A QUESTION OF TRANSITION #3
Detransitioner: "I was seen as textbook trans."
This piece is the third in the series A Question of Transition.
In Part One we briefly met “Nic,” a Melbourne woman who reversed her gender transition. Here is more of her story.
“People have been telling me I was a lesbian since I was six.”
Melbourne woman “Nic,” who wishes to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, has lived the consequences of oppressive gender stereotypes.
The now 22 year-old explains she was the sort of girl you would see “crying in the McDonald’s drive-through because she can’t get the Happy Meal with the boys’ toys.”
In her early teens she was exposed to transgender identity online. It seemed to offer a way out of becoming a woman — something that frightened her, especially as the boys at school were now dissociating from her and her emerging same-sex attraction felt dirty and wrong. She befriended a trans man on the social networking site, Tumblr.
“I spiralled very quickly after being exposed to those ideas. Within six months I was identifying as a trans man.”
In years 11 and 12 she was “100 per cent stealth,” passing as male. Her given name was gender neutral anyway, so no complications there. She used the male toilets unless the female toilets were empty. Her school being a technical college, a TAFE, there were no sporting competitions or other activities that required students to use changing rooms. And while the teachers and the principal knew she was female they didn’t out her as such.
Around the same time she started showing up to an LGBTQ support group, hoping it would ease her sense of isolation. Arguably, it made things worse.
“Everyone was all “he/they,” the people calling themselves ‘transmasculine’ still very much behaved like teenage girls. I’m not judging them for that-- it’s just that I found it hard to communicate with them.
“I felt ‘othered.’”
At 17 her name went on the waiting list at an adult gender clinic; by her 18th birthday she’d reached the top.
The doctors asked her to write a letter setting out why she wanted to transition.
“Frankly, when I look at it now, it just reads deranged. Mentally disturbed, with all this internalised misogyny. Lots of red flags, put it that way.”
After about 10 sessions with a mental health clinician, spread over 6 months, she was approved for the hormones.
“There was no pushback whatsoever.”
Nic says that before the results of blood tests showing her existing hormone levels were at hand she was put on a “high, long-acting” dose of testosterone. It didn’t agree with her.
She endured for about nine months, and then, “I went off it (the hormones) and didn’t touch their system again.”
Ultimately, Nic’s interaction with “the system” prompted her to re-evaluate her initial decision to transition.
“Even if I was on a proper dose of testosterone, I’m not sure I’d be happy.
“I think of myself as ‘re-identified:’ I was a trans man and now consider myself a very very butch lesbian.
“But I still acknowledge myself, and speak as, trans. I still pass as male. I’m on the cusp .. I go with how people gender me.. But if I’m going to join, say, a sporting club I’ll say I’m female and just accept it.
“I see things as just biology now.”
One of Nic’s toughest challenges is disentangling her personal upheavals from wider culture wars.
“If you come out as a detransitioner in the LGBTQ community you’re seen as a traitor, it’s a very hostile environment. But letting right-wing pundits run your detransitioner story isn’t helping things either.”
In retrospect does she believe the doctors at the clinic should have pushed back, even a little, on her request to transition?
“Look, I’m not sure,” she says.
“I just wish the assumption wouldn’t be that I’m a textbook trans man. Femininity is more repressive than it’s been for decades.”
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