Good morning! I re-arranged my room so now you guys can look at all the clothes I’m not wearing. I talked to a detransitioned person that I hadn’t really talked to a lot before this week and they told me this pretty incredible, terrible story about medical negligence and you know when you hear other, when I hear other people’s stories about the ways that they were really let down in big, profound ways by their doctors and their therapists, it’s very heavy to hold. I’ve definitely had experiences where I heard other people’s very, very heavy stories and I actually couldn’t handle it, you know it was just, I think I had a lot of survivor guilt wrapped up in it, and you know holding someone’s story of betrayal and trauma is just a heavy thing to hold. Even if it doesn’t connect to your own, and in my case, when I talk to other detransitioned people about the shitty shit other people put them through it connects to my own.
But even though it’s very, very hard it is valuable for me, and um, I was talking to this person and they were telling me this story where other people let them down over and over and over again and then this person was talking about the shame they felt about getting transition wrong, and how they don’t want other people to know this about them, that it says so many bad things about them that they got it wrong. And it was so clear to me from their story that it wasn’t that they, as an individual got it wrong, it was that many people collaborated on making sure that they got it wrong. That all through this person’s life they had been made to feel like an incorrect member of their gender, that at the first….they were encouraged and supported in this process, nobody medically transitions by themselves. It takes many people to put someone on hormones, and get someone surgery, so hearing this person’s story was very valuable to me because it really highlighted for me how inappropriate the shame of detransitioned people is. And that can be very easy to see in other people’s stories and for some reason harder to apply it to yourself as an individual.
You know, I don’t think that shame is always a bad thing, I think that there can be really great things that happen for the community when people are ashamed of the right things, like being really irresponsible with other people’s well-being, like stealing, like lying, like hurting people to get what you want, but those people who do those things don’t seem to be that ashamed and then the people who get hurt seem to be very ashamed of it. And I think it might be connected to feeling connected to how weak we’ve been. It’s hard to look back on an encounter where you did not have power and another person did have power and they used it to hurt you. And in some ways feeling a lot of anger directed at yourself is a way to avoid the reality that you had a lot less power than another person. That often can feel more uncomfortable- the reality that hey, sometimes we are not the powerful person and other people can do a bunch of bad shit to us because we weren’t powerful then….that can often feel worse than being like, “oh I’m such an idiot, oh I’m so crazy, oh what was I thinking?”
I think that one of the draws to feeling a lot of anger at yourself is that it’s fundamentally safe to beat up on yourself. Nothing changes when you decide that you’re the thing that should suffer. When you decide that like, “oh well you know I was just stupid and crazy and all kinds of bad stuff, and I created this bad situation for myself and so I should be very ashamed of myself and keep it quiet and not interfere with the goings on of the rest of the world.” That’s very safe! It sucks, it sucks to constantly be beating up on yourself, but it’s also, you know what that feeling is and you know what will happen,- nothing. And that feels safe. It feels much less safe to acknowledge the ways that other people hurt you and let you down in big ways.
It feels less safe because then there’s a call to action. Then you have to deal with the ethics of, well this group of people did this to me, they’re still in the game, they still got the same jobs, they’re still writing the same letters, they’re still prescribing the same hormones, do I have an ethical duty to try and interfere with them assisting another person in creating a really bad situation for themselves?
Now, I uh, it is my belief that as a detransitioned person you’ve gone through enough shit and you don’t necessarily have any- your ethical duty I think for you is to make your life as good as it possibly can be. I haven’t met one detransitioned person who hadn’t gone through incredible betrayal and trauma in their lives, and I think before we start talking about the ethics of what you should do for other people I think you have an ethical duty to create happiness and joy for yourself first. I think you’ve been through enough. I think the rest of your life could be a vacation and that would be wonderful for you, and I think that’s fine. But I would hate for the rest of your life to be you trying to run from this part of your life because you were ashamed of it. Because I don’t think you have anything to be ashamed of. I truly, I don’t think you have one thing to be ashamed of.
You know, I had a lot of shame about being detransitioned and I definitely had the story in my head that it made me weak, that I was a weak person and I definitely didn’t create that story myself, that was a story that other people gave me, and people were very upfront about giving me that story. I remember one of the first, one of the first like efforts I made to try to get some support for myself I sent an email, oh this was terrible, I actually posted on craigslist being like, “hey like I’m detransitioning and I’m freaking out, is there anyone out there who has gone through this?” And I got terrible replies.
I did get a guy telling me how long his dick was, because there’s no life circumstance that a random guy won’t tell you the dimensions of his dick in response to. I got some people telling me that I was “fascinating,” and they’d love to take me out for coffee and hear my “fascinating” story, which is not helpful. Then I got a person who lived in the middle of the country and was detransitioned themselves and they said, there are different amounts of hardship that people can endure. And you know, I don’t want to beat up on that person because I think that they were telling me a lot about what they thought of their own story when they said that to me, but I had to really mull it over because one of the things that I knew about myself is that actually I can endure like incredible suffering. It’s really crazy how much I can put myself through for years at a time. So I knew that didn’t jive with the circumstances I was in when I got this email, it didn’t jive with how much I had sacrificed to make this transition happen, it didn’t jive with me. One thing I knew about myself was that I was not weak. But it was clear to me that that was what other people thought about me when I was making this decision to detransition.
And you know, people can think whatever they want, they have a right to make up whatever they want, but it’s important when you think about what you think of yourself that you are very intentional about what your values are. What often saves me when I am about to make a sweeping judgment of myself is I’ll think, well, would I make this judgment about my friend who is going through the same thing? One of the most healing things that happened for me as a result of detransition is that I met other detransitioned women and when I met them in real life it was just absolutely clear to me that they were not weak at all, that they were some of the very strongest women that I had ever met. And they were not stupid at all, they were sort of frighteningly smart, and that actually they were not disconnected from reality at all. They had had lots of mental health concerns over their lives, but they were very clear. They were very clear about what had been done to them, what was a reaction, a physiological reaction from their bodies to having had terrible things done to them, and they were very clear about the systems that had let them down, and they were very clear about what every human being deserves in terms of treatment and dignity.
So if I hadn’t met those women, and I had just, all I had had was this story about my own weakness that other people really wanted to believe about me- I’ve encountered people giving me that opinion about myself several times since. I have had people talk about my story, like my story is about accepting my weakness, to my face. People are very….sometimes I feel like there’s something about my face that encourages too much honesty from other people, because they will bring the realest shit to me and say it right out loud to me. If I had not had in my back pocket my friendships with detransitioned woman, and knowing them as people and knowing how rad they are, and how smart they are, and how strong they are, then I would have been done for. Because I would’ve believed that story about my weakness.
I don’t think that it does any good for anyone in this world for detransitioned people to be ashamed of themselves. I don’t think it helps trans people. I don’t think that- it doesn’t help detransitioned people. The only person that is helped by detransitioned people being ashamed and staying quiet are medical professionals who would like this trans narrative to be much simpler than it actually is.
Those medical professionals generally would like it to be simple because they are strongly ideologically motivated, they have this idea about how gender works and what freedom around gender looks like and they don’t want it to be complicated, they don’t want dissociative disorders to have anything to do with it, they don’t want autism spectrum disorders to have anything to do with it, they don’t want trauma to be a part of this, they want things to be very, very simple. And if things are very, very simple then they know the right thing to do, and they can keep doing just that thing, you just funnel a lot of people through who want the surgeries and then at the end of that you get to be The Savior Doctor who did that for people. Gosh, isn’t that a beautiful fantasy to live in? But that’s not actually responsible care, it’s not actually ethical care. And I understand that those people would be incredibly uncomfortable by detransitioned people and trans people who have regrets over the procedures they particiapted in speaking up. But the thing is that it’s actually good for those people to be made uncomfortable.
It’s actually in those doctors well-being that we speak up and make them uncomfortable. I don’t believe that those people are bad people, I think that those doctors actually desperately want to be good people and that’s actually what’s getting in their way, so since they desperately want that it’s important that we create the context in which they can be the good people they want to be. It sucks, it’s going to suck to feel confused, it’s going to suck to look on their own actions and confront the harm they did people, but that’s the price you pay for being a good person and an ethical person- that self reflection.
You know I can’t talk you out of your shame, but I don’t think that your shame serves anybody. I don’t think you’re doing anyone any good by keeping quiet about your experiences. There are lots and lots of people who will say to your face that you need to keep quiet about your experiences or you are hurting people. I’ve had people say that to my face, I’ve had very good people say that to my face, and I just don’t buy it.
I don’t buy that any system based on a bunch of people staying silent about bad things that have happened to them is working in anyone’s self interest. I’ve never seen any other system that was reliant on a bunch of people staying quiet be ultimately a good thing for anyone involved, so….it doesn’t happen that way with families when something bad is happening in the family, it doesn’t happen that way in companies or nonprofits when something bad is happening and no one’s talking about it. I would rather that you took care of yourself and built a beautiful life for yourself than you know start taking risks, putting your story out there, but there is a way that speaking up about your experiences is self- care. And there is a way that being clear and honest about how other people helped you create a bad circumstance for yourself is self-care. And I want you mostly to take care of yourself, I think that you deserve it. Well, that’s my thoughts on shame and self-blame and speaking up. And I hope you’re doing well and I don’t think that you have anything to be ashamed about, I really don’t. Ok, take care, bye.