Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Trans-activism Fails Detransitioners

A pattern I have observed within the past couple months through various social networking sites is the inability of trans people to adequately address the needs and concerns of detransitioned people. When confronted with the glaring reality of our existence, their reactions can best be summed up in one of the following ways:

  • They pretend that detransition isn't a real process, involving a lot of self-discovery and self-growth.  Not to mention numerous legal/documentation hassles and societal stigma from others. In short, they plug their ears and pretend we don't exist out there.
  • They acknowledge us as a "small percentage of people too insignificant to mention." (Silencing and erasure).
  • They belittle radical feminism as being the thing that helped myself (and some other detransitioners) be able to accept ourselves and confront society's misogyny head-on.
  • They are patronizing and retort with the very liberal argument: "well, it didn't work for you, that doesn't mean it's the wrong choice for everybody else!" This is usually followed up with a remark of "congratulations for being happy in your own skin."  This seemingly polite brush-off is still just exactly that: a brush-off. 
  • They bar us from spaces where our histories as being formerly trans might actually be helpful with reaching out to others who might not WANT to transition.
  • Despite being so hung-up on not misgendering people they still refer to me as "he," "he-she" or even "it." Oh, how lovely.  I'm a female. Deal with it.
  • They become downright hostile, using various slurs and threats to shut us up.
This is unacceptable behavior, and I am honestly wondering what trans people are going to do to address these issues.  When trans people forbade me from speaking up, stalked me, and ran us out of town, authors like Sheila Jeffreys and Lierre Keith offered me a platform with which to speak, which frankly should be what social justice activism is all about: helping marginalized people have a platform to stand and speak on.  For that, I am going to be grateful the rest of my life.

Ball's in your court, trans activists.  Are you going to do something about how you treat people who bravely detransition and find peace with themselves? Unless, of course, you don't actually give a damn about your "inclusiveness." I'll be watching. In the meantime, it's no skin off my back.  It just speaks volumes about your hypocrisy.


Anonymous said...

Well, i am not a activist at all, but i am interested (for the next time found one detransitioned person) in know how you thoug i must react and is the best way to be inclusive to that person in my life
PD i am transgender mtf

Heath Russell said...

Hello Anon,

Thank you for your question. I am relieved that someone out there is opening the lines of communication with me about this issue. I have struggled with a lot of animosity from my former community after detransitioning. A lot of hostility from past friends. My advice:

1. If someone detransitions because their health (physical and/or mental) was going down hill (as in my case), a good way to be supportive is to reassure them in their decision. Trans people, and trans activists, often support people transitioning in the first place because it will ease depression or suicidal thoughts.

2. I think there needs to be more focus in the trans community on whether someone is rushing into transition and whether there are other traumas or psychological issues at play before making life-changing permanent (or semi-permanent) alterations to their bodies. Are they transitioning in part because of society's homophobia? Childhood abuse? Severe depression? Social anxiety? All of the above? Trans people should be supportive of doubts. I was SO certain of my transition and that it was the right decision for me.

3. Another good thing to do is openly discuss detransition within trans circles and how to be better emotional allies and allies for detransitioner visibility, because unfortunately with the rise of diagnoses for Gender Identity Disorder, there are going to be a rise in people who were misdiagnosed, and trans activists should be prepared for what that might mean.

In fact, Anon, your comment was so thought-provoking to me that I think I will make an entirely new blog post about this topic in the coming week. Thank you for getting the gears in my head turning.


Heath Russell said...

To clarify on a couple of my statements:

"Trans people, and trans activists, often support people transitioning in the first place because it will ease depression or suicidal thoughts."

What helped ease my depression and my suicidal thoughts was to detransition. I no longer care what others think about me. What matters is my own self-esteem and I had abandoned it for far too long. Transitioning was at the time a way for me to create a wall between myself and others. Detransitioning has been a way for me to tear down that wall and accept myself for who I am - trying to change in the first place in order to make OTHER people feel comfortable was not the right decision. It might be "safer" to appear as a heterosexual couple in public, or appear as a "normal" looking member of one sex or the other, but these are all gender RULES. And gender rules, like other rules, are made to be broken, not clung to. For some people, even in my case, transition was a survival mechanism. I no longer fear threats, assault, or even getting killed anymore for being a dyke instead of hating myself and my body. Give me inner peace any day, no matter what others think, or give me death.

And as RuPaul says: "If you can't love yourself, how in the HELL you gonna love somebody else, can I get an amen up in here?"

"Trans people should be supportive of doubts. I was SO certain of my transition and that it was the right decision for me."

Uncertainty and doubts are healthy and should be supported. If someone has doubts about their transition, for any reason, those doubts should be explored and examined as fully as possible.


qvaken said...

The remark of "congratulations for being happy in your own skin" really strikes me as, "So it turns out that you're happy and you have it easy, whereas we're all still so unhappy and depressed." There are a lot of delusions involved in trans politics - there have to be - and one of the biggest ones is the idea that, purely due to the fact that these people chose to "transition", that they enter into a category of one of the most oppressed groups of people in the world. The more that I learn about trans politics and about the groups in society to which trans politics compares "trans" people - for instance, Indigenous people, African Americans, lesbians and gay men, women, and so on - the more I learn just how offensive this delusion is.

"Transitioning was at the time a way for me to create a wall between myself and others."

This is a really interesting point, from your previous comment, your reply to Anonymous. One thing that proponents of trans politics do, is they repeatedly claim that nobody else could possibly understand what it means to be "trans", or how hard it is to be "trans". They deliberately discourage others from even trying to understand the issues involved, or what "trans" even means. On the same vein, they describe themselves using elitist language, either inferring or outright stating that they know more about being a woman and being a man than any [other] women and men ever could. In this way, proponents of trans politics deliberately set up barriers so that no "outsiders" can question what they're doing. It's creepy, not to mention cruel for those stuck on the inside, now that I think about it.

Heath Russell said...


Thank you for your compelling, compassionate commentary! (How's that for an alliteration? Haha. On a more serious note, your comment brings up something that I hadn't quite pinpointed yet, but makes perfect sense, and that is how trans discourse further feeds a culture of alienation. Societies based on narcissism and alienation don't tend to bode well in terms of politically organized social change.

What's funny is that shortly after I publicly announced my detransition, people were claiming that I was "never really trans" to begin with anyways. What they fail to realize is at the time I fit all of the diagnostic criteria (I still do, technically). I was cleared to have treatment. My peers at the time accepted my trans identity.

I find it interesting that they feel like they can claim that I was never *really* trans, but when I dare to say that "trans" and "cis" don't exist, I am accused of erasing people's existences.

The mindfucking is incredible.


Emi Pisarello said...

Hi, i am the anonimous and well have more doubt than before now :P
Guess this whole gender, sex, expression, trans, and cis is a complex mess.
I will post more about some of oyur comments...later now i am just trying to see how wor this "goggle account"

wayne de olival said...


I don't really have much experience of the trans community but I felt similarly left out in the cold by the LGBT community when the youth center I went to for a feeling of belonging basically bailed on me during one of the worst times of my life. Due in part to their shoddy screening process of youth counselors. Suffice to say I feel alienated from the community a decade later and I try and avoid the hypocrisy whenever I can.

I find that even though a community claims that they're actively promoting acceptance and inclusivity, there seems to be a unwritten and often underlying tone of... 'you can join our group as long as you think like us and don't rock the boat with things that don't involve us specifically'. Also if you want to be an ally, you better sit in the corner quietly and not voice a different opinion otherwise you may be mobbed by those talking about privilege.

It's quite frustrating when people try and silence you for asking questions that would theoretically improve your understanding of yourself and the community. I see these communities of like minded people behave more like stereotypical highschool cliques, trying to shut down anything that may result in them being more intersectional and interacting with other groups.

Often they use buzz words such as tone policing and micro-aggressions to shut down anyone who doesn't fit neatly into a mold. Which is deeply ironic and disappointing all at the same time.