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We need support to decide whether to transition

As I’ve said before, trans people who have made up their minds to transition should be allowed to change their legal names and gender classifications, and modify their bodies with medically approved hormones or surgery, with no “conversion” or “reparative” therapy required, and legally protected against harassment and discrimination on the basis of trans status. They deserve access to emotional and psychological support services to help them cope with the immense stresses of transition.

Trans people like me who have made up our minds not to transition don’t need to change our bodies, legal names or gender classifications, but we still need to be protected against harassment and discrimination. And as I’ve written before, we need plenty of emotional and psychological support. This includes professional help, fully paid by insurance, but in my experience the professionals tend to be as clueless as everyone else, so non-professional peer support is also necessary.

But those are people who have made their decisions, one way or another. Trans people need help to make their decisions as well. That includes the initial decision to transition or not, and cases where someone changes their mind. Right now, people are just fumbling, and the therapists

Some people experiment with gender presentation. They often say that it’s to try out what it’s like to live as the other gender, but a lot of times it seems to me like simple wish fulfillment, and other times like desperate flailing. I’ve heard of therapists encouraging this kind of experimentation without regard to the ways that experimentation can change a person, putting a thumb on the scales and making it impossible to draw any reasonable conclusions about whether to transition. (This is a whole blog post in itself.)

From what I’ve seen, what passes for “support” for transition decisions on the Internet these days goes like this:

Q: I think I might be trans. I have trans feelings.
A: If you have trans feelings, you’re trans.
Q: I guess I’m trans, then. What do I do now?
A: Every trans person I know eventually transitions.
Q: I guess I’m transitioning, then! Where do I get hormones?
A: Here’s where I got them.

This is what Natalie Reed once told me she saw as her mission in the world. It’s bullshit, and it’s a bait-and-switch, and it needs to stop.

For the past several years, Zinnia Jones has been telling everyone to try hormones for a few weeks, and if they feel much happier then it means they’re Really Trans and should go ahead and transition. The evidence she based this advice on was pathetically scanty, and that alone should be enough to get her skeptic card revoked.

Support for people who decided not to transition and later reconsider is much the same. Once they decide not to transition, they are immediately classified as “not really trans,” and when they reconsider it’s the same Q and A as above.

Several detransitioners, both on the masculine and feminine spectrum, have said that they get virtually no support. As soon as they declare their detransitions they’re kicked out of the trans community (if they were ever accepted). It’s not too surprising that some detransitioned trans men convert to radical feminism after they detransition. It’s one of the few communities that will take them in. We don’t have anything like that on the feminine spectrum.

What I would like to see is trans people making a thorough examination and visioning of all the possibilities we can imagine, including what life might be like when we’re no longer young and pretty, then weighing them to find which one would be most satisfying. That’s what I did, but I don’t see anyone else doing it.

I’ve gotten a lot of email and blog comments from people who tell me how happy they are to find something beyond the usual dogma and flamewars. I do what I can, but nobody’s paying me to do this. I’m not a mental health professional. There should really be a group with a staff and a budget for this, but there isn’t.

As I said above, the principle that Experimentation Changes You deserves a whole blog post, maybe more than one. I’m working on one now.

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  1. I absolutely agree with this post. I had surgery 40 years ago, and I have more perspective now, but the vacuum of real insight remains. I’ve written a novel about my young experiences, not prettied up too much (Lettie Zeste, ‘Almost’ ; Amazon). I think that we need more fiction in the community, because fiction lets one explore pasts and futures. I personally like men, but I think that the trans community would be better off if all types of people talked to each other. Part of the problem this post describes comes from people only socializing with one type of friend; changing perspectives means changing your social set.

  2. I also thank you for this post (and all your others – they’re terrific). I was very surprised and hurt about six months ago when, at an MTF trans support group meeting (led by a licensed gender therapist), I was verbally dissed by a 60-something transwoman who challenged me to see if I was truly trans or trans “enough” as I said that I didn’t see myself transitioning and was just trying to figure myself out. I was so shocked that she was not accepting me. And at another meeting I felt left out that I couldn’t compare doses of hormones, delivery methods, etc. But I sat there, patiently waiting to see if they would talk about something that did interest me.

    For me, the label “trans” helps and it fits me. I feel a sense of community. It feels more valid: I’m real and I’m okay just the way I am. It is not all about the clothes, or a transition, and I think those are important distinctions.

  3. Thanks to you both! I also feel alienated when there’s too much discussion of hormones, surgery or the technicalities of legal status changes…

  4. As a part-time gurl, I’ve had very little problems with being dissed by the more out or actually transitioning girls at local transitioning support groups in the Chicagoland area… I ‘ve had more of that in Trans groups online.. My attitude, I’m a pretty interesting person, if you treat me poorly, I just ignore you, treat you as a non viable entity… tis your loss..

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