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.

“Awareness” Culture

When you’re on social media, “awareness” is everything. We’re currently in the middle of Transgender Awareness Week. A few weeks back, we had Mental Health Awareness Day. But for all the lip service about “awareness”, Woke Folk(tm) on Social Media are no better about awareness than the ignorant schlubs from The Outside.

Warning: I’m going to talk about suicidal thoughts. And stuff.

So to get right into it, something I see regurgitated a lot is the idea that suicide threats are manipulative. (This is probably not going where you think it is, but who am I to know?) Granted, if the person is not actually suicidal, this is true. I am not making excuses for people who use threats of suicide to get their way. Let me repeat that in big bold print in case my position on this matter is a little hazy:

It’s NOT OK for people to threaten suicide or use the concept of suicide for personal or political gain! It’s not ok to use the risk of suicide to further your cause! I’m not telling anyone to just capitulate to anyone who claims they’re suicidal, so no willful misinterpretations allowed, ok?

But how can we tell who is suicidal and who isn’t? (Again, we shouldn’t use “not being able to tell” as an excuse for letting it go. Hear me out.) Mentally unwell people often don’t realize just how unstable they are. When I was suicidal, hearing that it was manipulative to threaten suicide made me feel worse about myself. Let me put that into context: I wasn’t the person saying “If you don’t do X, I will kill myself.” Instead, I would say things like “I’m so miserable about X that I want to kill myself.”

I knew I needed therapy, but the process of obtaining therapy felt completely insurmountable. Phone calls, meeting new people (aka the therapist), doctors’ appointments for medication… The whole process was so intimidating that I wanted to kill myself just to get out of doing it. I was reaching out the only way that I knew how- that was accessible at the time, which is unfortunate, but does not make me guilty of manipulation, which implies intent. But I still applied the sentiment to myself, especially because my “methods” mostly just resulted in people not wanting to interact with me. I feel a mixture of sympathy for and frustration with the people who didn’t know how to handle me. Mostly, I just feel sad that it reached that point. It wasn’t my fault that I was a burden.

In any case, I felt like a monster when I asked for help.

On one hand, there are people encouraging the mentally ill to report their problems and seek treatment. On the other hand, there are people telling the mentally ill that reporting their problems is abusive. Often, these are the same groups of individuals- the aforementioned Woke Folk. This isn’t the only example of inconsistency of thought and lack of critical thinking on social media, but it’s definitely an interesting example. I have a lot of faith in people and I like to believe that these people are coming from a good place, but you know what they say about good intentions.

I am not currently (Nov. 13, 2018 approx. midday) suicidal. If I made the same complaints Right Now as I did when I was barely hanging in there, it would be some really manipulative behavior on my part. Because even though I still struggle with the purpose of life and all that, I don’t feel nearly the same level of hopelessness as I once did. I think that my current state is where a lot of Social Media Depressives are, and I think they are applying their experience with a relatively low level of depression to all possible levels of depression. Which I think is understandable, but has unfortunate outcomes.

But that’s just my theory.

Anyway, my Trans History is intrinsically linked to my mental health. Being unable to fully, openly, honestly talk about what I was feeling- all of the questions and thoughts I had- hurt me bad. Being allowed to think I should have been male- not being able to talk through the how and why I was wrong- being permitted to sink my teeth in deeper to a fiction that I created to cope- this all hurt me. Me, the human, the brain behind the body, and eventually the body itself. I should have been able to tell someone what I was feeling. It shouldn’t have been embarrassing for me, as a small child, to have questions about my body, but it was. I thought my thoughts were strange- and maybe they are! But as an adult, I’m okay with my thoughts being strange. As a kid, I thought having strange thoughts would see me dead or worse- abandoned. Were my fears ultimately unfounded? Maybe. But I should never have been afraid to ask. Somewhere, something went wrong. Really wrong.

“Being trans (thinking you are born in the wrong body) is not a mental illness,” is what people say. M… b… but… why not? Because “the experts” say so? Experts are people too. They’re motivated by feelings and emotions just like everyone else. It took me a long time to realize that experts- all authority figures, really- are just people. That doesn’t make them all wrong, but it also doesn’t make them all right. I’ll trust a dermatologist to make the best possible decision regarding the obvious growth on my arm. I can see it there. Being a growth. But there are also experts on ghosts- that doesn’t mean ghosts have been proven to be a real phenomenon.

But it doesn’t cause any real lasting harm to have your house inspected by a Ghost Expert. At least… I hope.

Is it because there’s a stigma against the mentally ill? And nobody wants to be associated with those people? The Woke Folk, who have had their brush with mild depression and think they’re experts- who flippantly tell suicidal people that their suicidality is manipulative- would say no! Of course not! Who are you to equate being trans with being mentally ill?

We’re mentally ill- we know what it’s like, and thinking you were born in the wrong body is definitely not an example of it.