Rules and Guidelines from Support Groups for Detrans Women

Below are the rules and guidelines for two support groups for detrans and re-identified women. Some of the same women were involved in starting and formulating the structure and guidelines of both groups. I played no role in creating either of these groups but I participated in both of them, more so in the second group than in the first.

Neither of the group’s guidelines were intended to be seen by outsiders and I’m breaking the rules by disclosing them and posting screenshots from the forum. Making them public will likely be seen by some detrans women as a breach of trust or a betrayal but keeping them secret protects them from criticism. I don’t believe that exposing them will cause harm to anyone.

Why was there a need to keep them hidden in the first place? While it makes sense to maintain confidentiality about what is discussed in a support group, it makes less sense to keep the rules and guidelines a secret from outsiders. Many support groups see no problem in making their principles and guidelines public. I believe these groups and their rules were largely kept secret because those who formed them knew outsiders would view them as transphobic and question their intent.

I now see many of the guidelines as grounded in transphobic ideology and harmful for trans people to internalize. The way these groups interpreted trans identity, transitioning and gender dysphoria ended up reinforcing my own self-hatred and suffering. I want to be able to talk openly about what hurt me while I was in the detrans women’s community. If I can’t talk about the problems I encountered then how can they be addressed?

I recognize that not everyone who participated in these groups had the same experiences I did. I don’t doubt that some benefited from participating in these groups. What is helpful for one person can be harmful or ineffective for another. Even though I am critical of these spaces, my own experiences of them was not entirely negative. In some ways they were genuinely helpful and supportive. I can imagine that these spaces would be much more helpful for a detrans woman trying to make peace with herself and her transition than they would for a trans person trying to disconnect and suppress a part of themselves.

One problem within radical feminist detrans women’s culture is assuming what is true for some detrans women is true for most or all transmasculine people. For a detrans woman, making peace with being a woman and working through grief associated with transition might be deeply healing. For a transmasculine person, treating transition as a loss could cause depression and self-hatred and trying to live as a woman could be a form of self-rejection. There is often much common ground between detrans women and transmasculine people but there are also important differences. Both the commonalities and differences need to be recognized and respected.

While I reserve the right to describe my own experiences in these groups, I would never discuss what others said or disclosed in them. I took no screenshots in the online group aside from the Intentions and Guidelines and I no longer have access to that group. I have no interest in sharing what others discussed in confidential spaces. I only want to call attention to the ideas and frameworks behind those groups and the impact they could have on a trans person.

The first group was called Gender Identity Dropouts and existed briefly. Members met in person and/or by Skyping/calling in. The group was small, only about 5–6 people participated, all members were white or who envision themselves as white.

The Gender Identity Dropouts Principles & Guidelines

GID is a female-only organization, inclusive of women with intersex traits/conditions who were raised as girls.

Women who have stopped their ftm transition at any stage are welcome. You do not have to have experienced any particular transition milestone to “count.”

At GID we are committed to making peace with being female and being women, however that looks for us. It is not a space for people with alternative gender identities or who understand stopping transition as another leg of their gender journey. At GID we are recovering from “gender identity” as a paradigm, entirely. We do not use alternative pronouns or revere any sort of gender identity in this space.

No one is “too far gone” to detransition. What it looks like will be different for each member, and we commit to helping each woman hold the reality of her life as it is. You are not ruined and there is hope. We accept each other and we can come to greater acceptance of ourselves than we ever thought possible.

This is not a program like AA where you are either drinking or not drinking. This is more like a program that centers on your relationship with food or with interpersonal relationships. We can’t avoid being “gendered” by the world at large. But when we retain or re-engage in behaviors that are aligned with transitioning, such as binding, packing, trying to pass as male, indulging in fantasy about surgery, or other “trigger” behaviors — we commit to being honest with ourselves and with the group about the nature of these behaviors and their impact on us and on those around us. There can be room for harm reduction methods; there is always the intention of relieving dysphoria by non-damaging means; but there is not room for justifying self-harm as either of these. Go carefully and rely on your group members for support in discerning where the lines are.

We recognize that the behaviors we engaged in while identifying as trans were impacted by peer relationships and especially by comparing ourselves to others. We are careful not to “drag each other down” by replicating those overt or unconscious pressures within GID. We no longer try to make ourselves “normal” with respect to gender. We no longer try to best each other with respect to gender.

Gender is a contest that we, as females, cannot ever win. As Dropouts, we “give up” that futile quest. We accept that within the patriarchal paradigm, we “lose” the game of gender no matter what we do. In our lives and in the world, we work to challenge and change that paradigm in every way we can. We don’t control the current conditions of life within the patriarchal paradigm, but we are not powerless.

GID is unaffiliated with any other organization. It is entirely self-supported by its members and does not accept outside contributions. Groups are encouraged to collect money only to the extent that they need it for operation purposes — renting meeting space, publication of materials, etc. A small reserve to cover 3–6 months of such expenses is also advised, where relevant. Some groups may not have expenses at all. Any dues collected must be entirely voluntary, never a requirement of membership.

Because our experience is so politicized and women in our position are often targeted and badly misunderstood, we currently vet new members and welcome them into the group through actual sponsorship-i.e., an existing member or members will meet with you to determine whether GID is a good fit for your needs and vice versa.

No person may represent GID or discuss GID from a member perspective with the press, on film, on the internet, or in any public forum. We strongly discourage even discussing GID’s existence publicly in any narrative way. GID is entirely anonymous. We may develop confidential connections to sympathetic professionals who may refer potential new members to the group, but we do not share any more information with such contacts than is absolutely necessary to facilitate potential new member connections. Meetings may publicize their existence in print or online, as long as it is done with the full consent of the meeting’s existing members, and without compromising any member’s anonymity.

While some members use internet video chat or conference calls to meet, we encourage members to meet each other in person whenever possible. The internet is a scary place and not everyone is who she says she is. Go with caution.

Groups may not exclude members on the basis of race, disability status, religion, ethnicity, economic/social class, sexual orientation, height, weight, occupation, etc. Every attempt should be made to accommodate disabled members’ access needs; where there are conflicting needs, let the group conscience (resulting from a meeting of the group’s interested membership that convenes to discuss and resolve issues) consider all of those needs carefully. Groups may reach out to other groups/members for support in decision-making or additional resources if a wholly satisfying solution does not become apparent. GID is committed to finding ways to connect every member with support.

GID meetings are where we meet to witness for each other, support each other, and share the tools and strategies that help us cope and heal. We do not all have to be the same to belong to GID and to deserve support. We do not have to make the same meaning of our experiences. We meet to support and honor every member in making meaning of her own experience, however that looks for her. Being a member of GID does not require adherence to any particular beliefs or practices, beyond the shared principles that are the foundation of our purpose.

What is shared within a GID meeting or confidentially between members is sacrosanct. Do not ever breach this trust. Do not ever reveal the identity of a GID member outside of the group.

Every GID group is free to operate as it sees fit within the spirit of these principles and guidelines, and as long as its actions do not implicate GID as a whole.

The second group was a private online forum created in 2014 called Autotomous Womyn’s Space. Autotomy means self-severing and often refers to an animal shedding a part of its body as a defense mechanism in order to escape from a predator or other danger. The animal may later regrow the lost body part. Autotomy was used as a metaphor for “dis-identifying from being female”, the female self was shed in order to escape the dangers of patriarchy and “reconciling with being female” was reconnecting with this severed female self.

I believe around sixty or so people eventually joined, though far fewer were regular active participants. The forum still exists but has been largely inactive since the creation of Facebook groups for detrans and re-identified women. The forum was mostly white and as noted below, the admin and moderator were white or had white privilege. They had a specific breakout group for women of color that I believe was eventually taken over and moderated by one of the women of color who joined the forum.

Both of these support groups as well as most other resources for detrans women created by members of my old subculture were made by white women or women with access to white privilege. While those who created spaces for detransitioned and reidentified women did try to address this and sought more participation from women of color, the spaces remained majority white during the time I spent in the community.

In order to be admitted to the forum, people had to be vetted first or personally know the admin and/or moderator. This was largely due to fear of infiltration, particularly by trans women pretending to be detrans women (as far as I know this never happened). Those with more masculine physical features often faced more scrutiny and were sometimes asked to show their birth certificates.

Also note that the final rule discouraged forum members from posting links from blogs written by trans women, for fear that said women would notice where they were getting hits from and discover the existence of the forum. This is good example of how many radical feminist detrans women were paranoid and hostile towards trans women.

Screenshot of Forum Intentions and Guidelines
Screenshot of Forum Intentions and Guidelines
Transcript of screenshot here: https://pastebin.com/raw/fYtz5ukd

Both support groups frame trans identity as something harmful to recover from and view transitioning as a destructive and unhealthy way to treat gender dysphoria. I internalized this framing of trans identity and gender dysphoria and continued to interpret my experience according to this framework long after I stopped participating in these groups. I treated my trans identity as a symptom to be managed and something to work through to get to my “real” female self. This wasn’t the only place where I picked up these ideas but I can’t help but think that participating in these spaces helped reinforce them.

I tried the approach to gender dysphoria and trans identity described in these intentions and guidelines, I tried “reconciling with being female” and overcoming my trans identity and it didn’t work. In many cases this approach caused me more distress. There’s no consideration that these guidelines could encourage self-hatred and denial in a trans person who internalizes them.

Having spaces to talk about my life while I was detransitioning was helpful, as was being able to bond with others who’d been attacked for being seen as very gender nonconforming women. But being encouraged to see my trans self as something to heal from really hurt me. I needed a space where I could work through the impact of misogyny and lesbophobia on my life, examine my motivations for transitioning, explore if living as a butch woman would make me happy and find support no matter what sense of self I settled on, whether butch lesbian or transmasculine or both. That’s not what I found in the detrans women’s spaces I participated in but there’s no reason why such spaces couldn’t be created.