An Interview

Copied below are my answers to a researcher’s questions regarding my detransition. If the researcher finds this post and wishes me to reference them, I will. Until then, their questions are anonymous and in bold.

How do you presently identify?

In short, I do not “identify” as anything in the neoliberalist sense of the word. The modern meaning of “identify” is closer in alignment with “how I wish to be seen” rather than “an honest description of my physical, cultural, and environmental reality in relation to other people.” I am male by virtue of fact. All else that follows from that fact is included in this.

How have you identified in the past?

I once identified myself as a woman. I remember mansplaining to women that there was little difference between myself and an infertile woman – an experience which I realized was not something I had any right to co-opt for my personal gratification.

What did you do to transition? (socially, medically, legally, psychologically)

I socially transitioned for five months prior to medical transition. By “social transition” I mean that I claimed to others that I was a woman and allowed myself to adopt the traditionally feminine accoutrements that are currently associated with the sex-role forced upon actual female humans. After these five months of attempting to use a combination of isoflavones (phytoestrogens, reishi mushroom extracts (a natural 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor), and large amounts of alcohol (a natural aromatase upregulator), I decided that my desire to self-mutilate in order to escape from the influence of androgens was severe enough to capitulate to the medical industrial complex, foregoing my decade-long abstinence from any contact with allopathic medical practitioners.

What have you done to detransition? Do you use “detransition” to describe yourself now?

“Detransition” meant that I desisted hormonal replacement therapy (cross-sex hormones), and made an effort to communicate to others that I no longer identified as a woman. I wear skirts infrequently now and have stopped using makeup, but aside from that I do not limit my clothing choices or mannerism based on society’s preconceived notions of what is “appropriate” for individuals of a particular sex. My current “status” can be defined in many ways – but considering that both the terms “trans” and “detransition” lack any official or consistent definition even within those respective groups, I am hesitant to say that any particular word to describe my condition is either inaccurate or fully incompatible with my reality.

Was there a trajectory or path that you were on originally, from which you deviated? Using that parlance, what “path” are you on now?

This is a more difficult question to answer. The original plan was to follow through to the “full” transiton – as in, SRS, hopefully passing full-time, etc. Finding a husband, having a life that others deemed normal. I’ve always been “weird” and even remember gleefully identifying myself as that when I discovered the word at 4/5 years old – also part of that memory is the adult who taught me the meaning of the word “weird” being obviously uncomfortable with my identification with it. Yet, now I realize once again – finding again that childhood approach to honesty – that existing outside the norm is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the font of inspiration, change and creativity. I view transgenderism as a self-defense mechanism that reacts to society’s forceful hand, trying to normalize that which is weird and make it normal. This is not a good thing. My current path is to embrace my strangeness and emphasize the aspects of it which can change society for the better, and not just for some people.

Was there anything that made transition hard for you?

The cognitive dissonance more than anything. Being “misgendered” brought that dissonance to the forefront and increased temporarily my obsession with mutilating my genitals in order to escape what I saw as the pressure of unwanted androgens. Being laughed at while clearly un-passing at the beginning did the same. I wasn’t willing to enter female restrooms until I was confident that I was passing, so the uncomfortable looks from other men were difficult. Yet, when I was mostly passing, entering female restrooms was worse because by that point I had educated myself on the oppression of being female under patriarchy and so was constantly paranoid that I would be clocked, and my presence would induce a (wholly rational) fear within the women in the restroom. Towards the end, prior to detransition, I started using men’s restrooms again and had no problems, since by that point I was fully aware the only danger I faced was realizing that I made other men uncomfortable. Which was preferable to making women feel afraid.

Did any part of your past identity or transition decisions stem from outside pressure, internal conflict, and/or other factors?

I felt pressure most of my childhood and adult life to simply admit that I was attracted to other men. This was something I wanted to deny, especially once I was in a relationship with a woman who I later married. By that point, I was too invested in my identity as a normal, heterosexual man who wanted children to simply give it up in favor of the truth. It involved hurting too many people, though I realized later that by avoiding these hard decisions I was hurting the ones I loved even more. So I ended up oscillating between identities, claiming that I was gay for a few months, then bisexual, then stating that it was all a lie and I was really just a straight guy. This must have been unresolvably difficult for those individuals close to me, but the damage is in the past and is irrevocable at this point. I realize now that my hatred/distaste for my male body stemmed from many factors, namely: childhood sexual abuse, internalized homophobia, pornography addiction (alcoholism intersected with this), autogynephilia and my hatred of having those feelings (childhood sexual abuse, shame at my male-socialized attraction to women, and internalized homophobia intersect to lead to this result), and a desire to just be a normal human of any sort.

Do different people in different spheres of your life refer to you or know you as different things, names, pronouns, experience?

By this point I have a multitude of names that people call me, and I don’t really care to be honest. Some people still call me Natalie, although most call me Nat. Other names I am known by: NatNat, Mir/Miriam, Nate/Nathan, Nash, etc etc. I have a close friend who I have repeatedly told that I go by “he/him” now, yet who still mostly refers to me using female pronouns. I do not make an issue of this once I know I have informed them that I recognize I am male and do not mind male pronouns. Other friends, who themselves are transgender, sometimes feel more comfortable using “they/them” pronouns, despite me having told them I am fine with male pronouns. I understand that these issues are difficult, and my presentation often elicits such responses depending upon the circumstance.

Is there something you wish you could have, or would have, done differently?

I don’t know. In general I try not to look at the past as something which I desire to change, since I feel this prevents me from learning from my mistakes. What I can say is that if there had been role-models in my life of men who stepped outside of the norm of gender expression without transitioning, or engaging in self-sexualization as part of their expression of femininity, I may not have felt the need to transition. This is difficult to surmise in retrospect, however. The place that I am currently at, psychologically, is in large part a result of what I learned through the process of transition.

If there is one true regret, though, it is that I wish I had discovered the radical feminist analysis of gender long ago, before I transitioned.

What factors influenced your decision(s), negative, positive, neutral? For example, health, pressure, access, other life plans, uncertainty about the effects, results, and so forth?

The major influence to undergo medical transition was the consistent desire over multiple years to physically sever myself from my male genitalia. This fear resulted in me excising multiple ethical standpoints in favor of the possibility of a lifetime dependency upon cross-sex hormonal treatment. At the time, I lacked the theoretical and intellectual basis for analyzing this desire. For that, I blame those who have attacked radical feminist ideas as “bigoted” without providing anything other than knee-jerk emotional arguments. The diminishment of the homosexual/bisexual experience – both by those conservatives who label it as being “given over to lust,” as well as those within the male community of gay/bi individuals who react to this accusation by applying a pornified, lust-driven ideology to their so-called “queerness,” as well as those who rally around “marriage equality” by trying to squeeze the homosexual experience into traditional notions of a “normal relationship” as some sort of parallel to heterosexuality – is at fault. The cessation of true radicalism by the neoliberalist majority is at fault.

What’s been the reaction from people in trans/gender-diverse communities? How has your family (however you define family – by blood, by choice, etc.) reacted to your transition(s) and detransition?

Male trans (transwomen, male-bodied genderqueer people, etc) have had generally negative reactions to my perspectives and to my detransition. With some few exceptions, male trans in general have attempted to either convince me that my decision to detransition is the result of coercion, or that I was never “truly” trans to begin with. Given the cliqueishness that I saw from my own community during my transition, this was altogether unsurprising. Female trans (trans men, female-bodied genderqueer people, etc) have been largely supportive of both my detransition, and of my perspectives which are influenced by radical feminist analysis. Based upon the conversations I have had with them, this is probably in large part due to them having an intimate understanding of the dangers that females face under patriarchy, and of the unique challenges presented by having a female body, which male-bodied people can never truly empathize with or understand. In short, it is easy for men (however they identify) to deny the existence of a sex-based oppression, whereas even females who deny their own sex seem unable to easily dismiss the importance of recognizing that their own experiences growing up as female (or as some of them may describe it, “being perceived as female”) represent a distinct set of dangers and challenges that cannot be understood by men who identify as women (regardless of their transition status).

“If ___________________________________ had not happened in my life, I probably would not have transitioned.”

I don’t know that I can answer this question in the format presented. Factors leading to my transition, and importantly the way I feel/felt about my genitalia, include: childhood sexual abuse, hatred of self for being attracted to men and how that attraction was disruptive to my desired life goals, living in a society that forces men and women into different social roles based upon our sex, a sexualization of self as “female” that is derived from a combination of the previous factors and which could be described as autogynephilia, a religious upbringing that emphasized hatred of self for my sexual desires and expression of personality, etc etc. I cannot say which of these factors, if removed from the equation, would equal me never having transitioned. One or some of them? All of them? I simply cannot say.

“If _________________________________ had not happened, I probably would not have detransitioned.” 

If I had not made the deliberate choice to tell myself, with regards to radical feminist analysis, “hey, just re-read this article and try to understand what they are saying, from their perspective, and keep an open mind,” I would likely not have detransitioned. There was a specific article that started me down that path of analysis, written by Elizabeth Hungerford, titled “A feminist critique of cisgender”, linked here: https://liberationcollective.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/a-feminist-critique-of-cisgender/

I’ve noticed that medical and mental health providers feature heavily in a lot of people’s stories, and usually in a negative way. If you haven’t already addressed this, how have providers affected your decision(s) to transition and/or detransition? 

I work in customer service, and it is something I excel at. When I want to be, I can be charismatic and convincing, and seem to have an ability to present a version of the truth that is most acceptable to the person I am trying to convince. This is not something which requires a great deal of effort on my part. My therapist gave me a letter of recommendation to transition after our first session. My physician prescribed me hormones after my first visit. Overall, health care practitioners have been overwhelmingly pliant with regards to my transition. If I have any criticism, it is that they were too supportive and did not encourage critical thought about my motives. Given the political and legislative climate surrounding transgender issues, this is not something I hold against them.

I’ve also noticed that abuse, in some form or other, presents itself in many narratives of the people with whom I’ve spoken. Note: I do NOT want to draw any artificial correlations between abuse and transition/detransition. I remain curious, and if abuse is part of your story that you would like to share, I would like to hear.

Abuse is part of my history. I cannot offer specifics on this, but I can say that it is not unreasonable to assume that sexual abuse has an impact on negative feelings one may have towards their genitalia, and/or their sexuality.

My dear genderfriends,

There is a group of people who have been forgotten, even silenced, by our movement. Our legal victories, though necessary, may clash seriously with their rights. Especially the right to form an effective political movement, with focused activist goals.

They are the Gametes. Myself, I am a tinygamete, and I produce the much smaller gamete which in the right conditions could fertilize the Gamete’s larger gamete. Lucky for people with my anatomy, I’m not the one who grows the new human inside of them, so I’m spared quite a lot, such as…well, death. And pain. Lack of control. And unfair expectations and judgement from society. Or a menstrual cycle, or having to go through menopause, or any of the thousand complications that can arise from having Gamete reproductive anatomy.

Once upon a time, the Gametes were known as “women/females/girls.” The term now has come to include tinygametes as well, so the word “woman/female/girl” is no longer approved for use in activism that focuses only on Gametes. Nor are Gametes permitted to congregate (in order to discuss social issues relevant to their lived experience) if they define the meeting as “for women/females,” but only allow Gametes to attend.

However, the Gametes seem not to know their new name, whether it be “Gamete” or some other word. Strangely, the three or so billion Gametes in the world have not yet arrived at a new word for themselves around which to rally politically.

That a portion of Gametes are “men/male” further complicates this use of language to popularize a much-needed activist effort.

While it is entirely reasonable to ask over half the world’s population to uncover a new name for themselves, it may be advantageous for us to loan them the word “woman/female” for use in certain contexts. Political momentum to secure Gamete body autonomy requires the use of a catchy alternative to “woman” such as (and these are just a few ideas): “Uterus-vagina-vulva-complex People,” “Human Incubators,” “Large Gametes.” Strangely, these alternatives have not caught on in the Gamete community, who continue to use “woman/female” to refer solely to Gametes.

In spite of their grave offense, the Gametes are using the word most commonly associated with them by the vast majority of society. After all, any infant that visually appears to have a vulva will be assigned to the social class of “woman/girl/female,” and recieve socialization to make them compliant with their assigned social role. Part of this assigned role is to give birth, which as previously addressed, is really fucking risky and scary and profound.

So we can see why the Gametes might find it prudent to use the word best able to gain traction for their efforts. They may also be confused by assertions from the trans community that use of the word “woman/female” to refer only to Gametes is offensive. They may be unable to comply with using language that is inclusive of trans people, because there is no word to refer specifically to Gametes aside from “woman/female.” At this point, being inclusive of trans people hinders their own movement against oppression – specifically, the oppression of Gametes by the tinygametes.

Why haven’t we come up with an alternative? I’ve provided what I think is a good one in this letter, “Gametes.” Now we just need to tell all Gametes to start calling themselves Gametes (or some other term) and modify their political slogans and activist goals accordingly.

Alternatively, we could shift our interpretation of the word “woman/female” depending on the context, and stop worrying about Gametes using “woman/female” to refer only to Gametes, stop shutting down Gamete-only meetings that use “woman/female,” and stop trying to derail Gamete activist efforts.

Maybe just let them have this one?

2/15/16 – “addictive personality”

A few individuals in my life have stated I have an “addictive personality.” I have a history of smoking, I drink, when I get into a show I binge-watch it, I get obsessed with specific ideas and topics, I probably spend way too much time on social media, I obsess about myself way too much, etc etc. This doesn’t seem like an “addictive personality” to me so much as a problem with addiction.

The most impactful of these myriad addictions/obsessions is alcohol. It was also my first addiction, beginning at around age 12 when I discovered my parents’ liquor cabinet. Children don’t just start up drinking to get drunk on a regular basis at such a young age without there being  a history of trauma. The link between addiction and childhood trauma is clear:

” The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, which includes some 17,000 participants in California’s Kaiser Permanente insurance program, found multiple, dose-dependent relationships between severe childhood stress and all types of addictions, including overeating. Adverse childhood experiences measured included emotional, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, having a mentally ill or addicted parent, losing a parent to death or divorce, living in a house with domestic violence and having an incarcerated parent.

Compared to a child with no ACEs, one with six or more is nearly three times more likely to be a smoker as an adult. A child with four or more is five times more likely to become an alcoholic and 60% more likely to become obese. And a boy with four or more ACEs isa whopping 46 times more likely to become an IV drug user later in life than one who has had no severe adverse childhood experiences.

“These are extraordinarily strong relationships,” says Dr. Vincent Felitti, a founder of the ACE study and the former chief of preventive medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. “You read the newspaper and the cancer scare of the week is about something that raises risk by 30%. Here, we’re talking thousands of percentage points.” ” [from an article titled “How Childhood Trauma Creates Life-long Addicts“]

So there’s some history to my “addictive personality.” Adaptations that helped my childhood self defend against negative experiences are no longer useful as an adult. Counseling over the past five years and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques have helped tremendously. However, there will always be aspects to myself that are shaped by those experiences, those memories. That can never be erased or undone.

But I can at least quit drinking again. I’m functional, but in so many ways my consistent over-consumption derails my physical and emotional health. I thought it would be helpful if I listed the reasons here, wrote them out, so that my motivation to quit drinking might better integrate with my conscious mind. Also so that at any time, I can look at this post on my phone to remind myself why I quit. I am fortunate that the following reasons do not include “lost job/relationship/homeless/driving drunk/etc.”

  • I feel fatigued; my body is forced to metabolize alcohol on a consistent basis, distracting it from its main functions while also causing damage. Quitting will give me loads of energy.
  • Appetite and diet will improve, further bolstering my stamina and motivation.
  • My risk of cancer will diminish significantly, which is especially important in the context of smoking (alcohol consumption correlates with the development of multiple types of cancer).
  • Emotional health will vastly improve, and I will have a better chance of working through the issues related to dysphoria and my desire to transition.
  • Quality of sleep will improve, and dream recall will become vivid and colorful once again. This is one of the most exciting parts of alcohol cessation, since dreams have always been a central part of my personal growth. And considering that my primary male sex organs wake me up to dysphoria multiple times a night (whether I drink or not), having a dream journal will provide me a constructive way of working through these experiences.
  • That god-awful smell of unhealth will go away, and I’ll stop sweating so much. Seriously, it’s really gross to me; I smell too much like a man and can’t stand it (although I like the smell on other men!).
  • Whenever I quit drinking, I start consuming large amounts of herbal tea of all types. Holy basil tea is my favorite because of the profound calm it brings me. It’s also delicious.
  • My house will be much cleaner, since I do most of my cleaning at night (unless I’m drinking).

My intention with detransitioning was to find an alternative to dysphoria other than transition. That dysphoria is inarguably an umbrella term for multiple, inter-related issues, I cannot deny the impact of childhood sexual abuse in its development. This history of CSA is connected to my problems with addiction, which itself is a coping mechanism for dysphoria. Then there’s the history of internalized homophobia, and feeling uncomfortable and confused with my social role as a man. There are the feelings of hating myself for being male. None of these are healthy.

If the end-result of quitting HRT is simply me backsliding into alcoholism, then there was no point to detransition and I should go back on hormones.

Is my behavior taking me towards a more fulfilling life, or self-destruction? My behavior is beginning to resemble my pre-transition self. I’ll be honest, that clearly indicates a self-destructive path. If I’m simply returning to where I was pre-transition, then again, there was no point to detransition.

For all these reasons, I am choosing to stop drinking. This is one thing in my life for which there is no balance – I’m either drinking, or I’m not. Many people don’t experience alcohol this way, and that’s okay. Alcohol consumption is standing in the way of me finding a healthier path. It’s preventing me from working through the issues I quit transition in order to work on.

I’ve gotta make this count.

Restroom Risk: a Patriarchal Reversal

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That being stated, there is a suspiciously one-sided absence of evidence regarding violence towards trans persons using the restroom. Specifically, there are no documented cases I could find of transwomen or gender non-conforming (GNC) men being assaulted inside the men’s restroom.

(Please, prove me wrong. I actually like it when that happens.)

I am not speaking of physical opposition, or threats, or verbal harassment.  The type of incident I am speaking of is assault and/or rape, such as the assault of a trans boy (EDIT: trans boy recanted claims of assault) in the men’s restroom at Hercules High School in San Francisco, or the trans man who had “it” carved into his chest (EDIT: some debate over whether this was a hoax or not) while using a men’s restroom at Cal State Long Beach. Even if I were only speaking of general abuse sustained by trans persons who choose to use the restroom aligning with their self-identity, the available evidence suggests these incidents occur at a higher rate to trans men (quote, pg 68: “People who were transitioning from female-to-male reported problems at a much higher rate than people who were transitioning from male-to-female”).

Additionally, I am not unaware that documented cases exist of transwomen being attacked in, or in the context of, restrooms. However, the restroom in question is not the men’s, it is the women’s (here, here, here, here and here). Theoretically, this could simply be because transwomen are largely careful to avoid the men’s restroom. The paucity in reports of GNC men being attacked in the men’s restroom could be due to the unwillingness of these men to report the incidents out of fear of harassment by police.

But really…no documented cases whatsoever?! This simply cannot be a coincidence, not when documented cases of trans men being attacked in the men’s restroom exists. So far, the evidence suggests that transwomen are more in danger when using the women’s restroom.

So why is there an assumption within the trans community that the individuals most at risk of using the restroom aligning with their reproductive anatomy are transwomen? Michael Hughes, a trans man famous for posting a selfie of himself in the women’s restroom under the hashtag #WeJustNeedToPee, is quite positive that this is the case:

“If these laws were to come to fruition, “I know we’ll see a rise in violence against trans women,” Hughes predicts. “That’s one of my main motivators — I’m not concerned for the safety of myself in a women’s bathroom — but I keep thinking of them trying to force women into the men’s room and how dangerous that is.”

Yet, the available evidence indicates that trans men are the ones most at risk. Why is this not given the same attention as the danger that transwomen are suspected to face? Is it because trans males were assaulted using the restroom that aligns with their declared gender identity, rendering such instances politically unusable by trans activism?

The statement by Hughes, and many trans activists, show that the trans community is aware of at least some of the danger that men pose to women. So why the disparity in reports of restroom violence between trans men and transwomen? What’s missing from the picture?

The viewpoint of the agents of violence. Namely, people who were socialized into the male sex caste by virtue of being born with a penis of “normative” size.

The violent men who attack trans males in men’s restrooms do so because they view trans men as women. They see them as women overstepping their bounds, encroaching on male territory. These same violent men do not attack transwomen because they see them as men. Specifically, they see such transwomen as gay or sexually deviant men. Yet, this still does not answer the question of why no documented cases seem to be available.

Men are weird about restrooms. Other men know what I’m talking about – there is a pervasive aura of homophobia at play in areas where bepenised individuals interact with their own genitalia around other men. A study in 2012 by Moore and Breeze that observed 20 public restrooms posited a theory concerning this weirdness:

“The theory Moore lays out is that, in public, the gender hierarchy makes women the ones who are watched (under the “male gaze,” as it were). But in the bathroom, sans women, men worry about being the object of another man’s gaze, a feeling they don’t often confront in other places. This can make them fearful, even if there’s no real threat present.”

Men, generally speaking, are afraid of other men thinking they are gay. Considering how common it is for gay men to be beaten and killed in horrific ways, this is no surprise. Men know how violent we are. Even being seen speaking to a gay or gender non-conforming man (which is how transwomen are viewed by homophobic men) is likely to make other men assume you are also gay.

Interacting physically with a gay or GNC man, even violently, may also be seen as an indicator that the aggressor is himself gay, or somehow associated with homosexuality.

It doesn’t have to make sense – remember the pervasive fear that Moore and Breeze observed in their study. There are cases of men being attacked by other men inside restrooms (here, here), but again, no documented cases of men attacking people for being GNC men or transwomen inside a men’s restroom. Fighting is a masculine act which proves one’s “manhood,” but it seems that anyone perceived by these men to be a gay or sexually deviant man are themselves the cause of fear – at least in the microcosm of the men’s restroom. The men most likely to enact violence are, I strongly suspect, also the ones most likely to be in fear of having their masculinity questioned.

Which explains why trans males are attacked in the men’s restroom. It isn’t considered un-masculine to enact brutal violence upon those seen as women, especially if they are seen as deviant women, which is assuredly how these men see their victims.

In fact, men attacking women to keep them in line is a rich and storied patriarchal tradition. What better way for a man to prove his “manhood” to himself and other men?

If the issue is primarily centered upon safety concerns, why does the trans community: 1) largely ignore the dangers trans men face using the men’s restroom; and 2) insist that transwomen are safer using the women’s restroom? Centering safety issues is more politically viable than asking for validation of one’s self-identification. The safety narrative is a strong one, and is clearly able to steamroll over the available evidence (and the absence of evidence).

This narrative does not help the trans community. It is a reversal that prevents trans people from realistically gauging their risk level, because this risk level requires attention to male violence and its roots. Attention to safety is essential, and if the real threats to trans persons are made invisible in order to promote a political narrative, then that narrative is transphobic.

Everybody-Safety-Hard-Hat-Label-HH-0115

Body Acceptance

Just love your body. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be disgusted by; you’re beautiful just the way you are.

I like that sentiment. It’s sweet. It’s something that’s stated as an ideal, often in pseudo-spiritual language, and is meant as a reaction to the overwhelming societal pressure to hate yourself and the body you inhabit.

Unwillingly, I might add. That’s an important aspect to this topic: none of us chose the physical form our bodies were programmed to take, or the environment that molded our bodies during childhood. But accept your body. Just the way it is.

There’s a friend who runs a feminist button store called “misandry over misogyny” – a dysphoric female with gender-critical views who blogs as transcynical – and I’m thinking now of a quote off one of the buttons I ordered:

“There is no ethical consumption under capitalism.”

Yet of course, under capitalism your consumption is coerced because no alternatives are provided, which complicates the ethics where individuals are concerned, especially the working class. This got me thinking about how our individual decisions are coerced by the systems we are socialized into, and how many kinds of body modifications are enforced adaptations to an oppressive impulse towards “normalcy.”

Not all body mods, though. Replacement appendages for amputees are an obvious one. Can’t think of anything wrong with that. Corrective surgery for the wide range of variation that we call “deformities” – from those that may impair function, to those which are entirely superficial and are done in order to facilitate a positive social perception – because society judges people, especially women, for things like superficial facial “deformities.” A physical attribute that poses no medical issue may still be modified necessarily because it poses a social issue. It impacts basic stuff like getting a job.

So does dental care, which oddly is not covered by Medicaid. Yep, I live in a society where someone with obviously missing teeth won’t get a job they otherwise would have, yet it’s not seen as a medical necessity for those whose survival likely depends on a job.

Neither are hearing aids or eyeglasses covered. Clearly, being able to see and hear is required in order to function “normally” in this society. The push towards this imagined normalcy is insistent. It takes form in our complacent refusal to adapt to diversity, including those who are disabled, refusing to make efforts to be inclusive of these individuals. Deaf children are often prevented from learning sign language because the impulse towards making them like normal, hearing children is so strong that the caregivers mistake this as helping them. Alongside this recommendation is often the suggestion of surgical intervention in the form of a cochlear implant, a practice which is controversial in the Deaf community and criticized as a form of ethnocide/cultural assimilation. For these reasons, a group of Deaf people protested a symposium of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for the organization’s support of methods to “normalize” Deaf children.

Even the question “should a deaf child be made to hear” is fraught with ethical problems under this system which values normalcy above all else. But who is “normal”? White, straight, rich, able-bodied men? Products intended to bleach skin are a huge business, especially in Africa and Asia, where the consumers are frequently subjected to toxic levels of mercury (pdf of WHO report on mercury in skin lightening products). This is a massive public health risk that in particular impacts women and girls, caused by the commodification of negative body image. Where is the line between individual choice and social coercion when it comes to body modifications?

The button from above helped me here.

“There is no ethical transhumanism under white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.” Or something like that.

The act of engaging oneself or another person in transhumanism cannot be entirely separated from the system under which a person is socialized, a system they are dependent upon for survival. Or at least, their relationship with survival inevitably involves that system. But here, as above, application of this principle to an individual’s actions is more complicated than the quote implies.

How does this apply to transition? Adaptation to the overwhelming social pressure regarding one’s role in society based upon reproductive anatomy cannot be ignored as a motivation to transition. A common one. What I’ve heard from so many trans people is the idea that one’s body shouldn’t matter when it comes to you or others’ perception of who you are – and I agree in theory. One’s body shouldn’t mean anything about the person’s personality or social role other than their form and function as a material being, and how that material reality shapes their lived experience.

That’s not the world we live in, unfortunately. Not yet. Social programming is real, and it’s based upon set standards of reproductive anatomy by which we forcibly divide people into those who are expected to give birth, and those who are expected to police those who are expected to give birth. Opting-out of this socialization is not an option. Not wanting to identify with violent men who were clearly intended to be my role models didn’t spare me from the influence of men who saw me as someone meant to be a man like them. They changed me, forced me to adapt to them, based upon a body I had no choice over.

Of course I’m going to despise being male; of course I’m going to want to be female. What other choices are there? Eunuch? Even then, that doesn’t answer the question of self-expression. Body modification isn’t enough for this process to work, which is what raised a red flag for me. Needing a combination of medical transition and social transition eliminated the possibility that this was simply a medical issue – a case of “born into the wrong body” or “sexed brain” is simply insufficient to fully explain transness – namely because the notion of brain sex is controversial (here, here, here) and as an idea is inseparable from sexist notions of biological essentialism. Attention must be paid to gendered expectations of humans based upon reproductive anatomy as a motivation for transition – and as a potential cause for physical dysphoria.

This doesn’t mean I think that any amount of therapy can make someone comfortable with their body. Nor is someone obligated to try. Each person knows their limits. Each person is capable of setting their boundaries, and sometimes the only option available is to simply live with being uncomfortable in one’s body. Yet if a body modification has the potential to improve someone’s quality of life, I cannot consider denying someone access. Which is why I think transition can be helpful for some. The problem is, as long as we live in a system where gender norms exist, there is no way a person’s decision to transition can be considered completely separate from the system they are adapting to. This is not meant to diminish the personal nature of transition, but to connect it to a larger context. As long as we live under the gender hierarchy, there will be people who benefit from transition.

Threat of male violence alters you whether you want it to or not. Men know this, because we do it to each other. Fear being yourself. Don’t make yourself a target.

Women know this very well.

I was never socialized into the female sex caste, so my delusion was that “being female” might be an escape from being a man who balked at the thought of being himself in this society. Two years of transition and I realize that the assigned female role is not an improvement over the social problems inherent in being a gender non-conforming gay man with dysphoria, although the nature of the obstacles change. I’m not “normal,” I get that. So what? Neither are a lot of other people. The more privileged you are, the more normal you get to be – and as an able-bodied white man I’m definitely privileged. Many of us try to change ourselves in order to “fit” better with what society orders us to be (I know I have, and still consider), but maybe, just maybe, your individual choice is partially influenced by others.

This doesn’t mean body modification can’t help you. Transition can be a helpful option – as long as alternatives are also being approached. Oh, but there aren’t any alternatives. Just cessation. Not-ness; not-trans.

Tell me again why there aren’t resources for people seeking alternatives to transition? What am I supposed to do with my dysphoria? Psychotherapists are largely just mirrors, but I already have one of those – there’s a second me I talk my issues through with. Yes, a little odd, and yes, this started greatly increasing in frequency about a week ago. Talking to myself at length, about complex subjects. Oh, right – what I did prior to HRT.

I’m starting to dissociate from myself again, but it’s taking a different form this time. More like a rediscovery. Maybe I’m just nervous and hormonal. The conversations do help me clarify ideas, though!

I know transition numbs the dissociation from my body by numbing the body itself, but if I also know my feelings are influenced by social programming in the form of gender norms (which includes norms regarding sexuality), shouldn’t I at least seek alternatives? Really, I’m trying to find a way to be comfortable with my body. If my hypothesis is correct that the gender hierarchy and all its ancillary machinations influenced my body/gender issues, then I feel an obligation to myself to fully explore this possibility as an alternative to both medical transition and self-harm.

From experience, the alternative to transition is “deal with it.” That doesn’t work well for a lot of people. Should we find a therapist and work it out individually, so as not to trouble others with our inconvenient lived experience? Bringing up all sorts of annoying questions like “was I always female when I was a transwoman, but now I’ve always been male?” or “when detransitioners are told they were ‘never trans,’ how is this different from christians telling unbelievers they were ‘never really christian’?” or “how is it possible that medical transition mediated my dysphoria if being a detransitioner means it wasn’t ‘right’ for me?”

Being trans is more complicated than the available narratives allow, especially ones as reductionist as “right/wrong” and “true/not-true trans.” We are trying to adapt to this society, and it’s a society whose currency is the human body. The social and the material are inseparable because the social controls the material. Transness is a social and physical phenomenon, because gender is a social and physical hierarchy. Training retransitioners with individual therapy to adapt well to an abusive system (i.e. not speaking out, being gender conforming) isn’t going to address the causation, and is just the mirror image behavior of what they did before – changing oneself to accommodate the pressures of compulsory normality.

Maybe the misfits can confront the system by expressing who we are, offering our own interpretation of what it means to be owners of certain kinds of bodies. At least, those of us able and willing to do so.

Whether I decide to continue my cessation of HRT or not (funny thing, after that last post where I stated my reproductive anatomy was waiting to bloom, it suddenly did) my perception of self will be male, but I will not alter my self-expression and capitulate to the threat of male violence, nor flee this threat by disappearing into women’s safe spaces. I’m not going to stop seeing myself as a man, complete with socialization and privilege – but I don’t have to be the kind of man they want me to be.

The main thing is, I don’t accept my body, and a good portion of that isn’t my fault. But this doesn’t mean I am powerless. I declared myself non-christian at the age of 15, and it took another decade to fully separate that programming from my perception of the world. From my first years, other people saw me and treated me as male, socialized me male. How long does it take to unravel that type of programming?

If the alternative solution to transition is working through one’s gendered socialization and how that affects your relationship with society, I cannot hold it against anyone who feels that transition is necessary for them. I know first-hand the potential benefits. And who knows, there may be a physical etiology to some transness as well, possibly due to teratogens and endocrine disruptors, random genetic mutations, or some as-yet-undiscovered mechanism. However, I repeat that under this system, there is no ethical transhumanism. As long as the gender hierarchy exists, many people will benefit from transition, but their decision to do so – at least in part – is influenced by gender norms. Coerced.

(Since this is a post about body acceptance, I thought I’d throw a candid picture of myself in here, complete with bags under the eyes. Connect to the readership and all that. My publicist says I need all the positive spin I can get.)

croppedacceptance
adult human male

1/21/16

I had a few ideas for posts that connected my politics to my personal experience, but I decided instead to just get drunk and write a diary-esque update of my current status. The blog states it’s a “retransitioner’s diary” so maybe a more human moment is appropriate right now. Those blog posts can be written at a later date.

There’s this emotion that’s been showing up lately, something that hasn’t made its appearance since prior to medical transition. It’s like this sudden sinking feeling, where the nerves in my body drop like a dubstep DJ and the focus on the camera zooms out while the camera itself is rolled in. Completely unwelcome.

But I’ve found a little solace in the company of friends, like taking a brisk walk in the icy cold with an intimate one to get refreshments because the roads are fucking desperate with winter cover. That’s how the last attack got settled. There’s a means and a way to overcoming those bouts of sudden fright and resignation, I just have to make an effort…the dividends of compassionate living and the positive relationships it brings shell out the necessary emotional material to make this life livable.

Been thinking about another friend, a long-time transitioned trans woman who upon hearing my plans stated she had an acquaintance who was a part-time crossdresser in safer environments, but presented as a gender-conforming dude in official (work, publicly social, etc) environments where to do otherwise might pose a significant imposition to their desired lifestyle of mainstream male privilege.

The thing is, I don’t negotiate with terrorists. And by terrorists, I mean violent homophobic men.

Still hearing “hey is there a girl in here” type comments every time I go to the gym.  Typically it’s after I shower and I’m attending to my hair in the mirror, making the part and deciding whether the ends require additional leave-in conditioner (my hair is curly and long, needing attention/moisture to maintain a comfortable texture). Although, two years of HRT adds to the confusion I suppose.

Still not getting “ma’am” or “sir.” I like it. Gender is some heinous bullshit, and I’d rather people just treat me like a human instead of sticking me in one box or another – although I understand politically and through personal experience the necessity of recognizing other people’s gendered socialization for safety reasons. Thing is, I lived here in Tennessee for about four years prior to transition, and know that receiving gendered titles like “ma’am” or “sir” are normal parts of social interaction. Also the fact that my male and female coworkers get called that shit after most customer interactions, while I’m the special snowflake exception. Though I get called “sweety” and “honey” a lot by women, which is an odd mix of comforting and unsettling.

It’s not even like I’m opting out of this gender-title tradition; other people are opting me out. This transition is way weirder than my real one.

Emotionally, shit’s gettin weird, like my landscape of feels is slowly being shifted to its chromatic opposite. Bouts of joy are born in my navel and travel upwards, instigating intense moments of active revelry. Usually in the form of dancing, if there’s music, or becoming extremely talkative/social. Not that this is something I didn’t feel on hormones, but I forgot how fucking potent my emotions were before HRT.

That’s really the issue here; I’m starting to experience my “normal” biological range of emotion, which happens to be really fucking overwhelming, whether good or bad. The majority is internalized as hallucinatory daydreams, the rest is expressed as talkative weirdness. What really brings up some questions for me is the realization that on HRT my character was calm and composed (but partially fabricated) whereas now I am experiencing life so goddamn intensely  that I don’t know if I can handle it. Joy and sorrow, beauty and horror. Crying more now than I ever was on estrogen, because expectations of human sexual dimorphism and its connection to emotional expression is probably bullshit.

Perception of self is intentionally becoming more male – trying to be comfortable with being in the body I am forced to inhabit. Except now, this is largely uncoupled from my so-called gendered expression. I refuse to negotiate with the terrorists of masculine compliance.

I refuse to comply.

It would have been easier to keep being christian, but I dissolved that. It would be easier to let my self-expression be impassed by the threat of male violence and general boundary violation.

Why the fuck am I doing what I’m doing? I didn’t choose this, did I?

Is there a boundary between myself and the intentions of other people?

I feel paradoxical. Even sexual desire is such. Tidal wave of passion meets equal opposite in physical dysphoria. Re-assertion of male physiology increases potency of passionate desire, but also activates the physical source of dysphoria. Both increase, and the turmoil is heightened…but there are ways to tip the scale if the circumstances are right. It’s just the presence of both are vibrating to a higher tune.

On the physical front, things seem to have gone dormant for now…like my body is gearing up for the restarting of my male reproductive anatomy. Probably explains the mood swings, psychic sinking feelings, and drastically increased motivation/libido. The biochemical chain reaction is starting from within, and will take many months to manifest fully.

Until then, I won’t really know how successful this venture is.

So that’s my update. Hope you enjoyed it, and by the way, I write way more drearily than my life actually is. There are people in my life who enrich it beyond belief – which is good, because I don’t believe in anything. That’s the richness of it. Beautiful, wonderful people who have honored me with their time and energy and intimacy.

So thanks friends, and now I’m gonna stop because this is totally a drunk-ass post🙂