My (Second) Coming-Out Letter

This will be brief. (Ish.)

I came out to my mom as trans when I was 17 years old, but it was a tentative sort of coming out. Four years later, when I turned 21, I wrote her a letter and emailed it to her- I guess hoping to more clearly outline my feelings and expectations. I’d like to point out that 21 is a milestone age, because we tend to take drastic actions at milestone ages- you know, like when I turned 25 and panicked and started transition.

I was 27 when I detransitioned. Not particularly noteworthy. Does that have any implications?

Anyway, I forgot about it for a while, but it turns out I still have a copy of it in my email account. So here it is, in all its glory. I’ll let you form your own opinions on it and on the author at the time.

Hi Mom,

This is the letter that I said I would write you ages ago. I’ll try not to write too much and if you have anything you want to ask, I’m willing to try to answer you. It’s easier to write answers than to say them, but if you really want to talk, I can even try that.

As I’ve told you before, I’m transgender. I know that I’m physically a girl, but mentally I’m a boy. For about 10 years, I’ve been very uncomfortable with my physical self. (It’s the reason I would cover up all the time in middle and high school, not because I was “cold” in [HOT PLACE] summers.) It’s called dysphoria, and it’s a horrible feeling. Honestly, I would like to be more social and outgoing, but every new person who calls me “she” and knows me as “her” only makes things worse. [BOY WHO LIKED ME] wanted a “girlfriend”, but I couldn’t say yes to that- and I felt terrible for making him wait for so long, just in case what you said (and hoped) was true: it was just a phase.

Mom, it’s not a phase. When I was little, I used to imagine I’d suddenly just morph and grow up into a guy. Since it became that was not how things worked, I have not been happy. I’ve been miserable and I know I’ve made the people around me weary too. But I’m really tired of being unhappy and spreading the gloom around. So I’m going to start taking baby steps to actually grow up the way I expected to when I was a little kid. (If you want to know what sort of steps those are, I don’t mind telling you, but you have to ask, not just tell me that you don’t know what to do.)

I’ve already asked my friends to start using the correct pronouns when it’s just us and peers. Even [FRIEND], who has known me almost as long as you have, has agreed- and told me that she was only upset that I had lied to her, my best friend, for so many years. But I need your cooperation too. I don’t expect you to suddenly start talking about me as “him” in front of family. If you want me to be honest, what I do hope is that you’ll attempt to be neutral- that you won’t use decidedly “girl” nicknames, or introduce me as your “daughter, [GIVEN NAME]” (I intend to change my name, too, not because I hate the name, but because I don’t feel that it’s “me”. I guess changing it would distance me from the character that I feel I’ve been playing for years- plus, I like playing with names.), and that you’ll attempt to avoid using pronouns when in front of strangers. Especially when I’m trying to present as male, which I usually am, unless I don’t have time and it’s extremely obvious…

In a perfect world, you would have figured out why I was different years ago and this wouldn’t come as a shock to you. You would already see me as your son, the way I’ve always seen myself. You wouldn’t continue to insist that it was a phase. You wouldn’t think that something is wrong with me. That’s what hurts the most: that you might dismiss it as something wrong with me and try to stop me. Please don’t do that. I want to make myself happy. There is nothing wrong with me, so don’t tell me that there is. Don’t go around asking other people for advice, or if they think it’s abnormal or weird; I’ll tell you right now that, while it might not be normal for them, it’s normal for me.

I apologize for being a little defensive in this letter, but I don’t think there’s anything that I feel more strongly about. I want you to take me seriously. I desperately want your love and support, but I’m tired of being a fake person to feel like I deserve it.

Alternatives to Transition: A step-by-step guide to thinking your way out of dysphoria without repressing it.

holderIf it’s not already obvious, dysphorics tend to read into eeeeverything.

To use a personal example: “Oh yeah, I was always the dad when I played house in Pre-K. I’ve always thought of myself as a boy, really.”

Nevermind that I also played the dog or the (apparently sexless) “baby”. Anyway, we’re thorough. We like having all of the information available… despite what our particular beliefs surrounding sex and gender would suggest lol. So that’s why I feel I should write this post- this entire blog, really. Although I don’t think I’m ultimately saying anything *Brand Spanking New*, I wanted to really break it down into steps, because steps are easier for me to understand than abstract ideas. “Accept your natural body” is an excellent sentiment, but it didn’t make sense to me when I thought my natural body was wrong.

The information I wanted from other dysphoric people was how they thought– how their very brains worked. How they rationalized their feelings, how they came to certain conclusions, how they perceived reality, what dysphoria felt like to them. Similarly, what I wanted from detransitioners was a literal guide to reframing your own thoughts. Some people phrased this as “unlearning internalized misogyny”, but that was too vague for me at the time. It also didn’t cover male detransitioners, with whom I felt (and feel) a kinship because I don’t think we’re really all that different.

I believe it is a misconception that people who ID as trans think male and female are the same and cannot distinguish between them. On the contrary, I’d suggest that dysphorics perceive the differences between the sexes to be even greater than they actually are.

I frequented trans subreddits for a time. A common worry was that “cis” people could tell they’re trans by the sound of their urination. Now, if you’re thinking “that’s absolutely mad, no one’s listening to you pee, and if they are, they’re probably just waiting for you to leave so they can poop in peace”, congratulations, you’re thinking rationally. But for a dysphoric person, this seems like a completely logical concern.

Neither sex is better or worse on its own- nature has no use for such value judgements- they are only different. But dysphorics are lost in analysis. We unconsciously exaggerate the strengths and weaknesses of the sexes- but particularly our own. We don’t know what being the opposite sex is like, but we definitely don’t like something about our own and perhaps see something desirable on the other side. True “Grass is Greener” style. Dysphorics are Pissed (with a capital P) that we didn’t get to choose our bodies. We assign a sort of almost-moral value to sex- to otherwise innocuous organs with no inherent meaning. For whatever reason- be it a certain type of personality, faulty thought processes, upbringing, or all of the above- we crave an explanation for something that most people understand intuitively. And being “trans” is the closest some get to The Answer.

Ultimately, sex is a physical trait like any other: short, tall, male, female. A product of nature- impartial, unfeeling, merciless nature. The result of many thousands of generations of humans and whatever creatures came before us, tracing all the way back to your most primordial ancestor.

Your biological sex is your birthright.

dysphovisionThis is not to disparage people who resemble the bottom pair, but such people are individuals with unique personalities and traits. They should not be the default image next to the dictionary definition of “man” and “woman”. Does this make sense??

“So you think you’ve got it all figured out, eh?”

I don’t know, I’m not a Mental Health Professional. I’m not anyone noteworthy or special. I’ve just thought about this a whole awful lot. In any case, here’s my proposal:

  1. First, you must be honest with yourself. I know this sounds like I don’t care about your feelings, but I do. Very much so. I want to help. Acknowledge that modern medicine can only make you look like the opposite sex. It cannot actually turn you into the opposite sex, any more than bleaching your hair makes you a natural blonde. Sex dysphoria- body dysphoria, that is- is ultimately a thought. A want. A desire for something that cannot be achieved. You can try anyway, but short of a miracle, you will fail. You may imitate, but if you are not happy with surface level imitation, you will not have a good time. You need to deconstruct the way you think about sex and start from scratch. Recognizing and working with your limitations is an important part of life.
  2. It’s surprising how big of an impact words can have. This is why pronouns and names are such a central part of discussing trans people. (How weird is that?) Stop thinking of yourself as a man or a woman. No, not in the trans way- we’re going to come back to them later. Whenever you think “I’m a man” or look in the mirror and think “that’s a female”, STOP. These words are tainted for you at the moment. Force yourself to think “that is a person” or “I am a human”.
  3. Take step 3 and apply it to people who are not you. If you find your first thought about someone is related to their sex, correct yourself: Person, Human, Individual. Don’t confuse yourself or anyone else- obviously you’re still going to be calling them he/she/Bob/whatever. Just make a quick note in your head that they are, like you, human.
  4. Once you have a better understanding of how all humans are the same, you can then begin to form an objective understanding of how the biological sexes differ. Start by thinking in terms of gametes, which I think are probably relatively neutral for most people- big gametes, little gametes. How is this different from trans language like “people who menstruate”? Well…
  5. Slowly start introducing the words “male” and “female”. Think of them only in the sense that they are a concise way to label a certain category of people. “I am a person who happens to be in the female reproductive category” is a mouthful, but it’s easier for a dysphoric person to accept than “I am female”.
    1. Male: of or denoting the sex that produces small, typically motile gametes, especially spermatozoa, with which a female may be fertilized or inseminated to produce offspring
    2. Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes
  6. “Man” and “woman” should come last, being that they are the most loaded terms, socially speaking. Again, these will need to be thought of only in the sense of concision. Woman: Adult human female. Man: Adult human male. Subdefine these words:
    1. Adult: Fully grown or developed
    2. Human: A bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens)
    3. Male/Female: Addressed in step 5
  7. Integrate these words back into your vocabulary. You don’t need to identify with them or have any particular feelings towards them. They mean only exactly what they mean and nothing more. If you like one word more than another, you’re allowing yourself to get into dicey territory. Words are just tools. If you have a particularly bad episode of dysphoria, Step 2 is where you should start. Ultimately, we are all the same species: human. As different as we can be, we all have very similar thoughts and feelings and many of us want the same things. Male and female humans are not vastly different, other than their reproductive role. Again, be honest with yourself. This is an exercise in accountability.

If you are not honest with yourself, you will fail.

Final Word:

Although it sucks, don’t be angry at your dysphoria. The goal is not repression. It’s a feeling, so treat it like any other negative emotion: sadness, anger, frustration. Be aware of it, understand it for what it is, try to figure out where it comes from, and remind yourself that there is a way out of it. I find a lot of comfort in simply understanding why I’m feeling a certain way. Sometimes I’m justified, sometimes I’m not, but that’s part of the Universal Human Experience.

Be honest with yourself, but be kind too.

No one wants to silence detransitioners, but-

“No one wants to silence detransitioners.”

For everyone’s sake, let’s assume that this is true. I think most people are well-intentioned. I assume no one reading this is Evil Incarnate.

I transitioned because I genuinely believed that being born in the wrong body was a Real Thing. In order to believe that transitioning is an appropriate, medically-justifiable treatment for a medical condition, you must believe that a person can be born in the wrong body. Otherwise, it’s just cosmetic surgery and while I don’t mind what other people do with their bodies, I want my body to be as natural as possible, as long as it’s healthy. It took 9 years of internal debate (on top of a lifetime of “what-if”), but I finally managed to game my own brain into believing this was A Thing. And that I had it.

At times, even during transition, I felt like I’d been hit with some black magic.

“How incredible that we can be born into the wrong body. How amazing- and horrible- it is that a man can be born in female form. How strange- absurd- and what are the odds that this should happen to me? Of all the rotten luck…”

I detransitioned because that core belief was shattered. If I still believed that someone could be born in the wrong body, then I would feel obligated to take Testosterone, because that’s Me As A Person. I brush my teeth twice a day. When I had surgery, I followed the post-op care recommendations to the letter. If I thought transitioning was best for my health, I’d keep at it, even though injections and routine blood drawings are a real drag.

If I want to discuss my experience, to really get into the icky-sticky feelings and thoughts I had while going there-and-back-again, it’s really not possible to avoid talking about how I changed my mind and what that means. “It wasn’t right for me,” doesn’t cover it. That works for some things, but we’re talking about the #1 recommended treatment for this condition. No, wait, the “ONLY” treatment that works. At all. I wouldn’t stop a course of antibiotics halfway through because it “just wasn’t right for me.”

But you have to believe in transition in order for it to work.

Having once believed in the benefits of transition as a cure for dysphoria, I felt horribly sorry for de- and non-transitioners. How masochistic, I thought, forcing yourself to live with dysphoria for the sake of being normal. Internalized Transphobia. How sad. It might have been their decision to make, but I still felt bad for them. I wanted to help them.

This is not entirely unlike how I feel now, although I am more interested in word-vomiting into the void and seeing what resonates with someone else. I have no particularly desperate investment in strangers’ transitions and I certainly don’t care to Ban All Transition Surgery, any more than I care about banning all nose jobs.

Want is the key word here. No one’s goal is SILENCE THE DETRANS HERETICS! It’s just that simplifying the whole deal to “just not right for them” and chalking up any additional complexity as “bad for trans people” happens to do just that. Regardless of what people want.