Originally published on Reclaiming Trans.
I want to be upfront with how I view detransitioned people who believe in transphobic ideologies. When I was detrans, I hid my real views on trans people because I didn’t want to suffer the consequences of being openly transphobic. I rationalized what I was doing at the time but now I recognize that I was being dishonest and manipulative. So now I want to be honest, even though I know my views will offend many detrans people.
I believe that many, perhaps most detrans people who believe in transphobic views are self-hating trans people engaging in conversion practices in order to repress who they are. At the very least, I believe transphobic detrans people have been indoctrinated into a hate group and encouraged to frame their experiences in a way that casts doubt on the reality of trans people and the effectiveness of medical transition.
I’m going to view a detrans person as ex-trans if that person: implies that any trans person could detransition, use “alternative treatments” or therapy to deal with gender dysphoria; if they say that they used to be trans but then “realized” that trans identity is “false consciousness”, a coping mechanism, or mental illness; if they say the reason they detransitioned is because they decided it’s not “possible to change sex”, don’t think it’s possible to live a satisfying life as a trans person or treat dysphoria by transitioning. I see such a person as the trans equivalent of an ex-gay person. If that person still struggles with gender dysphoria, talks frequently about missing the effects of HRT, has to make a real effort to “reconcile with their sex”, seems to be suppressing their feelings or gender identity with the help of conversion practices, ideology or slogans (“I’m a woman because I’m female and a woman is an adult human female”, etc) then I’m going to think that they are a trans person who has converted to an anti-trans ideology.
If a detrans person’s description of what it was like to be trans sounds significantly different from how most trans people experience being trans, such as saying they were chasing after an idealized fantasy of being a different gender that felt like playing a role and was a relief to give up, then I still think it’s possible that they’re a trans person who’s learned to interpret their experience through transphobic theories but I’m more open to the possibility that they weren’t actually trans. I can have compassion for a person who thought they were trans, transitioned and now feels like it was mistake that caused them problems instead of solving them. I support such people getting the resources they need to help them work through whatever difficulties they face. However, I find it offensive when such people to claim that their experiences are the same as trans people’s. This seems especially absurd when they compare themselves to trans people who were helped by medical transition. A person who has found greater happiness and peace after they stopped living as a trans person is not the same as someone who only found happiness after coming out as trans and/or transitioning. To pretend they are the same makes no sense and is just an attempt to undermine trans people’s legitimacy.
Many people would be horribly offended if a trans man who previously lived unhappily as a butch lesbian argued that all butch lesbians could happily transition and live as trans men. But many of the same people think it’s perfectly fine if a detrans woman states or implies that all transmasculine people could happily detransition if only they realized it.
Many detrans women I’ve known don’t seem to be at peace with themselves despite what they may say. They project their unease onto trans people who in one way or another represent a part of themselves that they can’t accept. I’ve seen detrans women have intense emotional reactions towards trans people who were engaging in perfectly ordinary everyday activities. Some of them can’t seem to encounter a trans man without despairing over “another lesbian lost”. I’ve known detrans women who can’t accept that trans people can truly have satisfying lives even when the trans person in question seems to be perfectly content, with for example a career they enjoy and a loving partner. Either their apparent happiness is false or it’s judged to be a form of complacency, a sign that they’ve somehow given in to unjust world instead of resisting it.
Such detrans women argue against trans identity and transition not only to convince others but to convince themselves as well. They haven’t made peace with themselves so they can’t tolerate others freely expressing what they deny. Otherwise, why the desperate need to prove that being trans and transitioning doesn’t work for anyone, not just them? Why get so invested in other people’s lives and choices? Why not concentrate on living your own life instead of trying to make sure that all trans people know they can detransition (as if we don’t already)? Why not reconcile with yourself instead of trying to sell the idea that any transmasculine person can and should “reconcile with being female?”
They want more people to agree with them and struggle along side of them in order to make their burden easier to bare. But their burden is the part of themselves that they deny and repress. It can’t be driven off; it can only be accepted. I question how long some detrans women’s resolve to live as women would last if they didn’t have a community pushing them to keep going and reinforcing the view that trying to accept your body is better than transition or that one can’t be other than one’s assigned sex/gender and so on. I wonder how many people are eventually going to get tired of that and leave like I did.
When I was detrans I also projected my own unease and self-hatred onto other trans people. At one point I couldn’t read the writing of a transmasculine person without looking for evidence that they suffered from internalized misogyny or had been traumatized in some way. I couldn’t read about their lives without trying to fit them into my theories of what caused people to be trans. I couldn’t see trans people clearly. I could only see them through the lens of transphobic feminism and my own personal projections borne from self-denial. As I gradually came to accept myself, it became easier to accept trans people and perceive them more clearly. My inability to accept trans people was directly connected with my inability to accept my own transmasculinity.
I acknowledge I could be mistaken about some of the detrans people I suspect are ex-trans. After all, I can’t see inside another person, I can never know them as they know themselves. I am much more likely to believe a detrans person’s account of their experiences if they don’t subscribe to a transphobic ideology, don’t overgeneralize from or project their experiences onto others, and are more focused on getting on with their lives. I respect detrans people’s right to self-define as they please but after my time in the detrans community I admit I have a hard time taking many detrans people’s stories at face value.
I want little to nothing to do with detrans people who participate in transphobic subcultures or organizations. I don’t want contact with detrans people who work with individuals or groups that promote anti-trans conversion therapy, treat “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” as a real disorder or otherwise work to undermine the legitimacy of trans people and limit our access to healthcare. I don’t want contact with anyone who works against my well-being and autonomy or allies with those who do.
I view transphobic feminism as a hate movement and I want nothing to do with those who believe in it or those who tolerate it. I don’t want contact with people who hold transphobic, transmisogynistic, “gender-critical” or trans-exclusionary views. I know that not every detrans woman in my old community believes in transphobic feminism or other anti-trans ideologies but many don’t do much if anything to question or push back against transphobia in the detrans community. If you’re not willing to speak out about transphobia in the communities you belong to you end up enabling it. I don’t care if a such a person claims to support trans people or have trans friends (do they know who you’re hanging out with or what you really think? If not why?). I’ve hung around plenty of people who claim they don’t hate trans people but don’t seem to have a problem hanging around those who clearly do, who may disapprove of blatant bigotry but don’t do anything to stop it or speak out. I used to be one of those people and now I see the harm I was participating in. I wouldn’t be a part of that anymore. If you really support trans people don’t hang out with transphobic people no matter how nice they seem or how they justify their views or actions.
The one exception I consider acceptable is if you’re maintaining contact with someone to make it easier for them to disengage and get out of the subculture. If that’s the case, I would still expect people to do whatever they can not to enable their friend’s transphobia and use every opportunity to undermine it.
I had a friend while I was still involved in organized transphobia who knew of my views but made it clear they didn’t support them and when they could criticized them or told me stories about trans people in their life that challenged my ideological beliefs. Hearing about trans people just trying to survive in the world, who dealt with many of the same problems I faced helped open me to questioning my beliefs. When my friend told me about a teenage trans girl getting kicked out by her parents for “appropriating womanhood” or a trans person they knew getting harassed on the street or struggling to get medical care, it was hard for me not to empathize with the trans person. Hearing those stories didn’t snap me out of my beliefs immediately but they planted doubts and exposed me to information that challenged my transphobic views. Helping provide a person with a critical viewpoint and route towards disengagement as my friend did is an acceptable reason for maintaining contact with a person in a transphobic hate group.
Still, I think there are limits and it’s possible for a person to cross a line in terms of behavior, such as engaging in abuse, harassing or stalking trans people, where it makes sense to cut off contact completely. One also has to be realistic in terms of how likely a person is going to change or is going to change without suffering meaningful consequences for their actions or beliefs.
I can no longer maintain connections with the detrans women’s community because I can’t condone their behavior, the views they promote or the people they work with. I stand against transphobic detrans people in general and will do what I can to resist their efforts to influence trans healthcare and broader society. I see them as a part of a larger anti-trans movement that is increasingly moving right-wards in terms of its values, worldview and alliances. Like the ex-gay movement before them, I believe that in time they will come to be discredited. In the meantime I fear they could hurt a lot of people, trans youth in particular.
I’m done hiding my views and hiding from myself. Speaking honestly is terrifying but freeing. I wasted so much time telling a story other people wanted to hear instead of my own truth. I can finally speak my mind and say what I want without having to worry about detrans women disapproving of me. They can accept or reject me as I am. Every time I write out my truth, I feel myself heal a little bit more and find a bit more space to exist.