When I detransitioned, I believed that I’d finally figured out what I was and was in the process of solving my gender issues once and for all. I didn’t think I’d be hit with intense doubts four-five years in. It was shocking but at the same time unsurprising. I’d struggled with having complicated gender feelings in the past and had long wished that my sense of gender was more stable and simple. So while I hadn’t expected these feelings to come back, I wasn’t totally surprised when they did because this fit with past patterns. I’d tried several times to make my gender less complex and ultimately failed each time. This attempt had just taken a lot longer to fall through, and while devastating, forced me to accept my genderweirdness in all its complexity and chaos.
I divide my detransition into two basic phases. The first was where I was exploring living as a woman, figuring out how to live as a butch dyke with a history of transmasculine transition, and checking out lesbian and radical feminist communities. The second was when I started becoming increasingly disillusioned with said radical feminist communities and was beginning to realize that my detransition wasn’t working for me but I didn’t feel like I could quit. In the first phase, I was figuring out what it would mean for me to live as a woman and I was very motivated to give it a good go. I thought I’d found the solution to a lot of my gender-related problems. During the second phase it was becoming increasingly clear that a lot of these supposed solutions were not working out. The first phase was hard and stressful because I made for a very unconventional butch woman but I was motivated enough that to push through those difficulties. During the second, I had to work harder and harder to convince myself to keep going. That’s when it started feeling like I was forcing myself to be something I wasn’t.
I needed to spend years living as a woman to decide that it wasn’t a good fit for me. But once I started figuring that out, I didn’t feel like I had the option of stopping. In the radical feminist detrans community, the whole possibility that detransitioning could not work for a person, that someone really could be trans and be happier living as a trans person rather than a woman, wasn’t considered. You weren’t supposed to change your mind after you detransitioned. I felt like I would be letting other detrans women down if I came out as trans. I didn’t feel like I could share what was going on inside of me because I felt like someone with my position in the community wasn’t supposed to be dealing with these kinds of problems. I was supposed to have overcome being trans, overcome my dysphoria, not struggling to see myself as a woman and feeling like it took way too much work to live as one.
I fought against myself so hard and it drove me crazy. I knew that repression was typically counterproductive, so mostly I tried reframing my thoughts and feelings, digging into them to try to find the underlying issues, like trauma or internalized misogyny, that detrans radical feminist theory said was the real problem. It was absolutely exhausting and it didn’t work. I didn’t feel like I was healing or cutting through delusion, I felt like I was trying to brainwash myself.
And I had to admit I was largely doing this because of how I was worried other people would react. I was worried that other detrans women would judge or reject me but I was also worried about how people in the larger society would treat me. I was worried people would think I was crazy or unstable if they found out I had transitioned, detransitioned and then came out as trans again. Detransitioning socially had been stressful and exhausting, the idea of coming out yet again was something I wanted to avoid if at all possible. I didn’t want to believe I was trans because I thought it would make my life harder and more complicated. When I tried to talk myself into staying detransitioned, one of my most common strategies was to emphasize how much work it would be to socially transition again, how it could make it harder to find employment, how it was just way too much of a hassle. I had worked so hard to build a life for myself as a woman and coming out as trans seemed like it could wreck all that. I felt like I would lose so much, so I fought hard to hold onto being a woman.
I knew if I came out as trans, many of the detrans women I’d turned to for emotional support over the years would think I was suffering from dissociation, acting out trauma, regressing and otherwise being unhealthy and self-destructive. Not only that, but they would been concerned I could “contaminate” other people in the community with my trans identity. They saw people “struggling with gender dysphoria” as addicts who could easily fall back into their addiction, especially if they watched others doing so. I would have to deal with all the stresses of coming out yet again while members of my community saw me as suffering from a mental health crisis that could harm other people. I would be entering a period of stressful change without being able to count on the support of the community that I’d helped create.
I tried very hard to stay a detrans woman. I struggled for years but eventually I realized I wasn’t going to change or stop being trans. It took time. First I just learned to accept my feelings of being different genders as part of my inner life without trying to resist or reinterpret them. Just let them be. I remember thinking one time that if my life had gone differently, I could still be living as a trans person and still could’ve built a good life for myself. I accepted that alternative life history and in the process started accepting a part of myself I had been rejecting and instantly started feeling more at peace with myself. Acceptance came in bits and pieces like that. I could accept this alternative timeline trans version of myself before I could accept that I could actually live as a trans person again. It scared me so much, the idea that my detransition hadn’t worked. Figuring out I was trans after all was a hard reality to accept.
In the end though, I exhausted myself fighting against that reality. Trans is the word I use for something beyond words, something I found inside of me that I tried to extinguish but couldn’t. In the process trying to hunt down and kill this part of myself, I’ve learned a lot about it. I know in intimate detail the way it moves, its habits, what it feels like when I try to hold it down and it pushes me over. I know its texture, the shapes it takes up in my mind. I know what it feels like to treat it like an invader and a menace and what it’s like to accept it as a part of myself and I know which approach leaves me feeling more whole.
It’s this wholeness, this greater peace with myself that gives me the strength to face my fears and be honest with myself and others. This may not have been the way I would’ve chosen to get to self-acceptance but I’ve grown through the experience of detransitioning, as painful as much of it has been. I have been forced to discover who I am and give up on what I was trying to be. Being trans is not an idea for me nor connected to any particular ideology. It’s a vibrant experience that broke through so many of my beliefs, so many thoughts that I tried to use to keep it down. It can be a burden if I resist it or a source of power and creativity if I chose to accept it. It’s still terrifying but the freedom I find as I accept being trans is worth whatever change and loss I must accept in the process.
My specific struggle might be as a trans person coming to terms with who and what I am in a hostile society but my experiences connect me with other people’s hardships, with problems all humans face. I feel less caught up in my suffering and more able to connect with people in general. The more I accept myself, the more I can open up to other people, the more I can accept them as they are. I’m not just interested in trans liberation, I want all people to be free. I want other people to feel at peace with themselves, whatever that looks like. I want to help create a world where we can all be as we are.