Detransitioner Perspective: Transition wasn't appropriate for me-is it for anyone?
For the last couple of days (and nights), I’ve been thinking about sex, gender and transitioning, from a personal point of view and a more global one.
For a long time, in my head, I separated the trans rights movement from actual trans people because I, a transitioned female myself, didn’t feel represented by it. I thought it had gone too far, and I had come to believe that there was no such thing as reasonable amount of transitions or a reasonable amount of bending the law for trans people. But, the truth is, that people like me caused the trans movement.
I am by no means an expert on LGB history and I am way too young to remember this myself, but my understanding is that, during the AIDS epidemic, the public at large didn’t really care about the issue, so long as only homosexual people were impacted. Thousands of people had died pointlessly before the money started to flow to find the cure. The pressure started only when “normal” people started to die.
While it’s not a perfect analogy, there are some similarities with transition. People are now starting to care because it’s now affecting “normal” children, whereas before, it was confined to the historically marginalize, minority populations—gays and lesbians, autistic people, and straight dudes who were considered perverts. People who already had complicated relationships with their families and were lacking social support.
In my case, when I transitioned, I had been socially dead for years, with no friends, no close bonds with my family. I used to spend long weeks without speaking to anyone, without leaving my room. Sometimes I slept for 20 hours per day because I had no reason at all to get up.
I blamed my sex dysphoria for my condition of being. But now I wonder—what the hell does that even mean? I know how I felt, but to this day I’m not sure why I felt this way. All I know now is that I’m somewhere on the autism spectrum, which manifests itself differently in females, and that that contributed to my feelings of being different. And when I was in my formative years, parents and teachers just didn’t know much about autism, and did not know how to help me. I was different. I felt disconnected from everyone and didn’t know why. I was not like the other girls. I remember being bullied by girls. I remember girls pretending to be my friends only to laugh at my face and ask why would I think that somebody wanted to befriend such a freak as me. And I remember finding acceptance among the boys, to the point that I was one of them. I would use the boys’ bathroom, play with them on the playground, and share their spaces on school trips when no other girl was allowed to. And it was completely natural, there was just a mutual understanding between us. This experience served to confirm my internal instincts: I was not like other girls, I was more like the boys. But in retrospect, that was incorrect. I never had a boyhood—what I had was just an experience of an abused girl.
For years I believed that rejection from girls and affirmation from boys was proof that my sex dysphoria was a “legit” feeling. I’ve never actually considered if it could be the cause of it. I was extremely distressed because of my puberty, I cried at night and prayed to be turned into a “normal boy”. But God didn’t respond to those prayers, I started to bargain. I asked him to give me cancer, so my breasts and uterus would have to be removed. I was old enough at that time to know how painful and risky that would be, but somehow it seemed more desirable than going through the hell of feeling more and more disconnected from my body.
Because the body is the only tool for you to operate in the world. When you’re disconnected from your body, you’re disconnected from the world. You’re disconnected from happiness, from love, from everything. Silly questions like “what’s your happiest memory?” left me always confused—because I had no happy memories. I could laugh. I could be briefly excited. But never, never happy.
I grew colder and more apathetic—and, suicidal. I tried to commit suicide when I was barely 18. The nurse asked me if the reason for my attempt was a boy, and I started to laugh. Of course, she had in mind some silly teenage romance drama, but she accidentally discovered the truth I was hiding from everyone. There was a boy—inside of me.
I honestly can’t remember how I came into this ideation of inner boy inside of me. I was so obsessed with the thought that I would be happy as a boy or that I had been a boy all along. This kind of thinking became more intense when, as a middle schooler, I found out about transsexual people.
It made sense to me. The idea that sometimes you can be born with “a wrong body” seemed to perfectly describe my experience. The more rational part of me tried to dismiss this idea, but I grew fixated. I kept searching for information about the process of transition. I spent hours looking at photos of people who underwent these changes. They seemed happy, while I was not.
At age of 19, I came out to my mother as transsexual. I think she was relieved. She knew I had been broken and miserable for a long time, but now we both had an answer that didn’t blame her or anybody. I was just born that way. Years of abuse and neglect had nothing to do with it.
My mother gave me her blessing about my transition, but also said she didn’t know anything about that and I needed to figure out things myself. I was hurt, but not surprised, given our history. I also didn’t mind her lack of knowledge because I had already read every single article on transsexualism that could be found on the Polish internet at that time, so I knew what I should do.
I tried to be rational and honest. I never had any intention to lie to my doctor or psychologist. I knew people did this, they were quite open about this on trans forums—that sometimes you had to lie, because doctors can be transphobic and give you a “wrong diagnosis”. I wanted to be smarter than this. I knew something else could be wrong with me. I just wanted somebody to help me.
In my country, you needed to be pre-approved by a psychologist for HRT treatment. My psychologist was… well-intended. I think she liked me. And maybe this is what fucked me because she was determined to make me happy and she was sure that transition would make me happy. I remember taking some diagnostic tests with her. I answered yes to a lot of questions that were related to schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders. As we went along, I could see that she was displeased with my answers and, as I watched, she kept rearranging the questions until she was able to take away points for these disorders from my final score—her way of justifying HRT and downplaying any other potential outcomes. For example, in my test, I confirmed that I was practically unable to feel any pleasure at all. So she kept asking. Was I able to feel pleasure when somebody I liked hugged me? No. Was I able to feel pleasure when I was taking a walk on a sunny day, listening to music I liked? No. Was I able to feel pleasure when I was eating good and healthy food? No. Ok, ok. But hypothetically, if somebody had thrown me into a lake during the winter and I had come back home trembling from cold, wouldn’t I feel pleasure, or at least, a little relief after changing my clothes and sitting next to the radiator? Well, I guess so. So this is how I became suddenly absolutely non-anhedonic. Because I preferred being warm to suffering from hypothermia.
I also took an intelligence test. For some reason, I was convinced I performed incredibly badly. For my next visit, I took my high school diploma with me to prove that I’m not THAT stupid and that maybe I should just retake my test, but my psychologist with a wide smile claimed that I had the highest overall intelligence score from all of her patients, ever. A moment later she told me that the other test had shown that my self-esteem is badly low. And then she explained that every trans patient had problems with self-esteem. It was a perfect explanation, wasn’t it? Why would a funny, well-spoken, creative and, apparently, extremely intelligent girl think so badly of herself? There was nothing wrong with her mind! So something must be wrong with the body.
In short order I was approved by the psychologist, and sent back to the sexologist.
She asked me only one question: “Are you convinced?” Well, no one had ever challenged my belief, and no one found a different reason why I was the way I was. I was tired of this constant pain. I was 21 and I wanted my life to begin. I wanted to feel happy. So, I said yes, I was convinced! And I was convinced—that this was the only way I could be happy.
After some months of HRT, I started college. I liked all of the changes. But—the problem is that nothing about ME changed. I still was lonely. I was still unhappy. But I wasn’t that terribly unhappy and… that was something? I kept telling myself that I just need to be patient with myself. That my longstanding gender dysphoria had a lingering impact, but that, eventually, everything would be better.
A couple of years later I stopped HRT, but only for financial reasons. I knew many detrans people have their “aha!” moment of realization when they’re forced to go off hormones. It was not the case for me. When I first stopped, I intended to go back eventually. When the changes to my body started to disappear, it concerned me. I had no mood swings, no drastic health improvement. The only changes I observed were purely physical.
However, my social anxiety was worse than ever. My depression got worse. I began thinking that my life was meaningless and that I could die anytime and nobody would notice. I eventually decided to kill myself. I tried everything to help me and nothing was working.
But then I started to write. One of my childhood dreams was to become a writer, although I’d never actually finished any book. I decided to pick it back up again and I did so, maniacally—frantically writing a silly urban fantasy story with evil cultists, mages, witches and frogs. Lots of frogs. I wrote as if my life depended on it and probably that was true. It became my anchor, my only motivation to stay alive.
Then two girls I met online got interested in my book and somehow they transitioned from being my beta-readers and first fans to my best friends. My 27th birthday was the first time in my life when I realized what it meant to be happy. I got two packages that were full of meaningful gifts, both bought and hand-made. It was more than 10 years since I’d gotten a gift from anyone. It was the first time in my life I felt loved.
And then I joined Twitter, since I was pissed about what TRAs were doing with this movement. I felt like the modern trans activists were mocking me. What the hell do they mean that “you can be trans and not experience dysphoria”? That “some people are happy with their sex, but they could be simply happier after transition”? Or that you can be non-binary, gender-fluid? Transitioning children, forcing women to share their places meant only for them with males, shaming gays and lesbians into heterosexual sex? It was madness.
So I was angry and I had a mission. To reclaim the word “transsexual”, to fight this “gender identity” nonsense. I always experienced my dysphoria as a mental condition. My brain for some unknown reason just believed that it should be in a male body. Since I couldn’t make my brain shut up, changing my body was the only way I could be at peace with myself. My body remained female, but making it appear more male helped me to navigate my life in peace, right?
No, fuck no. I was off HRT when I experienced happiness for the first time in my life. I was off HRT when I managed to finish my book. I didn’t need THIS to make one small step out of stagnation. I needed something that I was dramatically starved for since early childhood: love, understanding, genuine concern and a sense of belonging.
I began to realize that I didn’t mind when people started to ‘misgender’ me. I can’t say my dysphoria went away because it did not. I feel uncomfortable as shit with some of my body parts, but… it became significantly easier to handle that it had been before.
And I could be happy. I could be happy!
So why would I ever continue with all these things that weren’t really helping me, that just had the potential to make me sick?
It is so obvious and now I feel so dumb. I wanted to present myself as some kind of trans-success, but it’s rather a trans-not-complete-failure. I always thought that transition saved my life and to some degree it did. It kept the younger, distressed and absolutely suicidal me busy with my obsession with gender. It gave me hope that there WAS a cure for my condition. In the end though, there was nothing to cure, only someone to love.
So here I am, a 27 year old kid that was socially deprived for almost all of my life, still broken and lost. A failed trans-apologist. I believed that transition was *good* for some people. Now I think it’s shit and I don’t even really regret transitioning. I don’t regret any single change that was made in my body. If I had never gone off hormones, I could have probably never realized that my mental state improved for reasons unrelated to transition. I could eventually be a trans-success-story without knowing, that it is rather me-and-other-people-success-story.
So this is my problem with all these trans-apologists. I know they’re often reasonable, kind people. They deserve respect. I understand why they’re doing this.
But they still sell the idea that “it’s beneficial for some people to transition”. That we just need better diagnostic methods.
This is shit. It’s not helping anyone. Now I think that at best it’s not doing *much* harm to a very specific group of people. That those people stimulatingly change their bodies and learn to cope.
I am not a typical ROGD kid that people could be concerned about. I’m what people have often in mind when they say “people with actual sex dysphoria”. I have actual sex dysphoria and I transitioned. And I admit after many days of thinking: this is shit.
Do you know that some people claimed that lobotomy gave them a sense of peace? Do you think it would be moral to think back then: “lobotomy is not ok on a larger scale, but some people think it was beneficial for them, so maybe… reasonable amount of lobotomies or only to those who will not regret it?”. If it’s not ok for your straight little girl it’s not ok for me, a weird autistic kid that was “never like other girls”. It’s not okay for butch women. It’s not ok for gay men, hell, it’s not even okay for men with fetishes that everyone shit on. We all deserve healthy, integral bodies. We all deserve ACTUAL help. Our problems need to be faced, you’re just transing us away.
And many of us don’t survive this. I’m trying to remember anyone who I talked with personally and could be a trans-success story. One guy seemed so happy with his transition. He was kicked away by his parents though. He was so poor that couldn’t afford his insulin, got blind as a result and nearly fell into a coma. Where is he now? I don’t know, because one day he announced that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He left the trans community to focus on his health. I’ve never heard of him again.
Another one looked just beautifully after the transition. All I could see was a handsome, young man. He was so active, very sporty, he had a beautiful girlfriend. And then he went through a hysterectomy that ended badly. He was left with chronic pains that took away everything from him. He couldn’t have sex, he couldn’t perform any activity, and he was left disabled. Doctors said they don’t know if the pain will ever stop. One day he wrote on a trans forum that he was thinking about suicide. Never heard of him again.
A lot of detrans people say that transition was a form of self-harm for them. Not for me. I still don’t feel particularly harmed by the HRT – maybe because some of the changes had already been reversed. Maybe because my autistic brain processes sex differently. Mostly because I don’t care if people are confused by my look or my voice. The point is: it doesn’t matter that I really preferred the way I looked. It was not beneficial. It was not therapeutical.
I only asked for help. I was asking for help since I was a child and never got it from any medical professional. The years I spent thinking I’m helping myself are lost. I’m 27 now. My childhood, my adolescence, and my young adult years are gone and forever wasted. This is something I will forever grieve. This is something I’ll never forgive.
We must admit that all trans people, no matter how reasonable and kind they are, were mistreated and abused by the health care. That even though they are feeling at peace right now, they paid a horrendous price for it. Cutting your bodily parts out and putting yourself on experimental hormonal therapy that will probably reduce your lifespan by at least 10-15 years just to not feel distressed? How can this be good therapy for anyone? I refuse to accept that it is or ever was the only option. Those are lobotomy success stories.
I’m grateful and full of respect for all of these brave, compassionate people that are fighting for the children. I just don’t understand why there was nobody to fight for me. Why nobody was concerned about what pushed me into this. Why “sex dysphoria” was a widely accepted answer.
So. I was always bad at endings. I guess THE END must be enough. Now I need to figure out what I should do with my life. I’m not scared. I just feel betrayed and angry. I need to discover something that was buried deeply by health professionals that were supposed to help me. I need to discover what it means to be me.
For more from this author, check out @czarnages on Twitter.