Notes from A Meeting of Transphobic Detrans Activists from 10/3/2016

Originally published on Reclaiming Trans.

The following are notes from a meeting between four female detrans activists, Devorah Zahav, Carey Callahan, Cari Stella and myself (then working under the name Crash), that took place on October 3rd 2016. I found these notes while going through old emails looking for something else and decided that they were worth sharing to give an idea of what kind of organizing and projects transphobic detrans women have pursued.

Transphobic detrans women have collaborated with transphobic radical feminists, conversion therapists, anti-trans parent groups and others working to restrict or abolish medical transition but they also strategize and act on their own quite a bit. Other groups tend to have greater access to resources overall but often fail to treat detrans women with respect as equals. As a result, transphobic detrans women can be very distrustful of people outside of their community, even if they have similar political goals, and spend much of their time and energy working for and with each other. Obviously, anti-trans groups do use transphobic detrans people but transphobic detrans people do not lack agency or autonomy. They often resist attempts to control them and prioritize what they see as their own interests. They also seek to take advantage of other transphobic groups, just as those groups seek to make use of them.

I want to challenge the idea that transphobic detrans people are mere pawns of the gender critical/organized transphobia movement. That simply has not been my experience. While I can think of occasions where detrans women have been taken advantage of by transphobic groups or individuals, I also knew many detrans activists who were quite ambitious and independent and who used the social connections they made in transphobic subcultures to their own advantage.

These notes are a look at what more activist-minded transphobic detrans women got up to among ourselves.

Medical

  • Patient advocacy organization-Not Even Lab Rats
  • Medical practitioner referrals
  • Julie Graham to assist?
  • Post a thread in detrans groups–post here if you have a good medical health provider
  • Endos
  • Primary Care
  • Well woman care/obgyns, midwives
  • Medical information clearinghouse on stopping T, elevated risks, etc.
  • Best practices competency guide for health professionals
  • Longtermers bureau-longterm transitioned FTMs willing to talk to teenagers/others considering transition about what it is really like. Realistic expectation setting about medical and social consequences of transition. Possible secret FB group for ftm-questioning and long term transitioned people to talk.
  • Writing alternative SOC
  • Kathy Mandigo?
  • Waiting for USPATH to “revise”/critique
  • Class action lawsuit re: Testosterone
  • Testosterone drug lawyers dot com follow up

Legal

  • EU/US lawsuits
  • Class action suits?
  • Pediatric transition
  • PASS
  • Possible need for first-person counterpoint/complementary organization
  • Legal guide for German detransition strategies

Media representation/Information

  • YGA publishing a book
  • YGA web content, to include detransitioned women’s content
  • Vlogs
  • Cari to do a series of vlogs about what it’s like to detransition
  • Crash’s vlog
  • Vlogs on alternate ways to manage dysphoria
  • Autotomous Womyn’s Press
  • Zine reprint
  • Blood & Visions Sourcebook
  • N and S art collab
  • S.C. memoir
  • Information clearinghouse web site-YGA, Cari working on this
  • Media opportunities
  • Crash’s scholarly works
  • Transsexual Empire first person version
  • Book on passing women
  • Article on female disidentification
  • Media representation watchdog organization
  • Tropes to avoid punchlist
  • Talking points for media opportunities
  • Speakers bureau
  • Cari’s opportunity with documentary filmmaker

Psychological/Social/Peer Support

  • Building a referral list of competent therapists
  • In person, advertised support groups
  • Long term passing women
  • Newly stopping T, agnostic regarding identity/politics
  • Feminist detransition/CR
  • Gender Identity Dropouts
  • Feel harmed by medical transition
  • Blood & Visions Annual Gathering

The meeting happened years ago and there’s a lot of details I’ve forgotten in the meantime but I will do my best to supply more information and context for these notes.

“Not Even Lab Rats” was a phrase Devorah used to express her view that people who medically transitioned were being subjected to extreme medical abuse and neglect. For example, in a post on her blog, Redress Alert, she writes, “according to the doctor who dosed me, we are not even guinea pigs–to paraphrase him, ‘This treatment is not experimental. In an experiment, we keep data.’ No studies, no research, no data. Not even lab rats. Just expendable.”

As far as I know, Devorah never got involved in creating a patient advocacy group but years later Carey Callahan was the founding president of Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network (GCCAN), an organization that claims to fight for better healthcare treatment for all who access transition-related healthcare including both trans and detrans people. In practice, the organization is lead by detrans and trans people with gender critical views who are working to implement more gatekeeping for medical transition and collaborate with conversion therapists. GCCAN shares many of the same goals as those outlined in the notes, including creating “a database of resources to provide information about gender care, dysphoria management, mental health management, and studies on physical transition”, support groups, and in-person meet-ups.

Julie Graham is a gender therapist who’s worked with the San Francisco Department of Public Health in the past. She contacted me after reading my blog and I put her in touch with Devorah. Graham met with Devorah and Carey on multiple occasions. She has since given presentations on detransition and retransition. Graham has expressed concerns about transition regret but also believes that transition is helpful and life-saving for many people, a view that both Zahav and Callahan privately expressed frustration with. I was not present during meetings between Graham, Zahav and Callahan, so I have no way of knowing how Zahav and Callahan conducted themselves but I suspect they were not entirely forthcoming with their views on trans people and transitioning.

Kathy Mandigo is a general physician who wrote an essay called “My Disservice To My Transgender Patients” that first appeared on the anti-trans radical feminist blog Radfem Repost and was later reprinted in the anti-trans anthology Female Erasure. In her essay, Mandigo describes how she used to treat trans people by administering hormones but came to view all of her trans patients as being mentally ill, delusional and often deceptive and manipulative. I believe that she once had a website where she wrote about developing standards of care for detransition but the website seems to no longer exist.

Devorah found out about a class action lawsuit involving testosterone and made inquiries to see if detrans women who’d experienced health complications from taking testosterone could be included in it. Nothing came from this.

I don’t recall much about the section on legal actions and I can’t remember what “PASS” stands for. From what I can remember, people were raising the possibility of detrans people filing lawsuits at some point in the future. Aside from the class action lawsuit about testosterone, I don’t recall any actual lawsuits being mentioned. No one was getting ready to file a lawsuit or anything like that. The idea behind detrans people filing lawsuits was to get compensation for harms caused by medical transition but also to work towards restricting or eventually abolishing medical transition as a practice. The idea was floating around for years before Keira Bell sued the NHS in order to block minors from transitioning.

In regards to legal action in Germany, Devorah was in contact with a German detrans woman who was having trouble changing her legal sex back and had been telling Devorah of her struggles navigating the German legal system. Devorah was interested in creating more resources for German detrans women to make that process easier in the future.

I’m not sure what YGA stands for or whether it was an organization that actually existed at the time or one that people were working to create. I’m leaning towards it being an organization or project that was in the making at the time but that as far as I know was never realized. Plans and projects were not always followed through.

Devorah Zahav ran Autotomous Womyn’s Press, which had published the Blood and Visions zine, the first zine of detrans and desisted women’s writing. There were plans to expand to the zine into an actual book but as far as I know that never happened.

Gender Identity Dropouts was a support group for detrans and desisted women that Devorah had briefly lead. I’ve previously posted the rules and principles of the group.

The first Blood and Visions gathering had been held earlier that year. It was the first in-person gathering for detransitioned and desisted women, organized by Devorah. The gathering was held again in the next three consecutive years.

I cringe at the thought that I ever planned to write a “Transsexual Empire first person version”. Unlike The Transsexual Empire, my book was going to focus on transmasculine people and “gender dysphoric women” rather than trans women. I planned to discuss how “female gender dysphoria” was a product of living in patriarchal society that stigmatized and medicalized gender nonconformity and discontentment with sex roles. I’m glad I never wrote it and ironically doing research for it, which including learning about history of medical transition and transmasculine people and communities, ended up changing many of my views.

I was deeply invested in transphobic radical feminist ideology when this meeting took place. I thought that being trans and transitioning were products of patriarchy and that I had been deeply harmed by medical transition. I thought that I was working towards a better world by working for a society where no one transitioned. My main strategy for achieving that was spreading radical feminist-inspired theory and culture and promoting alternatives to medical transition.

I wasn’t interested in lawsuits, which is probably why I have trouble remembering much about those sections. I also wasn’t interested in more gatekeeping by medical professionals either because I didn’t trust most doctors. I wasn’t interested in a reformed kind of medicalization but a way of “helping” people avoid the medical system, period.

It’s very disturbing to reread these notes now and remember what I was like when that meeting took place, what I used to believe and work towards. Especially now, when the Right is mobilizing to attack trans people, younger trans people especially, and block access to healthcare. Detransition narratives have been weaponized by transphobic groups and I feel responsible for helping to create this situation. Even at my most transphobic I never wanted to aid right-wing political projects but I see now that my actions were helping rather than resisting patriarchy.

I am deeply sorry for the harm I’ve caused during my time in the transphobic detrans radical feminist community. There is so much that I now regret. I’m sharing these notes to help expose the harms of my former community. Hopefully this will help people better understand transphobic detrans communities, their political goals and their relationship to other anti-trans groups so they can be more effectively resisted.