these issues without doing that because it would save people a lot of trouble and a lot of expensive imperfect medical interventions.

One of the reasons I went on to a PhD program because I want to research those ideas and also ways to work with dysphoria. In this series I am going to start making some videos and focus on the ways I’ve seen other deal with dysphoria as well as just some general psychological principles. Sometimes it seems like we just throw out the basic principles of psychology, and we need to put back some of these ideas. It takes a while to know someone and human nature is complex. I think things would be better if we kept that in mind. That’s all I have for today. It is just an intro to tell you about myself and I’ll be making more videos. Also feel free to read my blog which is listed in the comments and email me if you have any questions. Either questions about dealing with dysphoria, or maybe you don’t want to transition or have questions about detransition and want support about that. Thank you.

16 comments

  1. Thank you for telling your story. It’s very interesting to me that there are other, less invasive ways to help people who are experiencing dysphoria. I hope to see you succeed and help more people.

  2. Thank you for the video.

    What do you have to say to people who say that your problems you had while you were trans had more to do with transphobia and society than inherent problems with this kind of treatment?

    1. Well the real problem was that I couldn’t fully convince myself which is why it was important to seek validation from others. There was a practical aspect to attempting to pass, in that I did feel I was treated better in many ways if I was perceived as a cis woman versus a trans woman, but most of it was about validation. If I knew someone knew I was trans it made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable because they might not see me as a woman which then threatened my own sense of identity. However that identity was itself a defense, which is why it was fragile and letting go of it was so important. There have been a few occasions during detransition where I have been gendered as female, and it has only been annoying and not an identity threat.

      So, even if everyone was accepting I would have had the same problem.

  3. Thank you so much for your candor. It is great to see your face and hear your story. Best to you in grad school, you are on an excellent path. Admire your insight and courage.

  4. I cannot express how grateful I am to have found you! Thank you so much for your time and energy to educate people. I can’t wait to read your blog,
    and listen to more of your videos.

  5. Hi, TWT — thanks again for your response to my post over at 4thwavenow, and apologies in advance for peppering you with questions and personal anecdotes! As I’ve written over there, I’m an adult male parent trying to make sense of trans stuff, and it scares me that if either my daughter or my son doesn’t fit the “mainstream” girl/boy stereotypes when they enter school, they could be turned into a permanent medical patient by well-meaning “progressive” adults. As a lifelong liberal, I struggle a lot with the Orwellian feeling that I’m suddenly a reactionary bigot because I don’t buy the orthodox trans narrative, so it’s a huge relief to find spaces to thoughtfully discuss these issues that aren’t driven by right-wing bigotry or extreme “MTFs are just dirty predators with fetishes” radfem ideology.

    The reason this stuff worries and fascinates me is that I was the classic MTF psychological profile as a teenager — a frail, “soft,” creative boy who didn’t fit in with other guys and spent a lot of time with computers and video games. With real-world life experience and accomplishments, and treatment for underlying depression/anxiety issues, I matured into a psychologically integrated, happily married adult straight male — but it’s terrifyingly easy to imagine a scenario where, if I were a teenager in 2016, I would immediately seize on the trans narrative (“I’m a lesbian in a boy’s body!”) as a one-size-fits-all answer to my loneliness and unhappiness.

    I’m being deliberately vague here for anonymity’s sake, but in the early days of the Internet I was an active part of the community around an unusual fetish unrelated to AGP/gender issues, where I saw firsthand how it was possible for well-intentioned young people to create an echo chamber where self-reinforcement of the “if it feels good, do it” message led in the long run to negative life outcomes. I see the same phenomenon happening with trans stuff on modern social media, amplified by the fact that the federal government and mainstream media are pushing trans-on-demand as the New Civil Rights Frontier.

    At 4thwavenow you mentioned your thoughts about AGP. Is it your sense that most MTFs do have some form of overtly sexual AGP, or is sexual AGP one of many internal “femininities” that can be transformed into a trans narrative?

    I ask because I have very vivid memories, from late childhood / early adolescence, of being fascinated with the female characters in video games (Lucca from Chrono Trigger, anyone?) and creating female characters when I roleplayed or drew comics. If I went on the modern Internet as my fourteen-year-old self, the response I’d get would be “you’re obviously trans, this is a classic ‘tell’ for being a trans girl.”

    But when I look back on these memories from a psychologically integrated adult perspective, it seems clear to me in retrospect that they were the manifestations of a very geeky young boy awakening to heterosexual desire — my female characters were bound up with the fantasy of an ideal partner, someone who loved all the science fiction and comic books I did, was willing to overlook the fact that I was frail and shy and not like the other boys, but was a girl and would be my girlfriend.

    And I think I see this pattern playing out in one of the MTFs I know, a guy who is further along the geek (perhaps clinically autistic) spectrum than I am, and who still has trouble with the opposite sex in ways that I eventually grew out of. I get the impression sometimes that if he experiences AGP, it’s less about sexual arousal than about the fantasy of becoming his own ideal girlfriend in this sort of fantasy — and I find myself wondering if this relates to why “1990s goth girl” is the fashion of choice for so many Gen X and Millennial MTFs.

    I could be totally wrong about this, since I see that there are a lot of comments on this site about forced feminization or emasculation trauma leading to overtly sexual AGP. But it’s a conclusion I’ve reached by combining my own memories with my adult observations, and I’m curious if it makes sense to anyone else.

  6. Thank you TW. I am the heartbroken father of a 21-year-old young man who, after a few sessions of psychotherapy, was given a prescription to start hormones by his social worker (who sent him to a willing endocrinologist). His mother and I are completely bewildered and are struggling desperately to slow this process down — although I now believe it is too late.

  7. Thank you for your video and for your work in this field. The speed with which the gender dysphoric are helped – and encouraged – to transition is so alarming. Count my young adult daughter in the mix. I am certain she has other unaddressed issues going on…which as you say, take a while to sort through, taking hormones will not address those issues. I wish you the best in your PhD studies, and I look forward to learning when you open your own clinic!

  8. Please post and send widely to all who may find this of interest. I greatly appreciate it!

    RESEARCH QUESTION:
    While many areas in the LGBTIQ spectra of politics and society deserve much more examination, critique, and solution-building, I am seeking individuals who feel excluded from the larger trans narrative/trans community whose gender journeys have fallen under the following categories or descriptions:

    – Transition regret, for any reason(s)
    – Those expressing discomfort with any portion of their transition experience (“If I had to do it over again, I would NOT have done ___, or done it differently.”)
    – Those who have detransitioned, retransitioned, or stopped transition for any reason(s)
    – Those who have received negative feedback for their transition choices or gender identity, or for discussing their ambivalence or physical/psychological pain
    – Those who no longer identify as trans, transgender, transsexual, or part of the perceived trans community

    Make your voice heard and your experience known. Please contact Alexander at therapy@alexanderyoo.com, or by texting/calling 323-834-9828. I want to hear your story.

    This will be a neutral (nonjudgmental) examination of the circumstances, choices, experiences, and backgrounds, of anyone who should choose to participate.

    FORMAT:
    A conversational interview through email, chat (platform open, depending on the individual preference), phone or online real-time conversation, or a combination.

    These interviews will inform an academic contribution to a three-volume reference published by Praeger/ABC-CLIO.

    FROM THE EDITOR:
    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans at Risk: Problems and Solutions is intended to be a 3-volume reference on LGBTQI history, politics, law, and culture of the United States.

    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans at Risk: Problems and Solutions will be a cutting-edge, authoritative resource for academics, activists, scholars, students, and lay people who want to examine LGBT social and political movements as well as the public policy progress and set-backs on the rocky path towards full equality and liberation in modern-day America.

    ABOUT ALEXANDER:
    Publications range in scope and topic and include contributions to LGBTIQ political, health, and sociological anthologies, the mental health and challenges of trans and gender-diverse children and youth, and religious publications. Alexander, a therapist, counselor, organizational consultant, and hospice chaplain, has a trusted reputation as an academic writer, observer, and narrator of both broad and specific human experiences.

    Please contact Rev. Alexander Yoo, M.Div., MA, at therapy@alexanderyoo.com, or by texting/calling 323-834-9828.

  9. It’s strange because I felt all of the negative aspects you started feeling (relationship difficulties, tension in your body, inability to bond, dissociation) and it led me to the same things you were led to (therapy, meditation, embodied practices) but my path led me to understand that I was trans and not the opposite. I still struggle with convincing myself and have relationship difficulties which is why I read this blog. I really wish there was another way but transition seems to be working for now.

    1. I think if transition is leading you to be more in your body then that is a positive sign. Also if it is expanding your world, then that is a positive sign. If it is contracting your world and leading to more dissociation than that might not be a good sign.

  10. if it’s not too insensitive, when you call yourself a former trans woman, does the former refer to trans, or woman, or both? because sometimes i feel like cis-trans is becoming just as binary as gender and while that doesn’t bother me with how i perceive myself internally, it does leave me at a loss about how to label myself socially.

  11. Thank you for your story and especially the points about embodiment. If this is not too impertinent, can you tell me where to find Biodanza in Seattle? It sounds great but I can’t seem to find a listing for a class when I look online. I only find the Bay area. I understand if you don’t want to post it here.

    1. Unfortunately Biodanza is not available in Seattle. In the USA it is only available in the Bay Area, LA and some places on the East Coast. There is nothing quite like it, but there are things that are sort of similar such as 5 Rhythms, Soul Motion, or in Seattle a group called Ecstatic Dance in Capitol Hill that I used to go to when I lived in Seattle. These groups are less structured than Biodanza, but can provide a way to help connect to your body.

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