So it’s a strange situation to be in to feel like you lucked out by quitting something. As I put more time between me and my trans identification my gratitude towards whatever protective force it was that threw all that bad luck in my path and got between me and surgeries grows. I have a very, very blessed life.
I both want to share the strategies that resulted in me getting to a good place, and I also don’t want to tell other people how to live. If you feel like you want out of your trans identification, here’s how I did it. If you feel like you don’t want out at all, cool, do you. Lots of good vibes to you on your path.
When I felt absolutely sure I wanted out, I was working at that terrible clinic. Thus I had a job dependent on believing the notion that everyone has a true, authentic inner gender and expressing that inner gender is foundational to happiness. When I couldn’t escape the truth that, at least in my life, buying into that idea had resulted in all kinds of anxiety and objectifying, scary experiences, it wasn’t something I could express safely at my job, to my closest friends, or to my therapist. I had really cocooned myself within a lot of social systems where this was a venerated truth.
I don’t like fighting. I like to keep it polite, I’d rather find common ground than find all the ways we aren’t meant to get along. Worst comes to worst, let’s talk about the weather.
So my strategy was withdrawal before self-expression. I looked around at my life, and I thought, “Wow I would really be in a bad position if I was authentic about what I see happening around me, so I’m gonna bounce.” So I got out of that job first. I was pretty scared that I’d never be able to get another job again. Partly because I was yelled at so much at that job that I’d lost almost all of my self-concept as a capable person. When I quit that job I seriously thought I might be the kind of person who needed to live on disability.
But no, I’m actually a pretty good employee. Not perfect, sometimes a little spacey, but I take seriously the team dynamic and I try to bring my best to my coworkers. And I’m smart, no matter how people at that clinic spoke to me.
The biggest stroke of luck that got me out of that job was being able to return to my grad program, and being able to move in with my dad. If you’re in a job where your trans id is a big part of the social aspect of the job, it might be time to lean on your loved ones if possible.
My advice on detransitioning socially on the job is limited. I did request people start calling me “she” at that clinic, which happened AFTER I started wearing makeup to get them to be nicer to me. People generally did not abide by my request, I got called “they” fairly regularly. (In retrospect, this is kind of funny, that there was both coercive femininity at play and coercive trans-ness. Only funny in retrospect though, it was exceedingly un-funny at the time.)
I came back to a hometown where I’d made a HUGE deal about transitioning. Tons of strangers knew about my transition, I’d broadcast it in a major way.So I just hid out for awhile. I just went to school, came home to my dad’s house, went to exercise classes, kind of didn’t speak from January till May. I hid out until I felt strong enough to provide an exceptionally short explanation and set boundaries around what people were entitled to know about me.
Then I totally lucked out by getting my current job. A friend I’d worked with at another restaurant really wanted me to apply. I felt like such a mess I put her off. Then she bugged me about it, then I ponied up and thought, “eeesh, my work references are such a mess I should really take this job if it’s being offered on a platter.”
Aaaah, this job has been such a blessing. Gosh, I don’t know what to tell you about finding a job with really good people. It’s a matter of luck. But being at a job with such caring, thoughtful bosses and co-workers has been the most healing thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s been the foundation for me being able to do my other healing stuff- I’m only in these particular yoga classes because my boss took me to her studio. I waited so long before starting to open up at this job about what I’d been through- like literally I didn’t tell them about it till this April I think? But good people understand when you need to be closed off for awhile.
So my strategies for exiting have been largely about getting self-protective, shutting up while I find better situations, taking a long time to make sure those better situations were safe places for me to be authentic, and then finally opening up to people.
Most people outside of the trans community can totally hang with a detransition story. When you’ve been in the trans community for awhile you start to think everyone in the world is either totally bought into the “authentic inner gender” party line or a terrible bigot. I think actually most people think something along the lines of, “Trans people say a lot of weird things about how gender works, but it looks like they gotta do what they’re doing so I’m not going to engage.”
The story I tell people is short and sweet. It goes, “I had been through some rough stuff, this story that I was somehow not a woman made sense to me, but the deeper I got with the trans stuff the more unhappy I got, and it seemed like actually a lot of the people around me were pretty unhappy, so I stopped.”
Folks, even with people who are REALLY into being trans allies that story makes sense to them. You don’t need to tell them all your deep thoughts about the American Individualist Ideology and Internalized Misogyny and Finding Embodiment. A LOT of people have gotten into weird shit right after going through some rough stuff. That’s actually one of the cool parts of being detransitioned, when you tell people your weird story a lot of times they have a weird story to offer back to you.
Now, there were a lot of things about me that made getting out easier. I hadn’t gotten a mastectomy and I’m straight. The straight thing is such a major advantage. I think it’s a fair assessment to say most detransitioned women are interested in dating women. That’s a trickier situation to be in because a lot of lesbian and bisexual women feel part of being a good person is buying into the “inner gender” story. So if you want to go to dance parties and meetups for women who date women that short and sweet story I just told you might get interrogated more and you might get pushed to clarify that you still swear allegiance to the concept of inner gender.
I wish I had better advice for you about this. I guess really I would just point you to redressalert.tumblr.com and hot-flanks.wordpress.com. There are forums to connect with other detransitioned women reconnecting with a lesbian identity. It’s a pretty beautiful process to witness. Last year I had some feelings about not getting to be in on that beautiful process, but life is less fraught this year and I’m feeling more ok about being straight.
Oh, that’s a big thing to keep in mind- your feelings won’t always be so turned up! Things that seem like impossible challenges to resolve one year will become easy-peasy by the next one. You gotta know last year every time I went on a date with a new dude I thought “Ugh being attracted to these non-stop talkers is THE ABSOLUTE WORST.” But I’m getting a handle on keeping the non-stop talking dudes moving and noticing and concentrating on the ones that can do dialogue instead of monologue. The aspects of detransition that trip you up and frustrate you will get easier.
Definitely you want to fill up your life with activities that get you embodied, grounded, and calm. You want to cultivate peace as much as you can, so that when you see the latest trans thing going around facebook you can be your best self and not get way too deep into debating trans ideology with some random aunt of yours. Whenever I find myself really wrapped up in wanting to correct stuff on the internet I use it as a sign I’m not taking good care of myself. Take a bath, go to a yoga class, lift some weights, have a dance party- do what you need to to get peaceful. You can’t act intentionally in this world if you can’t create your own inner peace.Sick, weird, terrible stuff is happening all the time- you’ve got to be able to find your inner equilibrium and balance to be a person who creates good stuff. Obviously I am still working on this.I expect it to be a lifelong process. To be real, I think the spiritual purpose of the trans stuff in my life was to get me to take seriously the journey of creating inner peace.
Let’s see, find a job with good people, lean on your loved ones while you rearrange your life, connect with detransitioned women, what else? Oh, your friend group. This is actually the trickiest part. I had to take long breaks from some friendships of mine. There were people I called “friends” from the trans scene that, when I looked at how those friendships affected my wellbeing, I just straight up had to ditch. People who could only talk about themselves and always needed to borrow money. Then I ended up ditching a lot of people who were way too into telling other people how to talk- like the kind of people who need to explain to you how hip hop lyrics are problematic. (UGH, DUH, COME ON.) But I still have good friends, like I’ve attended their weddings, that I don’t talk about this stuff with. You know, it’s not bad to have a year of your life where you re-evaluate who you’re investing your energy in. I’ve got some friends I’m still on the fence about. A lot of times what will happen is a life event will clarify who you want to keep around. I think a good thought experiment is, “do I want to be part of the celebration when this person has a baby?”If you do, but you can’t deal with how much trans stuff they post on facebook, unfollow their feed and go for a run/eat a sandwich/lay down.
It’s incredibly tricky to be detransitioned and open about it. We are not in control of the general narrative for how these things work. But that can clarify the reality that you can be fundamentally ok and not in control of what other people think. You can be ok, you can connect with other people who see things the way you do, you can build stuff together. Holding an unpopular viewpoint and being ok are TOTALLY compatible. You have to be strategic, but it’s totally possible.
You can email me if you think that would be helpful. Sometimes I’m not the best at returning email, especially if I don’t know what to say. That happens sometimes, people will present me with a really hard situation over email and I don’t have anything to respond with besides, “Wow that’s hard.” But still, you can write, as long as you know you are writing a flaky person. A flaky person who wants you to be ok and your best self, but a total flake nonetheless.