No glitter life: Don’t be swayed by middle-aged transitioners–including me

by Helen Johnson

As time permits, Helen will be available to interact in the comments section of this post. As always on 4thWaveNow, comments that challenge the author will have a better chance of publication if they are delivered respectfully.


My name is Helen Johnson and I am a trans woman.

That’s partly true. I am trans, but I’m not telling you my real name. After you have read my piece, I hope you’ll understand why. Transgender activists reserve a special kind of treatment for apostates who speak out against their dogma. I have no wish to deal with their threats and intimidation, but neither can I remain silent when those transgender activists are driving a contagion that is consuming our young people.

Much has been written about the explosion in the number of children who have come to believe that they were born in the wrong body. I’ve said nothing because — like other trans women who transitioned as adults — I’ve nothing to offer. I’ve no childhood experience of living as the opposite sex and my own kids are thankfully unscathed by this epidemic. I can therefore only sympathize with other parents whose children are struggling with their gender. Some have asked me directly, but I have always suggested that they seek support from other parents in the same position. Certainly not from me.

Unfortunately, other trans women think differently and some of them seem to think they know best. Entire pieces have been written about trans activists like Rachel McKinnon,  who told trans kids to dump their moms on Mother’s day and join the “glitter-queer” family of adult trans activists. Worryingly, Dr McKinnon is far from alone. The message is pervasive, and it is sinister: transition your kids or lose them. Sometimes it is subtle.  For example, Julia Serano, a leading figure in the trans community, suggested that children will grow distant unless parents affirm the transgender behavior. Others are more blatant. Caitlyn Jenner is one of many who throw suicide statistics around like confetti.

None of them are experts. All they have to offer is their own experience of growing up. But if they can do that so can I and, unlike deluded fantasists like Zinnia Jones who thinks they actually were an adolescent girl, I am in touch with reality.

Gender dysphoria was present in my earliest memories; it persisted throughout my childhood and stayed with me in adulthood. It made me socially uncomfortable and I struggled to make friends. My dreams of becoming a girl were never fulfilled and I reluctantly accepted that there was no alternative to becoming a man. I’ll say no more about that. The trans narrative is repetitive and it is tedious. But just like McKinnon, Serano, Jenner, and Jones, I survived childhood and everything it threw at me. Yes I had difficulties, but lots of children have difficulties. Growing up is hard.

Today’s youngsters are being fed dangerous and fallacious nonsense. Society has been infected by post-modern, post-facts, post-truth ideas that spread unchecked on social media. Opinions and feelings are on the ascendancy, while facts and evidence are cast aside. For socially awkward children struggling to understand themselves, McKinnon’s “glitter-queer” family may look superficially attractive; an easy escape from reality. But it comes at huge cost.

I am glad that I did not succumb as a child.  Male puberty was a mixed blessing for me. It changed my body in ways that I did not like, but it enabled me to have my own children. Today they are my pride and joy: fine kids who are now making their own way in the world.  They would not be here had I been transitioned in childhood.

It’s now becoming all too clear that the first generation of child transitioners may have thrown away more than the chance to be parents.  Sex reassignment surgeons need material to work with. Only after male puberty did I have sufficient tissue for my vaginoplasty. Children who never experience natural puberty, like Jazz Jennings for example, are finding that they have a serious problem. To be blunt, there is no way that a functional vagina can be created from a penis only two inches long and an inch and a half in circumference. Sadly, Jazz may never be able to enjoy the sex that adult male-to-female transitioners take for granted.

Even transitioning later is a mixed blessing. I am in remission from the gender dysphoria but that is only half the story. My life is harder in other ways. Whenever I am clocked as trans I am treated differently, and not better. Mostly I deal with this by living in stealth. In my day-to-day life I just don’t mention it. People can’t discriminate if they don’t know. But that brings troubles of its own: when I’m asked about my childhood, I obfuscate; when asked about my children, I fudge; when asked about my private life, I create back stories. I hope they are consistent. When acquaintances become friends, I anguish over whether to come out to them, then when to do it and finally how to do it. Lying about your past is not great, but admitting it is harder especially in the early stages of a new friendship. Securing a life partner is something else. Trans people are seen as exotic curiosities rather than possible suitors. Rarely are we seen as human beings, usually as trans human beings. Not quite the same and not quite suitable.

But, people say, at least I have found my true self. Maybe, but I’ve always been my true self. I transitioned to escape the pressures that I faced but I will never really be a woman, I merely live as one, and I am always one step away from being outed. It works but it’s an expedient tactic rather than a fulfilling solution.

But you must be sure, they say. How can I be sure? All I have are circular arguments: because I needed to transition I must be a woman, and I must be a woman because I needed to transition. But I can never know what it is to be a woman. All I can know is what it is to be me. My experience will always be different from the women around me. It isn’t a glitter life, it’s a hard life. It works because I make it work, but it’s not great.

To kids contemplating transition I have no answers, only questions. Do you really need to transition? Give up the chance to grow up and form relationships as a human being rather than a trans human being? Have your own children? Have sex like other adults have sex, and live free from lifelong medication? If gender expression is the issue then be yourself and embrace your gender, but don’t try and change your sex in the process. One day, society may free itself from the shackles of gender norms, and feminine men, masculine women and gender-neutral members of both sexes will be able to take their rightful place in it. Make it your generation that does that, not the ones that follow you.

To your parents I would say, give your children a hug. Love them and nurture them. Let them be free to explore their gender and help them make that break from the crushing weight of society’s restrictions and expectations. But steer them away from transitioning from one gender prison into another, certainly before they can experience what it means to be an adult. If their gender dysphoria persists, as mine did, they can always transition in adulthood. That option will always be there. If it desists, then they will have avoided making a truly catastrophic mistake.

But above all, parents, don’t be swayed by middle-aged transitioners. That includes me, but it also includes McKinnon and the others. You know your children, we don’t; you brought them into the world, we didn’t; you love them and care for them, we don’t even know them.

Have confidence in yourselves because, when it comes to your children, you will always know better than people like me. Never forget that.

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36 thoughts on “No glitter life: Don’t be swayed by middle-aged transitioners–including me

  1. Thank you. You sound so sane, a rarity these days.

    I have to say the last bit of your essay made me sad. I am not allowed to hug my kid. My attempts at showing love are rejected. My kid has been brainwashed into believing that I do not accept her or love her if I don’t treat her in certain ways. To the extent possible she lives a separate life from me while inhabiting the same house. So for now, I am the loyal resistance. I hope she comes back to me someday.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Helen, this will be a short comment. I am in the process of a long and painful divorce from a man who is, as you say, a “middle-aged transitioner”. I lay the blame for my own personal and family pain, the current “gender-identity” crisis facing vulnerable children who are gender non-conforming and possibly trying to figure out their sexuality and the erasure of women’s spaces and very language that we can use to describe our lives and experiences squarely at the feet of “middle-aged transitioners”.
    Why is it that you have been unable to collectively join together in a self help community and push for a better medical and psychological understanding of the pain and confusion that your lives undoubtedly are? I feel that the medical establishment has failed you, but I can understand why. There is a hard nut of narcissism at the centre of transgenderism. It is an inward looking, self-absorbed state of being.
    What I would hope for “middle-aged transitioners” is that they can find help and a way to make it in the world as people who are deserving of help and not of ridicule. But what I would say to your “community” is that your poor behaviour has rightly earned you few friends. Find a way to accept that its gender dysphoria coupled with autogynephilia that is what needs to be addressed. You can not keep pushing it under the carpet; face up to it. I am full of admiration for Miranda Yardley who has faced up to this and so is ostracised and done with the trans community. Stop taking children as hostages. Start listening to women.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for commenting but I am so sorry to hear about your situation. Your pain is palpable.

      My community, you say! To be truthful, I have little to do with them. Instead I looked to my family, friends and others close by in real life. I guess I could try again to go into trans groups and try to change their minds but I’m not convinced it would do much good. They are very fixed in their ways.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think there can really be such a thing as a community of narcissists. Narcissists cannot reliably provide each other with narcissistic supply, which all of them need in order to feel good about themselves. The typical MO is to use regular people until they get fed up and leave. The trans people I have known that weren’t narcissistic (and the OP strikes me as that) are just as emotionally vulnerable in a room full of NPD folks as anyone else. I do believe that the trans community attracts an inordinate amount of people with NPD and ASPD, but I can’t expect those who don’t have it to be responsible for those who do because they have trans identifying in common. People with NPD or ASPD hurt everyone they become involved with.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks so much for sharing here, Helen. And of all of it, this statement was especially meaningful to me… as the mother of a son who came out as trans at 16, and has not spoken to me in more than 2yrs–for my sin of supporting him as a beloved person in his gender explorations, but refusing to support his wish to be known as “born female”:

    “Have confidence in yourselves because, when it comes to your children, you will always know better than people like me. Never forget that.”

    This is something I try to remind myself from time to time, and it helps to have this echoed by someone who’s been there, and knows the inside of gender dysphoria, transition, and all that follows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All I really know is the inside of my gender dysphoria. Whether that is the same as other people’s gender dysphoria, who can tell? I hope that you can find reconciliation with your son.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you Helen! Can I take one of your messages to be: Don’t rush young people into a difficult life : support them to wait and see; and explore any issues that they may have within themselves, the family dynamics, and with their peers etc.

    Like

    • From a youngster’s perspective life extends out into the future. They have time on their side. But we all only live once. Best to take your time and get it right.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for that, Helen. You explain your position clearly. You are not part of the problem but you are not yet part of the solution either. I think it’s important for transwomen in your position to speak out and directly contradict the trans agenda. Miranda Yardley is a great example, although Miranda eventually had to reduce his online presence due to relentless attacks by transactivists.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I can understand your unwillingness to pop your head over the parapet, Helen. It must be very hard. I know two transwomen. The first doesn’t pass, doesn’t care, and is fine with old friends forgetting and using his male name, though he went through hell getting surgery. He seems relaxed about reality. The second makes massive efforts to pass, including very exaggerated “feminine” gesture and a well chosen wardrobe. Sadly his body shape – tall, very broad shoulders and very narrow hips – reveals his sex. He’s always tense and brittle. According to his family he hasn’t had any sort of relationship since his surgery, not even made close friends, and leads a sad, isolated life. I guess my point is that heavy duty misrepresentation is a real burden, that dishonesty divides us from others. I imagine that, because you’re open about yourself to friends and family, you must be on the relaxed end of the spectrum. Good for you. I would prefer if you came out publicly against transactivism, but it’s not my call. Be well.

        Like

  6. I had gender dysphoria as a child, now I know. A huge depression triggered my dysphoria again as a young adult. I didn’t want to cope with the world, I wanted to live my adolescense again as a gender queer boy and do the stuff I couldn’t do because I was scared. I was seduced by transition but luckily in my country it’s really hard to get hormone treatment.
    I became bullimic, I was very depressed. Society didn’t make it any easier since they treat gender non-conforming people like shit.
    I’m better now, and I don’t regret anything. I had a lot of fun at least, whenever I wasn’t hating myself.

    I know myself better and have a lot of confidence, a bit queer still. I can’t imagine what would happen to me if I had gone through surgery. I wouldn’t have a way out.

    Looking back, I don’t believe it’s entirely trans activist fault (I didn’t meet any personally) but this bigot society that wants you to hate yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Several female friends have told me that they experienced gender dysphoria in adolescence and then grew out of it. I believe them. Can’t say any more, though, because I was never a teenage adolescent girl myself.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was 42 when I finally transitioned.

      I stood on the brink three times before, when I was 18 and twice in my 20s. Every time I was able to pull back. I still don’t know why I was unable to pull back a 4th time. I did try.

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  7. Helen this was a beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing this. My daughter is not open to hearing this but I certainly was and respect and admire you for being so honest.

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  8. Helen,
    I know it’s hard to be public with this. I am writing under a different name also, and I’m not even transgender. I have been ousted from parent support groups because I want my kid to grow up first before transitioning. I’ve been called terf and transphobic. I’m not either of those things, but I do believe that it’s only something that the individual should decide and they have to be adults to make the informed decision. I will stand by this until the kid is 18. I understand why you don’t go public. It’s true, I have adult transgender friends who aren’t for kids transitioning but don’t speak out because their support system is already small enough, the negativity would be too much. That’s why we have to be the ones that speak. I don’t want to make my kids life public yet, but I hope we can be public in the future once she’s figured out what to do and is grown. Thanks for the post. I also hope that in the future us moms can support transgender adults who agree with us too. All adults need to take care of our youth, transgender people included.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks Helen for your post. My only baby girl went VERY RAPIDLY from simply “marching to a different beat” to irritable to “gender fluid” to “transgender”. Affirmed on college campus as “he” and transgender, on testosterone via an informed consent gender clinic (which only opened in 2013) only 6 months later. I am traumatized and told that it is I who needs to get help.

    I put “transgender” in quotes because it has almost become meaningless. If anyone can be transgender, no questions asked, what is it exactly? from teens who are just rebelling against gender stereotypes and trying to “fit in” with a group of friends (this fits my gifted misfit kid) to transsexuals who really went through a process and found relief only thru medical procedures (“transsexual” now rebranded transgender).

    I totally put the blame on the psych community for allowing themselves to be manipulated into agreeing to affirmative care and informed consent, to pushing onto schools & school counselors that they cannot be allowed to question, they must only be bobbleheads to what is obviously a youth contagion.

    My hope is that transsexuals will help the psych community see how they are failing the others who are quite likely misdiagnosing themselves towards later regret. The goal of the psych profession should be to minimize regret, yet as long as there are informed consent gender clinics accepting young adult patients for initial transitioning care, the regret risk is only getting greater. I see no Standards of Care where the regret risk is only getting greater.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am very concerned by the affirmative model. I was lucky to find a therapist who told me that I needed to consider the alternatives to transition before I contemplated transition. Transition was a massive step. It would have been both foolish and reckless for me to charge forwards without considering the alternatives.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you Helen, for being you and trying to help others be themselves. My now ex-husband came out after 7 years of marriage as a “part-timer”, but it was loud and clear he would end up transitioning :(which he denied he ever would). He then blamed me when I left him by stating “I am only transitioning because you left me nowhere to go”. His narrative was paraphrased from what, like many others, he had read on the internet, and one cannot sway from that. Now at 60 and recently medically transitioned she claims to be a woman and believes she has the right to tell parents they must let their children transition or else they will commit suicide. Funny thing is, she like all those you mentioned never did commit suicide – oh yes she threatened it repeatedly as a way to have power over me. She is proud of the fact she fooled so many people for so long and takes no responsibility for the deep hurt and emotional harm she caused me and others. After all she is the only one who counts. If only more trans people could be like you and Miranda Yardley so this world could be a better place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Transitioning did mess me up. Friends and family told me that I became inward looking and self-absorbed. At the time I genuinely had no idea just how bad I was. I think I’ve come out of that now. I hope that your ex does as well.

      Sorry for the hurt that you have suffered. Partners of transitioners are so often overlooked in all of this.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear Helen,
    Thank you for your courageous writing. I am sorry you have suffered with dysphoria so deeply and so long. You mention your kids and this is obviously a huge blessing in your life. I am so happy that you had that joy.

    I believe pain always brings us into ourselves. It can scream at us or stand there over our shoulder, constantly tapping. The only thing that can overcome pain, for me, is consciously connecting to the world. When you are actively involved in loving others, pain seems to disappear. It’s those life altering moments that doubt runs back in and can wreck havoc on good plans. No actual point to this, just an observation.

    I wonder why psychotherapy has given up on helping people who suffer with gender dysphoria? Just because they’ve learned how to do surgery? Anxiety comes in so many forms, why do they give up on this one at the expense of youth? Do they really believe the narrative they say?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Thanks for your kind words. I don’t think you can cure dysphoria but you can live with it. I certainly did for long enough. When it became too much I did try psychotherapy and I was fortunate to find a therapist who suggested we look at transition last. I worry that youngsters are looking at it first. That’s crazy.

      Like

  12. Hi Helen–

    I appreciate you sharing your story.
    I am a mom with a young adult daughter. Perhaps we are talking about a different gender dysphoria when we compare young men declaring a transgender identity vs. young women who may move through several identities–lesbian, genderqueer/non-binary, and then transgender? I don’t know–maybe the young men do that as well.

    Our daughter was never gender-atypical. I honestly never saw anything I would call gender dysphoria–yet she did adopt the transgender identity label. Why? I don’t know for certain. Her new identity seems to be a product of a mental health meltdown and the morphing of a lesbian identity into transgender. It is a thing.
    One thing I am certain about is that she would not have adopted this identity if it had not been for trans-promoting internet sites.
    I also think self-harm was a factor for our daughter. Self-harm with a whole lot of help. She has harmed herself and we her family are the collateral damage.

    I am curious about the moral reasoning about deciding to “go for it”. What about your family? Hasn’t this transformation caused them incredible harm?
    If I decided to take a radical turn from the mundanities of ordinary life, say, ditch the spouse and move to Costa Rica and batch-roast coffee beans, would I be applauded for living my true life?
    I don’t mean to be harsh. I am just wondering what the difference is and how we decide to live our best lives for all concerned?

    I appreciate your genuine concern for young people and for your advice of not rushing to adopt identities. I applaud your moral courage for standing up to the trans-activists.

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    • Thanks for your kind words, and I do appreciate the pain you must be feeling. It would be understandable for you to fire negativity at people like me.

      I do get concerned about the assumptions people make. We can’t even be sure that any two people suffer gender dysphoria in the same way, let alone males and females. I never assume that. All I can ever know is what it is to be me, and that is why I am appalled at the presumptions made by other middle aged transitioners.

      I “went for it” when I was in a terrible state mentally and emotionally. It offered a way out. Others said it worked for them and it worked for me. Transition did put an end to my dysphoria. But yes there was pain inflicted on my family. They had to go through their own transition. But for them there was no upside. I am very conscious of that and always will be.

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    • I am sorry Helen. I did not intend to fire negativity at you. I do appreciate that you are only sharing your experience. I was thinking of the many ways people make decisions that affect other people (and looking at the transition experience in that framework). Yes, we can never know what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.
      I wish you happiness.

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      • Sorry I did not mean to say that you were firing negativity at me. You weren’t!

        But it would be so easy for you or others to do so.

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  13. Thank you, Helen for you thoughtful insight. It’s so refreshing to hear from someone who acknowledges that there is pain and not just glory on “the other side”. Now to find a way to share with my daughter! Know that you have helped many by sharing your story. Be well.

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  14. I get the sense that I am somewhat of a minority in that I was a trans youth, yet I came out before the whole trans explosion and never spent a minute of my time on Tumblr or any other trans-affirming sites. I was actually quite shocked by the sheer number of kids my age, and younger, that were coming out…

    I’ve told my story before on this site and many of the users here are familiar with my presence (I’ve changed my screen name and avatar, because, as many of you have pointed out, there is a lot of danger in posting personal info on sites like these, sadly) and my stance on the topic of transitioning in youth.

    It’s certainly a refreshing change of pace hearing a trans voice. Helen, thank you for your contribution.

    Maybe it was because my dysphoria differed from yours that I could not see growing up to male adulthood as an option. I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything, and I feel like my life is a fuller one post-transition. I don’t see that as proof that it’s the only road to life fulfillment. As you said, it’s just how my life turned out.

    I grew up gender non-conforming with parents who were “selectively tolerant” of such behaviors (there were some aspects of that non-conformity that they allowed and others that ended in a hard “no”). With my peers, I was very open about it (we’re talking ca. 2010, here, though, which was way different than today). Transitioning was a pretty easy process (living in a liberal state helped). No one, not my siblings, nor my peers from high school, nor anyone else I knew at the time were shocked or put off by it, and after six months I was living stealth at a new job and new school, which is how I live to this day. I don’t have the same fear of being clocked and I don’t put so much need in artifice to express my womanhood. I live life under the radar. The trans thing draws unnecessary attention and detracts from the parts of who I am that matter. Kids who want to be transgender are not transsexual. To always be open about one’s transgressing norms of sex and gender, to me, defeats the purpose of medically transitioning from one sex to another. I don’t understand it :/ but I’ve always been a bit “old-fashioned.”

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    • Thank you. 🙂
      There are so many assumptions made about gender dysphoria. Who knows if my dysphoria was the same as yours? We can never know.

      Sending you good wishes.

      Like

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