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James “Cora” Birk on Transition and Regret

In the light of the recent news that sportswriter Mark Penner has detransitioned, I went back and looked at an earlier post on regret. I noticed that I had linked to Cora Birk’s writings on her partial transition and subsequent de-transition, but that they have since been removed from the site.

However, Birk’s columns are still available via the Internet Archive, and since the last one, especially, is particularly well-written, I would like to share some excerpts:

It is still (and always has been) true that I want to be female. However, somewhere along the way, I appear to have convinced myself that this desire was much more than a simple, harmless wish — that it was a yearning, that if I didn’t get what I wanted I couldn’t possibly go on. I’m not exactly sure when this happened, though I do suspect an intense psychological imprinting experience sometime in 1998.


I embraced transsexuality, I think, because I was extremely uncomfortable with the other terminology I was hearing. If I was merely a crossdresser of one kind or another, I was nothing more than a largely misunderstood pervert with an extensive makeup collection. But if I was transsexual… then I was validated. I could be helped. I could go on hormones and one day have sex reassignment, all under the protection of politically correct GLBT activists who would see my condition as something to be proud of. I could hold my head high in parades, and everyone around me would put aside their native discomfort with the situation and use all the right pronouns.

My take on this is that the decision about whether or not to transition would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to deal with rigid categories and arguments based on destiny.  Over at the Trans Group Blog, Helen, Julie and Marlena all allude to the question of whether Penner is “really a transsexual.”  To their great credit, they refuse to consider it, but their use still implies that they believe it’s a valid question, and that people who are “really” transsexuals should transition.

Let me put this out there: if we assume that there are “true transsexuals” and “false transsexuals” out there, isn’t it possible that there are “true transsexuals” who would turn out to be happier in their birth genders, and “false transsexuals” who would manage to be quite content after transition?

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1 Comment

  1. I can relate to the sentiments expressed by Birk, especially speaking from the UK and looking back to the eighties. Transvestites & crossdressers were generally looked upon by mainstream society as perverse or frivolous whereas Transsexuals had ‘an existential crisis’ and were treated far more kindly and approvingly. Even today a friend of mine who is truly transgender in the sense that they present as they feel from week to week, month to month, male or female or genderqueer, is asked ‘wouldn’t you rather be a woman all the time when dressed as one.

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