Peer support vs. Mental Health Care and being on the other end of a generation gap

Hi guys. There’s uh…so I feel like so much of what I struggle with these days actually has to do with feeling old. And feeling like there’s a real generation gap that I didn’t expect and like have a lot of trouble navigating. I didn’t expect to be on the other side of a generation gap, kind of ever, I guess. It didn’t really hit me that I’d ever be the old person.

So this is where I really see the generation gap and have trouble navigating with people who are younger, especially in the detransitioned community. So it has to do with political discourse. A lot of younger people in the detransitioned community came up on tumblr, they came up doing pretty intense, pretty involved, long political debating online. And that’s not what I came up with, Tumblr was not a thing when I was in high school or college. When I was in college was when Facebook happened guys, so and not even my first two years of college, I didn’t have facebook till I was out of college actually. We had AOL online, instant message. That’s what my college internet use was like. So I didn’t come up with the expectation that you had to have a very complete, coherent set of political positions that you would constantly be challenged on.

The last time in my life where I really had to lay out, argue for political positions was when I was in college, but it was in the context of poli sci classes, like I got a comparative religions major, don’t do that kids there are no jobs where you are asked to compare religions, and then I got a poli sci minor but the poli sci department at Ohio State when I attended was very conservative, so I pretty much had to learn a bunch of free market theory. And my papers were less about my take on free market theory and more about just showing, demonstrating that I understood what these theorists were saying. And then I handed it off to a professor, who didn’t really care because he had 40 papers to grade, and that was the last time I had to engage in writing that way. And you know mostly I moved around in contexts in my life where people actively do not want to hear my take on things like that. Like jobs, at jobs people don’t want to hear your take on stuff like that, even political jobs you have, like I worked for a union for awhile, people don’t really want to hear your opinions on stuff. People would love it if you set them up to, like if you said something they disagree with so they can talk at you for twenty minutes straight about why they disagree with you, but they’re not like combing through your positions being like, well this ignores this axis of oppression and this ignores this and all this stuff.

So I feel like right now in my life is a time when lots of people want that from me, they want my positions to be clear and cohesive and I feel out of my element. I feel like I can’t give that to them. A lot of my, first of all there are a lot of positions that I just don’t care to have an opinion about. I feel like there’s a lot of stuff in the world that I just don’t know enough about to have a quality opinion about. I’d rather have no opinion than a stupid opinion. So I don’t have a lot of confidence frankly in these like broad opinions I could, I guess I could develop a position on stuff but it feels like I’m gonna wreck myself by not knowing what I’m talking about. And a lot of my… I really feel like a lot of my being old and jaded is like a huge part of my positions on things these days.

Like for instance, a debate that I guess people are having in the detransitioned community and I only have access…I’m really bad at even following what people are debating, but I’ve had something like 5 friends say to me that they are pro peer support for detransitioned women and they are not for mental health professionals providing mental health services for detransitioned women. They feel that the mental health profession has a long history of abusing women, which is true and that peer support will be more effective. Ok, so here’s my take on this. I think there’s a lot of different elements at play. I think that it really depends, in terms of how a lot of people access services, peer support could be the best way to deliver those services in some geographic locations in a way that it’s not going to be in another location. So if you’re in the Pacific Northwest and there’s a critical mass of detransitioned women then maybe it makes sense for the avenue of support, how you get support to those women, being peer support. Because there’s a critical mass, you can get together in person. I don’t think that it’s the same way for a woman living in Indiana, a woman living in Arkansas, or a woman living in Kansas. If we’re talking about peer support for those women, it’s going to be online peer support,

I think there are such clear downsides to online peer support as your main avenue of recovery from this crazy trip we all went on. It’s hard to verify who people are online, it’s really easy to project on people online, it’s really easy to get in fights online, it’s really easy ….it’s hard to know who to trust online. The stuff you put online is semi-permanent so being vulnerable online has this clear downside of documenting all the times that you were vulnerable. Obviously all this stuff I do is…happens online and I have documented lots of times that I was vulnerable online. There are clear downsides in my life, there will be long term downsides because of the choice to do this, so do I think that you should have to do this to get support, NO! No.

And here’s the other thing about peer support, and this isn’t just about online peer support but just peer support in general, is that like boundaries are not very clear in peer support circles, in a way that hopefully boundaries are clear between you and a mental health professional. Stepping into a therapy room you should go in confident that you’re not going to fall in love, you’re not going to have sex with your therapist, you and your therapist are not going to do a project together, and you are not going to go into business together. You should have confidence walking into a therapy room and knowing that because those are all ethical rules that your therapist could be called before a board of people and have their license revoked for breaking. So you do have, when you step into a therapy room some confidence that those boundaries are in place. Now, therapists commit ethical violations all the time, still, there is a board.

So, a peer support network is not the same way. People date, they break up, people have friendships, they fall out, people get each other jobs, they get fired, people….a peer support network is really a group of friends and friends have beef and friends have drama. And so that has big repercussions for the support that you can get and the continuity of support that you can get. You know, like what happens if a group of friends decides that you’re the bad person what happens for you when you get kicked out of the group? If a group of friends like, if someone victimizes you from the peer support network, like where do you go now? If that certain group has a person who assaulted you, so how do you get support now?

So that’s, I think, the main upside to training therapists to be aware of the existence of detransitioners and to be competent to work with detransitioners. I would like it to be the case in two years that a detransitioned woman can go to a therapist’s office and say “I have gender dysphoria that I struggle with, I know for my life that it is not better. for me, if I am trans-identified” and for the therapist to believe her. For the therapist to not be like, “You sound genderqueer honey,” right? That would be not a helpful thing to have happen and I know that that’s actually pretty likely. If you go to therapists right now who know about gender dysphoria it’s pretty likely that those same therapists are activists and so it’s not really a safe place, therapy rooms right now, I don’t believe are safe places right now for people with gender dysphoria to explore different ways to handle their gender dysphoria. I think that that’s not an ok situation and I think that therapists need to be educated so that if you go into a therapy room, you’re like, “I’m gender dysphoric, I’m also trans-identified,” that’s cool, do that, and if you go into a therapy room and you say, “I’m gender-dysphoric, I know that it is better for my life if I do not take on a trans identity, I want to work on my gender dysphoria in different ways” that you can find therapists who can help you with that.

But see like that’s a very…that’s not a very politically cohesive and coherent position. That has…there’s some politics in there, right? There’s the belief that ethical codes and a board of people who enforce ethics codes for the profession are good things and are trustworthy things, right? There’s kind of like , by stating that I’m kind of signing off on the power hierarchy between a therapist and a client. But like, really, my position just has a lot more to do with like logistics. Logistics and kind of like what I see happening in peer support circles and I don’t know, upsides and downsides. I don’t know, it’s not a politically coherent position, it just has to do with like, logistics. And I see that as a real generation gap between me and other detransitioned women.

I’m way more interested in logistical stuff these days. I’m way more interested in like very specific, pragmatic concerns and in some ways I’m actively disinterested in having a politically coherent worldview because I used to have one of those, and it led me to a lot of really bad decisions. So there’s ways that I just am really distrustful of political discourse these days. Especially like online arguing, it feels a lot to me like the trans community that I used to move around in, you know. And I just…in some ways what transition and detransition did for my brain is that I kind of like, I’m actively disinterested in big theories. I’m just really interested in like, so what’s in front of my face? What’s within twenty feet of me, like who are the people within twenty feet of me, what are the dynamics between me and them, what are the resources we have, who are we renting from, who do we work for?

I just kind of have an active distrust of bigger stories about the world, just because I have been led astray. You get to a bad place and you’re like, oh my God, I was thinking really really hard and like reading all the right books and this is where I got, I don’t want to do this again. So and I feel like that has a lot to do with being in my thirties, and being scared and tired and jaded. When you’re in your thirties a lot of times you can’t tell anymore when you’re scared, when you’re tired, and when you’re jaded, they all bleed together. So yeah, so that’s me feeling old and a generation gap I see, and I guess it’s also my position on peer support versus mental health services.

Peer support can be a great thing, it can also turn weird and toxic pretty quick, and also who can access peer support changes based on where they’re at, what kind of time they have, whether they have a computer, and I just think it’s a really good thing for people to be able to walk into therapist’s offices and be like, “I got gender dysphoria, I’m not trans-identified, I want to work this out” and the therapist to be like, “Cool, I know what you’re saying. I attended a conference where I saw someone like you talk so I don’t need to be caught up, I don’t need to be trained out of calling you genderqueer.” Alright, take care guys, bye.

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