A few months ago I finished a long piece on what some people call the Slippery Slope. In that article I only really looked at the “feminine spectrum,” meaning people who were assigned male at birth and feel uncomfortable living as men, or who feel a desire to live as women. I have the impression that there are processes happening on the masculine spectrum that are similar in some ways and very different in others. For your reference, here are my four recommendations again:
- Don’t repress yourself.
- Invest in your masculine identity.
- Don’t invest too much in your feminine identity.
- Spread out your significant gender events.
My post has gotten some hostile reactions from transitioned trans women around the Internet, which might surprise you if you remember that it was specifically intended for people who had either decided not to transition or hadn’t made up their minds. I was very explicit that it is not relevant to people who’ve decided to transition. So why do these transitioned women care so much about it?
While my analysis builds on ideas like the Tri-Ess “FIBER” principles, I believe that the last two elements are mostly new. This means that any trans women who transitioned before I posted it in January was unaware of these recommendations. While many of them always intended to transition, some decided not to at some point and then changed their minds, and others chose to experiment before making a decision.
That means that even though these trans women aren’t covered by my article, they used to be. And here we get into territory I covered a couple of years ago in my post on the Essential Conflict between transitioners and non-transitioners. Transition is really, really hard, and transitioners often find themselves wondering whether they made the right choice. This can be particularly upsetting if the person had previously made a commitment not to transition. To reassure themselves, many are drawn to beliefs that frame the issue as inevitable, and thus not really a choice.
The thing is that in a lot of cases I would agree with their final decision to transition. I’ve known many trans women who have spent months or years tormented by dysphoria, shame, inner conflict and outside harassment. For them, transition seems as good a way to get out of it as any I know.
What I won’t do is to say that transition was in their destinies since they were conceived, or since the hormones in the womb, or since puberty. I won’t say that they couldn’t have done anything to prevent the misery that they felt before their final decision. I won’t even say that that misery wasn’t the result of their choices.
To say any of those things would mean accepting that there is some difference between us that can only be known by whether we transition and live without detransitioning for the rest of our lives. Or else it would mean believing that my own transition is inevitable and that I’ve been lying to myself and my family for over twenty years. I see no evidence of either of those ideas, and I’m not going to pretend I do to spare these people’s feelings.
My observations suggest that if some of these trans women had managed their gender expression differently, their discomfort with their lives might not have gotten to be so unbearable that transition became the preferred choice. That is not their fault, though, because nobody had figured out yet that investing too much in a feminine identity or having too many significant gender events could increase gender dysphoria. On the contrary, most of the discourse around gender issues have portrayed dysphoria and transition as being contingent on factors that are innate and unchanging, and can not be avoided or exacerbated, only discovered.
There is no criticism implied in any of this. Without any idea that our actions could affect our dysphoria, why would we expect anyone to pay attention to frequency or identity development? And why would we blame them for doing what the experts told them to do?