Post Mortem: On Beyond Galloping Zebras

Thursday I met with the psychiatrist who oversaw my transition and a few months of my re-transition. It was interesting–very brief, and anticlimactic; at this point, I’m not really in transition in either direction. She also clearly saw it as a one-time deal. She asked some questions about how I was, and what it had been like to come back. Her main focus was on why I thought I started transitioning in the first place (more on that later): what created a need to do something like it, and what made trans masculine transition so attractive in particular. And I do understand why she would be most focused on prevention as opposed to cure.

There was one aspect of re-transition that she didn’t ask about at all, although it didn’t occur to me until after the meeting. She didn’t ask me any questions about what it had been like to transition back under the auspices of my provider, or under her care. How I felt about the level of care or its direction, if I had any suggestions or complaints, if it seemed different from oversight during the first transition or maybe too much the same.

According to her, over the decades of her practice, she has only had one patient who transitioned more or less all the way and then transitioned back because they didn’t actually identify with their post-transition gender or feel comfortable in their post-transition body. Me. And this is what I hear over and over again: people like me are very, very rare. Close enough to nonexistent to not really exist.

But I do exist, and I think we exist. (When I quit, I was at most six months away from dropping my insurance and leaving the country; if I had made it a little further without turning back, she might never have heard different. It’s normal to use psych resources for as long as it takes to get approval for transition, and then to move on with your life. So I do wonder whether her count is higher than one.) If our physicians never see us–and if they consider us unheard-of or statistically negligible–they can’t possibly have a clinical model for helping us. There is no re-transition SOC.

I’m not sure, even now, what that would look like. And I don’t know if there’s any way to ameliorate the way I felt then or make the process any easier. I will say that my providers, this one included, didn’t seem to have any idea what to do with me. I can think of a few specific things that were wrong. In general, I don’t know if there was a clear picture of what my position was or what it might mean to me. For example, what’s the difference between transitioning to trans womanhood, and being able to transition to cis womanhood? How is it different to earn the female status you used to take completely for granted?

I get that a lot, actually–from different groups of people. Sometimes I’m not really transsexual; sometimes I’m partly transsexual; sometimes I’m transsexual twice over. I’ve used all three formulations myself. In session, I encountered all three ideas: that I was like a very lucky trans woman, or alternately like an adolescent cis girl, and then of course a rara avis.

Gender history isn’t like double-entry accounting; you can’t just tote up years spent in a particular place and count back to point zero. Going back–going forward a second time–wasn’t just like a first transition, wasn’t just like my first transition, wasn’t just like a trans female transition, wasn’t at all like staying where I initially had been. This process shared elements with all four ideas, but its refusal to map to any made it impossible to see as a simple combination. That’s the thing about gender: so much of what you are is based on what you’re not, a cross-border experience cannot be reduced to a sum of mutually exclusive parts.

I will say that I was made conscious of my total lack of cohort very early on–it’s a truism in the trans community in general that this almost never happens–and that this may have altered my perceptions of treatment. If I know going in that they’ve never seen this problem, how confident can I be in their ability to solve it? But if my first transition was a little too by the book, the second one was unmoored.

I said that there was no “re-transition SOC.” I think that…well, this is the thought process as I understand it. What about people who need to transition back, who aren’t really trans? (Trans-directed version: What if you aren’t really trans? What if you get all the way there and find out that it wasn’t for you?) Well, they aren’t statistically significant; in the aggregate, they’re barely visible. Therefore, this issue–mistakes, hindsight, evolving sense of self, immutability, physical and emotional dichotomies, ambiguity–is not a big one, but more properly a small problem to be folded into all the bigger, more important problems.

There is a tendency in the wider world to see trans as the place where gender fails, and trans people as failed or failures. Deviants if you’re hateful, casualties if you’re nice. But always and only a painful reflection of a larger system, not as a people in and of themselves. The crossed experience never assumes its own shape. I think that in some ways, the ex-transsexual, fake-transsexual, super-transsexual population is made to play that role in its own community. My care providers and acquaintances seemed to see my type, and my doctors seemed to see me, as the place where transgender fails: a solution we haven’t perfected yet, a practice that isn’t adjusted to all the right vectors, a useful net with one or two holes. Transitioning people, in turn, are forced to define themselves and their process in opposition to the fake transsexual.

I’m not that kind of ex-transsexual; my point is not that transition is not a solution or that my doctor did not provide solutions. But to see the margins as safely the margins seems like a bad way to move forward.

30 comments for “Post Mortem: On Beyond Galloping Zebras

  1. Natalie
    April 18, 2009 at 11:34 am

    There is a tendency in the wider world to see trans as the place where gender fails, and trans people as failed or failures. Deviants if you’re hateful, casualties if you’re nice. But always and only a painful reflection of a larger system, not as a people in and of themselves.

    I wonder if analogies aren’t helpful here, for the “nice” anyway. I remember when a close friend of mine started dating a deaf guy he got really into deafness as a culture, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around it until he was like, “Well, there’s gay culture, right?” And I was like “OH. My bad.”

    Sometimes people need to be reminded that they have already done some of the work to prepare themselves for the great diversity that exists in the world and that adding something new to you shouldn’t be a terrifying leap, but part of the process.

  2. Alex
    April 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Was it that transitioning was a “mistake”? Was it a wrong choice that could have been prevented, or something that had to be experienced to realise it was wrong (for you)? Or was it a factor of a non-static gender identity? A lack of understanding/lack attributing validity to a non-binary gender?

    I don’t mean to pre-empt your story, Piny, by these questions, and obviously every re-transitioner’s story is different. I only mean to kind of express the ways I think the “transitioning as a failure” mindset could fail to describe someone’s lived experience.

    Re-transitioning as a concept is still kind of a new idea to me, and I honestly had never thought about the relationship of the person re-transitioning with medical/psychological professionals, and the actual *process* that re-transitioning would take.

    Thank you again for sharing, and I look forward to anything else you feel comfortable discussing about your experience.

  3. April 18, 2009 at 11:43 am

    You’re different. So you don’t count. I’ve had doctors and counselors say some similar things…. They haven’t encountered someone like you before, and rather than deal with the issues that arise, they dismiss them — it’s not their responsibility to deal with. They feel like you, their patient, aren’t their responsibility.

    Message: You violate convention, you abdicate your right to medical care.

    Fuck that. You’re no less a person than the next person who walks into their office. You are just as much their patient as the other person.

  4. Collen
    April 18, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    You’re writing on this is so thoughtful and smart – thanks for sharing this obvs really personal stuff.
    I can’t help but get caught up in really basic ideas that don’t have the shades-of-grey thinking that is needed when talking about personal stuff – so, apology up front for that.

    Like, whether someone is M or F or GQ or something else is completely self-id right? There is no journey to someones ID being valid. Like, a person might take a while to figure out what they ID as, but once someone is firmly ID”ing one way, then thats that.

    Then there is like transition, which takes in a lot of stuff – but a big part of it is having the world perceive you as you perceive yourself – and like making a body right for you., and other stuff to boot. But none of it is ever mandatory. It’s just want someone wants to do to make their life right for themselves.

    So I guess, transition are just concrete steps to bring your life and body and stuff in line with your ID, in whatever way you want it to.

    So – why would a process of transition need to be fit different for people re-transitioning? Like I guess I’m stumbling on what the power of transition is – I’m just thinking of it as a personally defined process of sort of discreete steps, that aren’t that big of a deal.

  5. eastsidekate
    April 18, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I love the penultimate paragraph, piny. Most people spend so much time explaining trans people and gender transition within cis-sexual contexts. The medical establishment also overregulates transition. Thus, not only do we end up with a model of transsexual people as simply “failed” members of the gender they were incorrectly assigned at birth, but we also get an overblown dichotomy between “true transsexuals” and “false” ones.

    Doctors want to separate clients who are “truly” transsexual, while barring access to medical care to others (and as often as not, making a tidy profit off of everyone). By setting up this false dichotomy, doctors put the onus on trans people to prove that they’re “the real deal.” This also puts pressure on everyone to ignore people who have de/re transitioned. To doctors, de/re transitioners represent a failure of diagnosis and a failure of proper gatekeeping. To transsexual people, de/re transitioners represent yet another hurdle to gaining access to medical care.

    It’s all bullshit, of course. First, I’m not sure if any transitioner really knows how things will work out. My early life matched plenty of aspects of the “standard narrative” for trans woman, I knew I really want to try transition, but it was still scary as hell. I had doubts, and I really didn’t know where I was going, or what my life would look like when I started to get there. It’s entirely reasonable that transition will not bring what some transitioners hope for. These folks, like piny, had the volition to turn around and go back, just as they had the volition to start down the path of transition. I imagine de/re transition is tough as hell, but so is transition, and so is any aspect of finding yourself. Things worth doing are rarely easy. We’re all as mature as any other pool of people– society should allow us to choose which journeys we embark on. Piny’s story is about Piny, my story is about me, and both deserve to be told. They’re both success stories to the extent to which either of us has found peace.

  6. eastsidekate
    April 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Colleen: I’m just thinking of it as a personally defined process of sort of discreete steps, that aren’t that big of a deal.

    I love this. I mean, transition itself is a huge deal, but I hate this notion that all transsexual people see a bazillion doctors, plunk down a ton of cash, and are done with it. Some of us are too poor for that route, and some don’t feel like fitting that model altogether. IMO, there are lots of small steps, and lots of opportunities (in many ways, mandates) for personal growth. IMO, transition is an immensely personalized process, which is one of the reasons that I don’t get along with much of the medical establishment.

  7. Sarah TX
    April 18, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    The idea that there is One True Way to be transgender, and that post-transition a “normal person” would be automatically issue-free and happy (and in converse that it’s rare and a deviation for someone to de-transition, that it’s a failure on the part of the doctors to do a proper diagnosis or proper planning) seems so analogous to conservative views of a binary gender that I just can’t subscribe to it.

    Or, what eastsidekate said :)

  8. Meredith
    April 18, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    piny, I just wanted to say, I don’t really know much about any of this, and I don’t have anything really helpful or insightful to add. I just… thank you. Thank you for sharing with us such an unfathomably deep part of yourself. I really, really appreciate it. So, I’m just going to sit back and read and learn. Thank you.

  9. April 18, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    You’re not alone – my ex-husband spent a couple of years as a female, taking the hormones, saving up for surgery, and with only a very few people who knew him before transition, and then decided abruptly that he was not satisfied, and has been living as a male for the past year and a half or so. I haven’t had much communication with him about since shortly before he decided to revert back to his birth gender, so I am not sure what the exact reasoning was behind it, except that the hormones were expensive, and I think he was worried about what impact this may have on our son – which was never a concern for me; I would far rather he see his parents being their authentic selves. However, he also knew quite a few people who did not complete their transition. It sounds to me often as if this is the rule rather than the exception, and, whether it’s due to societal pressures, the pressures of daily life, or a sincere desire to return, I don’t view it as a problem so long as the people in question are happy with themselves. If this is one step that some people need to make in order to feel comfortable in their bodies, then that is no one’s place to judge one way or the other.

    Thank you for sharing this with us, because it has to be an intensely personal process, making these decisions, and it is educational.

  10. April 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    there’s also something about this. the way that transfolk can be “accepted” (so alleged) in wider society, there is only one way and it is policed rigorously, it is very strict and narrow, constructed so as to be as unthreatening to cisfolk as possible…

    and it’s just not possible, ever, when we set up and strictly police these “acceptable” paths, that the people who walk them are always doing what they feel they need to do in a deep, organic, authentic self sense. of course, this is true as a rule, that we go about life in the world we have, not some impossible utopian dreamland, and we navigate the poorly-constructed paths the best we can, even if the rules are rough and arbitrary and not purely fitting.

    but it’s cruelty to force upon a person, who is trying to negotiate that space between inner identity and outer, between the still small voice and the wild, uncontrollable rest-of-the-world’s reaction to oneself, those constrictions, in order for them to get where they need to go.

    i don’t know, is there any such thing as an untouched inner being, what you would be without outside restrictions? that seems to reach into spirituality, almost. but if there is, or whatever its closest fascimile in our physical/social space, we are not respecting it for you. we are demanding you form to meet our expectations of you, so that you are easier to understand — well, no, to categorize and dismiss; understanding requires a real effort to connect with a real person.

    i guess, roundabout, my point is just that your experience shouldn’t be so outside expectation. you are wandering along your own path trying to understand how to get to where youre going, and where you want to go anyway. it’s because we(cis) think you should be following this set sequence without deviating from the cordoned course, that you get that fucking runaround from everyone. you aren’t, or shouldn’t be, an “exception,” if we respect your right to self-define, to decide your own identity. cause surely, many people go through what you did, or would if they were not threatened with loss of rights, respect, support…

    and it doesn’t make them “fake” and it doesn’t have to mean that they did the wrong thing in transitioning in the first place. that’s only true if your understanding of transgender is that you are either Cis (you Really Are the gender/sex you were born) or Trans (you were born one side of the binary, but Really Are the opposite side of the binary). which is reductive, not just in a rhetorical sense. it reduces transpeople, denies them their varied thoughts and feelings and experiences.

    (as good a place as any to end ramble.)

  11. April 18, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I think it is impossible to assign a label without an action like that being more common. You may have almost nothing in common with people who did things similarly. I do know of the one guy in australia who had a similar thing happened, but he was a lot unhappier as he had already went through with SRS.

    But if I had to guess it has something to do with confusing masculine and feminine and male and female. A drag queen who thinks that they are a transsexual will end up generally only with unhappiness.

    I haven’t had much communication with him about since shortly before he decided to revert back to his birth gender, so I am not sure what the exact reasoning was behind it, except that the hormones were expensive, and I think he was worried about what impact this may have on our son – which was never a concern for me;

    I think this is more an issue with the idea that hormones and SRS are the end all be all behind transitioning.

    Being transgendered is in my opinion fundamentally a matter of your instincts not matching up with your body and way society treats you.

    Among older people transitioning isn’t nearly as easy, effective, or even as useful. Because instincts change as you get older and have children.

  12. Kristen J.
    April 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Piny.

  13. April 18, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    What frustrates me so much about the “real transsexual” thing is the fact that trans people use it as a means by which to create hierarchies. It’s not bad enough that the medical establishment, and quite a few cis people do it, now we have to do it to each other. And people wonder why so many trans people refuse to have anything to do with “the community.”

    It’s absolutely awful, the True-Type 6’s who declare that they are somehow more real than any of the rest of us. And as if they aren’t relying on kyriarchal narratives enough already, I’ve also heard these types talking about how people who don’t have surgery aren’t really trans. Like there aren’t numerous personal, health, ideological, and monetary reasons that somebody might not want to get surgery.

    *ugh*

  14. April 18, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for writing this, piny.

  15. April 18, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I wanted to amend my last with this: I realize that it’s reflective of a system that forces us to reject x, y, and z in order to get what we need but at the same time, I don’t know how the fuck we’re ever going to get out of the trap as long as we continue to do our oppressor’s work (division) for them.

  16. April 18, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    I wonder if–from what you’re saying–if part of the appeal of transition in the first place was precisely that it *was* -a- narrative, one with a cohort. People often talk about the aha!” moments and subsequent profound relief when they find an identity that explains all these amorphous feelings of…well, if there were names for them, they wouldn’t be amorphous, right?

  17. piny
    April 18, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Very likely, yes–transition was one readily-accessible way to explain “amorphous”–or misunderstood–feelings about my body. I don’t think I had gender issues per se, though. I mean, you’ve seen me. And many people who do feel amorphous may feel pressured to set themselves on a particular trajectory for easy explanation.

    I think it is impossible to assign a label without an action like that being more common. You may have almost nothing in common with people who did things similarly. I do know of the one guy in australia who had a similar thing happened, but he was a lot unhappier as he had already went through with SRS.

    But if I had to guess it has something to do with confusing masculine and feminine and male and female. A drag queen who thinks that they are a transsexual will end up generally only with unhappiness.

    I think it’s important to underline your first paragraph in reference to your second. Even given the scarcity on the ground, I’ve already encountered at least three different reasons for (maybe) turning back–between all of three people. And then, too, most people tie gender performance to any number of related but maybe not included things, so somebody’s understanding of “masculine” or “feminine” might be a lot more subtle and complex than male or female drag.

  18. William
    April 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    First and foremost, I’d just like to say thank you Piny. As a care provider your honest posts have helped me develop a frame of reference that I simply wasn’t able to put together even at a diversity focused, incredibly trans*-friendly institution.

    Me. And this is what I hear over and over again: people like me are very, very rare. Close enough to nonexistent to not really exist.

    But I do exist, and I think we exist…If our physicians never see us–and if they consider us unheard-of or statistically negligible–they can’t possibly have a clinical model for helping us. There is no re-transition SOC.

    I think the mindset nested there is a big part of the problem. As a society we expect there to be standards, to be models, to be some general set of guidelines we can follow to help us through difficult situations. This perception is particularly prevalent amongst people in health care and psychology. For me, though, the problem is that the more applicable and general of a model you develop the less utility it has for real world clients. Thats why I’m generally wary of manuals and guidelines and instead lean towards clinical conceptualization skills. Every client with an issue that is at all cognitive/mental/emotional/psychological is going to be too unique to be served by generalized rules.

    Its a problem for everyone, but I think that trans-folks are served especially poorly by the system because the specific issues they bring to the table tend to be so built into personality and identity that you can’t really develop and understanding of their needs until you develop an understanding of them as a person. It doesn’t help that its very difficult to get useful supervision regarding trans-clients either. I’m not really sure what the solution is, I’m just kind of thinking out-loud.

  19. qgirl
    April 18, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    “so somebody’s understanding of “masculine” or “feminine” might be a lot more subtle and complex than male or female drag.”

    I think so. I have recently worked with a young person (teen) in a pretty rural “city.” This person was born male but performs their gender in ways that are far more feminine than acceptable to our binary society. In fact they are easily able to “pass” and mostly hang out with hir girl friends. This person’s birth name is an unusual name with no specific gender implications. Hir close girl friends told me they use female pronouns to refer to their friend, but when I asked hir if zie has a preference, zie said “whatever is fine.”

    I notice I look at this person and think I know what’s going on – “Zie is trans and doesn’t have access to language to talk about that in this geographic location.” But I think I have to remember that hir ambivalence about hir gender shouldn’t be discounted or pushed to mean one thing. Like that zie is on a journey with a specific outcome and I know it, but zie doesn’t yet. Maybe, with the tiny bit of additional support that is coming into this young person’s life because of an increased awareness of trans and transsexual identities, this young person is carving out hir own path that will be complex and unique and journey through unexpected area’s of gender, identity and performativity – and probably shatter all of my probably unexpectedly ridged expectations of what expressions of transgressive genders mean.

  20. Tiana
    April 18, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    First time commenter–just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed reading this entry. It’s impressively thoughtful!

  21. April 18, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Hi piny. I’ve been following your story for several years now (I used to post as StacyM). Thanks so much for continuing to share your experiences with us.

    For years, I’ve seen the trans community struggling to find a common cultural narrative that explains our lives as women and men. There is a collective effort to create recognizable, generalized stories of birth, growth, self-discovery and maturation. It has been an important struggle, for we find ourselves cast adrift in a culture that doesn’t see us as real, or rather, sees us as impostors. This quest for a common narrative is part of a larger struggle to have our identities recognized as solid and legitimate by both ourselves and the society we live in.

    The problem is, common cultural narratives inevitably leave many people’s experiences out of the mix. When we don’t fit that narrative—regardless of whether we are cis or trans—we are made to feel as outsiders. Those narratives can also lead us astray and take us to places that violate who we are, deep down inside.

    I remember when I transitioned, the specter of re-transition loomed large as a fear in my mind and the minds of other trans women. It often went unspoken as fearsome things so often do. There was no narrative for re-transition. You simply hoped you made it through to the other side and life continued.

    It kind of reminds me of coming out as a lesbian and then, years later, finding that you prefer men. No one in the queer women’s community really wants to talk about this. It’s looked past as though it doesn’t exist. It’s looked upon as a loss or it’s viewed as something gone wrong.

    It’s not a loss and there’s nothing wrong. It’s simply who a person is. That’s what matters.

    It’s funny how every community of people contains a subset of people whose experiences are marginalized by the larger community’s understanding of “the true and accepted way of being.”

    Somewhere in the spaces wrought by the cracks and flaws of cultural narratives lies reality.

  22. Maureen
    April 18, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I was trying to figure out my thoughts on this this afternoon, but I couldn’t ( I was thinking about writing something about how “doctors hate uncertainty”, but that’s kind of trite), so I just went about my day, and eventually came upon Nick Kiddle’s place, where he’s bitching that the NHS won’t let him get testosterone without agreeing to chest surgery. Kind of the “well, if you don’t want to go all the way, then you’re not really committed, and then you could change your mind, and then OMG you’ll be a woman who’s undergone a year of testosterone treatments and that has so many side effects…” implicit in there.

    But you mentioned that your post-re-transition body isn’t very different from what you remember your pre-transition body being. Yes, you underwent electrolysis to remove facial hair, but that’s not even a surgical procedure. And apparently Thomas Beattie’s ovaries and uterus haven’t been overly adversely affected by his past use of testosterone. So the effects of testosterone seem to be relatively reversible. (Even the IOC’s allowed transwomen to compete at the Olympics as women provided they’ve had two years of post-gonadectomy hormone treatment.)

    So… what’s the real problem? Is it doctors’ discomfort at not being able to predict everything? Is it fear that the presence of people who have switched gender twice will lead to a world where people switch gender out of more “frivolous” reasons? Or is fear of a world where gender doesn’t matter very much in most social/economic/political/cultural contexts?

  23. April 19, 2009 at 2:16 am

    A nose by any other name would smell, and although I have no wish to offend anyone who sees all this as just a “natural variation” like red hair or blue eyes, I can see the reasoning behind calling it a disorder, even if I disagree strongly with that view. Certainly the anxiety and distress in some cases can only be called a medical condition, one caused by biology, and wholly treatable in most cases by aligning body and brain so there is no conflict. The only reason I say most cases is that since the cause is biological, hence messy and fuzzy, there will be some people who will be miserable with either typical male or typical female configurations. Some may be happy as androgynes, but I’m sorry to say that there may well be some for whom there is no good solution, just a “least worst”. A significant minority of people with post-operative regret are not merely victims of substandard surgery, they transition back. And more often than not, wish they could go back again after that. I’m not sure I know what can be done to help such people, and I don’t think they know what can be done themselves. We should listen to them anyway, because although they may be clueless, we certainly are.

    Be yourself. That’s what we all have in common. Cisgendered, Transitioners, De-Transitioners, Re-Transitioners. Some people just won’t have a gender identity that fits in the Gender Binary model. Some can fit in either, some can fit in neither.And although it will cause massive practical inconvenience to them if they don’t fit, that doesn’t alter the fact – that they don’t.

    I happen to fit the Gender Binary model really well. But my studies have shown me that while that’s usual, it’s not universal. One can make all sorts of philosophical arguments about freedom, how no-one should be forced into a compliance with a model that doesn’t fit, but those arguments are irrelevant in the face of the fact that people can’t be forced. Even if it were desirable (I’m certain it’s not), it doesn’t work.

    Some people’s gender identities crystallise in later life. Some never crystallise.

    All anyone of us can do is to be true to ourselves, and to explore our identities in case of uncertainty. For some, that takes courage.

    For your courage, and your willingness to be so open, you deserve every success. Also, our thanks for your inspiration.

  24. Jadey
    April 19, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Thank you for sharing *your* narrative, piny.

  25. April 19, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Transgenmom:

    Agreed, to a degree; I know what you said about age rings true with a lot of people, but understand that our having a son says little about age with us, at least – I’m twenty-five and he’s twenty-four, and we have a five-year-old who will probably never remember a time when Daddy was Katie.

    I honestly think – and understand that I may speak about this person with hostility, but it’s based on his actions, not on this aspect of his identity – that the gender binary has failed him. I called him “her” when he asked me to, and would have no problem still doing so, but he very quickly went back to wanting to, essentially, be “normal.”

    It reminds me of how he has gone from identifying as straight to identifying as gay back to straight, and done this several times – I think that he simply doesn’t have a label that fits him (although I would say “bisexual” seems to, I don’t get to assign that kind of thing, and I worry about him repressing himself), but really wants to fit something, and the easiest “something” to fit is as a straight, cisgendered male.

    It makes me sad because, as much as I hate him, I want him to be free to be himself, and, where I see other people and think that some of them make their decisions because it is what is right for them and what makes them happy (this seems to be the case with Piny here), with him I wonder if he isn’t going to spend the rest of his life having shut down aspects of his identity. He may identify as cis, but there are feminine aspects of himself that he may never deal with in fear of calling back up that part of himself that was happy trans. He may identify as straight, but he will always be attracted to men, too, at least, it seems that way, although I know that sexuality evolves over time.

    I just think his choices seemed to line up with other things in his life (the money, our son, moving back into the town where his unsupportive parents are) that make it seem like a rather unorganic decision. I also know that he seems to have truly thought that the hormones, the surgery, so on and so forth, were what made him trans, because they made him “pass,” and he places a great deal of value on female beauty (trust. me.).

    Anyhow, I am not trying to thread hijack with this story; it’s just something that kind of gnaws at me from time to time.

  26. April 19, 2009 at 10:08 am

    It reminds me of how he has gone from identifying as straight to identifying as gay back to straight, and done this several times – I think that he simply doesn’t have a label that fits him

    Before I went on horomones and met my current wife I went through a similar period. In my own case it was because I could not be emotionally involved with anyone who didn’t see me as female.

    the money, our son, moving back into the town where his unsupportive parents are

    I didn’t mention this before by the way but hormones don’t have to be expensive. Mine cost me about 20 dollars a month.

    But for him it may seem like an unorganic decision, but I have to say that after having my first child I understand it a lot better. I know that if I thought I had to choose between having another child or two and being true to myself it would be a difficult decision to make.

    also know that he seems to have truly thought that the hormones, the surgery, so on and so forth, were what made him trans, because they made him “pass,” and he places a great deal of value on female beauty (trust. me.).

    Its easier to appreciate the value of something when you don’t have it.

  27. April 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing piny. I’m glad you got to figure out what works best for you — and made it happen.

    I don’t know that people like you are as rare as both the medical community — and the trans communities — would like to think. As others have mentioned, there is a “standard narrative” and people who don’t fit it are often any where from overlooked to unwelcomed. And the trans communities own some of that. There definitely are hierarchies about who’s “the real-est” and there can be pressure to go down the transition path. From the well-intentioned but clueless , such one trans woman I know who regrets that she transitioned too late and now has made it her mission to prevent others from “making the same mistake” — of course, she assumes that transitioning it right for these people. To, the low-level often unconscious presumptive comments, e.g. “You’ll be much happier when you’re on hormones, I know I was…” Or the sad head-shaking that goes on when someone decides not to socially and/or surgically transition to preserve a relation, for the sake of their kids, to keep a desired job, etc. Yes, there are definitely people who do this and are miserable, but there are also people for whom these sorts of things are more important than transitioning, and who are comfortable with their decision. But the presumption is too often that they’re just fooling themselves.

    If I’m sensitive to this, it’s because I too “don’t fit.” I’m someone who’s out and about publicly crossdressed, who also performs as a drag queen, and who’s mostly out about both. But I’ve had my share of “helpful” people who think I ought to go down The One True Path of Being Trans(sexual) because I “act so natural” and I’m not like those icky, unpassable crossdressers. (BTW the vast majority of crossdressers are deeply closeted — with the same sort of fear and paranoia of gays before Stonewall — but they make up the vast “dark matter” of the trans universe.) If I had to describe myself, “bigendered” probably would be the best way of putting it — although actually “trigendered,” since drag is its own gender… FWIW, I’m one of those people that gender therapists never see, since 1) I was able to sort things out on my own, 2) I had no need to get the necessary letters for surgery.

    Anyway, back to the subject of not going all the way and/or detransitioning… one thing I’ve seen is that circumstances can cause people to both lock onto the gender binary and to engage in “grass is greener” thinking. (I’m speaking generally, not making any assumptions about piny’s experience.) I was fortunate that when I really needed to explore my trans-ness I was living alone, working from home mostly, so I could crossdress pretty much as much as I wanted. For me I discovered that I’d hit a saturation point after awhile, where the need would be satisfied for awhile. But most people in a similar position (i.e. their trans-ness, while lifelong, gains an urgency in their late 30s) don’t have that freedom to explore and consequently there’s often a lot of pent-up need. Which can led some people to assume they’re on a different place on the trans spectrum than they necessarily are. Likewise, it can become a focal point for their unhappiness, i.e. “if only I were living full time as my desired gender, life would be perfect.”

    Unfortunately, the focus of therapists and the trans communities themselves, too often becomes “should someone transition or not.” When as therapist Reid Vanderburgh asute observed, the real question ought to be: what kind of life, one that respects someone’s trans-ness, is going to be a happy and fulfilling one for them.

  28. April 19, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    ” When as therapist Reid Vanderburgh asute observed, the real question ought to be: what kind of life, one that respects someone’s trans-ness, is going to be a happy and fulfilling one for them.

    word.

    this is something that’s of keen interest to me, as I’m going into the therapy biz…

  29. April 20, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Transgenmom:

    Re: Female beauty and its importance to my ex:

    Its easier to appreciate the value of something when you don’t have it.

    I’m not talking about just with him while transitioning, though – I’m talking about misogyny issues that helped lead to our divorce independent of the transition. When you carry someone’s child to birth, you may not look exactly like the person they married, and he never could deal with the physical changes that happened with me – so, to a degree, this unreasonable expectation of conventional beauty hurt both me and himself in the end (quite possibly). He was pretty viciously critical of my body after our son was born, and I think he held himself to the same ridiculous standard during transition.

  30. Penny T
    April 21, 2009 at 4:49 am

    First is that you’re not alone. I walked that path myself(only in the other direction) and at one point found myself at the point where choices had to be made that were going to be unchangable. That didn’t bother me- neither my gender or sexuality can be changed by surgery, they’re already there and unchangable. What my journey meant to me is that I found myself- neither/both man and/or woman- in other words back to zero and the beginning of my journey of self discovery. What a let-down that was! I wanted- make that needed- to find myself but I wasn’t to be found in the places most people are found. Worst was knowing I could(and still can)choose to go there and live at least as well as I am now, except for the wrong but usual discriminations against women. I can function either way- but why should I have to? Why should I be the one who has to change who I am just to make everyone else comfortable with dealing with me when there’s nothing wrong with me? When those questions arose I began to see the light of my own self for the first time.

    INTPagan is to be commended for seeing past the superficial and loving the person inside- not just the shell. Transgenmom might want to consider that in adults instincts don’t change with age, but values and perceptions do and that’s why age changes how we act. And Ellie is right about the heirarchies that some Transpeople artificially apply- I’m as much who I am as they are and just because someone undergoes GRS it can’t make them anymore who they are than they already are. It may mean the world to them but that’s only because it matters to them- it doesn’t matter to everyone the same way.

    Piny, you go on with life and do it your way. You didn’t go somewhere and come back, you wen’t further than most people go and much further than many people can- and you’re still going :)

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