Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Something We Have To Acknowledge

There are trans people who detransition.

For those who have followed the WPATH Standard of Care the rate of detransition is low, only a couple of percent, but it does happen.
A Different Stripe
For eight years, Renee Sullivan identified as transgender. Then it got more complicated.
Psychology Today
By Renee Sullivan,
Published March 7, 2018

One Saturday evening, when I was 26, I got dressed for a night out on the town. I cinched a binder around my chest to flatten my breasts and slipped on a black unisex T-shirt and straight-cut blue jeans. I put on a pair of men's shoes that I'd bought specifically for their chunky soles, which boosted my height a couple of inches, and stood in front of a full-length mirror. I felt pleased with my appearance. I could imagine people seeing me as a man rather than as a woman—and that was the point. But was that what I really wanted? I was no longer sure.
I came out as bisexual and joined my school's LGBT group. At a meeting one day, I picked up a pamphlet that for the first time gave me a detailed definition of what the T in LGBT stood for: people who feel discomfort with their biological sex and its associated gender role and who resolve the situation by presenting as a member of the opposite sex. It hit me: That's what I am. That's why I feel different. I'm supposed to be a man.

The revelation sparked an eight-year odyssey that stretched well into my 20s. Once I started to watch myself for the symptoms of gender dysphoria, I felt them distinctly. I would sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and be surprised to see a female face. Other times, I felt as if I were taller and more broad-shouldered than I really was, or as if I were flat-chested. I would occasionally have a tactile awareness of male genitals that weren't there, accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of wrongness in my own female genitals. I felt a knee-jerk anger when others addressed me as "miss" or referred to me as "she."
The younger people in the support group were noticeably different; they were enthusiastic about medical transition and encouraged me to pursue it. One of them, a trans woman in her early 30s whom I'll call Cindy, became my friend. Quiet and thoughtful, she was thrilled with the changes that female hormones had provoked in her body, and she had little patience for my own apprehension about beginning testosterone therapy. "Have you decided to start taking T yet?" she regularly prodded me, reacting with mild disapproval when I confessed that I hadn't. It was clear that transitioning had healed something deeply painful in her.  Like many people who experience a miracle cure, she seemed convinced that those of us who were still evaluating whether it was the best choice for them just needed a nudge in the right direction.
Do our support group focus on transition to the exclusion of all else? How do we handle those who are questioning their gender?

I think most of the peer support groups realize that we are on our own journey and gives safe space to question our gender. I say most because there was one group that was focused on hormones and transitioning, when I brought up a problem that I was struggling with I got shot down. A close friend had amnesia because of a brain infection and didn’t remember her transition and surgery. It freaked her out and me, I questioned if it could happen to me; I was worried and brought it up in the support group and my concerns got brushed aside to talk about Cross-gender Hormones Therapy, needless to say I never attended their meetings again.
When I told Cindy, she looked a bit shocked. "I don't think that's real," she said. "Women who like to wear men's clothes are just transgender men who are afraid of surgery." But I knew otherwise. I realized I could engage with womanhood on my own terms, ditching all the rules and expectations that surround it.

I embraced a new identity as an androgynous woman, and it gave me the same feeling of joy that I'd previously felt when people saw me as a man. I developed an adult version of my childhood wardrobe, with masculine and feminine clothing that I chose from at whim. I felt powerful and loved the way I looked. I had been shy all my life, but suddenly I was outgoing and confident.
Gender Dysphoria:
In adolescents and adults gender dysphoria diagnosis involves a difference between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, and significant distress or problems functioning. It lasts at least six months and is shown by at least two of the following:
  • A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
  • A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
  • A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender
  • A strong desire to be of the other gender
  • A strong desire to be treated as the other gender
  • A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender
Just because one has been diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria does not mean that you have to transition, it doesn’t mean going on CHT, and it doesn’t mean having Gender Conforming Surgery. All it means is that there is a “difference between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, and significant distress or problems functioning.” How it is treated is up to us.

The goal is to eliminate it or make it manageable and for each of us it is different. For some it might mean just a social transition, while for others it might mean having GCS.

Just because someone detransitioned doesn’t mean that they don’t have Gender Dysphoria; all it means is that transitioning isn’t for them… now. I know a couple trans people who detransitioned only to transition again later. I know of one person who detransitioned because they couldn’t get a job and they moved back in with their parents.

Life isn’t mapped out, everyone day we start off on a new journey to explore the unexplored.


  1. Renee Sullivan3/14/18, 11:50 AM

    Hello! I'm Renee Sullivan, the author of the article. I just Googled myself to see if anybody was writing responses to the article, and this popped up. I'm really glad that this spoke to you! I have good memories of my time in my trans support group, for the most part, and I've often thought that I'd like to do a writeup about the experience of being in support groups (in person and online) and things that I wish people had known that could have helped me out. Let me know if you ever want to chat about it! My email address is renee.sullivan at protonmail dot com.

  2. It's a shame that anyone, trans or not, tries to classify anyone as "not enough," "real/valid," regardless of where they are (or were) under the transgender umbrella. Everyone is on his/her/their own journey of life, just trying to make the best of it.

    It's sad if someone transitions physically and/or medically and then detransitions if only because they are left with regrets and who knows what else. They're on their own journey too.

    Trying to live with and manage gender dysphoria, depression, and so much is so hard. It just is, and we need to respect and support all who're following their own path, and send them best wishes.