A story of desistance

I found this post on reddit from /u/PTthrowaway0 interesting it because it has a lot of parallels to my own feelings growing up, though a different outcome. Note when he says “dsymorphia” I’m not sure he means dysphoria or dysmorphia so I left it as is in the quote.

I am a straight guy and had issues with self confidence and masculinity growing up. Had issues of dsymorphia and gender identity that messed with my head constantly and I instinctively kept quiet. I can confidently say my issues surrounding this have have been a central aspect of my life for as long as I can remember. These started before I had any wider understanding of gender politics as a whole. This got incredibly worse once puberty started, a confusing time for any teenager. I also had minor depression and anxiety that I now link to self confidence and masculinity issues. Then I would feed into each other I’d become depressed and not like myself and wish I was a girl. Then I’d feel bad about myself for thinking this and my self confidence and self development would stay low. Why work on yourself when you don’t feel like the right person sometimes? Anxiety would make life too much at times and sexist elements of escapism would come in. Girls don’t have to worry about people liking them, people take care of you, so much less pressure.

And then boom porn. Puberty made the dsymorphia worse, better suppress sexual energy with obscene amounts of masturbation and porn! Except slowly my preferences changed to highlight dsymorphic thoughts rather than suppress them by just jerking off. The availability of porn and the idea of a community existing , even if I didn’t heavily interact with it was a huge problem it normalized it all. In hindsight I was addicted and the dsymorphia was a huge weight and drain on my life. I never told anyone in my family and only one friend when I was in my late teens. What kept me from going deeper into it was a good home life and amazing friends. Not because they supported me in dealing with it, but because I didn’t let them into it and I had a normal interactions not constantly centered around gender and identity. I lived in a moderately conservative household, I know they would have supported me no matter what I said, but they weren’t gung-ho social progressives. I never really seriously considered myself trans, I understood it was mostly a fetish but when it got bad it bled deeply into how I saw myself, and didn’t like the huge negative impact it had on my confidence. But I had developed a cycle of reinforcing it that I couldn’t break.

An aggravating sidenote is that I understood that this all was unhealthy for me as I lived it. In a short talk with a college therapist I laid out how I understood it was linked to my depressive cycles and I didn’t think it was healthy. Their response was to push acceptance and support groups. My desire to keep it private and me understanding it wasn’t a constant identity but rather insecurity made me not go. Reflecting on this moment makes me so worried that all the professional avenues for support simply make it worse for confused people.

What changed was I went off to college felt like a new person for a while got a girlfriend and it all went to the back of my mind. Amazing freshman year stellar confidence all the issues go to the back of my mind. It was like it was all over, huge weekly impact on my life was lifted from me. But then my relationship started going south in ways that hurt my sexual confidence. Just like that self image deteriorated and escapism came back while I was insecure and I indulged in the cycle again as the relationship died. Breakup happened, which was good, and despite a minor good period of confidence bad-hookups wrecked my sexual confidence again. The whole escapism aspect of it was so key in hindsight, feeling bad at being a guy and that it would be easier being a girl was huge. From bottoming out there I took it upon myself to face my insecurities and understand why I fed them and let them persist.

It took me until I was 21 to finally understand what I was doing to myself. What saved me was realizing that my depressive cycles led me to this escapism and dsymorphia, that I fueled my own dsymorphia with porn that reinforced it, building stable sexual confidence through comfortable confidence boosting hook-ups, and realizing it was a fetish built on insecurity and not an identity. Productive conversations with an amazing therapist that helped me unpack it all really cemented the progress I made. In the end I had to decide to be better. Cutting out behavior that reinforced it while building self confidence through exercise and a healthy relationship has led me to the clearest and happiest era of my life so far.

I found this post interesting because I saw a lot of parallels to my own story. He developed a fantasy that living as girl would be easier because he could escape from the pressures of being a man. This fantasy was connected to his self-confidence. Whether the fantasy is realistic or not, the pressures on young men to perform are very real. His fantasies got stronger during periods he was having difficulty with relationships and life and diminished during periods he was having success. The fantasies became sexualized at puberty, but existed prior to puberty.

However, he found a therapist who helped him to unpack everything, stopped engaging in behavior that reinforced his fantasies, and promoted healthy behavior like exercise and building relationships.

I think this was what I really needed at the time I was struggling with my gender, and I think there are people that could benefit from this approach. This man is still young and what will happen in the future is unknown. I suspect the fantasies might come back again for him, but ideally they can be managed in the same way if that comes up.


  1. I’m getting a distressing number of emails and private messages, also comments on my blog and YT channel, describing exactly this. It does appear that today, young men with AGP who do not wish to transition are being thrown under the bus. The message they are getting is ‘transition or it’s just a matter of time before you kill yourself’. Yet their actual problems are depression, insecurity, poor body image and a belief that, as men, they can never live up to the demands of society. There appears to be a link between excessive porn use and feelings of AGP too.

    The level of ignorance amongst professionals and support groups is scandalous. I recently spoke to GIRES and they claimed that autogynephilia was a ‘controversial idea’ and that the best thing any person with gender dysphoria could do was to transition immediately, whether they wanted to or not. In fact, it was quite clear that the man I was talking to (the director) does not understand the difference between dysphoria and desire. I was dumbfounded. Their families, I was told, would just have to lump it.

    At the same time HSTS — who bear no relationship to AGPs — are being asked if they ‘ever liked to wear girls’ underwear’ or ‘pleasured themselves while dressed’ and being DENIED treatment if they don’t (why would they? They’re HSTS.) These are sure signs that these ‘therapists’ have not a clue what they’re talking about. This has become an industry in which private clinics are making a lot of money destroying lives. Honestly I can’t wait for the first major litigations. And I shall laugh.

    1. I would like to add a comment here regarding AGP which once again is being used here as if it were a given. What we are talking about is cross gender arousal which could be a product of dysphoria (ie. dysphori feelings sexualized). I have a huge problem with this use of AGP as an accepted term because by doing so we accept that dysphoria is caused by aberrant sexuality instead of pre-existing feelings. No one is arguing that the arousal exists only that we shouldn’t be using an unproven term to describe it which postulates an exclusively sexual origin.

      Most trans people date their feelings to early childhood so we need to be careful not to dismiss their narratives by accepting Blanchard’s unproven work.

      1. I don’t like the term AGP either but sometimes end up using it because other people do. I would like to find another term. In particular, if you look at this person’s story the gender feelings started prior to puberty and the sexual feelings developed after. It is the same for me. The problem with the term AGP is it leads to the view that people are undergoing gender transition because of a sexual turn-on and that is untrue. They keep going with their transition when their sex drive is greatly reduced, and in fact see relief from these fantasies as something very positive in many cases. It does have something to do with sexuality, but it is not reducible to sexuality. Much the same way standard gender presentation also has something to do with sexuality, but is not reducible to sexuality.

        My view is that the dysphoria and arousal both exist independently but are related to each other, and it is really that relationship that determines the various pathways people take who have this form of sexuality.

      2. Joanna: Science is not ‘proven’, otherwise it is a Law. Science which has not been disproven constitutes the body of scientific knowledge at any given point. Blanchard’s Typology is the state of science at present; it has never been disproven. Let us not forget that Nutbrock et al 2008 set out specifically to disprove Blanchard and ended up supporting it.

        You say ‘the arousal exists’, that it is a ‘cross gender arousal’ and that dysphoria is ‘dysphoric feelings sexualised’ but then you say that this does not postulate a ‘sexual origin’. Well what other origin could the arousal have, especially given the three first claims?

        The claimed ‘early memories’ of AGP individuals are moot. We know that HSTS do experience childhood GNC (Janet Mock’s book, Redefining Realness is an excellent narrative on this) and this will be supported by family and peers. This is not the case with AGP.

        In any case, even if the early childhood AGP recollections were one day to be proven this would in no way challenge Blanchard. It would just suggest that AGP is a form of orientation and those feelings are analogous to the crushes that other children are having at the same time.

        It’s really this simple: there are obviously two distinct types of MtF trans, homosexual and non-homosexual. To deny this would be plain silly. Homosexual (HSTS) are easy to explain, but non-homosexual less so. The only viable and supported explanation of non-homosexual MtF, to date, is autogynephilia, which can be expressed as an intense desire to be a woman; to feel an intense sense of identity with the object of one’s own desire; or to be aroused at the thought or image of oneself as that object, a woman.

  2. ‘Girls don’t have to worry about people liking them, people take care of you, so much less pressure.’

    Think that’s one of girl’s and women’s major problems in society, they’re expected to be nice and likeable and worry a lot about it.

  3. Rod Fleming. You say AGP people are being thrown under the bus. Lesbian and gay boys are as well (if not more so). I really worry that the simple narrative of exhibiting cross gender behaviors or wearing clothes of opposite gender is casting a very wide net. The truth is no therapist or doctor or parent knows who will be happy transitioning long term. I have such anger towards professionals that are so smug in their believing their way is the right way. I believe most people would highly benefit from not turning this into a social justice battle. Yes individuals have a responsibility to be honest with their therapists but therapists need to be honest with themselves and admit that doesn’t always happen (especially when one is very invested in believing this is the right path). There are more and more stories coming out by lesbians or gay men who transitioned and then turned back. I think the glaring problem is therapists applying too simple of a narrative. We as a society are not very good at learning to sit with discomfort or ambivalence. We want quick answers and easy fixes.

  4. Just piping in on an old article… I have to personally admit that the introspective nature of this 21-year young male is simply fantastic: he managed at that age to come to a full conclusion and explanation for his gender dysphoria, and, by understanding the connection between escapism in depressive stages with transgender behaviour, he found a way to cope with it without ‘needing’ to transition. All that without the help of a trained, professional therapist — which is really amazing (in fact, I hope that this guy considers becoming a certified therapist himself, since he certainly has a highly developed ability to ‘see through’ problematic issues regarding gender dysphoria and figure out the best solution!). Let’s say that I have taken over a year and a half to reach a similar conclusion with my own therapist, who is also not pushing me into transition.

    In fact, I would like to leave here a word of appreciation of all those people — including TWT, of course, as well as some good therapists and absolute amateurs who just happen to understand well the issue — who come up with a solution for gender dysphoria which does not necessarily includes transition. In other words, it’s very important that people understand that there is also a spectrum in gender dysphoria — it’s not necessarily something ‘black and white’ but also has shades of gray — and only in some well-defined instances is transition the solution. Too-eager LGBT-friendly doctors who encourage transition way too soon during therapy are as dangerous as transphobic doctors — both may contribute to the problem instead of to the solution.

    Oh, how I wished I’d had such a sharp, clear mind when I was 21… I would certainly have avoided, today, to go through a 5-year-old depression related to what I would call a ‘gender identity crisis’ (my own psychologist refers to it as ‘a very complex tangle of issues which include problems regarding my gender identity’). One of my struggles is to accept that in my case transition is probably impossible or not even recommended and figure out ways to successfully cope with a life of ‘gender identity issues’ (not necessarily classical ‘gender dysphoria’) without transition.

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