On gender, transition, and re-transition

⇠ back | date: 2020-06-18 | tags: culture, /dev/diary, gender | duration: 07:09 minutes

It's pride month. Which actually has nothing to do with this post, but might have inspired me to write something. Anyway, if you're someone who doesn't like thinking about gender, and only follow me for my s p i c y / r u s t / t a k e s, maybe skip this one. Also, if you're a TERF and use any of these words to harm anyone, go choke on a brick you fucking piece of human garbage.

Cool, that's the disclaimers out the way.

The part that's all about me

I guess this is a kind of coming out: I'm trans! I've been "on the internet" for a while now, and have way too many people following me than is reasonable for my boring life. And I guess a lot of you might not know this. I've never made a point of it, and I know from personal experience that people read my gender very differently.

Some timeline stuff I guess. I'm not gonna do the "I've always been trans" thing, because I know that's not true. That being said that I was quite miserable before my transition for a few different reasons I won't get into right now.

I started socially transitioning around 2011, then started HRT in 2013, and then...well, just kinda lived my life. I'm not gonna sit here and pretend that transition wasn't the correct thing for me to do, and I am a much happier and well-rounded person now because of it.

Why am I writing this? Because after all I've been pretty happy just being stealth (meaning not being public about my trans-ness) for a while now. And I'm not the kind of person who wants to share my personal life all that much. It's weird being on the internet when everything you say is gonna be seen by thousands of people.

Well...the reason is that my gender identity is changing. Has changed. I guess I've always been a little butch, but in recent times (meaning the last ~6 months or so) I've been feeling explicitly more masculine. I've wanted to go by he/him pronouns, wear different clothes, express myself differently in public, grow a beard (something I've always failed at lol). It wasn't just that my idea of what being a woman meant changed, I think fundamentally the way I related to my gender changed.

And this is where things become really complicated.

The part that's about society

The way that our society at large handles transgender discourse is toxic. From the very beginning of my coming out, there's been an inscrutible focus on "why" people are trans. There must be medical reasons. Look at this brain scan of this one transgender lady. Her brain looks like a cis ladies brain. This will once and for all prove that trans people are trapped in the wrong body! ...

I understand why this framing has come about and stuck, because it was a great way for somewhat liberal people to convince more conservative people that "no actually trans people are like...real, and not just making it up". This line of reasoning is called "trans medicalism" and it's rooted in the idea that trans people are scientifically the gender that they say they are.

This approach has several problems. It is extremely oversimplifying, and makes assumptions about the nature of gender that many people would not agree with. Worse, even the people who don't really believe in it, who only use it as a weapon against the TERFs, to defend their own identity, end up upholding the European gender model binary, one that would rather many non-binary and even transgender identities didn't exist in the first place. It is a model that will never truly accept you for being trans, only sort of tolerate you, because maybe you're close enough to the status quo to fit in.

And a lot of trans people start internalising trans medicalism as a survival mechanism. This is where this discourse becomes harmful. Because not only does it prevent some trans people from actually expressing their non-binary gender identities, now you have insecure people who are threatened in their identity by the idea that there's no medical truth to being trans, and bully people who don't conform to this.

Even worse, they will sometimes align themselves with TERFs to defend the "true trans people", before "the younger generation ruined everything". And this is where this all comes back to me.

Gender isn't fixed

During the last few months I've been trying to find experiences by people similar to me, and it made me very very scared. I didn't really know what to call myself. Because I'm by no means a cis man, but looking for people who "de-transitioned", I found a lot of people who were hurting, who felt they had been pressured into transition, and who were being rallied around by TERFs who thought these poor souls proved their bullshit points of views.

And I saw a lot of trans people yelling at any trans person even considering "de-transitioning", as some kind of traitor. I guess I understand why. You don't wanna be giving the TERFs more ammunition. You don't want to undermine your own identity. Maybe you don't really believe in it, but your self esteem is built on trans-medicalism. How do you deal with people who de-transition?

I'm still not really sure what I would call myself, because I think de-transitioning is the wrong term for what I would want to do. And really, I think I'd like to think about it as just another section of the life-long transition of my gender. To live means to change, and my gender will change until I die. There's nothing I can do to stop it, and I think trying to control it will inevitably fail.

I think it's also important to point out again that I regret nothing. I'm glad I've been living as a woman for close to 10 years. I don't know how I want to express my gender identity, or on what scale neccessarily. Maybe I'll use different pronouns with friends, maybe only from time to time, maybe I'll change nothing in the end because this is all "just some phase".

But I think it brings me to the core point I want to make here:

Stop pretending as if transitioning into a gender is the end-all-be-all of your gender identity!

So what if something is a phase? In my opinion it doesn't make it any less valid. Transition is a journey, not a means to an end. And transitioning to femme, and back to masc (MtFtM), or vice versa doesn't make someone less trans. How can people believe that gender is a spectrum, while not accepting that people will move around on this spectrum?

The worst thing is: this is something I would have expected to explain to my mum, but I didn't expect this to be such a controvertial thing in the trans community itself.

Why write this?

I was thinking about writing this article for at least a few weeks now. And undoubtebly it'll be many days between writing it as a first draft, and the finished thing on my website. I revealed a lot of personal things in this post, things that I wouldn't otherwise want to share.

I think ultimately I want to be a voice of support for anyone who's feeling similarly to me: "older" trans people (I'm not even 30 lol), who have been doing this "new gender" thing for so long that it became normal, who might feel themselves wanting to either express themselves in much more feminine or masculine ways than before, or at different intensities, or more androgynously.

I think it's important that we remind ourselves that transition isn't a means to an end, that gender is ever changing, and normalising the idea of re-transition. And this doesn't just apply to cis people! Trans people carry the trauma of society with them and can be just as toxic in this matter as the TERFs.

Life is too complex for anything to remain the same forever. We all need to become better at embracing this.