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Philly Follow-up

This is a followup to the recent no-platforming of our two workshops at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. More details here:

There has been a lot of discussion across various forums about the detransition panel. A lot of people providing support and criticism. Some of it for things I actually believe, and a lot of it for things I actually don’t believe. This unfortunately is par for the course for Internet discourse and for discourse in general in the West. I actually think this is a much larger problem than detransition issues and sometimes I think I should focus on that instead. People dividing more and more into ideological camps and being unable to communicate with each other is a huge problem. People always have different ideologies and disagree about stuff. People with different ideologies observe the same world differently. They literally have different facts. That is part of what makes communication difficult. The challenge lies in interpreting the statements of the other charitably, assuming that they have a good intention even if it alien to you. This can be challenging but is an important practice. Some people really don’t have good intentions, in which case the best thing to do is maybe not communicate with them at all. However even many people that are lashing out in some way there is usually a pain or hurt behind that, and the person will soften if you acknowledge it. For Game of Thrones fans this is the exact opposite of Littlefinger’s advice. ☺

If you are critical of things I say I welcome dialogue, I hope that you would approach me with the lens that I am flawed human being trying to do what is best for others and myself in the world, and I promise to approach you in the same way.

One of the things that I find a particular blessing in my work is that I come in contact with a lot of people with a lot of different worldviews. People I would not have encountered in the past as I have spent most of my life in a liberal bubble. I feel my perspective has broadened in talking to people of all different orientations from all different walks of lives. I have come to see the value of the conservative viewpoint as well as the liberal. I also agree that our political views are mostly related to the moral intuitions that come from our different temperaments that again creates another barrier for us to communicate with each other. Though I am a liberal by temperament, I see these other views as important and valuable. I am not a relativist, I believe that things are better than other things, It is just that neither the left nor the right has a monopoly on that. If anything, my number one political issue is stand against those who seek to impose their views by authoritarianism and censor others against those that believe in ideological pluralism. That is not a left vs. right issue.

Now I would like to respond to some of the common themes I have seen in the discussion. I don’t speak for my co-panelists, only for myself:

“This presentation is a secret front to promote TERF ideology”

This idea came up a few times. The idea was that we were actually using detransition as a distraction to promote radical feminist ideology. There was no political intention behind the presentations at all. As I said, I am not in any way a radical feminist and therefore don’t promote their ideology. The presentations were about exactly what they said, no more no less. Some of my co-presenters may or may not have radical feminist views, there was no political litmus test to participate in the panel, nor should there be. Detransitioners are in a very difficult place regardless of their political affiliation.

If you wish to dislike me because of my political beliefs, you can dislike me for not being a pure Leftist. Most people in this discussion are on the Left. (trans people, detransitioners, radical feminist, clinicians). Ideological monocultures are dangerous when looking for scientific truth, because they lead to groupthink and blind spots. We all have blind spots; hopefully we can find people with different blind spots and dialogue with them.

“Detransitioners are a hoax perpetuated by radfems / detransitioners have been brainwashed by radfems which is why they are all AFAB (natal female) and young.”

This comes in two different flavors from people who have noticed that the majority of detransition blogs are from younger AFAB people and many of them have radical feminist leanings. This is definitely true. Not all AFAB detranstioners are radical feminists, but many of them are. It also true that the majority of detransitioners are AFAB.

I saw two different criticisms to explain this, the first was that these people are fake and are a hoax perpetuated by radical feminists to discredit trans people. They are not a hoax, there are a growing number of their videos on the Internet to prove that they exist. I have myself been accused of non-existance a couple of times, which is one of the reasons I made a couple of videos.

The second criticism is that they have been “brainwashed” by radfems in order to stop them from transitioning or their detransition is legit but they have been co-opted by radfems. This is getting cause and effect backwards I think. They can tell their own stories, but I think for many of them they found that the radical feminist ideology served the same function as their trans identity did as the past, to make sense of difficulties around being female in our society, and from bad experiences with men. I think the fact that there does seem to be a pattern of detransition centered around this demographic is concerning, especially because this is the exact same demographic that has greatly increased in presenting to gender clinics. So much so that it has flipped the sex ratio of these clinics. This wave of detransitioners comes before the peak of this trend, so if there is a true pattern here it is likely to grow a lot larger. If that happens, it is pretty important for the trans and detrans communities to work together to find constructive solutions to this, or otherwise there will be the kind of arbitrary gatekeeping that no one wants. It is not a good outcome if someone undergoes medical interventions, decides they don’t want them, and suffers from permanent lifetime consequences.

It is also clear that there are young AFAB folk that are happy with their transitions and interventions, so I am not saying this is true for all of them.

I am AMAB (natal male) and middle aged so I am not part of the typical demographic of detransitioners. I am also encountering more male detransitioners than I did in the past, but it doesn’t seem to be a systemic thing like it does with the AFAB folk. I think trans identity in AMAB and AFAB folk don’t parallel each other for the most part, and we shouldn’t take generalizations from one and automatically assume they are true for the other.

“This presenter is anti-trans and wishes to stop people from transitioning.”

Even though I say it nearly every post, people keep seeming to think I have the secret agenda to stop people from transitioning and throwing roadblocks in their way. Someone even used a post where I literally said some people should transition as proof that I “opposed transition”.

It is true that I am interested in finding ways for people to work with dysphoria without transitioning. I wish I had learned what I learned before I did it. But, the whole point of that is to create additional options for people, not to take options away. I support you 100% if you choose to transition in the way you see fit. I also thinking finding ways to work with dysphoria is applicable for people who undergo medical transition as well, because many of them still have dysphoria, even if their transition significantly helped reduce it. I think any of us that have dealt with dysphoria know how difficult it is, which is a difference between most detransitioners and other critical folk.

I do think we should try where possible to sort out who might be at a higher risk of eventual detransition, or who have other issues which interact with their dysphoria, or who can deal with their issues in other ways. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have agency over their own lives. Adults at least, are ultimately responsible for their own choices. Also, we don’t really know how to do this, so the only practical thing you can do is try to clear out as many confounding issues as possible, while keeping in mind that the person might be unable to do that depending on the severity of their dysphoria.

The whole reason I create this blog is to try to help people with gender dysphoria live the best possible lives. The evidence is clear that transition and medical interventions help some people, I just think we are throwing caution to the wind, particularly as there many, many more people presenting as trans than there used to be, and the reasons for this aren’t fully worked out.

“These presenters are bunch of crackpots who think you can cure dysphoria with yoga and dance which is false and unprofessional.”

This came up a lot, someone even referred to it as “yoga for dysphoria”. I think people completely misunderstood the intention for this panel. I wrote the description so that is my responsibility. I don’t think anyone would suggest that you can do yoga and poof your dysphoria will go away, that would be silly.

The intention behind the panel was to attempt to make a bridge between the detransitioner and trans communities because many of us have or continue to deal with dysphoria. Even many people who transition and find it helpful in dealing with their dysphoria still have dysphoria. Even many people who detransition still have dysphoria. Detransitioners have found some ways to work with their dysphoria, and I think some people who are happy transitioners have also found some ways to deal with their dysphoria. It was intended to be a bridge between the two communities so we could talk about what worked for us. I think people interpreted it as if I thought people could “cure” themselves with yoga or dance or something which is not the case. For people who are happy with their transition, the goal was to help people find ways to work with their remaining dysphoria, this is something that is almost never discussed in the trans community. There is also no research on it that I know of.

The specific things that were listed were things that many detransitioners have reported were underlying causes to their dysphoria. For me, personally when I am talking about dance, what I am actually talking about is embodiment, which is the antidote to dissociation. When treating dissociation we often get people engaged with their sensory experience some way, in a safe space. Dance for me was the vehicle for embodiment; I am not saying “dance your dysphoria away”. Many people report becoming less dissociated after transitioning, but some people report being more dissociated. I think reducing or eliminating dissociation is a sign that you are on the right track.

In any case the main point was to talk about coping with dysphoria whether you are happy with your transition, considering transition, or detransitioned, not to “cure” you of your transness.

“This presenter is bad because he is supported by radfems, this is proof of his evil intentions. He should denounce them and not associate with them.”

This is the guilt by association piece, saying that I am responsible for who likes my blog. I have also had people think I am responsible for the full contents of every article I have ever linked to. When I link to an article I am not always endorsing it, and even when I endorse an article it doesn’t mean I think that every point in that article is 100% correct.

For the second point, absolutely not! One big problem is that is happening right now is that there are all of these decentralized groups running around on the Internet, they are leaderless and people become members just by identifying with them. Opponents of these groups find the worst members of the group and then treat their actions as representative of the group. The “leaders” of the group are whoever is most popular, which is basically whoever the Internet decides are there prominent spokespeople. One thing I have found when interacting with groups whether they are trans activists, radfems, liberals or conservatives is that they are very diverse, and contain both extremists and reasonable people. I am open to dialogue with any reasonable people, and have had good conversations with radical feminists. They are not a monolith. The same holds true for trans people, I don’t hold all trans people responsible for the actions of the activists that cancelled my presentation. Likewise no one elected me a spokesperson for detransitioned people, so the things I believe should not be taken as representative of all detransitioners.

I will however condemn people who engage in hate. Those who mock, shame and belittle trans people. Those who call trans people mutilated, and condemn them as freaks and sexual deviants. That I do denounce, clearly and fully. Some of these same people call detransitioned people mutilated too, and use our stories to make political points.

“We are okay with detransitoners speaking, just not these ones who are promoting toxic ideas.”

This is a great piece talking about the “good detransitioner vs. bad detransitioner” framework. In other words, detransitioners are welcome as long as they don’t have any problem with what happened to them, and don’t criticize what is currently going on. As long as detransition is just a personal choice it is okay to talk about, if we are critical of some of what happened to us then it is not okay to talk about. Only certain kinds of detransitioners are acceptable. Many of us feel harmed by what happened to us, and are critical of things told to us by the community or therapists and that is part of hearing our stories.

“Detransition is just another stage on some people’s “gender journeys” and should be supported. We should honor their journeys and find speakers who see it that way.

This is similar to the above point. Detransition is much less threatening if it is framed as part of someone’s “gender journey”. In other words, this framing said we had a different kind of gender journey, adopting a trans identity and then a different one. Preferably a non-binary one. There are some people who have exactly this journey. It is also not much of a problem if this happens.

However, there people who feel profoundly harmed by what happened to them. Sometimes I communicate with detransitioners who are so full of regret that they are at the point of despair and suicidality. To call what happened to them a “gender journey” is an deep insult, and trivializes the pain that they are in. It is affirming something as a “journey” that was destructive to them.

This presenter is dangerous because the ideas in his blog might delay people getting traditional medical treatment causing them harm.

This is a potentially serious criticism. In reading the discussion around our conference, someone reported that my blog caused them to delay the treatment that helped them. This person eventually went through medical and social transition and reported that this was highly beneficial to them, and that they had delayed treatment based on the blog. They said I was being irresponsible because “transition is the only way to deal with gender dysphoria.” I was really troubled by this, because the last thing I want to do with my blog is make people suffer more.

There is both scientific evidence and many self-reports that people’s lives are improved by gender transition. I do not think that all people can deal with their dysphoria by means other than transition and medical treatment. There are many people for who that is the only way, and even for the people that are looking for other ways we are just beginning that process and just have the ideas that have worked for us. That is what this is.

However, the statement that “transition is the only way to deal with gender dysphoria for all people” is not true. Dysphoria is on a spectrum, it ebbs and flows, and has more or less intensity. There have always been people who had dysphoria and have not transitioned or felt the need to. Some of these people cross-dress, some of them just have fantasies, some of them take low-dose hormone therapy, anti-androgens, or anti-depressants, some of them choose a different name, some of them find the drawback of medical transition to outweigh the advantages, some of them just cope with their dysphoria and find it manageable. Some of these people identify as non-binary and trans, some don’t. At least a couple of dozen people have told me directly they have found the things I said to be very helpful in dealing with their dysphoria, as an alternative to transition, so they are out there.

So, my position is that it is true that at this time there are people for whom transition is the only way or the best way. It is not however true that this is true for all people with dysphoria. Also it shouldn’t be a requirement that this be true for someone to undergo medical transition. Having more agency and choice in ones life is always a good thing.

It is also true that sometimes parents and loved ones read my blog and are distressed by their loved one’s impending transition and think that the blog will help them. Maybe or maybe not, it is not some magical cure. If you do feel like something I said was harmful, please let me know. I would like to know how to present things in the best way in order to help the people that will be helped by what I say and not harm the people that it will not.

Responding to criticism

Been receiving some criticism recently which is good. I’m glad to encourage discussion. I think this is something that is badly needed around trans issues. There is a troubling strain of thought that if one disagrees with the views of the trans community, one is transphobic. It is possible to disagree with someone and not be motivated by hate or malice. Indeed, my primary motivation in writing this blog is to help people with gender dysphoria. I feel that through my journey I have gained a map which might be helpful to others, so I present it for those who might find it useful.

A few people have said that they think I believe that because detransition is right for me, it is right for everyone. That is not true, I don’t believe my experiences are universal, neither do I believe they are unique. If you find my map to be valuable than that is great, if you find it partially useful use the parts you like, if you don’t find it useful than don’t use it. My map does not invalidate any of the existing ways through the difficult territory of gender dysphoria, I will repeat again that I support those that transition. I do apologize if I have been strident at times, sometimes I feel angry over some of what has happened, I am human and that comes through.

I do get frustrated when my positions are misrepresented, here is an example by Zinnia Jones. I attempt to further clarify in response to Zinnia what I am saying here.

The importance of doubt

I was banned from Reddit’s /r/asktransgender sub after making the following comment in response to a thread asking about regret:

“I ultimately found that transition didn’t actually cure dysphoria (except for temporarily) and just caused a bunch of other issues. I eventually transitioned back after 20 years. I still regret all of the lost time and what I did to my body, as I eventually learned I could have lived with a male body after all.”

Yes, that is right I was banned after stating that I regretted and had detransitioned in a thread about regrets! I do understand these issues can be sensitive and delicate and potentially triggering, but I surely thought it was okay to talk about regret in response to someone asking about regret!

I sent a note to the moderator and asked why I had been banned and received the following response:

“TERFs and folks from the detransitioning subreddit keep making throwaway accounts to come here and cause trouble. Trying to deride people and spread doubt about who they are and what they’re doing with their own lives.

Unfortunately, you fit that description to a T. To the point where I probably ought to message admin and see if we’ve banned you for these sorts of shenanigans before.”

I have no doubt there are people who do troll and try to disrupt the forum, this topic attracts a lot of vitriol. I also oppose deriding others, and have never derided anyone on this blog or on reddit. And I can understand the job of moderating this has to be a tough and thankless one. However, what I find troubling is the idea that people should not doubt. Hell yes, when making as big a decision as transitioning one should doubt! It makes me wonder what other voices are being silenced, and if there are people who never leave the bubble and seek multiple perspectives.

I will reiterate that I am not opposed to transition or hormones or other interventions. Each person must make that choice for themselves. It is clear that there are many people that have undergone these interventions and feel positively about them. What I am opposed to is the idea that it is the only way. There are plenty of people who have dysphoria and don’t transition, there are plenty of people who transition and still have dysphoria.

The idea that one shouldn’t doubt is a dangerous one and I worry when questioning, vulnerable people who pose questions are only presented with voices encouraging of transition, and other voices are silenced. The point of questioning is to question.

And please, if you are reading this do criticize my ideas. I’m sure there are things I am not right about. I have my own experience, plus my observations, plus I am well read on matters of psychology and the research, but I know my experience is not a universal one. One of the reasons I am writing this is to sort out what is more unique to me and what other people resonate with. Also, if you are reading this do read multiple perspectives on this issue, people that are happy with transition, long-term transitioners, short-term transitioners, cross dreamers and even folk that are gender critical all have something to contribute.

Why I am writing this blog

My last post made me realize I did something I want to avoid, which is to get into the ongoing fight between radical feminists and trans activists. That is not really my goal for the blog. In fact one of the reasons I do this is so that there is someone other than radical feminists or religious conservatives talking about some alternative ideas around this issue!

I am no radical feminist, I am unabashedly pro-male for one thing (and pro-female too!) One of the things I had to get over in my retransitioning was a distorted view of men as being evil. Being around several kind, compassionate, and gentle men helped with that. I do however, agree with the radical feminists, that people should be free from a mandatory class system around gender. Retransitioning is certainly not about becoming a stereotypical man! I work in a female-dominated field in psychology, I like to cook and even bake, I do a lot of dance, and my favorite color is purple. I don’t have to be a woman to do any of those things! I just no longer have to use my voice in affected ways, or wear clothes that aren’t built for my body, or move in unnatural ways, or suffer poor health effects from hormones that don’t belong in my body.

When I was contemplating retransitioning, I had people assume my current state of thinking on my gender based on what clothes I was wearing. This was nutty, as if I was feeling more male because I was wearing black or more female because I was wearing purple!

Neither am I a religious conservative. I have no moral or ethical issues with transitioning. I just think it frequently does more harm than good, and is not the only response to gender/sex dysphoria. I see transitioning as the most drastic possible response to dysphoria, and therefore not the one that should be attempted first. It is a general principle of medicine that we try the least invasive treatments first. Full gender transition is the equivalent of high-powered chemo for this issue. Still it can be right for some, also the alternatives aren’t completely documented and known. I am hoping to help with this issue.

I have a few different goals for the blog. One is to tell my story to get it out there. Another is to share the map I have gained as a result of my journey back home in the hope it is helpful to others. A third is to give and receive support particularly to retransitioners and people that are contemplating retransition. This can be an even lonelier journey than the first one! Also, I hope to help those that are contemplating transition to have an alternate perspective. I think there might be a surge of retansitioners (and it may be already starting) as the ramifications of the surge of transitioning in the last five years start coming to the surface.

I also hope to work with the psychological community as I feel like my experience exposed some holes in the idea of gender identity. I thought I had to transition because I had an immutable gender identity and this turned out to be untrue, having that idea in my head made it a lot harder to get out of it. I see a lot of people blindly encouraging and supporting transition both in the queer community and the therapeutic community and I don’t think this is good. I feel that my transition did tremendous harm to my life, and there is definitely a part of me that is angry about it.

So I’m trying to write to a lot of different audiences at once, but I want the blog to be more for general audiences. I’m also contemplating writing a book, or an academic paper or doing some research on this topic. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that yet.

Are there any suggestions of what you might like to see more/less of?