There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.
Enough is enough.
First of all, don’t panic, I’m not detransitioning; I’ve just got something to say.
For a long time now, the subject of detransitioning has weighed heavily on me. It started several years ago when I met a detransitioned man who we will call Ken for the purposes of this article. Ken was a former transwoman who had detransitioned several months before I met him. He had been deeply traumatized by the experience and was desperately seeking a pathway to healing.
It wasn’t so much detransitioning itself that had left Ken with trauma, it was the conditions leading up to and following his detransition that had harmed him. Ken was told by local trans peers that he was “not the right kind of trans” by the TrueTrans™ crowd, primarily because he transitioned after 30. As a person who had endured dysphoria his entire life leading up to transition, Ken knew those accusations were nonsense and kept on battling his dysphoria alone.
Ostracized and isolated, Ken came to the decision that he would be better off in life by detransitioning to reclaim his male identity. Knowing that his dysphoria would return with its full intensity and dreading the moment testosterone would take control of his body again, Ken came out to tell the world, “I am detransitioning,” and then the floodgates opened. Ken endured a torrent of hateful, vitriolic rhetoric from the LGBT community he had once viewed as nothing but friends and allies, who did everything within their power to invalidate Ken and distance themselves from him.
When I met Ken some months later, he was anguished and desperate to have his story heard. So much so that he had become involved with a group of anti-trans activists who had taken him under his wing and who were grooming him to amplify his anger for the community who had disparaged him. His anger was so tangible that I honestly thought he couldn’t possibly be a real trans person, “Must be another sock account,” I assumed wrongly, completely unaware at the time of how nasty that trans/LGBT groups could treat detransitioners.
Thankfully, I realized my mistake before any harm was done, and Ken and I became friends. I keep a regular habit of checking my assumptions, and in this case I’d never been so glad that I did. Through our friendship, he was able to find some small amount of peace that the trans community at large had not afforded him and and not long after, cut his ties with the aforementioned anti-trans activists and set out to live his own life, vowing to avoid drawing any further attention to himself or the injustices that burdened him.
Ken deserves that peace, but I can’t live with injustice like that in the world. His story is not unique. It reflects the experience of almost every detransitioner I’ve since had the pleasure of meeting. Trans people and allies have it in their heads that there are particular types of people who simply are trans, and there are types who are not. Detransitioners are thought to be the types who are not, and excluded from the trans community.
What a bunch of TERFs we have become.
We exclude, ostracize, and hate our own. We treat them like bigots, liars, and enemies.
Selfishly, we fear them, terrified that it might mean we’ll be in their shoes one day. Little could be more transphobic.
Obviously I’m being hyperbolic here as not every trans person/ally reacts this way to detransitioners, but if these assertions turned your stomach, good. They should. That is the point. I am describing everything we should not want to become and I can only hope that it will help instill the desire to be better and call out this kind of trash wherever we see it.
When someone comes out to let the world know they are detransitioning, the response from trans people and allies should invariably be affirmative and supportive. They are embarking on one of the most difficult journeys of their entire lives. It should be no different whatsoever from the reaction to someone coming out as trans to begin with, because detransition is just another one of life’s many transitions, and it’s just as difficult, if not more so than transitioning in the first place. I would dare call it “stunning and brave” but that phrase wore out its welcome in my vocabulary ages ago.
As troublesome as these reactionary attitudes toward detransitioners are on their own, this issue runs far more deeply than them. This strikes directly in the hearts of political correctness and social justice activism. It is politically correct to assume that detransitioners are indeed not trans and the response from social justice activists is to bury their heads in the sand and hope no one notices they exist. Meanwhile, they get little to no social support, there is no one advocating for their rights, research into detransitioning is stifled, and too few seem to actually care that one of the most at-risk groups of people in the world is suffering.
I have no intent to detransition, but if I ever were to, I would so desperately need support and validation from my friends and family. I’d need trained mental and physical health professionals who are fully equipped to help me through the process. I’d need legislation in place to make the legal processes of reclaiming male identity as painless as possible. I’d need support groups, crisis lines, shelters, etc. with resources available for to help me.
And I would get none of it.
It’s time for change; for justice; for the LGBT community and its allies to prune the toxic blooms that are growing out of our prejudice, before it rots us out and leaves us hollow.
“If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.”
I’ve been permanently banned from Twitter.
Because I dared to say something true in a conversation on trans ethics.
I was called transphobic for saying that I am transsexual and that as a transsexual, I live in a liminal state of being, where I’m no longer considered what you would call a man but am not expressly female either. I explained there are differences between myself and people who are female that I find value in celebrating for the betterment of both groups.
Following the accusation of transphobia, I responded with the following:
“It isn’t transphobic. It’s just facts of life. Sex is immutable in spite of the fact many sex characteristics are mutable and we do change them. It doesn’t erase our differences or make us actually female.”
And as you can see, this is what I was banned for.
The truth… How dare I..?
Twitter never has been the bastion of free speech, but with this, I think it’s time we face the fact that Twitter’s misgendering policy has gone too far.
Let me make myself perfectly clear. I don’t support harassing trans people with misgendering or deadnaming. Transwomen are transwomen, not men. Transmen are transmen, not women. We are what we are, not what your ideology insists we are. To demand otherwise is to deny reality. We undergo rites of passage to become transmen and transwomen. Not only do we have to come out, but we change our names, lifestyles, bodies, etc. Our entire mode of being changes from one state to another and we transform, like caterpillars into butterflies.
You’d not insist a butterfly is a caterpillar after their metamorphosis. Why would you insist a transman is a woman after his? I get why you’d not want to call him a man, but a transman??
You gain nothing from calling him a woman, and you risk causing traumatic distress in the individual. What is the point? It’s simply rude and cruel to deny anyone their personhood.
That said, we also need to be willing and able to acknowledge the full depth and breadth of our own personhood and all the difference and nuance that comes along with it.
Many are not willing, and I understand why. For binary transsexuals, the goal of transition is invariably to become the opposite sex, but we simply can’t. That’s an inescapable burden for us. Current technology and scientific understanding doesn’t allow complete mutability of human biology. Even so, it can be psychologically gratifying to be understood as a man/woman rather than a transman/transwoman and I completely understand why any trans person would insist they are simply a man or a woman when in fact they are a transman or transwoman.
That much is fine in my view, but to be unwilling to acknowledge our differences to the point it becomes detrimental to others and we begin engaging with the cognitive fallacy of change, it’s time to re-evaluate.
We are well-past the point of re-evaluation. Allies are turning against us because they’re being called bigots for realistically and rationally opining about trans people and issues centered around us.
These conversations are so difficult and nuanced, and it’s never easy to have them, but they are so healthy when they can be had, especially when common ground can be found and agreement/understanding can be built between concerned parties. Concerns tend to build up and ferment in our hearts when left unaddressed, where they turn to anger, hate, and bigotry. Rational debate is a powerful way for human beings to come together, lay those concerns on the table, and work to address them. To deny it is a disservice to ourselves.
…But denying it is now all we’re allowed to do, according to Twitter.
Bigotry has taken the next logical step into fascism in social media. Our concerns have fermented for so long that they’ve now become this. Not only are many still unwilling to acknowledge the nuance of our complex realities, we’re no longer allowed to talk about it. True facts about myself and people like me are now being viewed as hate speech and we are being banned if we dare speak the truth.
I’m not the first trans person this has happened to, nor will I be the last, and as prevalent as our suffering in this is, it pales in comparison to the suffering of women whose hearts are filled to the brim with unaddressed concerns that are going to continue to ferment. If these trends continue, we’re heading toward a bleak future of subjugation. Either a rightfully angry public will turn on us and try to squash us out of society, or we will become the dictators ourselves. We mustn’t allow either outcome.
Twitter needs to re-evaluate this policy and take measures that will allow people the freedom of speech necessary to have these difficult discussions. It’s certainly possible to do this whilst still protecting trans people from harassment and defamation. All it takes is human moderation. As it stands, our behavior is being governed by algorithms.
If Twitter won’t change its policy, we find a new platform, but no matter what, the discourse must go on.
Of life on the edge.
I’ve recently learned that my dad isn’t my biological father.
Before he married my mom, he’d had a vasectomy. They tried to reverse it but the attempts were unsuccessful. Still, they wanted a child and my mom was determined to carry one into the world. Thus, they opted for a donor.
I’m 35 years old and just now hearing the news.
There are so many complex thoughts and emotions brewing in me. This revelation feels so incredibly important, but meaningless at the same time.
On one hand, this changes nothing.
My parents are still my parents. I love them with all my heart. I don’t blame them for not telling me. I understand completely why they didn’t. They raised me as their own to the best of their ability and provided me a great foundation for opportunity in life. My dad broke his body working in factories for more than half his life to keep our family afloat. Carrying that sort of burden is what makes a man a father, not DNA.
On the other hand, this changes everything.
It feels like there’s this whole strange, new half of me that I never knew existed, that was buried away in my DNA. I have a completely different biological makeup than I’d previously understood. The man whose DNA I share is a doctor. An incredibly healthy one no less. Risks that I’ve feared my entire life from my dad’s side of the family are no longer things I need to worry as much about. Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and more. My dad endured a heart attack at around my current age. I’d feared for so long that the same might be likely for me.
I now also know that I have siblings living all across the United States. Many of whom have kids of their own. I’m an auntie to at least five!
Two half-sisters have already contacted me through 23andMe, one of whom found all this out when she was 15 and set about doing all the legwork for the rest of us. She’s spent years seeking out the donor and our siblings. I’m so grateful to her for being so informative for me in this time of need. She told me his name, all about his history of endocrinology practice all over the country, his current location, health status, family life, everything I could hope for and more!
If I had learned all this but had nothing to go on, I’d feel so much more lost. Knowing his name and being able to learn so much about him and our genetic family so quickly has been such a blessing.
All at once, those new thoughts and emotions exist within me. A new, very deep well from which to draw life experience and inspiration from is here and I’m eager to dive into it, but at the same time terrified to. Right now, I really can’t know how this knowledge might change me.
I’m going through something a lot like a grieving process. My old self has died and there’s a whole new me here now. Who am I? I’m not entirely sure I know yet. But then again, I’m not entirely sure any of us ever knows the answer to that question.
I’m feeling very… between right now.
And that brings me to the broader topic I’d like to discuss today.
Liminality is a concept I have recently been grappling with.
The term has its roots in anthropology. It refers to the period following a rite of passage, during which one may have completed their rite and should, by all rights, be changed through the experience. But they exist in a state of betweenness, in which they struggle with the idea that they themselves have actually changed and society shares the same struggle in accepting them within their newly acquired role.
A good modern example of this might be the time following completion of a degree but prior to settling into one’s career in that field. Your rite of passage is complete, but yet the sense that any passage has actually been complete is liminal.
It’s like living on an edge. Split between your past and future selves.
Liminality is an aspect to life all humans endure. It’s a part of the human condition, there’s no doubt, but it’s an aspect to humanity that I find especially prevalent with regard to trans people.
Transitioning is interesting to think about in terms of liminality and rites of passage. The intent of our rite of passage is to change our sex from male-to-female or female-to-male, but given current technology, sex is immutable. Some sex traits are mutable, no doubt, but sex itself remains unchanged. Thus, our rite of passage can be thought of as incomplete. Moving from one state to the other is impossible for us. All that completing our rite of passage can possibly allow for us existence within a constant state of liminality.
We transfolk live on the edge, existing in a liminal reality every moment of our lives following transition. The idea that a transman is male or a transwoman is female is something that exists only in verisimilitude. When I’m seen by others and interpreted to be female, their conceptualization of me has the appearance of being true, but appearances can be deceiving.
While it’s possible for most anyone to slip in and out of liminal states, once we transition and slip into ours, the only way out is detransition. I’d happily choose intrinsic liminality over existence as a man any day.
This intrinsic, ever-present liminality is a huge part of what defines us as transwomen/transmen and makes us distinct from both men and women. It’s a burden we must carry as trans people. Those who are not can come to carry similar burdens following various rites of passage, but living on the edge is not intrinsic to their existence as it is to ours. For them, the edge is escapable. They can return from it to center themselves in reality with time and effort. For us, escape would only mean falling into the void. The edge is all we have.
So now, as I stand on the edge of this new well of experience and peer down into its darkness, I’m both terrified and excited to take the plunge and see where this new passage takes me.
I’ll see you all on the other side.
The duality of trans.
Trans women are women.
Transwomen are transwomen.
Trans women are men.
Trans women are trans men.
Transwomen are women.
Trans Identified Males are men.
Transwomen are transmen.
Trans women are women not trans women.
Trans women are not women they’re transwomen.
Trans women are transwomen are trans women are transwomen.
I AM SO SICK OF TALKING ABOUT THIS!
So let’s talk about it more, shall we?
As I’ve represented above, there’s a wide range of perceptions of who/what trans people are, which are usually VERY context heavy in one’s subjective perception of us. The truth is far more complicated and nuanced than any one such assertion can encompass.
Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to split myself into two halves, and you’re going to (hopefully) have a good time reading about it.
(Thank you very much for reading, by the way!)
TRANS / WOMAN
Let’s begin with the latter.
Trans activists are often challenged with the question, “What is a woman?” I’ve grappled with this question for years and the only conclusion I can come to is that there is no adequate trans-inclusive response. It’s an argument we simply cannot win unless we reduce “woman” to mean anyone who identifies as such.
Accepting trans women are women requires adopting a philosophy that values trans women as so similar to adult human females that they should be recognized as what we’ve commonly understood to be women rather than the distinct category transwomen. In valuing similarity with the category, we might accept the term “cisgender,” a term that makes me uncomfortable for many reasons.
First of all, when “cis” was originally coined, it was “cissexual” to compliment “transsexual” as its opposite. In its original meaning, “cissexual” simply meant “one who has not medically transitioned”. It was a term describing a non-transsexual embodiment.
Today, the term has become “cisgender” following the cultural shift away from “transsexual” to “transgender” instead. This term carries quite a bit more baggage. It does not simply refer to a non-transsexual embodiment, it refers to one’s identity.
The exact definition according to the Oxford dictionary reads: “Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.”
But what if someone is gender non-conforming? What if someone is against the idea that any sense of personal identity/gender should be tied with their birth sex at all? What if someone rejects the idea of gender entirely and thinks only in terms of sex? How can we force the term on to such people? How can we make them identify as cis?
We can’t, and we shouldn’t.
My other issue with the term is that it has been co-opted by social justice activists and encoded into the language of privilege hierarchy. To be “cis” is to be a trans oppressor. I never have, and never will look on people who are not trans as my oppressors. It sickens me every time I see activists weaponizing the word to turn ordinary people into a class of trans antagonists.
None of this is to say that “cis” doesn’t have meaning or usefulness. It’s a perfectly valid way of structuring thought to be more trans-inclusive within the categories of “men” and “women” but it is understandable why many find the distinction which excludes us from these categories valid. This typically comes down to a difference in philosophy between valuing our differences over our similarities with those categories or vice versa. In my thinking, I value difference, and so in the ways I choose to identify myself and structure the language I use, I choose to express and respect that value.
I completely understand why most trans people value similarity and choose to instead identify themselves as trans men and women and advocate for the separate categories of cis men and women in society and I would never condemn them for doing so. My intent here is not to attack trans people or challenge this value of similarity over difference, it is only to speak to what I feel is right by my own philosophy and show what it has to offer the world.
Neither philosophy is “correct” and in fact, regardless of which we find greater value in, we trans people have both similarities and differences with men and women.
So, without “cis,” what is a woman?
Women are adult human females. Am I an adult human female? No.
But I am perceived to be one.
Objectively, I am an adult human male.
Subjectively, I am often interpreted as a woman.
You might say that I’m not literally a woman, but figuratively speaking, yes I am. When I am seen in the world and perceived to be an adult human female, I become subject to the same expectations as women. The cultural script I am expected to follow is a woman’s script. If I stray from that script, I am punished for what’s seen as “unwomanly” behavior. When I adhere to it, I am rewarded.
This woman’s script isn’t something that comes from within. It isn’t woven into my identity. It’s something that’s been imposed on me by society based on how I am perceived. Thus, I share subjective circumstance with women. My movement through the world is similarly restricted. People have expectations of me and react to me on the basis of those expectations in the same ways they react to women.
This means that I do experience misogyny. I am oppressed under patriarchal rule. But I recognize that although these things are true on the basis of how I’m perceived, my experiences and oppression differ from women on the basis of my sex. There is a limit to the scope of my womanhood, whereas there is no limit to theirs.
The scope of my womanhood is limited to the moments in which I pass as female. There was a time I lived in stealth, passing every day in every interaction. For that time, I was a woman per the subjective experience of others. Since, I’ve come out of the closet and now am much more open about the fact I’m trans in my interactions. By no means do I come out to every stranger I meet, but if I’m asked, I will tell you the truth, and the same is true if we become friends, co-workers, partners, or otherwise intimate.
The truth is I’m trans, and the scope of my transhood is much wider than the scope of my womanhood. At all other places in life where my experience intersects with others, my transhood takes precedence.
When I say I am trans, I mean that I am an adult human transsexual. A transsexual is someone who undergoes medical treatment in order to undergo a binary transition from living perceived as their birth sex to living perceived as the opposite sex. Mutable aspects of our bodies allow us to do so through hormone replacement therapy and various surgical procedures. But it is important to remember that sex itself is not mutable. We can never really change sex.
There are also transgender people. Now, most would tell you that transgender and transsexual mean the same thing. Not long ago, I may have told you the same, but I’ve since found value in making a distinction between the two. In my early 20s, I came out to friends and co-workers and took my first timid steps out of the closet. During that time, I took on a new name, politely asked those in my life to use female pronouns for me, took on a part-time non-conforming lifestyle, and a handful of other changes. In this period, I was what I understand to be transgender. What separates me then from me now is the medical transition I’ve undergone and the fact I now live full time as a transwoman and am legally recognized as such. I’m happy to call such a person trans and treat them as they’d like to be treated socially, especially if they have every intent to medically transition, but it should be recognized and treated distinctly under law/policy.
My official legal status is female. At least, that’s what it says on all my identifying information. There’s heated debate over whether or not this status should apply to me and other trans people under laws and policies. I’ve got mixed feelings on this topic, but what pushes me off the fence is the implications it has for transmen under such laws. Transitioning from female to male, transmen take on a male legal status, which can strip them from access to laws, policies, programs, services etc that they might need.
In my view, it would work best if we were recognized as a distinct class and our laws were coded directly to us, rather than being funneled through laws designed for men/women. We are already recognized as a distinct social class and enabled to specified rights in many ways, such as in anti-discrimination laws and the laws enabling us to legally change our sex/gender markers in the first place. Why not simply apply this same approach where it’s needed and design laws/policies that guarantee trans inclusion through explicit mention?
Regardless, in terms of legality, we do often recognize transhood as a distinct status and I would say that we always should.
Medically speaking, it’s important my transhood be recognized as well. If I’m treated as female, I could be administered the wrong medications, receive improper treatments, be misdiagnosed, etc. There’s a whole host of things that could go wrong. You’d be hard pressed to find a trans person who disagrees. I’ve known many trans people and have never once met one who thought it appropriate to lie about their trans status to their doctor. We aren’t delusional. We understand the medical implications of what we are.
When it comes to spaces in public life, whether I like it or not, I am trans. Intersections in these spaces are very complicated for us come with a lot of nuance. Here, I’m speaking of areas like toilets, changing areas, showers/baths, services, sports, prisons, etc. as well as sexuality and in spaces shared by people of particular sexualities. Generally speaking, I would say that I would be most happy with trans-specific (or single occupancy where appropriate) spaces. However, at the same time, I recognize this is not always practical. It would be a logistical and financial nightmare to create spaces specifically for us, and even if you did, there are simply far too few of us in the world to justify it.
Thus, we opt for nuanced integration. There’s a lot to talk about with regard to all of these spaces. I could delve into my opinions on each here, but it would make this article far too long and I would be digressing far too much. Let’s suffice to say, in addition to what’s already been said, that the fact I am trans takes precedence in all cases. There’s a horrible tendency I’ve noticed for trans activists to be opposed to discourse over these topics on the basis of their mantra: trans women are women. It’s so discouraging to me when I see nuanced discourse being denied to people in favor of the mantra. For such activists, there is no nuance to be explored. Either trans women are women and welcome in all of those spaces without question, or you are a bigot/TERF.
For the record, no, you are not a bigot nor a TERF if you hold concerns over the nuance that comes with our public accommodations. Such concerns are perfectly rational/reasonable and worth addressing in good faith, returning the same reasonability and rationality with any interlocutor. If you’re looking for someone to have that sort of discourse with, please feel free to comment here, contact me via my contact page, or DM @drawnoutofshape on twitter. I’m always happy to discuss those views with anyone.
Several years ago, when I was first becoming interested in radical feminism and gender critique, I went on a forum and asked a group of gender critical feminists a philosophical question:
If we had the technology to enable complete transition of sex leaving trans people indistinguishable from the opposite of our birth sex chromosomally, hormonally, reproductively, etc. would you then recognize transwomen as women?
Going into it, I thought, “Of course they would see me as a woman then. There’d be no way to distinguish me.”
But, I was proven wrong.
Even if we had a magical tube I could enter and then re-emerge female, I would “technically” be an adult human female, you might even objectively identify me as one, but there’s still a difference.
There’s still the fact that I had the experience of being born male, and the experience living perceived as male up until I stepped into the tube. These historical differences count for so much more than we give them credit. They account for much of our learned behavior, garnered expectations, social mobility, granted opportunity, and personal autonomy. Had I been born female, my experience of the world would have been completely different, as would the world’s experience of me. The ways I would relate to the world and the ways the world would relate to me would be deeply impacted by that difference.
Now, let’s put my two halves back together and return to our complex reality.
In the past, some women have expressed to me that they aren’t comfortable having intimate conversations with transwomen, “Why?” I would ask, and I’m sure they give me good answers, but I wasn’t willing to hear them and consider the truth they could see plain as day.
It wasn’t until a woman asked me this question, that I finally understood:
“If a person said they were a transwoman and engaged in an intimate trans-centric conversation with me, only to later reveal that they are not actually trans, would I feel lied to/betrayed?”
Yes, yes I would.
I’ve spoken with enough of my trans sisters by now to understand very well that there are just some things, usually very personal, intimate things about my trans experiences that I am only comfortable communicating with other transwomen. I want to communicate those things to someone who can understand and relate to them. If someone claimed to be trans in order to gain that kind of trust and garner that kind of intimate discussion from me under false pretenses, I wouldn’t feel safe communicating with that person anymore.
The same, it seems obvious to me now, is true of women. As I wrote when speaking to my womanhood, there is a lot of circumstance I share with women. I consider them my sisters too, not just transwomen. But there’s still some places I can’t go with them. Things I can’t relate to. Things they might find me knowing offensive after learning they’ve opened up under the false pretense that I’m an adult human female, just as I would be offended if I found I opened up to someone who wasn’t an adult human transsexual.
It’s all very complicated, but truth always is. The truth is that I’m a transwoman who values the difference that makes her distinct from women. I exist in a very complex, nuanced reality that is never easy but comes with its own rewards.
What does, “not a woman” mean exactly? Does this mean I’m a man? No, clearly not. My philosophy is transwomen are transwomen. There is more difference between me and men than between me and women.
It means only that I’m not an adult human female, and I’m not afraid to say it in celebration of difference. I’m an adult human male-to-female transsexual; a transwoman, and proud of it.
I’m not afraid to be present in our complex, nuanced reality and show the world how much a transwoman like me has to offer, bringing the full depth and breadth of my experiences to bear in my creations and interactions.
An exploration of gatekeeping practices in the trans community.
Every group of people has its gatekeepers.
In some groups, gatekeeping is necessary. For instance, we would never trust our political leaders if they were people who simply stepped up and walked into their positions. We accept them (or at least deal with them) because we gatekeep them through our political processes. Voting, or political gatekeeping, enables us to choose candidates at least somewhat democratically.
Gatekeeping in the trans community is also necessary, but for very different reasons. But what are the gates being kept, and whose place is it to keep them?
Often, members of the trans community choose to take this responsibility on themselves and position themselves as the gatekeeper. Such people are often labeled “TruScum”, “bigot”, or “TERF” given the exclusionary nature of such practices, and it is commonly correct to apply these terms to them, but I’ve been called all of the above and worse myself for maintaining that gates should be kept at all.
In my view, it isn’t our place as members of the trans community to keep the gates of our community policed. That right belongs to the medical and psychological practitioners who take us on as patients and work with us toward diagnosis and treatment. Our engagement with them is deeply important to ensure our mental and physical health as we move toward transition and undergo treatment. These individuals are the only ones who should be granted the power to police our gates. As members of the trans community, our role should be at most to constructively criticize those who avoid the gates and help them access proper care.
I’ve mentioned diagnosis above, only in that it is commonly part of our trajectory through the process. Personally, I don’t believe diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria / Gender Incongruence should be required to access treatment, though I would support a mental health evaluation as part of the requirement, provided we could be granted guaranteed access to it, no matter our social or financial circumstances.
Processes and care channels for transition vary by location. When I first transitioned, 3 months of therapy was required leading up to diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria. Once diagnosed, I was recommended on to a doctor who physically examined me and informed me on the medication for my treatment. At any point in this process, anyone can legally change their name, as I did at the very beginning. However, when it came to my gender marker, a surgical requirement barred me from legal recognition as female. For many years, this was detrimental to my well being. I’m a pre-operative transwoman, meaning that I’ve not yet had sex reassignment / gender affirmation surgery. It’s a procedure I desperately need, but have been unable to have due to health and financial complications preventing me from it. It’s something I can get one day, but there’s a long road toward it ahead of me still.
Thankfully, my state changed the law to accommodate people like myself. Now, the way it works is that the onus for gatekeeping is removed from surgical procedure and instead is placed on the medical professionals monitoring our hormone treatments. I approve of this system because it encourages us toward proper care channels without being too much of a burden; also because medical professionals are in the best position to make the judgement call as to whether or not we should be legally recognized and being that they must stick their necks out on our behalf keeps them accountable and serious in the endeavor.
Engagement with a system like this is good for both us and for society. My state has not once to my knowledge seen an incident of abuse of our systems. And given the availability and affordability of care here, even the most underprivileged are rarely unduly burdened by the ways our gates are kept. It is fair, balanced, and promotes safety and security for everyone.
Self-ID has become a big topic around the world, recently, with the UK debating implementation of the policy and other countries, such as parts of the US, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, and a few others have already done so. For the uninitiated, self-ID effectively overrides systems like the legitimizing pathway to legal recognition in my state, in favor of legal recognition on the basis of self-declaration alone. Meaning, one could change their gender marker on their birth certificates/government ID at will.
It’s argued that self-ID will benefit poor/underprivileged trans people by removing the burdens of requiring engagement with established care channels like the ones I’ve been through. I have so many issues with this, it’s hard to decide where to begin. There is great potential for abuse of these laws and rights conflicts over sex-based rights that radical feminists have been rallying against. I won’t touch deeply on these concerns and will let those feminists speak for themselves. My main concerns are self-ID’s trans-centric effects.
First of all, it would remove the layer of accountability I described that currently exists between doctors and patients in my state. With this layer of accountability removed, doctors will have less incentive to provide us with the highest possible quality of care. This could allow professionals to let other conditions presenting as dysphoria (i.e. schizophrenia, psychosis, PTSD) or comorbid conditions to slip through the gates unaddressed. It would also detract from the process of legitimization earned via our caregivers’ gatekeeping, making society at large less stable and secure. Stability and security are ensured in our current systems via this gatekeeping by the accountability of medical professionals, who ascertain that we ourselves are stable, secure, and dedicated to transition.
Self-ID would also enable transfolk to self-medicate indefinitely. Many are not aware, but it is possible to purchase hormones via black markets and medically transition without the involvement of medical professionals at all. I find this concept of indefinite self-medication highly dangerous for trans people. Hormone replacement therapy is not idiot-proof, and without proper monitoring of hormone levels and dosages, one can develop liver disease, cardiovascular diseases such as DVT, etc., it is excessively easy to destroy your body if you don’t know what you’re doing. Self-ID seems to encourage this behavior. Another worry I have that springs forth from this line of thinking is that self-ID might lead to lowering in the demand for proper care, as indefinite self-medication becomes more feasible.
If demand for proper care channels decreases, incentive to improve those care channels will also decline. This should be the opposite of our goals. Poor/underprivileged trans people’s main issue comes from inaffordability and inaccessibility of proper care. If we are to solve that problem and meet their unanswered demand, we need incentives to increase the breadth of availability of care and design systems to help individuals in need with accessing and affording them. This is the true solution to this problem that our governments are ignoring. Self-ID is just a bone they are throwing to us in hopes we will be satisfied and ignore the actual problem.
The actual problem is far bigger than just poor/underprivileged trans people and no one seems to want to talk about that in this debate. Poor/underprivileged people die every day due to inability to access and/or afford proper care. The trans community is just a tiny fraction of the population who suffers from this social injustice.
Many trans people like myself who have been through these processes and find value in our current systems have begun to speak out against self-ID. This conflict is at the peak of trends in certain spheres of trans activism that have culminated with the splitting of our community.
On one side, we have the new wave of activists pushing a very identity-based narrative that effectively calls for rejection of the idea there is a biological underpinning to what trans people are and that instead, gender is entirely about one’s internal sense of identity. This side would tell you that anyone who wants to be trans is, and that transition is a choice.
On the other side, we have those who understand being trans is a condition with a biological underpinning that one is born with that brings with it undeniable biological imperatives. This side would tell you that only those who are diagnosed with the condition are actually trans and that we are born this way.
The truth is likely somewhere between the two.
It’s difficult to say exactly where, but unless we address this growing divide in discourse with one another, I feel as though this is going to rip the trans community apart.
Personally, my views align more with the thinking we are born with a condition. However, I think that it’s a condition that exists on a wide spectrum, as all human conditions do. It manifests in different ways in different bodies. Biological imperatives may vary from trans person to trans person. Most of us suffer from a full body dysphoria, that drives us to binary transitions. Others suffer from partial body dysphoria, and may only need to transition to certain degrees such as in the case of some non-binary trans people and some non-op binary trans people. Others still experience social dysphoria, which is born primarily of the distress of existing as a man/woman in society. And let’s not forget the group that claims to have no dysphoria at all.
I think that when transfolk say they don’t have dysphoria, they mean many different things, but very few of those is actually, “I am perfectly comfortable living with my birth sex.” More often than not, such people actually do have the same condition but maybe have lived life in such a way that they’ve avoided suffering from dysphoria or perhaps they *do* experience it but genuinely don’t experience it the same way as others, or simply don’t understand it in the same way others do.
You’ll find in this internal debate that there are a great many opinions within the trans community on what constitutes a trans person. Some will say that we should blindly accept everyone. Others would say we should maintain restrictive criteria to use in judging who to accept and who to reject. Both sides make good points.
On one hand, if we accept everyone on blind faith, we open the door to those who will use that to manipulate us. There are MANY bad people out there who appropriate either trans identities or trans activism for personal/political/financial gain. With no barriers protecting ourselves from them, we are susceptible to subversion by such people. We are forced to accept them as fellow trans people/allies without questioning their motives.
On the other hand, the need for gatekeeping in our community is obvious, given the pitfalls of the aforementioned view.
Earlier in this article, I already gave my opinions on who the gatekeepers are and where/how the gates should be kept, by accountable psychological and medical professional evaluation. The remainder of this article is going to examine why community-driven gatekeeping attempts fail spectacularly.
In order to become a gatekeeper of the trans community, one first needs criteria by which to judge other trans people.
Typical criteria involves things such as sexuality, age of transition, ability to pass, operation status/desire, personal history, etc.
The criteria for a TrueTranswoman™ will commonly look something like this:
- Androphillic, exclusively attracted to males
- Medically transitioned before the age of 25
- Passes as a woman organically
- Has had sex reassignment surgery or a clear need for SRS
- Gender non-conforming/feminine prior to transition
- Gender conforming and highly feminine post-transition
- Dysphoria began in childhood and persisted through adulthood
- Never had children
If one doesn’t meet this criteria, they are labeled as “pseudo-transsexual” or “transtrender” and shunned by some who follow this criteria.
The key word here is “some” because not every trans person who follows this TrueTrans™ ideology follows this same criteria.
If you ask anyone following this ideology what their criteria is, they might give the above set, or offer something similar with slight variance. Where might you think the difference between their criteria comes from?
If you guessed “themselves” you are correct.
TrueTrans™ people design the criteria used for their own merit-based gatekeeping systems just right to include themselves. If someone transitioned at 28, they might say 30, instead of 25 is the age limit. If they are gynephillic, meaning exclusively attracted to females, they might nix the sexuality requirement entirely. If they were not gender non-conforming pre-transition or are still non-conforming post-transition, they might abstain from that criteria. And so on, with ever-moving goalposts.
Underlying TrueTrans™ ideology, there seems to also invariably exist another layer intended to police trans people based entirely on behavioral mechanisms and like-mindedness. Any time a trans person might advocate something a TrueTrans™ person disagrees with, or behaves in such a way that doesn’t conform to “proper” trans behavior, these will also be used as demerits.
Earn enough demerits based on any given criteria, and you are not TrueTrans™. You are a psuedo-transsexual. A transtrender. Part of some #transcult incursion against true transsexuals.
As I hope is already apparent, TrueTrans™ ideology is flawed.
The inevitable end to this way of thinking, is that the beholder of TrueTrans™ ideology is the only true transsexual. If you dig deeply enough into each and every one of us, you will invariably find criteria by which to exclude us all.
I believe that the majority of those who adopt TrueTrans™ ideology have a pathological need for validation that is satisfied by the ideology. This need can come from many sources, but most commonly it seems to be adopted by individuals who live isolated lives and struggle against oppressive forces that degrade their sense of agency, or control over themselves as they exist in their reality.
By posturing themselves as a true transsexual and disparaging others who don’t fit their criteria, they receive a dose of self-validation. After disparaging another trans person, they might experience a sense of euphoria, or garner some sense of control over agency. But, these feelings are only temporary, and they always need another fix.
To be fair to those who do follow TrueTrans™ ideology, not all of them are this deranged. Many do follow this way of thinking with purity of intent. They intend their actions as a gatekeeper to have a positive effect over the trans community and society at large, but so often their methods and/or motives are terribly flawed.
So, what do you think? Which way of thinking is better? TrueTrans™ ideology, or blindly accepting all people claiming to be trans legitimately are?
There isn’t a good answer to this question as far as I can tell other than recognizing that gatekeeping, while important to the trans community and society at large, is not our place. That onus is, and should remain, on the professionals who work with us in transitionary care channels. If an individual has not engaged with those care channels, they should be criticized, but constructively, in ways that might help direct them toward or assist them with accessing proper care. If an individual has engaged with those care channels but you still believe they aren’t TrueTrans™, then recognize that they are not your enemy. They are victims. Victims of a professional who should be held accountable for not providing them with proper care.
Roving around through trans communities in TrueTrans™ attack packs to assault and harass trans people who don’t fit one set of TrueTrans™ criteria or another does no one any good. For every actual fake such groups might successfully exclude from the community, they hurt two more who are genuine.
This is obviously a deeply complex and nuanced issue. I am aware that my views have flaws too, but as far as I can tell, they are the best way forward. As always though, I am open-minded and eager to hear my readers’ opinions.
If you have any thoughts, especially with regard to how we should handle this issue moving forward, I would appreciate if you shared them in the comments below.
Thank you! ❤
Know all your enemies.
We know who our enemies are.
Let’s talk about bogeymen.
In mythology, bogeymen are known to be imaginary evil spirits and are commonly depicted frightening children. They are the beast in your closet. The monster under your bed.
In reality, for many, they are everywhere.
We create them. We call others them.
They are social constructs.
In his 1919 novel Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson writes:
“At his desk the writer worked for an hour. In the end he wrote a book which he called “The Book of the Grotesque.” It was never published, but I saw it once and it made an indelible impression on my mind. The book had one central thought that is very strange and has always remained with me. By remembering it I have been able to understand many people and things that I was never able to understand before.The thought was involved but a simple statement of it would be something like this:
That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful.
The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of them. There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon.
Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful.
And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.
It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.”
These grotesques Anderson describes are, in essence, what I understand to be bogeymen manifesting in reality. They are released into the world via our own perceptions, by embracing the false notion that we are capable of perceiving truth and claiming it as our own.
When one embraces such truths as their truth and uses them to build a monolithic representations of groups of people, bogeymen are born.
Racists fear bogeymen of other races. Sexists fear bogeymen of other sexes. Homophobes and transphobes fear LGBT bogeymen. Conservatives fear liberal bogeymen. Liberals fear conservative bogeymen. Xenophobes fear immigrant bogeymen. These are direct manifestations of our tribal psyches.
We trans people have a particular breed of bogeyman that we call “TERF”.
TERF, as I’ve written about in a similar article stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. TERFs are perceived to be a real, organized extremist group of anti-trans activists. They seek to erase access to medical care and expunge accommodations granted to us by our societies for our safety and protection. But not everyone with questions and concerns over trans people or movements in trans activism is such a bogeyman. The TERF label is often applied to avoid difficult discussion and what might otherwise be reasonable discourse.
Anti-trans activists, and primarily TERFs, have their own bogeyman. They call it the transcult. The transcult is perceived to be a real, organized extremist group of pro-trans activists. They are misogynists who seek to harm women and erase them from society. They prioritize the needs of trans people and punch sideways (never upward) in their activism, at primarily vulnerable groups of women with reasonable concerns over our movements. But not every ally to trans people is such a bogeyman. The transcult label is often applied to avoid difficult discussion and what might otherwise be reasonable discourse.
I have a long history of speaking out against activists calling people TERFs and/or pushing any other divisive or inciteful rhetoric. It’s important to label the problem. It’s important to identify the group and those who do belong to it. It’s not appropriate to employ the term as an aspersion against individuals.
In my own activism and advocacy, I seek out those who have questions and concerns over us. I engage in difficult discussions with them and through them, work to build bridges to common ground where we can constructively address the issues they have. I’ve had so many wonderful conversations with such people and I find that once we clear the air of toxicity, it is excessively easy to do so.
But clearing the air of toxicity is no easy task in our current political environment. There’s simply too many bogeymen running around. The air is so toxic that it affects the perceptions of those I engage in discourse with. They pre-conceive that I am a member of the transcult. That I am a sexist. A rapist. A narcissist. Deluded. Mentally ill. Misogynistic. All qualities ascribed to the transcult bogeyman.
I’m used to it. I’ve been breathing the toxic air of our politics for a very long time now. It doesn’t skew my perceptions anymore. Where so many others seem to see bogeymen running amok, keeping the world constantly on fire, I see people with differing philosophies, doing what they can to put those fires out.
There’s my take, now you might be asking yourself, “So what?”
So we need to expunge trans activism of bogeymen.
If you are a non-trans ally in activism who makes a habit of not engaging with others in good faith and instead just call them names, label them with aspersions, or stir hateful or inciteful rhetoric into the discourse, your voice is no longer welcome as far as I am concerned.
Try to see this from my perspective as a trans person who works to build bridges with those who hate us. For every bridge I build, you burn two more. Your rhetoric adds nothing of value to the discourse, and when taken out of context is used to socially construct the transcult bogeyman I am mistaken for every day of my life. I’m forced to live with the consequences of your actions every waking moment. You are not.
By no means is this to say that our allies don’t have my support. They do. Many are wonderful and nothing but constructive. The sort I take issue with are destructive. They detour us from engaging in difficult and important conversations, spewing toxicity into the air that does nothing but create more bogeymen.
If you aren’t convinced, look at it this way:
If a TERF is attacking you, pushing divisive & hateful rhetoric, they are making themself look like a fool and fueling the fires against their own cause. I don’t care what they say. I say let it be. Let their hate speak for itself. Don’t retaliate with backlash. Any time you reach a point where you can no longer engage in good faith, simply don’t. Let it stand, block/mute them, and move on with your life. Don’t sink to their level.
The moment you lash back is the moment bogeymen are born. Any venom you spew back at them can and will be taken out of context to fuel the fires of hatred against us and your attacks only strengthen their resolve, further cementing the idea of the transcult bogeyman into their brains. It adds nothing whatsoever of value to the discourse. All it does is make us look bad.
In our activism and advocacy, we need to get back to the heart of the matter. We need to overcome this tribal mentality and stop demonizing the other tribes. Instead, we should be uplifting and celebrating our own tribe, while using positivity to engage in good faith with other tribes, and showing them all the good we have to offer the world.
There’s so much we need to do. So much work that needs done. So many trans people living in pain, distress, poverty, isolation, etc. and all the reductive, divisive, inciteful, hateful rhetoric coming from our side of the discourse is only distracting us from meeting those ends.
Please consider the impacts of your activism on the big picture and to borrow a metaphor from one of our most well known detractors, clean your room.