No platformed!

Carey Callahan and I were scheduled to present two panels at the Philly Trans Health Conference. One of these panels was on detransition and the other panel was on alternative ways to work with gender dysphoria. We additionally gathered some other detransitioned and re identified people to present with us. The descriptions are below:

Detransition Panel

Detransition (reversing transition and returning to presentation as natal sex) has historically been a rare phenomenon. However, the numbers of detransitioners are growing. For the first time there are communities of detransitioners. Detransitioners face similar challenges to those that are transitioning as well as some that are unique to detransition. People detransition for a variety of reasons. Some people detransition for social reasons. Some people detransition because they discovered that transition was not right for them or did not help with their dysphoria. Some people detransition because they discover their original desire to transition was secondary to trauma or other issues. This panel will include personal stories, reasons for detransition, challenges faced by detransitioners, as well as the fledgling research into this community. Finding care can be difficult for detransitioners as there is little research or knowledge about the community. This topic can often be difficult to discuss in the trans community, leading to a sense of isolation and confusion among some considering detransition. This panel is for those that are hoping to learn more about this community, those that care for gender variant people, those exploring their own gender and those that are seeking cultural competence with the detransition community. This panel is open to anyone.

Alternative Ways of Working with Gender Dysphoria

There is much research available that shows that gender transition and medical treatments are effective in reducing gender dysphoria. However, some people find that transition does not reduce their gender dysphoria. Others are happy and satisfied with their transitions but still find they have lingering dysphoria and might want additional tools to work with their dysphoria. This workshop will cover various ways that those of us in the detransitioner and re-identifying communities have found to work with our dysphoria that can either be an alternative to transition or in addition to transition. Some of these methods include mindfulness, embodiment practices such as dance and yoga, expanding and transcending our sense of identity, working through trauma, working with internalized gender schemas, internalized homophobia, internalized misogyny or internalized limiting beliefs about various genders. This workshop will include a discussion of techniques that those in gender variant communities, no matter where they are on the transition spectrum, have found to cope with their dysphoria. It is intended to be a non-judgmental space where we can all come together and share what has worked for us.

I was wary of proposing these panels because I was worried about how they would be received, but a member of the planning committee repeatedly encouraged me to propose these panels, and I was hopeful that this would be a place for good dialogue. I am very interested in trans folk and detransitioned people working together to figure out the best ways to work with dysphoria. Both USPATH and the Trans Health Summit in 2015 had the courage to allow and even encourage such discussions to take place and they were well received. I thank them for their courage and particularly the people who encouraged us to do the panel.

Our panels were approved with no problem and we were making preparations to for the panels. We have spent hours working on the content and some of us have made travel arrangements paying for things out of our own pocket. We thought everything was set to go.

The first I found out that something was amiss was by reading a thread on Reddit’s r/asktg which was questioning whether the panels should be presented at the conference or not because they were presented by people that had “TERF-leaning” blogs. I am not a radical feminist, but they tend to place anyone who holds views they oppose in this category. One of them claimed to receive the following reply from the conference:

“Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! Our workshops are chosen by our community run planning committee. They did not know the toxic nature of this workshop. We have decided to cancel their workshop and they will not be allowed to submit workshops in the future. We here at Mazzoni and at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference extend our apologizes for letting this slip through. Thank you so much for keeping us accountable.”

We had not heard any news of this, so I asked my contact at the planning committee about it and she hadn’t heard anything either. Eventually it turned out this was not official, and the planning committee decided to vote on whether we should be included or not as they had received calls and emails complaining about our inclusion in the conference. The committee met and voted over the next few days.

A couple of hours ago I received word that the committee voted to cancel our workshops. We had worked very hard on this and much energy went into it. Additionally, some of us are out our travel costs as we were expecting these workshops to go on until just now, less than two weeks before the conference.

We were hoping to have a good dialogue and discuss these issues with the intent of sharing what we have learned, to help to discuss what we have learned and so that we can all figure out better ways to work with dysphoria and figure out more about who benefits from transition and who doesn’t. I say over and over again that I am supportive of trans people transitioning but that is not enough. Transition caused profound harm in my life, and I am not going to be quiet about it, but I also support those who do transition or take hormones, or engage in medical interventions. It is precisely because I care about people with gender dysphoria having the best outcomes that I take the risk to write this blog, risking my career and reputation by writing about very personal stuff and taking on all the risks of having “politically incorrect” research interests and views. As a graduate student, I am particularly vulnerable to this. I had made this blog semi-anonymous for this reason, but that is no longer the case as I do my academic work under my real name. I knew it was inevitable that this would happen, but it is even more important to not be silenced.

This is a risk that should not exist in a free society, our different views should engage with each other. People have said they thought my views are wrong. It is almost certainly true that some of my views are wrong, the trouble is I don’t know which ones. The way to figure that out is precisely through dialogue, through research and through debate. There is more and more no-platforming going on through our society preventing just this process.

Additionally, detransitioners are particularly vulnerable both being attacked by members of the trans community, and facing some of the exact same challenges that people in the trans community do. Many of us are gender-variant in some ways either in appearance or demeanor, many of us have to deal with the same kind of name changes and bureaucratic challenges, and having our name and gender changes exposed on background checks. We face much the same discrimination and trans rights are our cause too. Those that wish to silence us are censoring a marginalized minority group just because we are politically inconvenient.

I still hope that we can work together and dialogue with each other to create greater understanding and better ways to work with gender dysphoria for both those that transition and those that don’t. However, I am less hopeful of that than before.

Also, please share this widely if you care about the well-being of detransitioned people and those looking for ways to work with gender dysphoria, or if you care about academic freedom, and the open exchange of ideas.

UPDATE: The conference did offer to pay our non-reimbursable travel expenses.

21 comments

  1. What a bunch of cowards! Neither you nor Carey is into radical feminist ideology, both of you just speak the truth without any ideology at all. They no-platformed you based on lies! I hope you two can still present your work, perhaps at another conference, or perhaps on your own YouTube channels. Thanks for your work!

  2. I am appalled at the narrow ideological focus of the trans community. They have decided in advance that there are no mistaken diagnoses and no trajectory for treatment other than chemical sterilization, amputation of sexual organs, and life long dependence on steroid hormones. Their only response in to silence those who suggest alternatives that are effective or who have decided that they made a mistake. This reveals how very psychologically unhealthy this community is.

  3. I know a number of people active in the censorship and no platforming movement. Many others are mum. Since so many treating professionals, journalists and others associated with the public media are terrified of repercussions it’s hard to see what stands in the way of this movement growing. There is very little open dialogue or discussion of relevant concepts and issues. Fascism is on the rise.

    Perhaps your panel could present in a nearby location, library, hotel, public conference room, etc. Another alternative is to present on YouTube, Skype, or via some other Internet venue. Your ideas are highly relevant, educational, and instructive for these days, what you’ve prepared for presentation are much needed trans/detrans topics needing more discussion, development, and research.

    Don’t give up. Fight on!

  4. I agree we need much more dialogue on this subject. I have no doubt that you and Carey have put together a mindful and respectful presentation that helps move the conversation forward. I am hopeful that the decision can be reversed and will reach out the contact info you gave to express my disappointment in this news and explain why I feel it is important that it go forward.

  5. I suggest you present your panels in a nearby library or rec centre, they often have rentable function rooms. That way, anyone interested in the topic can still attend, and any disruptive people can be ejected by the rec centre’s own security.

  6. I am also a psychologist and your experience is valid. As you say, the challenges facing people transition in either direction are similar and so is the feeling of isolatation.

    I believe gender dysmorphia is far more common than is publicised because gender is a social construct that no one embodies, as such I think everyone will struggle with our own sense of identity as they reach adulthood. I see similar distress in women who become mothers by having children and expect to change into what they think a “mother” should be like, which they do not experience.

    Suffering is real. Research into gender dysmorphia is patchy and fraught with meaningless words. There is a defensive fear that people are being pushed to identify as hetrosexual transsexuals which seeks to erase homosexuality- especially in lesbians.

    What you have sought to do is open a meaningful dialogue and support people who are feeling isolated and fearful. The LBGT community have in their efforts to support the trans community, become defensive, and sometimes aggressive towards anyone who questions the narrative. When someone likes yourself seeks to support others or when someone asks for more research they can expect to be called a TERF and excluded from the community.

    The LGBT community includes lots of people but you can have feminists, allies, or those that oppose feminism.

  7. Third Way Trans- first I would like to say your blog has been a lifeline for me through the past year. My daughter came out as “Gay” when she was 16 ( would not use the word lesbian) and then as trans when she turned 18. Her small group of friends include several trans masculine identified girls. It’s the usual story of her never expressing or behaving in a way that showed she was unhappy with her sex. I have been trying to be supportive but cautious. Your blog has helped me to sort through my concerns and I always appreciate your concern and respectfulness to both those who are happy with their transition and those who have detransitioned. Your work and voice are so important and I am so sorry that you are getting no support from a community that claims they are all about support. Please don’t give up and know how valued you are (at least from me)! I wish you much love,peace and happiness!

  8. It is sad and potentially incorrect that your workshop has been withdrawn by the organizing committee. The experiences of people who decided – for whatever reason – that the trans* trajectory in hindsight is not the way they should personally have gone, needs to be heard.
    A big problem however is that the detransitioners (taking them for one group for the moment) have a very loud and strong TERF backing, are backed by trans hating cis feminists. And that is a no-go for the trans community. As anti fascists you don’t invite a mob of nazis to your event either. In that sense it would be wise to check your supporters and hang out less in “4th wave” circles, as they are not your allies. They use you for their goal to destroy possibilities for medical transitioning as did Janice Raymond around 1980. So .. beware who you hang out with and speak out against false allies.

  9. The trans community is filled with minny gustspos that wish to control the minds of others with their views and feelings. Yet the narrative does not allow room for others to speak or feel.

  10. Aw, I’m so sorry to hear that. I did send the organisation one of my long emails. I don’t think they will reconsider, not this year since the dates are just upon us, but perhaps next year they will at least accept that the world — even the transgender world! — is not ‘black & white’, i.e. you’re either one of us or you are a TERF — an enemy. This seems almost childish, but, unfortunately, it has been a growing mark of trans activism, that it is turning its narrative into something completely unpalatable, and, at some point, this will start turning against the transgender community.

    In fact, the more I read about such things — I’m not really surprised — the more I get shocked, and the more I get angry at all those self-proclaimed trans activists who are much more concerned about bathrooms and pronouns than they are about the true health of trans people — mental and otherwise. In a sense, it made me proud to see people like Caitlyn Jenner being rudely attacked by the activists who detest her narrative, as she clearly says that she is Republican, a Christian, and is against same-sex marriage — while not being ‘less transgender’ for that! (I don’t agree with her in any of those views, but that doesn’t mean that I resent her for embracing her values!) In other words: just because someone suffers from gender dysphoria, and seeks to end that suffering, it does not mean that you have to buy the whole ‘trans package’.

    In a sense, it reminds me of the initial explosion of the coming out of male flamboyant effeminate homosexuals, proclaiming the era of a ‘gay culture’ of which any homosexual male should be proud and a part of. This actually scared several male homosexuals, who remained in their closets, because they didn’t identify in the least with that so-called ‘gay culture’. Times fortunately have changed, the homosexual community has split among its thousands of subgroups and subcultures — in fact, the few LGBT bars I go to are full of male homosexuals who utterly despise the so-called ‘gay culture’ and they act and dress and present themselves as any heterosexual male, there is no difference, one’s sexuality has nothing to do with one’s ‘culture’, nor even with one’s presentation (unless one really, really wishes that).

    Trans people are one step behind the homo and bi communities (and two or three steps behind hard-core feminists). I think they are artificially building a new ‘trans culture’ which has its own narrative, and you either ‘fit’ into it, or you are a dangerous ‘enemy’, whose voice has to be stifled at all costs, lest they ‘infect’ the minds of others and draw them away from the ‘mainstream’ trans groupthink — so, pretty much what happened with the so-called ‘gay culture’ at the beginning, before they started to embrace diversity inside their own community and accepted that homosexuality is one thing, ‘gay culture’ is another.

    There are obvious differences between homosexuality/bisexuality and transgender issues, of course, the most important of all being the need of medical aids to go through transition — homo/bi people face the same fears and social disapproval as trans people do, but ‘coming out’ just means stating their sexual preferences. Trans people need so much more than that — from legal document changes to hormonal treatments and (multiple) surgeries, and that’s just the bare essentials to start living their lives. Now, that is not to say that people don’t suffer as much from their repressed sexuality as others might suffer from their repressed gender identity; suffering is suffering, that is not the question nor the point. The point is merely that trans people require society to provide so much more than LGB people — it’s not merely ‘acceptance’ and ‘tolerance’ and laws against discrimination, it’s so much more than that. And that in turn means that the message, or the narrative, of the trans community has to be clear and acceptable to the mainstream cisgender heteronormative society. Defending the right to stifle ‘dissenting opinions’ is not acceptable in our democratic societies which promote freedom of speech.

    When in fact the real reason for preventing you to share your experiences and talk about alternatives to solution is simply because so many of them might secretly regret their choices, but, since they have invested so much emotionally, socially, and financially in going through transition, they prefer to remain silent about their regrets — and prevent anyone else from drawing attention to that possibility.

    I, for one, am actually glad that my own therapists have so many doubts about me — after four years, the closest they are to a diagnosis is that I’m an ‘edge case’, sharing common attributes and symptoms from gender dysphoria and sexual dysfunction and/or paraphilia. Some trans people might feel profoundly insulted about such a diagnosis and abandon that therapist and get one that does what they want. In my personal case, and thanks to your wonderful blog, I’m actually quite glad that my own doctors are trying all sorts of alternatives before making a final recommendation. Yes, it might be painful to ‘drag it along’ for such a long time — but I certainly wish to avoid, if possible, that doctors make the wrong decision about myself and my future life, just because they are still full from the ‘trans Kool Aid’ that they prefer to get everybody they can through transition quickly, as opposed to exploring all possibilities and alternatives.

    That’s why it is so important for people in the trans community to know there are alternatives! If it weren’t for your blog (well, and for a few other de-transitioners who also wrote about the issue), I wouldn’t even know what to look for in a doctor! I might be persuaded, as so many others, to believe that my doctors were secretly part of a conspiracy to prevent trans people to live the lives they want, and seek someone else. In practice, I know they have correctly diagnosed a few cases (some are my personal friends) when they were absolutely sure, after a few sessions, that transition would be best for them — and that’s what they got, very quickly, and I suppose that they haven’t had any regrets yet. But in my case they know it’s much better to go at a much slower pace; and I’m happy to know that, because experiences like yours show that one should not take transition lightly, nor believe it’s an ‘universal cure for everything’, or that ‘all trans people are equal and therefore the same solution works for all of them’.

    Generalisations are dangerous. But stifling the voice of those who actually point out why generalisations are dangerous is even more dangerous!

    Like the previous commenters, I, for one, would simply love to see/watch/listen to your presentations, and I think that using the Internet (namely YouTube, etc.) for that is a good choice as well to spread out the message 🙂

    (Oh, and I’m glad that at least you got your money back!)

    1. The black and white thinking is a real problem, and you are right it may lead to backlash.

      We will have a video up sometime soon, it won’t be the same presentations as the conference because we never finished those but many of us are creating a piece for it. Thanks for your continuing support, and best of luck to you wherever you end up with transition or not.

  11. It’s appalling that effectively you’ve been given a gagging order. Are people afraid to listen, to
    be willing to take part in a dialogue? If no one speaks then no one hears. We all have a voice, and those voices must be heard. How can these issues be discussed if people are told to shut up. It’s about choices, we must be allowed those. If we aren’t allowed to hear the arguments,
    then how can we make a balanced decision. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing, it’s about
    listening. I’m not coming down one side or the other, I haven’t heard both sides, it’s not allowed.

  12. Let’s stop confusing no platforming with freedom of speech. So the conference didn’t want to hear your stories? So? Move onto a different conference. Why shouldn’t they choose not to hear your stories because you feel they are important in creating more clear versions of trans narratives.
    When is it ‘not allowed’ to tell your narrative? It isnt. The big detransitioning narrative that is used by those who want to discredit trans positive narratives as ‘false consciousness’ etc seems to get plenty of platforms where the man’s story is gleefully repeated.

    1. The two panels were submitted to the conference, accepted, and then right before the conference they were cancelled. This shows cowardice and dishonesty on the part of the organizers who are doing all they can to make sure important topics that do not toe the ideological line in every way are not discussed among the very people who most need to hear these things.

      1. The conference paid for air tickets i understand. So there was no financial loss. Was there a contractual basis for them cancelling? If its in their terms and conditions, they are still well within their legal rights. If its not, you can seek redress for it.

        However…
        It’s neither cowardice nor dishonesty.
        At the worst, its a case of poor professional practice, in that they should have screened and referenced the paper before the conference. But…if something else written by the authors had been published after the acceptance, which placed the papers outside of their aims for their conference, once again…so what. Deal with it. Stage your own conference.

        The organisers are allowed to have their own ‘ideelogical line’. And they can decide to not let people near their line if they think they even might ‘not toe it’. It is THEIR idealogical line. Not yours. You have your own one. Make your own conference where your idealogical line is fully displayed. Invite as many trans positive speakers as you like. Encourage them to get naked and dance on the opposite side of your idealogical line. If you want.

        You could call yourself brave as opposed to cowards. You might be. But you might also have been stupid.

        Whether or not your topics were ‘important’ is pure subjecture. As is the judgement on whether the people at the conference are those who ‘most needed to hear’. Pure subjecture.

        I for one hate to be told something is important for me and needs to be heard. If i know that person (the metaphorical ‘preacher’) well, and i respect their knowledge, wisdom, experience and motives…i will listen to them. If not, to use colloquial language appropriate to my region, they can ‘do one!’

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