I hated her guts at the time: A trans-desister and her mom tell their story

 Sarah R. is 19-year old lesbian from the US Midwest. She says: “From ages 14 to 16 I believed that because I was gender non-conforming, I was a transgender man. Gender critical theory saved me from potentially mutilating my body irrevocably. Today, I share my story in hopes that other young women can also overcome the hatred we are told to have towards our bodies, and to remain unapologetic about being gender nonconforming females.”

This post originally appeared in a different form on her blog, here. For 4thWaveNow, she expanded some sections, particularly to do with her thoughts about her mother’s role in her temporary identification as a trans man (and her eventual abandonment of that idea). We also invited Sarah’s mother to contribute her own views, which you’ll find in in this updated article. Sarah openly acknowledges how much she detested her mother when she refused to agree to transition, but things are different now.  

Sarah R can be found on Twitter here.


by  Sarah R.

Tumblr is a cool place:  writers, artists, activists. Lots of people find solace there. I tried to, when I first made an account in 2013, when I was still in middle school. Actually, it wasn’t so cool back then. Hordes of young girls like me, with their newfound platform, curated ‘Black-and-white’ blogs (just check out some of the usernames), impressive collections of grey-scaled gifs, a smorgasbord of para-suicidal images: self-harm, handfuls of pills…

Thankfully, vices on Tumblr quickly find themselves replaced by new fads; gone are the days of glamorized self-mutilation– hello, fandom! (My own guilty pleasure was House MD, if anyone’s curious. Dark, dark days.) But like black-and-white blogs before them, these profiles were also quickly replaced. This time? by SJW blogs.

Now, granted, not everything about the new justice craze sucked. For one, it’s where most of my peers and I found Feminism 101, even if it got some things quite wrong (e.g. feminism is for men, too; makeup is empowering; kinky is progressive, etc.), and the general atmosphere of tolerance allowed for young gay teens like me the freedom of expression that wasn’t as safe on Twitter or Facebook at the time. Still, a lot of crazy shit came out of SJW tumblr.

When things like otherkin, fictionkin, and aesthetigender (for full effect, I’m going to have to ask you to go through the pain of scrolling through the whole list on that last one), are accepted as anywhere even near the realm of reality, it’s no wonder that ‘Woman’ has become distorted, conflated, and commandeered.

aesthetigender

My own personal attraction to the booming trans trend is obvious in retrospect. Teen girls are taught to hate everything about themselves. None of us can win. Even the thinnest, most clear-skinned, prettiest of girls find an enemy in the mirror. Imagine my horror to look at my reflection and see a fat, short-haired, lesbian staring back. In a world where my style, my interests, and my attractions weren’t fit for a girl, transgenderism offered the perfect solution: Be a boy.

It wouldn’t work, of course. How could it, when all of my problems–the struggle to meet the expectations that society had for me, my depression, my anxiety, my dysphoria, and my dysmorphia, all of my unhappiness–had nothing to do with how I identified and everything to do with what I was: female. Of course, as a 14-year-old, this didn’t occur to me quickly. My transition to ‘boy’ was my ticket out of Self-hatred-Ville, and you’d better believe I was going to take it.

To exactly nobody’s surprise, Tumblr was ecstatic at my ‘realization’. A plethora of congratulations, encouragement, and support was sent my way–something that girl-me never got for being exactly the same as boy-me, save having a different name and pronouns. So of course my new identity felt right. How couldn’t it, when my mannerisms and appearance, which had previously othered me, were now suddenly in congruence with my gender, and my ‘bravery’ was being applauded by all the people I looked up to– both bloggers online and friends in real life.

Something that I feel like a lot of adults get wrong about this phenomenon is that people like me were bullied into identifying as trans, but I don’t think this is the most accurate way to put it. There’s a very specific kind of mental mind-fuck that went on on Tumblr during this time that cultivated the perfect atmosphere for confused, self-hating teens (which is like, all of them) to somehow come to the realization that they’re transgender. First came a kind of twisted rewriting of history, women like Joan of Arc or Christina, Queen of Sweden (who once wrote she was “neither Male nor Hermaphrodite, as some People in the World have pass’d me for.” Interesting… maybe society has always been telling GNC (gender nonconforming) women that they aren’t true women…) now became ‘trans men who didn’t know at the time, because it wasn’t accepted’. By telling GNC women, who weren’t around to ‘defend’ their womanhood, that they were men, is it any wonder those of us who were around started to think we must be men, too? Another thing was the constant validation of trans people. In order for me to become instantly ‘valid,’ all I had to do was be a man. How could I do that? By feeling like one.

What did that feel like? I don’t know, since I didn’t feel like a woman, which I now realize is because I can’t; woman isn’t a feeling. The most harmful message to come out of the cultist ideology of trans rights is that you are x because you feel like x. But in the same way that I didn’t feel working class, or feel like a white person, or feel like a Midwesterner, I didn’t feel like a woman, which according to trans ideology, meant I wasn’t ‘cisgender’, and so from that the leap was easy for me to make: I must be a man. What’s glaringly obvious to me now though is that feeling didn’t play any factor into my status as any of the aforementioned descriptors. I simply was those things, and reality didn’t give a shit whether my feelings aligned or not.

It at the time all seemed very progressive: by ignoring history and biology, we could rewrite reality, and anyone could be anything they wanted (might I remind you of this list once more). What was really going on though was the complete opposite.

First of all, words didn’t have meaning anymore. According to new gender logic, even male and female were fluid. A trans woman was now female by virtue of identifying as ‘woman’. All attempts at any kind of discussion about gender and sex were rendered impossible, because 1. Any disagreement labeled you a transphobe and a TERF, and you were quite literally ostracized, and 2. gender didn’t mean anything anymore (save some mysterious, cryptic feeling that refuses to be defined, apparently).

By the time my mother figured out what was going on with me, I was in deep. Female-to-Male transition videos filled my Youtube suggestions, and I had already decided I would want a metoidioplasty over a phalloplasty (a decision that I now recognize as a desire for my maleness to be real, not a section of skin from my arm or leg, an impossible desire that could never be fulfilled, I know now, because I’m not male). I decided to take my first physical ‘transition’ step by getting a binder. Just one problem– being 14 meant I had no job, and no money. So, I improvised. As a blogger with several thousand followers (nope, I’m not going to link myself, as I would be chased off and/or doxxed in approximately .00023 seconds), I put out a quick plea for help in buying a binder. Within a few hours, a well-meaning follower asked my size and told me it would arrive in a few short days. Unfortunately, or so I thought at the time, I was unable to intercept the package before my mom did.

Accidentally being outed sucks. I remember getting a text from my mom while in school which said something along the lines of ‘We have something important to talk about when you get home,’ which, to nearly any teen, could mean a multitude of terrible things, and exactly zero good things. Throughout this whole story, my mom approached things really well, but I see that in retrospect only. I hated her guts at the time. She picked me up from school and let me marinate in the soul-crushing silence until we were about half-way home. She got straight to the point and told me that she had opened my package and found my binder. I immediately went into panic mode, so I don’t exactly remember how she coaxed a confession of transgender out of me, but it involved a lot of blubbering. She let me know from the get-go that she thought my ‘felt like boy’ spiel was all a load of crap, though to be fair, put it much less insensitively, but asked me to show her videos and literature about it. I did.

She wasn’t impressed.

I remember being afraid that this meant she was now going to make me grow out my short hair, or–god forbid– start wearing dresses, in an attempt to stifle my ‘transness’, but that wasn’t the case. It was hurtful to me that she wouldn’t use my new name or pronouns, but I was allowed to continue to be as GNC as I saw fit, something that I know helped my self-acceptance as a woman today. She made it clear that medical transition was not going to happen, which felt like the end of the world to me. In the same way you wouldn’t tell a schizophrenic that their delusions are real, she took no interest in pretending that male was something that I was, or ever could be. But most importantly, she let me know that that was okay. That I could be masculine, that I could like women, and that I could exist as myself, in my body and that pumping myself full of hormones and cutting off my flesh would change my appearance, but not me. My mom helped me understand that if I was ever going to be happy, it had nothing to do with my pronouns, or my genitals, I had to accept the female, and the woman, that I was.

As I was writing this piece, I asked Mom what she had to say about our journey together:

“When you first told me, I was really lost. I didn’t really even have any idea what [being transgender] meant. I mean, like if it had to do with you being gay or what. Of course the first thing I did afterwards was research it heavily. That scared me even more! The videos [of FTM transitions] you sent me were nice and the people in them seemed happy, but the first thing I thought was ‘what if I lost my daughter’s voice like those mothers did?’

I know at the time you thought I was prejudiced and that’s why I made the choices I did, but I didn’t have anything against transgender people, I just wanted to do the right thing as a parent, and letting you do things to yourself that you could never change even if you felt differently down the road was not the right thing for me to do. But your happiness was the only thing behind my decisions. If you ended up being genuinely transgender and that was the only way you could be happy then I would’ve been able to live with that. I just knew you were too young to be sure about something like that. If by the time you turned 18 and could do what you wanted [medically] you still wanted to get testosterone I wouldn’t have stopped loving you. Of course. I’m glad to still love my daughter more than you could know.

It still keeps me up some nights thinking about ‘what if I had given in?’. The only important thing though is that you are happy now.”

And her advice for parents in similar situations:

“I can’t tell anyone what is the right thing for their child. But it was hard to stay strong in my decision against what other people thought. It was made out like I hated transgender, or that I was abusing my child by not letting her make decisions to cut off her breasts. Stay strong. Wanting what is best for your babies isn’t prejudice. Also, be prepared to be hated by your kid too. Any teenager doesn’t like her mom. Not letting her go to a friend’s house that you know is bad news is enough to make her hate you. Not letting her change her entire body is even bigger.”

Our relationship is wonderful now, but Mom’s right about me hating her back then. And yeah, maybe I would’ve hated her anyways, at least according to her theory that all teens hate their parents, but in my situation, I could name directly and specifically why, and that gave it a lot of power. I remember posting all the time online about how abusive she was for deadnaming me, or not letting me bind, which I now feel terrible about. I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about anything (especially gender things) because I had made up in my mind that she thought my very existence (as a trans person) was invalid. Her resolve was beyond admirable, though, as well as her patience for my angsty bullshit.

Not everyone was so hesitant to accept my identity as my mom, though. As I mentioned, the internet was enthralled, but my friends in real life ate it up, too. Whether intentional or not, most young gay people are in social circles comprised of other gay people. Not all of my friends were necessarily gay, but even the ones who weren’t were into the same SJW ideology as I was. They readily accepted my new trendy name, and did their best to use my pronouns. Even though they messed them up a lot, I wasn’t accosted like when my mom didn’t use the right ones, because I knew that they still thought of my identity as real. In retrospect, their support didn’t help my journey of desisting, but I don’t think they hindered it much either. They were being good friends, and for that I’m grateful.

Almost immediately after my coming out, I was put in therapy. Despite my own desperate requests to go to a therapist who specialized in gender issues, so that I might acquire that coveted letter of recommendation for HRT, I instead was taken to the general therapist I had visited sometime earlier for self-harm issues. At the time, like so many other decisions my mother made, it felt invalidating, and upset me, but also like all of her decisions, I’m now grateful for it. Going to someone who would try to get to the root of my identity and dysphoria and resolving that cause itself instead of validating my mental illness and okaying a lifetime of hormones, mutilation, and sterilization was paramount.

For the first few sessions I was still angry about the therapist choice, but once I began to open up, I was surprised to find the doctor wasn’t dismissive of my feelings like I had thought she would be, but seemed to understand and coaxed a lot of more out of me about my transness than I had thought about myself. The most helpful thing she did for me was make me examine why I identified as a boy, and what that meant. By being asked to define what being a boy felt like without using anything that I already knew was only a stereotype about boys, and my subsequent failure to do so, I eventually came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t be one.

tenacity-clipart-sisyphus

Freeing yourself from the task of climbing a mountain whose peak can never be summited is your only chance of ever actually being happy.

One of the biggest problems I think with being transgender is it comes out of an unhappiness, and that the impossibility of the accepted solution amplifies the unhappiness. Having short hair doesn’t give you an adam’s apple, testosterone injections won’t change your bone structure, a phalloplasty won’t let you produce sperm. The closer you get to the real thing, the bigger the gap between you and being a real male grows. Freeing yourself from the task of climbing a mountain whose peak can never be summited is your only chance of ever actually being happy.

I eventually stopped looking for validation as something I would never be, and started the process of loving myself. There’s no real how-to I can give for overcoming gender dysphoria and accepting your given gender, but there are some tips I can spare.

Firstly, be patient. Whether it’s you or someone you love who is trans, one conversation, experience, or epiphany is not going to change anyone’s mind. Secondly, and this is geared towards trans-identified females: Get into gender critical theory. Liberal feminism tells us that women are oppressed because of their gender, but that isn’t true. We’re oppressed because of our sex, by means of gender. It was hard for me to give up the imaginary solution to my oppression before I understood this. Thirdly, think long and hard about why you feel trans. What is the feeling? What would it feel like to be ‘cis’? If your answer is ‘comfortable with your sex/body’ then hardly a single woman falls under that category. Is it to feel comfortable with the expectations, limitations, and stereotypes of your gender? Once again, nary a single female applies. The hardest and final push for me to ‘detransing’ was realizing and accepting that whatever I was ‘feeling’, it wasn’t ‘boy’. It was dissatisfaction with the constraints of womanhood, as in the stereotypes, expectations, and roles that it accorded me. Understanding that is the most important step in becoming happy with your femaleness.

For a long time, I’ve been hesitant to talk about my experience with trans. I was embarrassed, for one, into being duped by an agenda that wanted to convince me I was something I’m not, nor would ever be. I was afraid, too, of backlash. The climate among my peers these days is such that disagreement of nearly any variance means public ridicule, and being shunned. I thought people might try to tell me that I wasn’t really, truly trans (though no one has seemed to come up with what that means), or that I was just unable to come to accept my transness. I’ve decided I have to cast these doubts aside, though, because there’s something more important at stake: young women learning to love themselves. If I can convince even just one girl to love her body for what it is, and to know that no amount of dissatisfaction with stereotypes, or love for suits and sports, or short hair, or discomfort with her anatomy makes her less of a woman, then any shit cast my way is worth it.

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The surgical suite: Modern-day closet for today’s teen lesbian

Despite the fact that trans activists are diligently trying to lower the age of consent for cross sex hormones and surgeries, as a general rule children under 18 in the US cannot access these “treatments” without parental consent (Oregon being a notable exception). I have argued that even 18 is too young to make such permanent decisions, given that executive function skills are not well developed until the early 20s.

But there is another, equally important reason to question medical transition for adolescent girls. According to several peer-reviewed studies (which I will be discussing in detail in this post),

  • 95-100% of girls who “persist” in gender dysphoria at adolescence are same-sex attracted; these girls are typically offered cross-sex hormones by age 16, and  surgeries as young as 18.
  • The typical age that a young lesbian has her first sexual experience and/or claims her sexual orientation is between the ages of 19 and the early 20s.

Let those two statements sink in for a moment.


Here’s the reality of what’s going on in gender clinics around the world right now. An increasing number of adolescent girls diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” are asking for, and receiving, cross-sex hormones and surgeries. The World Professional Organization for Transgender Health (WPATH) officially recommends cross-sex hormone treatment to begin as early as age 16, with SRS surgeries to be offered at age 18.

The vast majority of these girls presenting to clinics admit to being same-sex attracted. Yet data from studies of LGB (lesbian, gay, and bisexual) people shows that most young women don’t fully crystallize a lesbian orientation until 19 or older.

To take one of several examples, this 1997 study of 147 lesbians and gay men by Gregory Herek et al, “Correlates of Internalized Homophobia in a Community Sample of Lesbians and Gay Men,” found that

 The mean age for first attraction to a member of the same sex was 11.5 for females and 10.3 for males. Mean age for first orgasm with a person of the same sex was 20.2 for females and 17.7 for males. On average, females first identified themselves as lesbian or bisexual at age 20.2, whereas men did so at age 18.7. Mean age for first disclosure of one’s sexual orientation was 20.5 for females and 21.2 for males.

A 2014 study of 396 LGB people, “Variations in Sexual Identity Milestones Among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals” [full article behind paywall] by Alexander Martos and colleagues reported a similar finding for age of first sexual experience:

Women self-identified as nonheterosexual when they were almost 3 years older than the men (age 17.6 vs. 14.8) and reported their first same-sex relationship when they were 1.4 years older than men (19.1 vs.17.7).

And not only do young lesbians take longer to realize and accept their sexual orientation than their gay male counterparts. Coming out to oneself, and to loved ones and the world, takes time. It’s a developmental process that evolves over a number of years, from the first signs of puberty into early adulthood, with several stages, as Martos et al say in their 2014 study:

Coming out is not a single event but a series of realizations and disclosures. The age at which sexual minorities first recognize their identity, tell others about their identity, and have same-sex relationships varies, and people may take different amounts of time between one milestone and the next. Scholars have proposed and tested models of sexual identity development for over 30 years. Cass (1979) developed an influential model, which outlined a six-stage linear psychological path of sexual identity development. Troiden (1989) built upon Cass’s model and reframed it within four stages: (a) sensitization, which may include a person’s first same-sex attraction and their first questioning of their heterosexual socialization, (b) identity confusion, a period during early to mid-adolescence that is marked by inner turmoil and often the initiation of same-sex sexual activity, (c) identity assumption, when a youth self-identifies as LGB and begins to reveal their “true self” to select people and seeks community among other LGBs, and (d) commitment, which is marked by the initiation of a same-sex romantic relationship and disclosure to a wide variety of heterosexual people (Floyd and Stein 2002). These models suggest that healthy and stable sexual identity development necessitates the full permeation of sexual identity into all aspects of a person’s life.

So the process of integration–“full permeation”–of one’s sexual orientation is a process that takes place over a period of years.  It involves “identity confusion” and “inner turmoil” in adolescence. And not to put too fine a point on it, but most lesbians don’t even begin to express and realize their orientation until 19 or 20 years old.

Yet same-sex attracted girls who present to gender clinics–many of them still with the concrete, either-or thinking of a child (e.g., if I like girls, I must be a guy), internalized homophobia, and overall lack of maturity and self reflection typical of their age, have been “socially transitioned” for years; have had their puberty “blocked” (such that they don’t have the opportunity or desire, in most cases, to actually experience a physical relationship with a love interest); and then move on to “transitioning” to….a straight male.

Here they are, girls without sexual experience, conditioned to reject their bodies and begin irreversible medical “treatments” before they’ve had a chance to embark on the years-long process of discovering their own bodies as sexual beings.

In a 2011 Dutch study “Desisting and persisting dysphoria after childhood, Steensma et al note that 100% of the girls who “persisted” in gender dysphoria by age 16 were same-sex attracted. As they indicate, this finding corroborates that of other researchers over many decades. A 2013 study,  also by Steensma et al, revealed the same information, but added more granularity: between 95.7 -100% of the 16-year-old (average age) girls reported exclusively same-sex attraction, fantasy, and behavior (defined as “kissing” because, as the authors note, that was the extent of their sexual experience). Age 16–well before the average age of coming out as lesbian noted in the studies I highlighted earlier.

With regard to sexual attraction, all persisters reported feeling exclusively attracted to persons of the same natal sex, which confirmed their gender identity as they viewed this attraction as a hetero­sexual attraction. They did not consider themselves homosexual or lesbian.

…the majority of adolescents kept their sexual attractions to themselves. Both boys and girls indicated that, as a result of fear of rejection, they did not speak about their sexual feelings to others, and did not try to date someone. Furthermore, most adolescents felt uncomfortable responding to romantic gestures from others.

In summarizing their findings, Steensma et al note that

…. The third factor that seemed to be associated with the persistence or desistence of childhood gender dysphoria was the experience of falling in love and sexual attraction. The persisters, all attracted to same- (natal) sex partners, indicated that the awareness of their sexual attractions func­tioned as a confirmation of their cross-gender identification as they viewed this as typically hetero­sexual.

These adolescents at age 16 regarded their same sex attractions as “typically heterosexual.” It’s fascinating that the study authors make this statement without any examination of exactly why the 100%-same-sex-attracted persisters viewed themselves this way, and whether this might give pause to the practice of medical transition—especially since in the very next paragraph, Steensma et al refer to earlier research findings that LGB people are late to claim their sexual orientations:

 All persisters reported feeling exclusively, and as long as they could remember, sexually attracted to individuals of the same natal sex, although none of the persisters considered themselves ‘homosexual’ or ‘lesbian,’ but (because of their cross-gender identity) ‘heterosexual.’

As for the desisters, about half of them were sexually attracted in fantasy to individuals of the same natal sex. Yet, all girls and most of the boys identified as heterosexual. The difference between the reported sexual attractions and identities may be related to the timing of the ‘coming-out’. The literature shows that the average age of the first feel­ings of same-sex attraction is generally during puberty and before the age of 18 (e.g., Barber, 2000; Herek, Cogan, Gillis & Glunt, 1998; Rust, 1996). However, the moment at which men and women identify and come out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual generally lies above the age of 18, at the end of adolescence or in their early twenties (e.g., Barber, 2000; Herek, Cogan, Gillis & Glunt, 1998; Rust, 1996).

Steensma et al give us what we need to know, but they don’t connect the dots: these same-sex attracted young adolescent girls undergo “transition” before they have the opportunity to experience themselves as sexual beings in their healthy, original bodies.

Why are we robbing our kids of the right—the basic human right—to discover their sexuality without preemptive tampering by the medical and psychiatric profession?  “Transition” prevents them from learning whether they might be gay/lesbian, freezing them at an immature stage of development when the only possibility they see is that they are heterosexuals trapped in the wrong body.

Trans activists like to say that gender identity and sexual orientation are completely unrelated. But obviously, it just ain’t so. Study after study, anecdote after anecdote, media story after media story, tells us that most “trans men” start off as same-sex attracted adolescents. But no one outside the blogosphere—no one –is pointing out the obvious: that girls who would naturally mature into lesbian adults are having the process of realizing their sexual orientation short-circuited by medical transition.

Who will step forward to stop this? Who with power in our society—the Congress, the President, the publisher of the New York Times¸ the child and adolescent psychologists–will raise their voices? Where are the lesbian doctors, lawyers, heads of LGBT organizations? Which of you will name this preemptive conversion therapy for what it is?

Internalized homophobia & teen dysphoria: More reader comments

This week, I’ve been featuring comments submitted to this blog. Today, there are two selections: a commenter asking what the solution is (if not transition) for a female who is sexually attracted to other females, but cannot tolerate the idea of being a woman herself; and a 15-year-old who identifies as trans male. This teen feels angered by what I and others write here, believing we don’t understand.

First, from Dagis:

What if the sexual preference for a natal female is for a female, but only if the natal female were male? That is, what if the natal female does not self-identify as lesbian, could not conceive of being a female having an intimate sexual relationship with a female, but desires an intimate sexual relationship with a female as a male? I’ve yet to see this addressed by critics of “transition,” and yet I have seen this expressed by those considering FtM transition. Perhaps this is generally dismissed as “oh this person is just a ‘closet lesbian/gay,’ and therefore it’s not actually examined. But if it is a real issue for someone who identifies in anyway as having difficulty with their birth assigned sex, and such a person does indeed express desire for intimate sexual relationship (not homosexual), then what is a compassionate and logically sound response to such a person?

“I am attracted to women but I’m actually not a lesbian, I’m a straight man.” This assertion is a key part of nearly every transition account I’ve seen–including from women like Aydian Dowling, who lived happily as a lesbian before deciding she was a man.  (I always wonder why the prior lesbian life is presented as somehow less real than the subsequent life as a heterosexual man).

Trans-identified natal females stringently deny that their desire to convert to heterosexual males is in the least motivated by internalized homophobia.  But why else, then, would a woman be unable to “conceive of being a female having an intimate sexual relationship with a female”?

The accounts of female-to-male transitioners often revolve around a feeling of disgust for one’s own female body.  Transition vloggers are careful not to use anatomically accurate words that might “trigger” their viewers; euphemisms like “down there” and “junk” are substituted for the rejected body parts.  But clearly, for these women who desire to be heterosexual men, it’s not a generalized revulsion for female bodies;  they want to be intimate with other women.  Yet dis-identifying with and speaking disparagingly about one’s own female body, and taking comfort in the thought that they can be transformed, via hormones and surgery, into straight men–how is that not, at base,  a form of internalized homophobia?

As I’ve said many times, I have no difficulty acknowledging that some trans-identified people do feel intense dysphoria or dissociation from their bodies. That is an experience, and as such, it is subjectively real.  What right would I have to deny the feelings and thoughts of another person?

So as Dagis asks, what’s the compassionate and “logically sound” response (apart from simply agreeing that transition is the answer) to same-sex attracted women who are adamant that they cannot stand the thought of being sexually involved with someone of their own sex? I hate to say it, but I suspect most of them are just going to cover their ears if all they hear is feminist analysis.


Next, there is this comment from Kenneth, a 15-year-old who identifies as trans male.

This blog absolutely has pissed me off. To the people who have been saying that this whole Transgender thing is wrong and that people who identify as trans are only going through a phase, you have no idea about it. There are are thirty year olds who have identified as trans since they were old enough to understand that the gender of the their body did not match the one inside their head. I have identified myself as male before I barely knew what Internet was, I’d like to see you calling me ‘brainwashed’ by the internet. But at the age of twelve I was mildly obsessed over YouTube, I enjoyed watching YouTubers such as Smosh and Annoying Orange and etc. but I soon found a YouTuber that goes by the name of Alex Bertie, who has been identifying as male since he was fourteen; as of now he is 21 and personally goes and makes his appointments for his gender needs and hasn’t once had any doubts his doings.

I’m currently fifteen, I do identify as male regardless of what my body is. Could I possibly change my mind in a couple years or even months? Possibly, I’m not going to say it’s impossible but you sure as hell aren’t going to find me doing it right now; wearing girls clothes or mildly looking like a girl? No, that sounds like absolute hell and feel sorry for the children who have to go through that now. Normally children go back to their birth gender because society says that what they’re doing is wrong, some children even commit suicide because of this horrible issue. It isn’t wrong. I’d like to see your reaction if you were somehow ‘magically’ put into a male/female body but were born male/female. Would you like that? Would you try your hardest to become the gender you know yourself as?

Children also do not wish to tell their parent they are trans because the fact they feel like they’re going to be rejected. Many children of the LGBT+ community are thrown into the streets or are still allowed at home but are abused because of this ‘issue’.

I don’t doubt that Kenneth decided s/he was stereotypically male as a child, before being exposed to the Internet–although Kenneth’s subsequent experiences watching other trans-identified  people (like Alex, one of the many “YouTube famous” transitioners) had an impact in cementing that identity, no doubt.

But notice what Kenneth defines as being female: to “wear girls’ clothes or mildly look like a girl.” Because what is it to be a 15-year-old girl, apart  from clothes and looks and–what? Which video games you prefer? What does “girl” even mean to a teen like Kenneth?

I have never once heard an adult trans-identified person actually answer the question: What is a man? What is a woman?  apart from saying “it’s whatever I feel I am.” And I sure don’t expect a teen trans-identified person to be able to respond with any more clarity. But Kenneth: Are your feelings of being the opposite sex rooted in your preferences for the activities and appearances of the boys you’ve been around? What exactly is wrong with being a “gender nonconforming” girl?

Maybe this is what’s wrong: Kenneth brings up being rejected by parents. There is no doubt that “gender nonconforming” kids are more at risk for self harm, and that some do actually kill themselves due to, as Kenneth rightly calls it, this “horrible issue.” One of the risk factors for poor self esteem in LGBT teens is lack of family support, but how much of that is down to the pressure to conform to rigid gender stereotypes and norms?

Kenneth, parents like me aren’t rejecting our kids. We want to support them in expanding what it means to be a girl (or boy).  In fact, we actually see medical transition as another, potentially very serious form of self harm–even self hate.  And transition does not appear to be a magic long-term solution for many young people; witness the rash of teen suicides in 2015, several of whom were fully supported in their transition by family, teachers, and friends.

Kenneth presents this challenge:

I’d like to see your reaction if you were somehow ‘magically’ put into a male/female body but were born male/female. Would you like that? Would you try your hardest to become the gender you know yourself as?

What Kenneth is saying is: I hate this body. I want out of it. If you hated your body as much as I hate mine, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to escape its prison?

Kenneth, I don’t know what it’s like to feel extreme dysphoria; to want to drastically alter my body, even if it means a lifetime of surgeries and doctor’s appointments. I have fantasized, on more than one occasion, about being a man–down to every anatomical detail. I can even say that I’ve mightily wished I were a man at certain times in my life. But it has not caused me the misery you are talking about here.  There are quite a few women who have been there, though, like this one. And there are several more in my blogroll (linked on the right side of the page) who have been down the same path you’re on–but returned home to realizing themselves as female.

I don’t doubt your pain, and your determination to do something to relieve that pain. Nor do I doubt that you sincerely believe your mind knows better than your body;  that you think your body is alien and wrong.

But I don’t believe the intense desire to be something you are not means you are actually male.

I wish there were more therapists and caring adults who could support  teens in exploring options apart from “transgender.” Breaking out of gender stereotypes is a good thing, a brave thing for a teen to do.  But where are the non-trans-identified role models for these young people? Where are the YouTube stars who have chosen not to transition? Wouldn’t it be great to see a series of vlogs that aren’t “one year on “T,” but “one year in my journey to reclaim myself as a strong and independent girl?”

 

Nothing wrong with your body that the truth can’t cure: Guest post

This guest post by “fightingunreality,” a regular commenter on this blog, is the second in an ongoing series of accounts by women who at one time experienced gender dysphoria or the desire to become the opposite sex—but who turned away from “transition” without undergoing hormones or surgery. (The first in the series is “Abandoning the Ship of Woman,” by guest poster “Dot.”)

I am looking for more guest posts from formerly dysphoric women and girls, of all ages, who did not take steps to “transition” medically. There are some fine writings/blogs authored by detransitioned/detransitioning women who did embark upon medical transition but returned to embracing their femaleness; I will leave it to those women to continue elucidating their experiences for us. One excellent blog by a detransitioned woman is that of Maria Catt, who wrote powerfully yesterday about the hazards of transition and specifically testosterone—both from the perspective of someone who has used “T” herself, and as a worker in a medical clinic which served transgender people. Another fine blog by a detransitioned woman is “Hot Flanks,” who writes sensitively about her journey home to female after years of trans-identification.


Nothing wrong with your body that the truth can’t cure

by fightingunreality

As one of many women who have faced some of the issues confronting teenagers who call themselves “transgender,” I feel reasonably certain that, had these girls been born in an era before the all-out indoctrination that has taken place in the past decade, they would not only not be seriously considering altering their bodies; they would be developing a framework for understanding why they ever felt the female sex was not their own.

Such dysphoric females would most likely eventually connect, as I have, with other women who had the same difficulties–even if those difficulties remained unspoken. Instead of demanding hormones and surgery, these girls would be learning to cope with the ongoing changes that take place as they gradually mature, physically and socially. And it wouldn’t be easy, but nothing of importance ever is. Especially during the teenage years.

I imagine a self-identified trans teen reading this and thinking, “Eh, what could she possibly know? She was never ‘really trans’.” In response, I ask: What IS “really trans”?

Dysphoric teens often talk about depression and anxiety spiking during their middle school years, when their bodies begin changing in ways they don’t want and can’t stop; changes that feel wrong.

Do you have any idea how common these feelings are? For the longest time, I wouldn’t talk about them because I thought they were weird and embarrassing. But it turns out that a lot of my friends felt the same way and weren’t talking about it either. Nothing seems right when your body starts to change, and it doesn’t help that the hormones that are causing the changes fuel emotional highs and lows that are really intense and hard to handle. I know it doesn’t really seem like it, but things get a lot easier to deal with. It just takes time.

I remember this time period very well. I panicked. I was depressed. I didn’t know what to do because I could not imagine myself becoming what I believed it was to be a woman. I was neither like the women I knew nor those I saw on television. The idea of having to buy or wear a bra was repugnant. As a result, I did the only thing that seemed logical at the time: I hid my breasts and tried to carry on as if nothing had changed. I wore layers and vests and spent a lot of time worrying about other people noticing.

I remember feeling ashamed, especially when my older sisters made fun of me for trying to deny this development, or alternately, for acting or feeling like I was a boy (something that I never verbalized for fear of perpetual teasing). I had been obsessed with becoming a boy prior to hitting puberty, and what I considered to be my body’s betrayal seemed like the ultimate cruelty. Like some sort of unfair punishment.

Remembering those times, I wonder what it would have been like if I’d had someone I trusted who I could talk with about it–someone who understood the depth of my despair, who’d been through something similar. I did not have any such confidante. Yet in retrospect, I consider myself extremely lucky, because what I also did not have–which virtually every other child and adolescent has now–is someone who would have reinforced my belief that I really was meant to be a boy; that I was “trans.” I have to tell you, I would have bought into that belief with everything I had because I did not want to be female. I did not want to wear dresses or makeup, bleed every month, date boys or get married—ever. Being “trans” would have been the perfect out for all of those things, and once your body starts to develop, the pressure is on. Everything changes.

Thinking back, it was around age 5–the time when I started kindergarten –when I began to realize I wasn’t quite like the other girls. To be honest, I can’t even remember what activities the girls engaged in because I didn’t pay much attention. I guess it must have been dolls, since the note inscribed on my very first report card said that I didn’t like to play with them, but instead played with “trains and boys’ toys.” It made it seem like it was a bad thing–like I was bad–and I can recall from that point on a growing alienation from whatever it was that “girl” was supposed to mean. I actually remember at one point feeling sorry for *them,* for the girls, as if I weren’t one myself.

By the time puberty hit, my friends were all boys, so I guess you can imagine the additional issues that started to develop right along with my budding breasts. Suddenly the pressure was really on from the adults to act more ladylike, and there came rules about spending time alone with the boys and separating us for activities. We couldn’t play together as easily. There was increasing snark from the girls at school who marked me out as “other” for my failure to socially conform. I didn’t really need to hear their comments, though, because my changing body was a constant reminder of how I was supposed to behave and look which had nothing to do with how I felt about or saw myself. I felt trapped.

Worse, it wasn’t just the girls who had become suddenly self-conscious about their increasing need to conform: the boys who had been my peers and best friends began to see me as “other,” too. It didn’t matter that I was just as good as any of them when it came to sports, or that in a fight I would most likely win. I was a girl, and that alone altered the dynamic in our little group. It was even worse outside of our circle of friends. Individually, my friends seemed the same, but around the other boys, it was like they had to prove something to each other. Influenced by their own surging hormones, some of them began to make sexualized comments to impress each other with the pretense of worldliness, and the situation became increasingly intolerable. Former friends would dis me in the presence of others in order to get a laugh or to prove their masculinity. Hanging out with a girl wasn’t cool at this age unless it had some sort of sexual connotation. My sense of betrayal was devastating and complete.

It was at this point that I found myself alone. No longer accepted as a peer, I was closed out of the boys’ club and realized that I had little in common with the girls.  I hadn’t really learned the rules very well, and from what I saw, I didn’t want to. Girls seemed helpless sometimes–interested in things that were incomprehensible to me. They began to cover the backs of their notebooks with popular boys’ names, plus theirs, surrounded by hearts. I just didn’t get it. It was pretty clear that I did not really fit in: I was not like them, and I certainly wasn’t going to grow up to be like their moms who I understood even less. I had no role models–I knew no one like me. As an adult, I can acknowledge a multitude of contributing factors, but at the time I could see only one real source of my pain: my body had betrayed me. I was alone, I was depressed, and I couldn’t see any way out of my situation. I felt like a mistake and I too often just wanted to be dead. As it was, I did what I could to simply hide. I sought invisibility and spent a lot of time by myself.

What if, along with my rejection of my maturing body, my growing depression, the loss of my peer group and my increasing alienation, I’d been told that there was a cure? I, along with a number of my friends, have asked that question. What if I’d been told that I must have a “male brain” or that there was science that showed that I had a “medical condition” that caused all of the problems? What would I have done? It didn’t happen, fortunately, but I think I understand my former self well enough to know: I would have attributed all of my social difficulties to that “condition.” I would have believed that if I could just fix that “condition,” all of the other issues would be resolved or at least lessened. They were, after all, entirely related to being the wrong sex. Weren’t they?

Having been raised in a very religious household, I actually believed as a young child that god would give me a boy’s body if I prayed often enough and hard enough. As a result, every time I was made aware that I was, in fact, a girl, I would repeat my litany with the sincere belief that my prayers would be answered. I would imagine myself as having changed, as having all the qualities I believed that entailed. When I showered, I’d plaster my soapy hair to my head so it would feel and look short. I’d shape lather on my face in the form of a beard, imagining how I would look when things were “fixed.” Each time, as my fantasy washed away, I would experience an even greater disappointment in the reality I faced. The more I engaged in the fantasy in its varying forms, the more distressed I was at what was: my body seemed to grow worse and I prayed even harder. I bargained with god, formulated deals, but each morning I awoke to the same disappointment. Despite my lack of progress, I continued praying for a few years because I convinced myself that my long-term dedication would somehow prove my faith, and that would make a difference. It was only the loss of that faith which eventually caused me to give up: I became convinced that god couldn’t hear me. I hadn’t lost my body shame, only the idea that there was anything I could do about it.

Testosterone and mastectomies don’t require a god or magic–just money and a psychologist’s approval. It’s a real thing that you can find out about now without even trying. You can watch hours of videos online as some girls/women sprout beards and their voices are lowered. You can see them pose with fading scars, pectoral muscles now hormonally enlarged and visible in the absence of those hated breasts. You can read all of the accompanying comments supporting her choice and your desire, and you can find a ready-made community to replace the one you lost, to accept and agree with the idea that something is terribly wrong with the way you are now that can be fixed with hormones and surgery. They’ll even tell you how to go about getting them. This is a real thing. But the magical thinking involved is the belief that you can actually change your sex; that you will be indistinguishable from actual males. The unreality of this is easy enough to overlook if you want something bad enough, even if you have no way of knowing what it actually means to be what you want. With “gender reassignment” and T, there’s no need to ever give up hoping for a miracle, because unlike god, the purveyors of gender change are listening very closely. They even advertise, making sure you can hear them. They are waiting for you. They’ve published books to help you, a teen, lay out all of the talking points that will help you convince your parents that you need this “cure.” They’ve made it easy.

As it was, as a teen, I had nothing of the sort. Oh, I’d heard of “sex change” operations, and for awhile clung to the idea of one as I tried to maintain that possibility, but the reality was that they were still really rare and impossible for someone so young and with no money, and there was no question that my family would not approve. As a result, I was forced to face reality. I was female, and I had to accept that and do what it took to learn to navigate the world as such.

One of the interesting things that happens when someone wants something badly is that they begin to fantasize about having it. They imagine themselves in possession of their want and it gives them pleasure, the fantasy itself becoming the reward. Unfortunately, reality is not changed and it often seems even worse or even less real when compared to what has been imagined. For myself, I know that the more I visualized myself as a boy, the worse I felt about who I actually was. The more I saw myself as being what I wanted, the more that want took on the characteristics of a need, something that I had to have; that I could not live without. I was wrong, of course, but had “gender reassignment” existed back then, it would have served as the material manifestation of that need –the promise of a wish fulfilled, that which god would not grant me. There would have been no reason for me to resolve the conflict that I had with my body. The time and experience I had which allowed me to come to terms with my sex would have been spent instead on fueling the same fantasy which had intensified my previous despair: my fantasy visualization would have prolonged my rejection of my body, and the degree of my dysphoria and dysmorphia would have increased.

As it was, I went through an intensely lonely and depressing time, but at some point, after about a year I guess, one of the girls in my class decided to befriend me. To be honest, I think it was because she felt sorry for me, but really, I didn’t care why. What mattered is that through her I gained entry into her circle of friends and my isolation ended. It would, of course, be convenient to slap some happy ending on the story and tell you that all was happily ever after from that point, but I think that kind of thing only happens in made-for-TV movies. I was still a teenager, with adolescent mood swings and depression, and I still was not one with my body. I had my issues, and so did my new friends. We were all pretty messed up, but at least we were messed up together.

In retrospect, I think it’s highly likely that I would have been dragged irretrievably into the world of crime and drugs that many of them fell into had my love of sport not provided a diversion from complete immersion into that subculture. Title IX had just been passed the year before, and even my small rural school was forced to provide some girls’ sport teams in order to comply. It wasn’t the football or baseball that I had formerly enjoyed playing with the boys, but basketball provided me with the opportunity to develop and prove my strength and my skill in a way that as a girl I had been denied. Not only did the physical activity help me gain a new relationship with my body –which believe me, was a very, very big deal. But for the first time, I was in constant contact with other girls whose strength and ability I admired, and with whom I could develop a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. I think maybe it was the first time I really realized that female was something to be.

The bravest and smartest and strongest people I have known have always been women. I just had to open my eyes to see it.

I am not “trans.” I never was “trans.” I was a girl, a female who’s grown up in a culture that makes us feel like less because of our sex. It is a world that teaches us that our opinions are not valued, that our knowledge is incomplete, that we are weak and that we are never safe if we go out alone. It is a place where we’re made to feel that merely being female is an invitation to men to do what they will despite our objections. To be female in this age and this place is to be convinced that the more we mature, the more limited our options become, and it is this belief we must resist, not our sexed bodies.

For myself, I was lucky. I managed to arrive at maturity at a time when women were actively fighting to shatter these myths and I was able to hear their voices over the constant murmurings of those who had and would define me by my use to them. These women were not popular then—they were mocked and reviled just as women are now, but they would not be silenced. Their words let me know that I had truly never wanted to be a boy, but rather that I didn’t want the limitations that were being forced on me as a girl. I was–we all are–more than our culture tells us we can be, and ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with your body that the truth cannot cure.

If you can manage to listen to the voices of the strong women who came before you, voices that are currently being drowned out by the popular trans-narrative, you may just hear them, too.