Responding to Illinois Family Institute’s use of my face (and then some thoughts on process)


(The transcript of this video is below but here’s something more important than the video I want to make sure you see:

All Out is raising money for queer Iranian refugees who are stuck in Turkey, including a 23 year old lesbian woman who was being pressured to transition, with the certain threat of imprisonment and violent punishment if she remained a woman in romantic relationships with women. Please give what you’re able to.)

Hi guys. I cut my hairs. And this video will partly be talking about why that happened but it also, more than that, this video is about talking about process. Knowing that you’re in process, knowing that you’re in individual process in terms of your own growth as a person and also knowing that you’re in the process of shaping things in your community, you’re also sometimes on a national stage in a national community process and all those things interact in hard ways sometimes. Ok, and this is the story for what happened with that with me, last week.

Last week this woman Laurie Higgins, who works for the Illinois Family Institute which is an anti-abortion, anti-LGBT civil rights conservative Catholic organization, wrote an article where she quoted words of mine, words of Cari’s, words of Crash’s, linked to our videos and also used some pictures of me to paint transgender people as a predatory cult and also part of that project and the reason that she wants transgender people to be framed as a predatory cult is to put forth the idea that LGBT people are a predatory cult really. All these “perverts” trying to win over children to their perverted ways. So Laurie Higgins took a still of me from a documentary I was in when I was transitioning, not about trans stuff, it was about the Cleveland comedy scene, it was called “Make Fun,” I’m in that video and I let my friend Jim, who’s a really nice, who’s a good, nice guy, but I was being a fucking idiot at the time and there’s a scene where I’m shaving in the documentary. Carey, 30 year old Carey, why would you do that to yourself, I don’t know. And then she put a picture of that next to a picture, a still of me from the video I made pushing back against Julia Serano last summer who said that detransitioned people are on the transgender spectrum. And she took a picture of me from that video, and in that video I was wearing some makeup because I had just gotten off of work as a waitress, and she put those two pictures next to each other at the top of her article.

Maybe you can imagine that felt really humiliating for me, it felt very violating, it felt violating and then it also felt like shit, like all kinds of, a cascade of bad feelings, a cascade of humiliation and shame and like, goddamn it! Like, shit, it just made me really doubt, it made me really doubt the project of putting these videos out and that feels shitty because I want to believe that I’m doing the right thing with these videos and I want to believe that I’m helping other people with gender dysphoria by talking about this stuff. But it’s tricky because there are a lot of people who don’t have compassion for people with gender dysphoria and would love for people with gender dysphoria, whether those people choose to transition or come to self-identify as lesbian or gay men, would love to make those people into scapegoats.

And that’s a really tricky thing with talking about trans stuff in general. Because scapegoating is kind of this universal terrible process by which people put like, to manage their own ambient anxiety of living in a chaotic, anxious, fearful existence, where you could die, every day you could die right? That’s hard to function in so what people like to do in general is that they pick a person or a group and they put every bad trait they can think of onto that person or group and then they destroy that person or group. And you know it’s a nice way to take whatever resources that person or group has and take those and then also manage your own anxiety. It’s interesting because I really see the story of Jesus Christ as like an anti-scapegoating story like hey when you do that, when you decide like, “Who’s a person around here we could beat up? Oh, that guy. Well so he’s awful and let’s do that and let’s nail him to a tree” then three days later you find out that was God you did that to you fucking asshole! Seems to me, I really see Christianity as this like, don’t scapegoat people thing. Don’t nail people to trees, you’re gonna make a mistake and do it to God you idiot! But Laurie Higgins doesn’t see Christianity that way and seeing my face used that way was terrible.

So that happened and then there was, I responded to a Reddit question from a young detransitioned woman who had been on testosterone for like seven months asking really like whether a detransitioned woman could look feminine and I just really resonated with her anxieties and her fears and like it really reminded me of my emotional state when I first detransitioned and uh what was nice about that is it sort of made it clear to me, “oh that’s not my emotional state right now.” When I first detransitioned I was just like so self-conscious, so self-conscious that I was being read as a man, so just worried sick that I had like fucked up everything in my life, and I really needed the safety of like growing my hair out, putting on makeup, just reassuring myself like, I look feminine, people don’t think that I look not like a woman, when I first detransitioned if someone called me “they” it ruined my night. If someone called me “they” I had to go home. Because it brought on this huge thing like no one’s ever going to accept me as a woman, I’m always going to be this fetishized other, it was a big deal. I was like, in a bad place and when someone called me “they” I couldn’t fucking handle it and so I grew my hair out so that no one would ever call me “they” and it worked.

But responding to her question it made clear oh I’m not in that place anymore. Like, my body feels very real to me these days, my body feels correct. My body feels- I’m pretty into my body these days.And I don’t really have anxiety about whether anyone would view me as not a woman, so maybe this hair isn’t a thing I need anymore.

That happened and then the third thing that happened is that I got a blowout on friday for St. Patrick’s Day and it was the first time I’d ever gotten a blowout, my hair looked incredible, it looked like the hair you see on tv, I loved it. And I was like, “ohhhh it’s really hard to get the hair you see on tv.” I had this idea in my head that I’d grow my hair out and my hair would just look like this beautiful long hair you see on tv all the time, no you gotta put in like a lot of time and skills and training and once I saw the actual work that it would take to make my hair look like that I was like, “oh I”m not interested. I don’t have the time, I’m not smart enough for this.” You have to learn how to hold a blowdryer all kinds of weird ways, nah never mind.

So anyway those three things happened at once, it was quite an intense week, lots of ups, lots of downs, and I was like, “Oh I should cut my hair off.” I should cut my hair off so that conservative christians do not have a visual story that they can tell of a trans guy turning into a woman who is wearing makeup and performing your beautiful white womanhood bullshit and then I should also cut my hair off because I’m not in the same place I was two years ago, I don’t have the same fears I had two years ago, and I should cut my hair off because I’m too lazy, so that’s what’s up.

All this connects to the theme of process. It’s kind of hard to remind people that even though I’m doing this thing, that you can see my face, sometimes it feels like you know me, that I’m your friend, sometimes it feels like you fucking hate me, you think I’m a special-ass snowflake, it’s hard to sometimes remind people, even other detransitioned women tend to forget that I’m a person in my own process.

My favorite youtube comment I ever got was on one of my early videos and you know I got all kinds of crazy shit about like, I don’t know, just lots of people want to have weird conversations with me about like God and men and women and all this shit. But my favorite youtube comment was, it was from someone who was like, “Can’t you people lay off of her she just got off of this crazy party!” I was like, yes, that was it, I got caught up in this sex positive third wave crazy-ass party and now I’m out of it, the trip was like fucking weird, let me come down from that weird trip I went on. So it’s hard to remind other people that I’m in an individual process and I think when I make these videos I’m really worried about what I’m contributing to the community’s process, what I’m contributing to the national conversation about gender dysphoria and the ethical ways to approach gender dysphoria.

I have to put out there, no in no way do I think that transition is any kind of sin. I don’t think talking about these choices in terms of sin makes any sense. You’re creating a life strategy for yourself. You want to make sure you create a life strategy that serves your best interests. That keeps you alive for as long as possible, that keeps you healthy, that allows you to have intimate relationships, that allows you to work and do work that you love and to not have to think about yourself all the time. Right? For some people transition gets them to that place. For some people transition does not get them to that place. Let’s take sin out of the equation here. We wouldn’t be talking about sin if we were talking about ways to manage your depression, so I’m not going to act like sin as a concept makes any sense to bring into the conversation on how we manage symptoms of gender dysphoria.

What I hope is that by detransitioned people speaking honest and authentically about their process, their lives, the choices they’ve made, how they feel about the choices they’ve made, then the conversation about gender dysphoria nationally can grow up. And sometimes I get people like Laurie Higgins using my face and making me doubt whether that conversation is ever going to grow up.

Those aren’t the only times I doubt whether the conversation’s ever going to grow up. I used to be on the WPATH facebook page and the ways that I would see professionals talking about outcomes for their patients and specifically how I would see professionals talking about people who detransition it made me feel completely hopeless about whether the conversation was ever going to grow up. When I see people like Laurie Higgins talking about transgender people and LGBT people as a predatory cult I feel like, this conversation’s never going to grow up. And I’m going to be real, a lot of the ways that I see gender critical people talking about trans people gives me a hopeless feeling like, shit, we’re never going to grow up here. I feel hopeless a lot in this process I’m going to say. I get depressed about this a lot. And then I keep going. That’s all that happens. I get real bummed out, I’m like “this is terrible, everyone’s acting like a child, no one is respecting other people’s autonomy, respecting other people’s processes, treating each other with respect, looking for nuance, looking for complexity.” I get freaked out, and then I’m like, “Callahan you better go work out right now or you better go talk to some people who don’t think about this stuff all the time.” Most of the world doesn’t obsess about this so then I go talk to people who have more normal problems and it helps. So, yeah.

There’s a part of me that just wants to apologize for Laurie Higgins using my face in that way. And then I understand that that’s inappropriate because I didn’t do that and I know that for me transitioning without being aware of the existence of detransitioned people, without having the specifics of what that process is like, how they feel about their bodies, without having access to that information my transition happened inappropriately. So there’s no way that I can really buy into this idea that it’s better for people with gender dysphoria if there are not public faces talking about detransition. And then at the same time when Laurie Higgins uses my face that way I’m like, shit. That’s no good for anyone who experiences gender dysphoria, that kind of demonizing and scapegoating is not good. So I don’t know. What can you do? People suck.

My least favorite youtube comment that I ever got was on my video about why I was done with the word TERF, I talked about some trans women in that video who had done really not ok things and there was a trans woman who commented on that video and said, “Not all trans women are like that!” And I was like, oh, yeah, no of course! Like, no, yeah, I mean most trans women are not like that, I have trans women friends who are better people than I am. They are smart, caring, talented, kind people and them transitioning helped them become those people and indeed I’ve met even more trans women like that because of talking about detransition and talking about gender dysphoria. So yeah, no of course trans women are not like a couple of trans women who are in crisis, doing things that are really over the line. That’s not the norm, those women do exist, what they do is not ok, it’s important to call it out and say it’s not ok, this is not a good thing, we can’t let this happen. However, you know, there are white women out there who do terrible things, lots of white women who do terrible things. It’s important that we talk about the terrible things that they do, and then at the same time, like, yeah, people who look like me do awful things. I’m still distinct from them, but it’s important we talk about what they do so that we can stop them from doing it. Laurie Higgins is a white woman who does terrible things!

So anyway, I guess just that was really the hardest comment that I’ve ever gotten because it just made me feel like oh no, I’m not in any way saying that trans women are bad people, I have so much proof in my life that lots of trans women are lovely, talented, smart people who are exceptionally valuable to the human community. There are individual trans women who sometimes do shit that is not ok, just like there are individual white women who do shit that is not ok, we gotta talk about it, but no, it doesn’t make sense to scapegoat groups. Ok guys, that’s all. I have short hair now. People are in process. Let’s all try and be adults. It’s a hopeless thing begging that the world grow up but I don’t know what else to do. Take care, bye.

2 thoughts on “Responding to Illinois Family Institute’s use of my face (and then some thoughts on process)”

  1. I am really sorry this happened to you. And if I can figure out a way to let Laurie know it, I will. You are doing the right thing and people like her just don’t understand and they never will.What she does need to remember is that you are also the face of Jesus and it seems to me that she’s attacking not showing love or compassion for someone who is suffering. I have been on the judging side before and I am now evolving into more listening, loving and praying for God’s will for us to shine through. I will pray for her because she really is an enemy to healing and understanding.


  2. HI, so I searched and found the link for the above article and it’s been taken down. I am glad that her conscience kicked in. Peace to you.


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