Feeling Regret About My Detransition and Past Activism

Originally post on Reclaiming Trans

I’ve been feeling a lot of regret about my past actions. I feel as though I lost about six years of my life. I think back over that time and think about all that I wish hadn’t happened, how I wish I hadn’t done this or that, or that I’d gone about things differently. There’s quite a few people I wish I’d never met.

I wish I’d never participated in the radical feminist detrans women’s community. I wish I never got involved, that I’d worked things out on my own and turned to my friends for support. I regret my role in creating that community and how I worked to spread its theories and “alternative treatments” for gender dysphoria. I regret the time and energy I invested in transphobic detrans activism.

I wish I’d never come to believe that my being trans was a result of trauma and misogyny. I wish I’d never embraced transphobic radical feminism.

I wish I hadn’t detransitioned, in the sense of de-trans-itioning, treating being trans as something to work through or overcome, working to remove transness from oneself. I know some trans people use detransition to refer to stopping medical transition. As someone who took hormones for years and then stopped, I could be considered medically detransitioned in that sense. I don’t really care if other people refer to me that way or not but it’s hard for me to call myself “detransitioned” now because the word has too many negative associations for me. I associate it with a really painful time in my life. With renouncing a part of myself and internalizing transphobic ideology.

I wish I had never gone to Michfest or any of the other “female-only” gatherings I attended. Wish I had never presented those workshops on detransitioning. I especially regret the first workshop I presented because it was way too soon for me to get up in front of a group of people and talk about my past trauma and other vulnerable parts of my life. I don’t recall this coming up when I discussed plans for the workshop with my co-presenter, whether we were in the right place emotionally to present, if doing so could be harmful and so on. It seems like something we should’ve talked about. I feel really uncomfortable thinking back on that workshop now. Of course I’m also deeply troubled by the transphobic ideas I was promoting back then but on a personal level I’m upset at how I put myself out there when I wasn’t ready to do so. Sharing my story like that felt good at the time and I got a lot of sympathy, praise and positive feedback for doing so but it messed me up. It lead me to get stuck in a story about myself and my life that wasn’t good for me, that didn’t actually lead to healing. I got hooked on the responses I got from other people making a big deal about how I interpreted my experiences at the time, acting supportive, telling me how brave I was and how I was doing important work and all that. It feels good to be told that but that didn’t help me heal, it didn’t actually help me solve my problems or help me create a happier life for myself. It encouraged me to get stuck in the role of the “brave detrans woman” for years and that’s not who I am.

I wish that I never believed that I had to de-trans myself in order to claim the female parts of myself. I wish I could’ve figured out that I could reconnect to womanhood, discern the significance of being raised as a girl in this culture, heal from the effects of misogyny and homophobia and come out as a dyke without detaching from being trans or converting to transphobic feminism. It was worthwhile to recognize myself as a dyke and work to make that part of myself more visible. It was also useful to process past trauma connected to how other people had hurt me for being a female genderfreak but I wish I had gone about all that differently.

I wish I had never stopped thinking of myself as a genderqueer person. I wish that I had never thought that there was anything wrong with seeing myself as a female man. I got so close to accepting that I was both a dyke and a dude before thinking I had to reject the latter to claim the former. I had felt like multiple gender for years, since I was a teenager, learned about trans people and started questioning what gender I was. I’d felt like a dyke but been too afraid to express that part of myself openly after I transitioned. It was hard for me to accept that I could enjoy how testosterone changed my body and also be a butch woman, among other things.

When I detransitioned, I claimed transitioning, taking t, living as a man, feeling like multiple genders and other experiences I associated with being trans as something women could experience but I framed those experiences as negative and pathological, rooted in trauma and patriarchy. I claimed them as female experiences to say that they shouldn’t exist, that they were expressions of female suffering and ways of coping with sexism. By doing so I rejected my full reality and hurt myself deeply. I wish I had just claimed all that I am, a woman who is also a man, a dyke who took t and grows a beard, someone who moves between different genders, someone who is both transmasculine and female. I wish it hadn’t taken years of struggling against parts of myself to realize how important those parts are, how I need them to be whole.

So much seems like a waste now, I see so many of my past actions are self-destructive or harmful towards others. I keep thinking six years, six years of my life that I will never get back. So much time and energy given to activities that hurt myself or other people. How can I not wish that I had made different choices, that my life had gone otherwise?

It gets overwhelming thinking about how much I regret about that time of my life. I also know that I can’t change the past. I can think all I want about what I wish hadn’t happened and what I would’ve wanted to happen instead but I can’t change what actually happened.

Sometimes I torture myself by thinking about how I could’ve made different choices, acted on different thoughts and feelings, how things could’ve gone differently. It can be easy to imagine how if my life had gone slightly differently I could ended up on a very different path.

One of the things that really gets me is that there were a lot of times when people or situations felt off and I ignored those feelings. Now I regret doing so because all those times things ended up going badly. I wish I had trusted my gut more because I could’ve avoided so much trouble if I had. It’s one of the things I’m trying to untangle now, why didn’t I trust what I was feeling?

I do my best to learn from the past and make different choices going forward. Work to undo any damage that I’ve done to other people. Heal from how I’ve hurt myself and how others hurt me. Grieve what I’ve lost.

I feel good about what I’m doing with my life now and feel at peace with myself but I find myself thinking why couldn’t I have found this sooner? I’ve accepted myself and I’ve found other people who accept me as I am. Why did it take so long to find that? Why did I have to spend six years of my life trying to be something I’m not, suffering needlessly in the process? I do what I can to salvage that time as much as possible because what else can I do? But I see that time as a loss, as time I will not get back. I can accept what happened while also wishing it hadn’t happened. Because I didn’t need to suffer like that.

At the same time that I regret my past, I don’t feel trapped by it because I know I can make different choices now. I know what I’m feeling right now is temporary. Moments of regret and other hard feelings come and go. They can be intense and difficult in the moment but eventually they pass. I spend a lot of time living in the present, hanging out with my partner, doing work that’s important to me, learning about the what’s going on in the world. I’m creating a different life for myself, drawing on what I’ve learned so far, what’s worked and what hasn’t.

I feel regret so strongly at times because I feel significantly better now about myself and my life than I did when I was detransitioned and hanging out with transphobic feminists. I wish I had come to this place much sooner, figured things out years before. Transphobia, external and internalized, can take so much from trans people, so much of our time and energy. We have so much to give the rest of the world, our loss is everyone’s loss.

I work against transphobia and other forms of oppression because I want other trans people to have as much happiness as possible in their lives. I want us to be able to spend our time doing work we find meaningful and satisfying, creating art, writing books, hanging out with friends, growing a garden, throwing parties, reading, playing sports, doing whatever it is that brings us joy. I want us to be able to move through the world safely, to be treated with respect, to have bodily autonomy and access to good healthcare. I want us to be able to spend as much of our time as possible creating the lives we want to live, not fighting against hatred and ignorance. I certainly don’t want other trans people using their time and energy to fight against themselves, to try to become something that they’re not.

I know how much self-hatred can take from a person and I don’t want other people to have to go through that. I use my sense of loss as motivation to build a freer world for trans people and all people suffering from oppression in this white supremacist capitalist patriarchy that we all live in. I work to turn my own suffering and feelings of regret into active compassion, empathy and solidarity with all those working towards liberation. And in the process, I move from mourning the past to engaging and creating the present.