We need support to be men

The author, big hairy scary man

This month there has been a lot of talk about support for alternatives to transition. In Slate, Michelle Goldberg wrote about a group of “gender-critical trans women,” including several who identify as transgender or transsexual. In a reaction to the shutdown of the CAMH clinic, Alice Dreger talked about people who were gender non-conforming children and didn’t transition, linking to a book called Blood and Visions, a post by Debra Soh and an interview with Sarah Hoffman. Maria Catt wrote about her experiences taking and dispensing testosterone to female-bodied people. Joel Nowak hoisted a great comment by Juniper asking, “Where are the examples of (so many) people who have lived long and well WITHOUT surgeries or hormones?” 4th Wave Now expanded on Juniper’s post, highlighting the value of alternatives to transition in reducing the incidence of trans suicides.

We do need to hear more from examples of people who have successfully coped with gender dsyphoria without transitioning. So, let’s take a look at who’s represented in these articles:

  • Women who don’t suffer from chronic gender dysphoria (Goldberg, Dreger, Hoffman and 4th Wave Now)
  • Women who have dealt with dysphoria without transitioning (Soh and Juniper)
  • People raised as girls who transitioned to living as men, then detransitioned (Catt and the authors of Blood and Visions)
  • People raised as boys who transitioned to living as women, but are critical of transgender dogma and identify as male (the women interviewed by Goldberg)
  • People raised as boys who transitioned to living as women, then detransitioned (Joel and the author of Third Way Trans)

These are all important stories, important voices. But there’s a population missing: men who have dealt with dysphoria without transitioning. If people like Joel and Juniper are virtually invisible, people like me are actually invisible.

And yet our stories are hugely important. Most of the people I’ve mentioned have complained about transgender dogma, particularly as articulated by transitioned trans women, and particularly about the demands made by transitioned trans women for unconditional access to women’s spaces. Many have complained about the behavior of individual transitioned trans women, online and in person.

It’s very nice for transitioned trans women to be accepted (by some) as feminists. It’s absolutely essential for detransitioned trans women to be heard. But if what we’re looking for are alternatives to transition, we need to make space for people raised male to talk about how we deal with gender dysphoria without transitioning. And people need to listen to us, not just talk at us.

I’ve been blogging about this stuff for years, and for some reason I’m not mentioned by Goldberg or Dreger or Catt or Joel. I had some conversations with detransitioned trans men on Tumblr a few years ago, and they got very angry. I tried talking to the gender-critical trans women on Tumblr, and they ignored me. I tried to talk to Joel about this on Twitter, but he cut me off. I simply posted about my gender-related feelings on my own blog, and gender-critical feminists mocked me on their blog.

I don’t think it’s me, but let’s assume that it is. Let’s assume that I somehow came off as a huge asshole. Why am I the only one blogging about this stuff? Why haven’t Goldberg or Dreger, who are journalists, gone and found some male-bodied people who have dealt with gender dysphoria without transitioning?

I have a simple theory about this. It’s one thing to deal with women, even gender non-conforming women and detransitioned trans men. Boys are pretty safe, especially “pink boys.” If you’re willing to be flexible, transitioned and even detransitioned trans women can be seen as womanly enough. They’ve had hair removal and lots of female socialization. But it’s another thing to deal with men. Big strong hairy muscular men with deep voices, talking about sports or gadgets or hunting, some of us in dresses.

Third Wave Trans has written one of the wisest things I’ve read about this: many people, including me, have been traumatized by men in their lives. I’ve largely gotten over my trauma, but lots of people have a hard time trusting men. Some have a hard time even being in the same room with men.

I get this. I’m not asking anyone to go beyond their comfort zone. If some people are unable to relate to men without being mistrustful or hostile – or at all – I’m not going to demand that they do.
But someone needs to talk to us. Someone needs to listen to us. Someone needs to help us to be out and proud. Someone needs to tell the young trans women out there that they can be happy without transitioning.

Joel accused me of demanding “politeness.” I am not. I am also not trying to impose patriarchy or mansplain or dominate any discussions. To paraphrase the immortal words of stimmyabby, I’m not demanding anyone treat me as an authority, only as a person. I think it’s reasonable to ask people not to use us as insults to mock transitioned trans women. If you’re going to make pronouncements about what we should and shouldn’t do, you could at least ask us if we think that would work.

I am not writing this to criticize people for what they’ve written in the past, only voicing a plea for what they will write in the future. The bottom line is that if we don’t want all the trans women thinking they have to transition, or commit suicide, we have to make it safe for trans women to be men.

Repression, resentment and rebellion

I’ve written before about how being in the closet makes us insecure and undermines our political power. There’s another aspect to it: we resent it, and we rebel. When we rebel, we can wind up hurting ourselves or innocent bystanders.

When I was younger, my parents didn’t want to help or support my feminine self-expression, and I got clear messages that the establishment – the universities I attended, the government, the local street gangs, didn’t either. Even the famous LGBT Center of New York told me in 1995 and again in 2000 that they had nothing to offer me if I wasn’t going to transition.

As a result I kept my transgender feelings and actions a secret throughout my teenage and college years. Coming out was a huge help, but even then I avoided directly telling anyone I didn’t trust. I repressed my desires, and the more I repressed, the more resentful I felt.

I didn’t really blame my family members who told me not to let anyone see me in a skirt, not to even talk about my desires. At times I agreed with them; sometimes I still do. But at other times it was easier to say to myself that they were wrong, and that they were holding me back.

The more that resentment built up, the more tempted I was to rebel. I felt alone and misunderstood, and powerless to fight even the LGBT Center, much less a gang, a college or the government. So my rebellion took childish forms, along the lines of, “You said I couldn’t do it, but I’m going to do it anyway! I don’t care if I get hurt. And I don’t care if you get hurt!”

I was lucky. I didn’t get hurt, and I didn’t really hurt anyone around me. Eventually, I began to grow out of this childish rebellion. After being out online for years and still getting work, I came to the conclusion that there are plenty of people who just want the job done and don’t care if I’m trans. I made connections with some people who were helpful, and the general cultural climate for trans people has improved.

Today I still have restrictions on my gender expression, and I still sometimes feel a desire to rebel against them. It helps to remind myself that they are my restrictions. I have thought through the pros and cons and made the decision to place these restrictions where they are, and I own them.

Unfortunately, those reminders are not always enough. This is why I need to manage my gender expression and avoid feeling like I’m restricting myself too much. Because restrictions and repression lead to resentment, and resentment leads to rebelliousness.

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.

How to make love to a trans person (I mean me)

Here’s how to make love to a trans person,
(Actually, a transvestite,
Actually, me,
Because me is all I really know).

The first step is to enter your lover’s fantasy world,
(I mean my fantasy world),
And be their fantasy.

The next step is to let your lover,
(I mean me),
Be their fantasy.
For you that may be the hardest part.

Then there will come a time
During your lovemaking
When the fantasies run out,
When there is no escaping reality,
When your lover,
(I mean I),
Will have to face facts.

The fact that you are two people, two animals,
With real feelings that have been hurt before,
With real fears and sore spots and longings.

Then you must be ready
To stop being fantasy you and start being real you,
To stop making love to your fantasy lover and start loving the real person,
(I mean the real me).

You must be ready to be afraid and let your lover comfort you,
To let them be afraid and comfort them,
(I mean me),
To be two people alone together,
To be two animals grooming each other.

You must be ready to take pleasure in the real person,
(I mean the real me),
To let them take pleasure in the real you,
So that when you’re done making love
You will still have real love.

When you’re advanced you may be able to skip the first couple of steps.
Sometimes.

That’s how to make love to a trans person,
(Well, actually, me.
Well, actually, there’s only one person who can make love to me now.
If that person isn’t you,
This might work for other trans people).

The black sex appeal of Professor Doležal

As I noted in my linguistics blog on Saturday night, there have been several comparisons between Rachel Doležal’s claiming of a black identity and transgender identity claims, and lots of articles condemning any such comparison. Most of those have been faith-based, along the lines of “Their god can’t be the true god, because it says in our holy book that our God is the true one.” But I study transgender phenomena from a skeptical point of view, and I’ve noticed some important commonalities. Of course race and gender are not the same thing, but we deal with them in similar enough ways that one can be a mirror to the other.

Rachel Doležal ca. 2002
You want to dissolve stereotypes …by wearing a black turtleneck in your artist publicity shot?
On Saturday I noted the contrast between the absence of African American English features in Doležal’s speech and the numerous African American features in her appearance, most strikingly of course her hair. I compared it to the many transgender people I know who have spent long hours and serious cash on their visual appearance with no thought given to how they sound. Now, for a non-linguistic angle, I’m going to talk about being sexy.

Maybe I’m reading the wrong blogs (or the right ones), but after three days I haven’t come across anyone talking about how sexy Doležal is. This is funny, because most women in the public eye (and most who aren’t) are subject to constant commentary about their attractiveness – or lack thereof. Here I am looking at her cleavage-baring blouses, her tight pants and tailored jackets, and her curve-accentuating heels, and everyone’s sticking to the script: skin tone and hair. It’s surreal.

When I went looking tonight, I did find two insightful comments that articulated what I was also thinking. An anonymous commenter on the “Toddler” section of the YouBeMom forum, of all places, wrote, “Rachel Dolezal was an awkward looking white woman and is now attractive as a light skinned black woman. Say what you will about her lies but her new skin and hair suit her.” Writer Calaya Reid had a much longer take which is worth reading in full, but here’s the key part, invoking Jessica Care Moore: “Maybe she’s trying to tap into her Black girl juice. Maybe she’s admitting what everyone knows and what everyone seems to want you to forget — that there’s a power to this thing of being a Black woman. That there’s some wizardry, some cosmic brilliance to this skin you’re in. There really is Black girl juice.”

I should note that I’ve only seen five or six pictures of “white” Doležal, and she was pretty young in most of them. “Awkward” wasn’t the word that came to mind, but I was definitely thinking “demure.” The publicity photo she used right after she graduated Howard in 2002 was a bit more sophisticated, but really didn’t do much to counter the impression of being a well-brought up Christian girl from Montana.

I’m not sure I need to say this, but it is definitely possible to be sexy as a white woman with straight blonde hair. You may have seen a few on television. Superficially it seems like it would be easier for her to go with her natural assets, but Doležal chose to dye and perm her hair to be a sexy black woman with utterly unnatural “natural hair.” Why?

I get the impression Doležal is her own hairdresser, so only she knows for sure. But here’s where her actions feel familiar to me as a transgender person, and as a transvestite in particular. Because I only feel like I know how to be sexy as a woman. I know what clothes flatter my body, and what makeup and hairstyle go with the clothes to make a sexy look. As a guy, I only go with what people tell me, but I never know if I’m doing it right. I constantly feel like I’m fumbling in the dark.

I could be totally off-base with this, but I get the feeling that Doležal feels like she only knows how to be sexy as a black woman. She knows not just the hair and the clothes, but the jewelry and the eyebrows. And when she’s tried to make it work as a blonde woman, she never knows if she’s doing it right.

The irony here is that if I achieve any actual sexiness as a woman, it’s superficial and it never attracts anyone that I actually want to attract. Sometimes it looks good in still photos, but I’ve been told by people whose opinion I trust that in person it feels false and disconnected from my true self, not necessarily because of gender. Meanwhile, I have on some occasions managed to be sexy as a guy, usually just by being able to relax, to be myself and to own my true sexuality. Of course, nobody can tell you how to act natural.

Again, I feel the same way when I watch videos of Rachel Doležal. The moment she moves, the moment she opens her mouth, the sexy black professor disappears and I see a scared white girl hiding inside. A profoundly unsexy scared white girl. But I hope that for her sake, she has also managed at times to relax, and to be as truly sexy as I have been. It’s a beautiful feeling.

Selections from the Facebook chats of Myra Breckenridge

Mike Silver: Yo Myron! Wow, dude, I had no idea.
Myra Breckenridge: I’m not Myron.
Mike Silver: Sorry, man, I get it. Myra. You look way hotter than you did as Myron.
Myra Breckenridge: I never was Myron. Who’s Myron?
Mike Silver: Whoa, sorry, bear with me. Yeah, you were always Myra inside. I felt it, man! There was always something girly about you, even that time when we snuck under the bleachers to look up Emma Liu’s skirt.
Myra Breckenridge: No, you don’t- I’m not- Fuck!
Mike Silver: ??? Anyhoo, some people are worried on your wall.
Myra Breckenridge: How’d you find me, Mike?
Mike Silver: fb asked me to tag you in your profile pic

Grayden Liu: Hey Myra, your trans too? You look awesome! Did you get your hormones at the Eastdale clinic? I’m so jealous! They have a wait list for trans men.
Myra Breckenridge: What? Emma Liu? !!!

Myra J. Breckenridge: You fucker! Identity thief! You know how long I was on the phone with Banana Republic trying to get my rewards points back? If I ever track you down I’m gonna kikk your ass!

Steve Daniels: Wow, u are a hot tranny! so feminine. still have ur dick? That’s how I like it! are u on Grindr?

Stephanie Ridgenbreck: Myron? Mike Silver posted that he found you. Don’t do this to me again, Myron! I mean Myra! Bear with me, sweetie. I’ll get it right eventually! Come back, we’ll go shopping with Jen at Target!
Myra Breckenridge: I always hated shopping with Jen as a boy, mom. Why would it be better as a girl?

Laverne Cox: I welcome our sister Myra Breckenridge to Facebook and wish her luck in her acting career. But while her struggles are significant, we must remember the pervasive violence and discrimination that trans women of color face daily.

Jordan DiGiulio: Hey Myra you look GORGEOUS! Mike Silver told me you transitioned, but I didn’t believe it. Your skin is flawless! I’m so jealous.
Myra Breckenridge: Coming from you, Jordan, that is quite a compliment! You were always the most popular girl in tenth grade. How are the kids?
Jordan DiGiulio: Aw, you’re so sweet! Anyway, here’s this BuzzFeed article that made me think of you
Myra Breckenridge: The one about the women in Kyrgyzstan who wear “Man hats” when they pick apples? Yeah, I saw that one back in October.
Jordan DiGiulio: I bet you can totally relate!
Myra Breckenridge: Oh, totally.
Jordan DiGiulio: I mean, gender!
Myra Breckenridge: Thanks for thinking of me! 😀

Justin Haripaul: Hey Myra! You look great! Why didn’t you tell me about this?
Myra Breckenridge: Oh Justin, I didn’t think you’d understand.
Justin Haripaul: Listen, you’re my friend and I’m there for you. We’ll make things work for you in New York. You didn’t need to run away!
Myra Breckenridge: You’re so sweet!
Justin Haripaul: Where in California are you? Samantha and I will get a flight out there. We want to make sure you’re safe.
Myra Breckenridge: I’m actually not in California.
Justin Haripaul: Huh?? Where are you?
Myra Breckenridge: Hackensack, right near the Anderson Ave station
Justin Haripaul: Hackensack?
Myra Breckenridge: This is as far as I could get without showing ID

Icky surgeries

I’ve always been disturbed by the idea of transgender surgery, and of surgery relating to appearances in general. Part of it is because surgery is generally icky, part is because it’s objectively dangerous, and part is because there are doubts about how effective it is at helping us to deal with our transgender feelings. There are situations where most of us would agree that surgery is ineffective or not worth the risk. I’ve met some people – trans and not trans, of all genders – with facial features that are clearly artificial, unattractive, and worse-looking than if they had just left things the way they were.

Surgery is also expensive. This means that making cosmetic surgery the norm – whether for trans people or for large segments of the population at large, as I’ve heard it is in places like California, Korea and Venezuela – gives an advantage to people who can better afford it.

While I have no interest in getting any such surgery, there are a few things that have made me more comfortable with the idea for other people, and in general.

The first was a discussion I had with some friends in grad school. One guy told a story about a time when he was driving home from work late at night, overtired, and blacked out and hit a telephone pole. The impact split his face open, but surgeons were able to reconstruct it. I was shocked, because I had no idea that anything had happened to him. He told me that his beard helped to hide the scars. At that point I realized the value of that kind of surgery: it had spared him a lifetime of disfigurement.

The author, pre-"surgery"Another was the realization that I have in fact had cosmetic facial surgery, on a small scale. In the past I’ve been complimented for having a youthful, feminine face, but I thought that was all luck of the genes. Then one day I read that the width of a person’s mouth is a major factor when people judge a face to be a man’s or a woman’s.

When I was a kid I had crooked teeth, basically because there wasn’t enough room in my mouth for all of my teeth. When I was fifteen my mom took me to get braces, but my orthodontist said that before he put them on I had to get four bicuspids removed so that all the teeth could line up. So he sent me to an oral surgeon. It’s certainly not what most people think of as surgery: the procedure took about an hour, and the anesthetic was just a relatively high dose of novocain. (The oral surgeon offered me a valium, but I declined.) But removing four large, healthy adult teeth and then sewing up the gums was a fairly major procedure for dental work.

If I had not had those teeth removed, I would probably have had to have my wisdom teeth removed a few years later, but all my teeth together would probably also have taken up more space, giving me a wider mouth and a more masculine appearance, and maybe even making my jaw grow bigger than it has. So I believe the result was some permanent facial … not exactly “feminization,” but anti-masculinization.

As I said, surgery is generally icky, and dangerous, but there are some times when it is clearly life-saving, like an appendectomy. I think most of us can agree that it was also good that surgeons were able to reconstruct my grad school friend’s face so that people didn’t grimace when they saw him. On the other hand, even in circumstances like those there are people who would not care about the grimacing and would choose the minimum amount of surgery to be able to physically function, and forgo anything beyond that.

It is important to recognize that when people choose to have cosmetic surgery, they are often not acting rationally. They may be under a mistaken belief that the surgery will satisfy a glamour longing that they feel. They may be addicted to the danger, or to the excitement of a new image. Their minds may be clouded by gender fog. Many people are not well-informed of the risks of surgery – even the simple risk that what they get may not look very good, or may not age well.

The bottom line is that adults should be free to choose what kind of surgery is done to modify their bodies, and children should be allowed to make reasonable modifications that they are not likely to regret in the future. Part of living in a free country is giving people the freedom to act irrationally, or in rational ways that are beyond our understanding.

Transgender, and 55+ years in the closet

One thing jumped out at me from Bruce Jenner’s ABC interview about his transgender feelings, beliefs and actions: he has been wearing women’s clothes in private for over fifty-five years. I noticed this when I listened to Lana Wachowski’s speech to the Human Rights Campaign, and even when I read interviews with Richard O’Brien. All three described being fascinated with women’s clothes since childhood. Why didn’t they feel comfortable telling anyone about it before they started taking hormones and wearing women’s clothes in public?

Let me be clear: I am not blaming Jenner, Wachowski or O’Brien; they are completely entitled to their choices. I can understand people not wanting to talk about a private aspect of their life, and nobody is required to talk to the media about their transgender feelings or beliefs if they don’t want to, no matter how famous they are. Actor, director, sports star, stepfather to reality television superstars, everyone has a right to privacy.

I can understand people not wanting to discuss their life plans before they’re finalized. If someone is planning to go back to school for their MD, or move to Portland, or live the rest of their life as a woman, they need to figure out how to do what’s right for themself while honoring their obligations to family and friends. It may take a long time to do that, and they don’t need to tell anyone.

And yet, Jenner and Wachowski are just two in a long line of trans women who talk about wearing women’s clothes in secret for years before declaring their gender transitions. (O’Brien is a bit different: he made his feelings and beliefs pretty clear in his plays and movies.) There are hardly any famous trans women who feel comfortable talking about their feelings or actions while deciding whether to transition, let alone wearing women’s clothes in public. And among those famous trans women who have decided not to transition, very few are out about it in any way.

For me, as someone who decided long ago not to transition, the support that these declarations receive from some quarters rings a bit hollow. Often it feels like people are cheering the transition more than expressing support for people who have trans feelings. And it makes me wonder: what would they have said in 1995 if Wachowski had simply mentioned in an interview that she was considering transitioning but hadn’t made up her mind? Or in 1985 if Jenner had told Phil Donohue that he was a cross-dresser? It makes me wonder: would these people show the same support to someone who chose my path?

Would you show the same support to someone who chose my path? Would you want to know about my transgender feelings, regardless of what I do about them? Would you defend me against discrimination? Would you support my right to use bathrooms consistent with my gender expression, even if my gender expression changes from day to day?

If so, please tell the world. Say it louder. Because I don’t think Bruce Jenner heard you.

Unethical therapy

When 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn committed suicide on December 27, she left a note on Tumblr urging action to help trans people like herself:

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society.
Please.

Some trans people have responded to Alcorn’s call for action with a petition to ban “the practice known as ‘transgender conversion therapy.'” Here’s how Alcorn described her therapy experience in an October posting to Reddit found by Cristan Williams:

I wanted to see a gender therapist but they wouldn’t let me, they thought it would corrupt my mind. The would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl.

I wholeheartedly agree that what Alcorn describes is a disgrace to the therapeutic profession, and that it should be stopped. The goal of any therapy should be to give the client a place to be heard and respected, to free them from repression, and to help them find the path that works for them. Biased, faith-based sessions where the only acceptable outcome is determined in advance is inhumane brainwashing, not therapy. If it takes a law to stop it, I’m in favor.

This image is not an endorsement
Photo: Barbara B. Shostak, Ph.D. / Flickr. This image is not an endorsement

That said, I have concerns about this drive to outlaw all “conversion” and “reparative” therapies. I want to make sure there is room for the kind of therapy that I want and need: therapy that helps me to live in the gender that I was assigned at birth.

As I’ve written before, I feel many of the same feelings that other trans people feel, but believing in a gender identity goes against my skepticism, and many years ago I chose not to transition. Over the years, with the help of several therapists and the support of friends and family, I have succeeded in losing a lot of my repression, but I still have to deal with those transgender feelings, and I will probably need to see therapists, at least occasionally, for the rest of my life.

My therapists have been supportive of my decision not to transition, and I am confident that if someone came to them wanting to transition, they would be similarly supportive of their decisions. Unlike the therapists hired by Alcorn’s parents, my therapists listen to me, and respect me.

I’ve never been to a gender therapist. From what I’ve seen and heard – from the therapists themselves as well as from other trans people – there are very few who have any idea how to help someone like me who’s decided not to transition. While they may pay lip service to the idea of not transitioning, they seem to see their job as helping trans people jump through the hoops necessary for transition. What happens if a trans person changes their mind about transition – or decides to detransition? Are they simply declared to be “not really trans after all,” and left to fend for themselves?

Gender therapy is better than “conversion” therapy, because it doesn’t impose anything that the client doesn’t want, and it’s better than the “gatekeeping” practices that were prevalent for the late twentieth century, but it is still a biased situation where the only acceptable outcome is determined in advance.

We trans people need therapy, and we deserve a range of options where we can find support for the path we choose. We do not need therapy that is just another way for parents to repress us, as Leelah Alcorn described her “Christian” therapy. But we do need support for those of us who have chosen to live without transitioning.