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 (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.