Because I think you might be out there

Hi,

Typically, it will be noted by trans-activists and even a lot of the mainstream media that the percentage of people who express “transsexual regret” make up a minuscule percentage of those who have transitioned from living in their birth genders or had any gender reassignment treatment or procedures.  These people usually are portrayed as aberrations within the transgendered community.  They are sad “problem cases” who can’t “get their stuff together” and are now doomed to live out the rest of their lives in agony. Transgendered people have it hard enough without stories such as these that can be used as anti-trans propaganda.

Here’s another thing – there is a lot riding on the notion that once someone transitions from one gender to another they usually don’t go back.  The idea that gender identity is fixed and permanent and not at all related to sexual identity is really important in helping make society more comfortable with the idea of people changing genders.  It helps make the idea of getting insurance coverage for transgender care more palatable and makes enacting trans-friendly legislation a lot easier.  “Gender” is still a sacred space and there is an expectation coming from somewhere in the middle of mainstream society that if people really do have to cross gender lines it needs to be done earnestly, responsibly and permanently.

But here is one more thing, and this is why I, your humble narrator, am here.  I have a feeling that there are a lot more out there than are coming forward who have transitioned from one societal gender role to another only to discover at some point later in their life (be it five minutes or fifty years) that maybe it doesn’t feel right anymore and they don’t know what to do about it (or are scared to even admit having these feelings.) Because these people go against the narrative of a fixed gender identity, I have a hunch that there are many more people in this position than are politically expedient to report. Many of the fantastic LGBT community centers, trans-advocacy groups and medical providers who now have good resources for those wishing to transition do not have much in place to help the post-transition and/or post-surgical-reassignment population that wishes to transition again, this time to their birth gender.  It is already quite a task to get funding for anything related to “transgender” so one can imagine the additional burden it would be to get programs established for those wishing to transition back (not to mention a PR nightmare.) The question remains though, what about people who have transitioned out of their birth gender who want some information about what the process of transitioning back to their birth gender? What resources can be provided to this underserved community?

This is the space I found myself about about 5 years ago and it is a very scary place to be.  For me, my own confusion about gender identity had danced in and out of my life since I can remember.  Was I was born in the wrong body? Was I was born in the wrong sex?  It was a source of hidden shame that I had these thoughts and the few times that I confessed them to friends or family were disastrous.  In 1995 I saw the Internet for the first time and I suddenly had access to to talk to people who had feelings like I did and knew that I was not alone.  (Starting in elementary school I pretty much mastered the library sciences to read any and all published material on the subject of transsexualism.  Within 5 minutes of being on the Internet I saw that I had access to resources and literature that positively dwarfed what I had seen in my life up to that point.)

I was on my way.  And it was an incredibly exciting period of my life.  I was going to be my “real self” at last.  Any hurts from friends, family or “the world at large” were mitigated by the glow I had from finally achieving something that I had considered my entire life. For me it was really important to do things in what I perceived as the “right way”.  I followed the Standards of Care.  I consulted with experts on the subject. In my heart I felt I was on the right path.

I transitioned to my new gender role and although mostly happy for about 5 years I still had something gnawing in the back of my mind that wasn’t right.  I began to question the whole concept of being “born in the wrong body” as it related to me.  I turned these thoughts over and over in my head. Was I really the gender I had chosen to live openly as or was my essence – the stuff that makes me me – coming from a place that was neither necessarily male nor female but just “me”?   What made me who I am?  I began to look back on my birth gender just like someone might revisit an old neighborhood or town they are too embarrassed to admit they came from but at times still secretly missed. There were things about my birth gender that I had fought hard to repress that I now found that I missed.  I also found myself deliberately acting out stereotypes by emphasizing things about me that I perceived to be in accordance with my newly expressed gender identity and de-emphasizing those that were not.  I think a lot of us do this (and it doesn’t matter if you are trans or not) but sometimes it is great just “to be”.

After years of avoiding reading anything related to being transgendered (because after a lifetime of dwelling on it I was totally exhausted) I turned once again to the Internet to see if there was anyone out there like me and had found themselves in the same questioning state as myself.   While there were even more resources than ever for people wishing to work out their gender identity issues they all seemed to be pointing in one way – the steps leading to transition but not the steps leading away from it.  Although I read a few very lucid accounts of moving back and forth between genders after “transition” they paled in number compared to the horror stories of regretful transsexuals who had either soldiered on unhappily in their reassigned genders, killed themselves or went back to their birth genders in most dramatic fashion, often becoming reactionary fiercely intolerant people and having a “religious” component to their “conversion”.

I once again joined support groups and found a lot of really cool people there but few that I could relate to in terms of wanting to transition back.  I got a few comments that I had somehow become afraid to be who I needed to be. A lot of people saw me as retreating from something.  I saw the opposite – I felt like I wanted to grow.

For me this has been all along about feeling “gender congruity”.  It has been an elusive quest but maybe sometimes you have to take a few wrong turns on your journey to get where you want to be (or at least headed in the right direction.)    I am still on that journey.  I am a lot closer to being where I want to be now than I was 5 years ago, but I have been taking my own sweet time.  I have thought about starting this blog for awhile but I have worried for so many years about transgender related issues do I really want to spend any more time on the subject?  I want to move on.

I have to admit that it has taken me a long time to actually start this blog because I have been scared to write this. Scared of hurting someone. Scared of getting hurt. Scared I am going to say something that gets misinterpreted.  I guess, more than anything else, scared of trying to figure some of this out in public (which I have come to the conclusion is the only way I can figure it out.)  I don’t have a map and I am not entirely comfortable.

But I am writing this because I suspect that there is a marginalized and isolated population which I am a part of that needs to be a little bit more out in the light. I understand why our story is not perceived as being the most helpful by those fighting the good fight for understanding and respect for the trans community.    But we are out there and we need resources and support beyond those tied to religion or some form of repentance/”conversion therapy”.

So this blog post is signpost of sorts – just one voice out there looking for other signs of life. I have seen a few other blogs starting to talk about this.  I have yet to find a clearing house of resources (is there one?) What are the legal obstacles of going back?  What are the psychological and medical issues? Is there a place we can talk about this?  Do we need to make a place where we can talk about this?  Is there a place on the web that I should be going to?  How can we have this conversation without being harmful to our brothers and sisters who fall under the umbrella of “transgendered”? Any thoughts please send to me at j@retransition.org.

I believe the understanding of trans-related issues is still very much in its infancy. I personally am wary of anyone who says “they have it all figured out” about anything (your mileage may vary). There are many assumptions about gender that we as a species have held for millennia that are only now just eroding.   The recent bill in California allowing students to be treated as the gender they perceive themselves to be and the backlash that has already begun is part of the process we as a society use to figure out how we deal with all of this. It is a conversation we are ALL going to have to have and I think all voices have to be part of the conversation.

My experience is only my own experience.  My gender identity is only my own gender identity.  My beliefs (as fluid as they are) are only my own beliefs.  I am not you. I cannot know what it feels like to be you (nor you me.)  By telling part of my story I don’t want to discount others’.  In life I strive to be gentle, loving and affirming (strive being the operative word – I am only human!)  I do not want my story to be used for hate or repression.

Although I feel secure in my birth gender and finally know this is the only “home” for me, I still identify as transgendered because of the journey I have been on.  In retrospect, I realize that some of the doubts I had about the validity of my needing to change my outward gender expression were valid.  I could have saved myself a lot of expense and major sidetracks on life’s journey if I could have known this sooner.  Unfortunately some truths are harder to tease out than others. It took me awhile to get here but “here I am”.

I am sure there are those on this journey who have never had the slightest of doubts and they are coming from a place that I cannot pretend to understand.  I don’t want to stand in their way. Also, just because someone has some doubts I am not saying this means they should not transition.

For many, expressing their gender identity as they believe/know it to be appears to be working for them and I think that is wonderful.  Even though it can still get pretty bad out there, I think there is more tolerance in the world than even a decade ago.   There have been many “transgender pioneers” who have conducted their lives with dignity and, simply by the act of living their lives, have brought compassion for trans issues from even the most unlikely of groups and individuals.  I do think that to move this “conversation” forward there needs to be a universal acknowledgment and understanding that gender identity can be just as important to people who are not transgendered as those that are. Most transgendered people believe with a burning passion that their gender identity is independent of their birth gender and it is this passion that helps fuel some of the tremendous bravery that often goes with making a gender transition.  But people who are completely comfortable with their birth gender can believe just as passionately in what gender means to them and, more importantly, how that impacts their own core identity. Just because I may believe in the possibility that brain sex can be different from someone’s biological sex it doesn’t mean I can force you to believe the same. How one constructs gender is a deeply personal thing exclusive to each of us as individuals. The beliefs and things we hold sacred always have to be respected. We should all be able to live our own truths as long as they don’t infringe upon or harm anyone. What I can do (and hopefully what we as a species can do) is maybe help you get to a point where you realize in most cases the whole “gender thing” really doesn’t matter.  And in the cases where it does matter (and there definitely are some) let’s not resort to bigotry or hatred.  Let’s work it out.

As a civilized society we should ALL be able to move through the world treating others with the respect and in the manner that we would wish ourselves to be treated. I think it is sad that many people still “detransition” because of societal or any other pressures.  We only get one life and we need to be who we are.  I do not want to be part of anything that encourages people to detransition for what I consider to be the “wrong reasons”, namely societal persecution and prejudice.   However, for those who have already transitioned and who, after doing the kind of soul searching that accompanies decisions such as this, have decided they are open to the possibility of transitioning back to their birth genders I want to say that this is nothing to be ashamed about.  In addition to those who have found their true gender identity by returning to living their birth gender I have read experiences from people who returned temporarily to their birth gender only to realize that it still wasn’t a good fit and moved back to their own “true gender” more self-assured in their identity than ever before.  I have read other stories where people have moved into a sort of “third space”.  Exploring options is a good thing.

I don’t want to be blogging about this the rest of my life and it is not my desire to become a full time activist but I do sincerely want to say “yo”.

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Comments

  1. Katie says

    Hi, I just wanted to thank you for your blog. I’m glad I ran across it and got to read it before you take it down. I especially appreciate the psychological depth from which you consider these subjects. I’m not trans myself, so I’m operating from a place of limited knowledge. I’ve know a few trans people — a co-worker, a co-member of a therapy group, an assortment of social work clients. I did have a close friend who told me that she wanted desperately to be a boy when she was young, and is glad that she processed the psychological layers behind this rather than transitioning. I remember many years ago talking with my co-worker –who transitioned probably about the time you did– and she said that this is what she had to do to stay in the world. I’m whole-heartedly in support of whatever people need to do to stay in this world.

    However, I’ve been concerned about what you call the “born in the wrong body” narrative and worried that people might undergo surgery without fully exploring their beliefs about gender, and examining the psychological layers of their dysphoria. As someone who is not trans, I tend hesitate to state my concerns because I feel not qualified to speak on the subject. At the same time I feel really uncomfortable with the way these things are being framed.

    Thanks for sharing your journey here. I get the feeling you will be a good therapist!

  2. Keira says

    I just wanted to say thank you so much, I’ve been questioning my gender for about two months now (AMAB) and your story is helpful. I’m pretty terrified of SRS, and I’ve already felt pressure for both that and HRT, alot of people saying “trust me, it makes everything better, do it as soon as possible”.

    So thank you

  3. rayne says

    I transitioned in 1996 after being on the slow boat for several years with HRT and electrolysis. Surgery was a distant goal. Professionally it wasn’t a big deal. All seemed to be going well. After five years I too slowly came to the conclusion that exchanging one set of gender handcuffs for another was a bit of a downer. After a personal upheaval, I found myself in the care of well-intentioned church family. My emotionally raw condition left me craving acceptance and love somewhere, so I detransitioned over a six-month period. I tried to be the godly man everyone said I was now, but in retrospect it was a bit of fabricated personality. I was equally miserable and a misfit for 10 years more. I’ve since moved to a more ‘non-binary’ place in which I really don’t feel like I fit either box. I think the boxes are artificial and I move forward in life ‘integrated’ with all that I’ve experienced.
    I’d very much like to connect privately with you, as I’m now working with a Trans education non-profit and I think this issue needs to be discussed to a wider audience. There might be a place for you in an upcoming symposium if you’re interested. P/M me if you’d like.

    • Joel Nowak says

      Hi thanks for reaching out. I am currently on “semi-hiatus” due to adjusting to grad school but would love to talk as soon as I get a few things sorted out. I will be in touch soon. Yeah … it does feel like another set of handcuffs and that was when I realized I needed out. (Well that and a bunch of other things … everyone is different.) Thanks for reaching out.

    • Joel Nowak says

      I am setting aside time tomorrow to start to catch up on blog business and properly respond directly to some important correspondence that came in including this and do a quick post. Sorry for delay!!!!! This comment is important to me.

  4. carol says

    Joel;
    I really think you’re hitting the proverbial nail on the head when you speak of “personhood” as a means of focus. Thanks for your site…

    • Joel Nowak says

      Thanks Carol for your feedback. Yeah, in the end what I think really matters is, not what gender marker we have on our id, but what kind of people we are. And that is also something that I always find odd. I will have someone who I like and respect being unhappy with because they do not believe I am interpreting their gender correctly. I guess we all have our own priorities, but if my character must be judged at all, I would much rather it be done so in a way is based on the person I am rather than whatever gender marker I managed to get placed on my driver’s license.

  5. Ann says

    Hi, thank you all for the thoughtful discussion.

    I am MTF just starting transition, pre-everything. I have read online, and experienced first hand, how enthusiastically so many in the transgendered community are to affirm one’s trans status and speed one on the way to full transition.

    I have had people encourage me on first meeting them to get SRS, well before I came to the decision that I am transexual. Maybe I give out that strong of a vibe, but I suspect it has more to do with them validating their own decisions and opinions. I think the reason there is such backlash against those who express doubts or second thoughts about their transitions is because it forces other trans people to accept responsibility for their own choices. No one wants to admit a mistake, let alone one of the magnitude of gender transition. If you have doubts, having gone through transition once, it forces me to confront the possibility that I may also have doubts. In my case, I can’t imagine not transitioning and finally living as a woman, but I am terrified about the potential impacts on my family, and often wonder if I am completely nuts for going through with this.

    There seems to be so little scientific research done on transgender issues that it is hard to get a sense of the long term results of transition in terms of happiness and quality of life. While there are a lot of sites that candidly describe the challenges of the transition process, not many talk about life 10, 15, 20 years later.

    As one who is trying to find her way on the path to womanhood, I thank you for being brave enough to write about you experience, and encourage others who are struggling with similar issues. It has given me an important counter view to the chorus of “just do it.” I would really appreciate the opportunity to communicate with you in private, if you would be willing to do that.

    • Joel Nowak says

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ann. Regarding reports of satisfaction – I have some ideas about this and my way of thinking about this has come into slightly better focus over the past few months. I will try to write about this over the weekend. For now I will say I agree that it is absurd for someone to advise you to have SRS on first meeting you.

      One last thing to leave you with – you write of yourself as “one who is trying to find her way on the path to womanhood” – regardless of wherever you end up in your journey I really think that the ideal path forward is towards a self-realized PERSONHOOD. More soon.

  6. Chrissie Snow says

    I think about de-transition regularly. I don’t want to do it, but life makes choices complicated. I transitioned in 1995 and was happy for quite a while, but over the years I’ve realized that I’m not that passable and am basically an unemployable freak. It’s too bad because my family has always been one hundred percent supportive and I’d be totally happy with being who I am…. except I’m too big (tall, big boned) to ever be passable enough to be accepted in society as such. And I’m not comfortable with being the world’s freak show. There’s just no winning, I guess. :(

    • Joel Nowak says

      Ok first of all – I hate seeing you use the word “freak” to describe yourself. I don’t even know you but I am already willing to wager my beloved macbook I am typing this on that you are absolutely not a freak. But I understand how you can feel that way, and if you are getting unwanted attention it is completely natural not to be “comfortable” with that.

      You transitioned around the same time I did and it sounds like you probably experienced something similar to what I did, which was an empowering feeling of success and happiness that I could actually do this (transition) which for me lasted 5 years before the bloom started to come off the rose.

      I am glad to hear that you have a supportive and loving family and that they provide you with a space and “community” (a family is a community after all) where you feel safe and unselfconscious. So what I have to ask you is if there are contexts where you can interact with “society” where your gender status is not really cared about or noticed? This could look like many different things so that is why I am asking.

      You can get to where you need to be – you are right choices are complicated and so much of life is give and take. But the wonderful fact remains that as long as you are alive and part of the human race you are always empowered with the ability to make choices. This is something which I myself failed to realize for years when I knew my transition wasn’t where I wanted to be and I felt so hopeless and stuck. Being mindful of that fact was (and is) incredibly liberating for me when I start feeling stuck again.

      • Chrissie Snow says

        I used that term because I once heard someone use it to describe me – and after mulling it over for a long time, I decided that from the perspective of straight, conservative people, that’s basically what I am. I didn’t see myself that way beforehand, it’s just a conclusion I arrived at.

        I’m not sure there is a place were I don’t feel at all self-conscious. Maybe sometimes it’s minimal, though. People who know my past and have indicated that they completely accept me as I am don’t present any problem. I usually worry more about those who don’t officially “know” but I worry may suspect something.

        I just got back from attending my daughter’s wedding and reception. Very tired. That’s why I didn’t answer sooner. I’m fortunate that my daughter and her new husband are both fine with me. For context, I raised my daughter while being her mom and so that’s the way she thinks of me. But even then, I know she was somewhat worried that there might be a problem with some of the groom’s relatives I hadn’t yet met, because several of them are very conservative Christians who might potentially have a problem with me. Well, it went fine. Some of the groom’s relatives didn’t speak to me – perhaps they were afraid I’d rub off on them.

        My biggest worries involve things like employment. I have a job right now but the company is not doing as well as we’d like, and I honestly don’t think anyone would hire me in a face to face interview. I only have the job I have right now because I was hired by a t-friendly company. But those are rarer than unicorns.

        I also worry about physical violence sometimes. I’ve never been beat up or anything but I’ve been threatened once or twice. If young t-girls ask me about transition I usually say it’s mostly not worth it. And I say that even though I have a hard time imaging myself going back. It would be very painful if I did, but I think I might have to just to have a job someday. Obviously, this is very complicated.

    • simply a jen says

      I understand being a “Freak”. However. I am proud to be a “freak”. and the only people I like are freaks.. and my friends are freaks, my employee’s are freaks.. I surround myself with freaks, and then.. its everyone else who is the freak to us. Normality and fitting in. Fuck that.. Its hard to find the place Ive ended up in, but once you accept you are DIFFERENT (not a freak), you can be proud of it, and good people will accept it.. get the fuck away from wherever you are, move away from whatever backwater place you live. Move to a more “liberal” area.. stop surrounding yourself with people who look down on you.

  7. AdAstra says

    Thanks for this site. I felt the same way when I wound up in this mind space. It’s a very hard place to be as there is effectively zero support or information out there – and a lot of hostility. Seems to be worse for de-transitioning transwomen, but that could just be my perspective. It’s a desert of nothingness, and it does scare me. A lot.

    • Joel Nowak says

      It is scary and I totally empathize with anyone walking through that “desert of nothingness”. Hang in there and please have confidence that things are going to change. I can see why you say that it seems to be worse for retransitioning transwomen than it is for retransitioning transmen. In some ways it is. For example – I envy the support and online camaraderie that some former FTMs seem to have with each other that former MTFs don’t (at least not yet.) I think natal women, in general, are better handling the no bullshit talk that is necessary when discussing retransition than natal men are. Of course there are exceptions.

      I admit I could be wrong, but I also suspect there is more societal shame in being a former transwoman than for being a former transman. I think former MTFs face a harder time being “forgiven” by social conservatives than former FTMs are.

      Of course, former FTMs are losing whatever “male privilege” they may have had, and have to deal with sexism, increased risk of sexual violence and the good ol’ patriarchy thing again. And of course most (if not all) of them will face the same discrimination that ALL women who are not perceived as being the “feminine ideal” have to go through, especially if their bodies have been significantly “masculinized” by hormones.

      I guess in the end you can’t really say one is worse than the other. Despite the common ground of having transitioned from one gender to another and back again, it’s really an apples and oranges comparison.

      • AdAstra says

        Hi Joel,

        That’s a good point about FTMs having to deal with loosing the male privilege – though during de-transition there is certainly more support amongst the FTM community, whilst some in MTF community still seems more concerned on how our situation apparently threatens the validation of those who are not detransititoning – as if my gender identity somehow affects that of others?

        When I’ve figured out how to sort this all out myself, I’d like to use that experience positively to set up a practical resource kit for others – how to go about this in practical terms, as well as safe spaces for non-judgmental support. Particularly for those who are post-SRS – as apparently we don’t exist.

        Right now though, to focus on the positive. I will come out of this a better and more mature person emotionally and socially. Having walked a mile in anothers shoes…

        • Joel Nowak says

          Sorry it took a few days to get back. I agree that it is important to focus on the positive. To say it another way, you need to prioritize the stuff that is helpful and healthful to you. With all of the disinformation that some transgendered “activists” put out it is really hard NOT to comment on some of it. That is the dilemma I keep finding myself in. I want to keep balanced. I see some stuff being said or done that I want to at least offer a respectful counterpoint to but I don’t want to spend too much time doing that. I have this vision of myself as one of those two cranky old guys on the Muppet Show who were always making insults from the balcony. I don’t want to be like that plus I REALLY have my own stuff to concentrate on. But I also feel it is a duty to make a few observances every now and then “just to keep it real”.

          I totally support your putting together some resources! That was one of my hopes when putting my blog out there that I would find others doing that. And if I an be of any help let me know. I have a few things I have been working on that I hope to publish soon. Actually – I think I will post something. It is an outline for a powerpoint presentation that I pitched (unsuccessfully) to a gender conference.

          • AdAstra says

            I can’t blame you for wanting to avoid getting dragged into activism. It can take over your life – regardless of the cause in question. Eventually you realise you are just living through “the cause”, and any plans or even just dealing with your own life issues, gets pushed aside. Been there before!

            I have absolutely no positive resources to really put out there yet either. Hell, I’ve barely started down this path despite agonizing over it for god knows how long, but in the event I do stumble across any useful nugget of wisdom I’ll be sure to share it. Just some ideas on things that would be of use (at least from my point of view):

            – Lists of understanding medical practitioners (counselors, GPs etc.) Practitioners who are supportive of trans people may not be supportive of de/re-transitioners, after all.

            – Lists for supportive / non–judgemental online and IRL communities/forums/organisations.

            – Blogrolls

            – Practical issues. Particularly for those post-surgery, but also for anyone. How to adjust, building a social life, relationships. Administrative, medical and relationship issues. Experiences of people who have gone before, what to do/not to do, what options you have etc.

            I think we need activists or champions far less than we need practical advice from people who have been there. For one thing it’s useful, and secondly its just a very grounded, concrete reassurance that we are not alone in the scary desert of nothing. Signposts, as well as being helpful are an affirmation that someone else is out there, has been here before, and made it through…

            • Joel Nowak says

              I think this is a great list. I have been neglecting my own “resources” page and I need to update that. I am going to mention your bullet points in a post this weekend. I have a list of my own that I need to push out there but I am “fussing” with (I have been doing too much of that lately – I will post it this weekend.) My list is inspired by this one http://twentythreetimes.tumblr.com/post/64507442550/questions-from-my-followers which is an excellent one from a FTMTF perspective (there is overlap with my MTFTM but there are some unique differences.) For the record, I would not have found this excellent post if it wasn’t for GenderTrender who spotlighted it a few months ago.

              You are right that what we really need right now are people sharing their stories and that is why your writing in here is helpful to me personally (I am maybe a little bit ahead of you in how I am processing this but I am still figuring out all of this stuff.) I think that some degree of activism is necessary though when we have the time and resources to do so. Mainly in terms of sharing information and perhaps providing our perspectives to some conversations that have recently assumed a more prominent position in today’s social consciousness. I think by identifying some of the resources we feel are lacking for those who choose to detransition (as did 23XX in the blog post above) we can help LGBT communities, organizations, providers and all “friends” have some points of reference when trying to understand the needs of someone who is considering or has already retransitioned. For example – a just received a comment from a member of the Maryland Trans* Unity organization who already include detransitioned people in their charter. I think this is a real world example of a concrete action that Trans and LGBT organizations can take to affirm their commitment to supporting individuals in all stages of their “gender journey”. I think we (and our allies) can encourage other organizations to do the same. That’s a real thing we can do (activism with a lowercase a.)

              Your comment a week or so ago motivated me to post some presentation notes because I figured they should be out there. I am going to record myself doing the presentation and will post it online – hopefully tomorrow. (Maybe that is more of an uppercase A Activism.)

              Thanks again for your comments. Stay in touch!

        • Carter says

          RE: detransition as FTM

          I think we all tend to think the other side has it easier if we aren’t careful to avoid comparison. We look around and see evidence of this ‘easier situation’. What we must remember is that we often simply cannot fully SEE others’ experiences.

          I have experienced detransition as an FTM person and I did not find this supposed accepting FTM community mentioned above. I didn’t find it online or in-person. And the non-trans community did not simply open their arms to me after detransition. I was more alone than ever before.

          I am posting this because I think it’s really important to avoid using language that invalidates others’ experiences. When I read that perhaps FTM people have it easier, I feel invalidated. I also feel like maybe I don’t fit here either. I was hoping the conversation would be about common experience. Right now, the last thing I need is yet another community who is unwilling or unable to relate to me because of the junk between my legs or the social experience I was born into.

          I hope you won’t take this as an attack because that’s not how it is meant. I just want to challenge people to think about choosing not to lament the other side’s supposed experience. The ‘grass is greener’ thing doesn’t actually help us to understand each other – it only further separates us. We can talk about differences, but those conversations are best had without the notion that one side has it easier than the other.

          Best wishes to all.

          • Joel Nowak says

            I really appreciate your taking time to comment Carter. And I don’t want to discount the challenges of FTM de/retransition – I think I have a sense of some of them but of course I will never fully understand. And you are absolutely right for snapping me out of my pattern of thinking that ‘if it ain’t on the net it doesn’t exist”. Of course my main exposure the FTM’s who de/retransition has just been what I read on the net.
            I know how awful it is to feel alone and not fitting in anywhere. I am hoping that there can be more spaces where it is ok to talk about this. I think that there are shared experiences between former FTMs and former MTFs. I can see that some FTMTF’s find communities that reflect some degree of RadFem ideology are helpful to them and important. But of course that is not always the case. (Who knows, maybe it is rarely the case? I have no idea who is “out there”.)
            Anyway, I am sorry I am only replying now. I am hoping we can stay in touch. Please feel free to comment more or write me (and don’t be discouraged if I don’t get right back to you.) Thanks again for the comment – it is going to make me more mindful about how I talk about this in the future.

  8. Darlene Tando says

    Hi, Joel!
    I was just told about your website and explored it a little bit today. I am a gender therapist in San Diego. I really enjoyed reading your perspective! I think the way you explain yourself is wonderful, and I do think it is important to have this information “out there”. The concept of “de” or “re” transitioning is something I am definitely aware of but does not scare me as much as it seems to scare others: parents, doctors, etc. Mainly I am focused on a person’s emotional needs and personal goals; I support them in feeling better, no matter what that entails. Free will and informed consent definitely play a huge role in my work with transgender individuals.
    I especially loved the part about having the medical and therapeutic communities acknowledge and support the re-transitioning process. I do not think it should be met with such criticism. If one of my clients ever came back to me and wanted to re-transition, I would support them in the same manner I had supported them in transition. Thank you again for this blog!
    I write a gender blog in case you are interested in checking it out:
    http://www.darlenetandogenderblog.com
    Warmly,
    Darlene

    • Joel Nowak says

      Hi Darlene,
      Thanks for reaching out. I am going to be doing some postings on mental health in the coming days so I hope you get a chance to stop by again. I visited your site and, even though I might disagree with some of your opinions (and you with mine), it is clear that you are a passionate advocate for your clients and TG/gender-nonconforming people in general.
      Hope to catch up some time.
      Best,
      J