BROADview
BROADVIEW Podcast
"My whole body is a scar. My voice is a scar."
7
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"My whole body is a scar. My voice is a scar."

A detransitioned woman discusses gender PTSD
7

I was introduced to a detransitioned woman calling herself Emma here (she fears losing her job if she speaks out publicly) for a project I’m calling Gender Peace Talks, in which I’m trying to get gender-affirming clinicians to listen to detransitioners and others hurt by gender medicine, in the hope that the clinicians will shift their approach. (Want to participate? Drop me a line.) I decided to interview her separately because she spoke so insightfully about her "trifecta of trauma," which was ignored; the obsession among clinicians with aesthetics over function; and what detranstioners need going forward.

This quote especially struck me: “I still have and always will have the scars and the fact that these aren't breasts, these are silicone balls that were put under my muscle to replicate the idea of a breast. And that is very distinctly different from being a breast. And I think that trans ideology tends to conflate aesthetics with reality, and we need to decouple that because it is confusing to young people who are gravitating towards the movement. That is why a young girl could think that she could become an actual man, because we codify this language. We say top surgery instead of double mastectomy. We, you know, shroud it in almost like a brand. And it needs to be demystified. There are a shocking number of girls in these detrans groups asking if their breasts will grow back after top surgery. Does that sound like they got informed consent if they think that they can grow their breasts back after top surgery? To me, it doesn't.”

At the request of some readers, I’ve provided a [loose] transcript below.

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Lisa So Emma, as we're calling you, thank you for joining me on Broadview.

Emma And you so much for having me.

Lisa Can we start, can we start with your kind of origin story before your transition? A little bit about your childhood and how you how you were gendered, how you expressed gender in childhood?

Emma Absolutely. I think that if anyone tries hard enough, they can trans their childhood. I think that if you look for ways that you're different or if you look for ways to fit into a trans narrative, almost anyone can pull stuff from their childhood that that does. I personally, I was adopted, which I think is a big part of of how I ended up, where I ended up having a loose sense of identity due to adoption, having a loose sense of definition of self-definition, of family, and also the primal wounds that you're always trying to heal and your adopted that pain. If you're always looking for what is that pain? And no one's really talking about what that actually is, then it can be easy for a therapist to propose what it might be. And you say, Oh, good, I'm so glad we found the answer to this hurt that's always been here. I do think that that was a big piece of the trauma trifecta that landed me in the situation I found myself in as a child. I was in competitive sports gymnastics specifically, which puts a premium on girls' bodies before they go through puberty. There's a desire to delay puberty for the sake of muscle mass. For the sake of ease of movement. For the sake of, honestly, not complicating things. That's kind of how it felt to me. So I think the pressure to not go through puberty that was instilled in me through gymnastics may have also been a factor that coupled with being taught that the desired body is a strong one in the male sense, not the female sense, because we know that women are strong in ways that men are not. But they they prided muscle. They prided kind of, you know, things that are incompatible with, you know, puberty. And going back even further as as a preschooler, I didn't not feel like I fit in, but I was the only I was one of the girls that would play with the boys in general was just always welcome with the boys. I that did not make me a boy. That did not make me actually a boy. But I do remember playing on their pirate ship and, you know, being more interested in, more interested in that than I was just physical play. Right. And then I was a bit of a tomboy for a period of time between maybe like, I don't know, five and whenever puberty started. I remember vividly the very first time I had an arm wrestling competition with my friend who is a boy. And it must have been like right before puberty, because we were all still very unaware of our role to each other. There was none of that weirdness, boy girl stuff going on yet. But I remember losing the arm wrestling competition just because he had started to get the strength that comes with boys developing and being devastated, just like absolutely devastated. Coming to realize time and time again my my place in in relation to in relation to men or, you know, the default human as we as we see them.

Emma And then I had a pretty typical middle school. Middle school was was hard. It was around the time when I stopped doing gymnastics due to some injuries and I started going through puberty and I hated it. And I developed a, well I had already had an eating disorder. I don't think I ever had normal, normal eating habits or a normal relationship to my body. I also did figure skating and ballet—all of the all the things you can you can do to a young woman to feel like she has to stay thin. And as pretty much like as soon as I got my period, I was like, I hate this. I'm mad about this. And I stopped eating pretty much entirely. I lost a bunch of weight, got praised for it, of course, because our society is really sick. And it went away for a while and. I don't think much of my middle school or high school years have a gender. I am bisexual. I always have been. I never felt any kind of way about it, though. I was never ashamed of it. I was never. You know, I never, never wished to not be attracted to women. I've got my first girlfriend in middle school. My parents didn't react great to that. I don't think they knew how to react to it. Not to not to discredit that they never acted out of hate or out of a phobia. But they didn't know what to do with that. They knew how to keep me away from boys. They didn't know how to keep me away from from other girls. So there was a little bit of weirdness there. And I do know that part of my desire to, I know that part of my desire to transition had to do with not wanting my mom to be able to control me the way that mothers sometimes control daughters. I know that there's, there's heavy stuff there. And I'm working I'm working through my my childhood trauma with my adoptive parents in general. I love them and they love me. But we didn't always understand each other. So that's kind of the root of of that hurt.

Lisa What was the reaction to bisexuality outside of your family, in your community, in your school?

Emma Um, I, well, I went to an all girls' school. So that affected it one way and another. You know, it made it a little bit, I wouldn't say I even experienced unnecessarily any homophobia from my classmates. They didn't really see me as a threat. It was never I know some for some girls who are bisexual or lesbian, they do go through that. And I really, you know, obviously really feel for them in that struggle. But I didn't have it probably because I've always been a very feminine presenting person, like I've always been just drawn towards pretty clothes. And no matter what I tried to do, I can't really get, you know, get rid of that femininity. I could never be read as a straight male when I was read as male. Everyone always thought I was gay. But I mean, there's there was messaging like one, one does internalize the messaging. I think the boys were more of an issue for me. It wasn't the bisexuality so much as it was. I went through two really traumatic relationships with men when I was in middle late middle school or early high school. One of which was extremely traumatic. And he was older. And he was very actively grooming me from eighth grade on to to feel safe with him. There's some stuff that happened in that relationship I'm not going to talk about. But he he developed almost like an older brother relationship with me and then pulled the rug out from under me as he started putting pressure on me to be sexual with him and then really messed me up by convincing me that's what love was. So, you know, there's some really deep sexual trauma in my developmental years. And then I dated a second boy who reminded me of the first one because that pattern was very established. So that's another trauma. You got the eating disorder, you've got the sexual trauma about the adoption. Those are all things that a therapist probably should have looked at it as reasons to not transition a 19 year old girl.

Lisa [00:09:10] So how did you learn about transitioning and how did you come to decide that that is something you should do?

Emma All right. So I was in college. I was a 19 year old in college, and I had just gone through my very my first adult relationship with a woman, and it had gone terribly. We had, we didn't have the healthiest relationship. And I was mourning the loss of that. And I shaved my head kind of like in grief. And I wasn't eating because, you know, when things in my life got hard, I just stopped eating as like a pattern forever. And I was wearing all of her clothes that she had left, and she was butch and they were all boys' clothes. And I was dealing with the weight of being a 19 year old woman in the world or realizing what that meant for the first time outside of the protection of an all girls school, where I could just be a person outside of the protection of childhood, where I could just be a person. I didn't have brothers, so I never had that constant patriarchal comparison growing up. And I told my therapist I didn't want to be a woman. Because I don't really know many people who do want to be treated like a woman, which is very different from, you know, being female, like.

Lisa Was this a therapist that you got through the college or?

Emma Yes. Yeah. This is a therapist I was seeing through school, who, I mean, I could analyze her. I think she wanted to be a gender therapist. That was a college counseling therapist. And like, I think she wasn't particularly happy with that and. Yeah. So, in college, I found I basically said to my therapist, I don't want to be a woman. And she was like, We can fix that. And so I started watching you.

Lisa She said that?

Emma I'm not sure those are the exact words she said, but that was the energy. And that was the, it was met, it was affirmed. It was affirmed strongly both from that therapist and from my peers when they encouraged exploration, that, what that looks like to me at the time in like 2000-teens was going online and looking at what that  life looks like. But the tricky thing about the Internet, I feel like I really like going online and seeking out if transition is right for you, will almost always give you an affirmative answer. There's a lot of glamorized half truths about transition out there. There you see the success stories that are the top 1% of trans people, and yet they don't share the parts that aren't working publicly. It wasn't until years later when I was in phalloplasty groups, for example, where I would see the the person who'd had surgery posting on YouTube about how great their life was and about how happy they were they had surgery and about all the updates so that they could get all that secured as affirmation from their followers. But then in the private groups saying things like, I'm super suicidal and this is my sixth revision and I'm waiting for another one and I can't stand I can't stand up to pee. There's fistulas, there's all kinds of complications. And that's pretty standard. I'm in  I was in, or I guess I still am in, like I don't know five or six different groups where that's just the story. One of the guys who was leading the group died, like one of the groups is just forever frozen in time because the guy died and they won't give us details on like, and it's not my business really, but like, you know. So I went online and I you know, I was I was depressed Oh, I was also not sober at this time, which I think I should clarify, too. I have a history of issues with substances. Part of it was from that guy that was abusive. He intentionally got me hooked on some substances. But the point is that when I signed my informed consent papers, I wasn't sober. I hadn't put together two sober days in at least three years at that point, I can firmly say. And the fact that that wasn't a red flag is really concerning. If someone can't consent to sex when they're inebriated, how can you consent to, you know, hormones when you're not thinking clearly? I was also disassociated, too, which may or may not have been. I know it was more than just the drugs. I was disassociated in a way that should have been diagnosed.

Lisa Sorry. What do you mean, disassociated?

Emma When the room feels like it's caving in all the time, all day, every day. And you get tunnel vision and you can't remember what you said 5 minutes ago and you can't remember what year it is, and you don't know where you are and you feel like you're floating outside your body. There were, it was a trauma response and that should have been, that should have been dealt with and diagnosed accurately. I don't think anyone that spoke to me at that time would say I was there. I had a really hard time imagining a doctor. I didn't meet the eyes of my surgeon who cut my breasts off once, never looked in my face. Hmm. Sorry. Yeah. Some days are harder than others. Today's been, today's been a hard one. I woke up to it and it's a whole other topic. The way that the world is receiving detransitioners right now is is vile. I woke up to someone sending me a response video to a TikTok of someone of a of a young trans guy saying that we should just kill all the detransitioners. And I'm looking at these girls and like, I want to be mad. You'd think that when like, my initial response was like, fuck you. Like, you're like, just, just leave it at that. It's like, fuck you just like rage. But then I sat back, like, I sat down, I thought about it and I was like, most of the people saying this are between the ages of 14 and I don't think I've seen one older than 19. These are teenage girls still like. At. I didn't know I'd made a mistake until six years. I didn't know I'd made a mistake till my brain fully developed. I didn't know I'd made a mistake till I was sober. I didn't know I made a mistake till I realized the world was going on without me. You know, I. You live, when you're that age everything is about self. Your. Your. Your identity is formed around just yourself, it's self-centered. But when you get a little bit older, your identity has to do with relationship to others, with relationship to community, with relationship to your society that you're in. And if you chose to do something that self-oriented at that age, you don't get to bond with your peers. It is a very rare person who's made those choices that gets to move on with their lives normally. And I want to be clear that I am not saying that I'm one of those trans people that detransitioned to because being trans is hard. I just want to fully paint the picture of what it leaves out of what it's like to live as a transgender person from someone who no longer feels the need to protect that narrative.

Lisa Can we go back a little bit to. Did you not consider this until the therapist suggested it to you? And then you went online and took the tests and said, Oh yeah, that's me. I mean, was it in the air around you?

Emma To be honest, I don't remember. Okay. I don't remember. I was that disassociated that I could not tell you where I found this out. I think I do, I do remember that holiday season going home to my family and being like, I'm non-binary and then my aunt challenging me and being like, what does that mean? And me being like, I don't know. Like, I little I was just, I was a dumb teenager. Like, I don't know how to. It takes a lot of, by the way, this whole process has taken a lot of humility. Luckily, it was necessary because it came it came to a head where I thought I could either keep living in that delusion or humble myself severely and start talking about this stuff. So, you know, I'm not part of any of this stuff and some of it's hard to talk about. But yeah, I was a dumb, very easily influenced teenager because I had that that pain, that that hole, you know, from day one. And it was me and it was easily filled by, Oh I've got a, I've got a really old dog here. Yeah. And she doesn't breathe well so that sound, that, that's her coughing. I'm sorry. But I know that. So I went to I went to a very liberal, liberal school and the gender ideology was in the air. Ironically, I actually was taking classes at Brown in Queer Theory and had come to the opposite conclusion in one of my papers, unbeknownst to me, because I was unaware of this the social bigger picture of radical feminism or anything like that, gender critical theory, didn't know anything about those didn't have words to it, but I basically wrote a response paper to [Judith] Butler saying, Why do women always have to consider language first? And my teacher, you know, I got like, I don't know, B-plus on paper. It was like it was an okay paper where my teacher did not engage with me on that topic. And at the time, I was like, That's weird. And I'm like, Oh, agendas, I see. What I said was apparently problematic. I didn't know that. But it's funny that I went through all of that when I was in a better place and like had literally had thoughts like, 'thank God I'm not trans' earlier in my life. And then and then, oh, and also earlier in my life had a really negative experience with a trans-identified male in our college coming up to all the groups of women at parties and being like, where are the lesbians? Like demanding access to women's bodies in a way that women don't do. And it made me feel very uncomfortable and it made me be like, I don't want to be anywhere close to this person. And I had all those experiences. And yet I still was able to get got. I still was able to find myself in a position where I was vulnerable enough and I was online enough, and I was being influenced by YouTubers primarily at the time, Tumblr primarily at the time, because that was that era, to be like sold this better life and.

Lisa So how did that how did you proceed once you just despite, you know, all the bulwarks you'd erected against these ideas earlier, then somehow you get to the point where this this starts to seem like salvation and a release from pain. And what happened from the time you decided, yes, I am properly gender dysphoric and yes, I'm trans? How did the medicalization happen?

Emma Well, the medicalization happened really fast. I don't remember getting on hormones. I know it didn't. It wasn't hard. I walked into the endocrinologist office with a letter and got on them.

Lisa The letter that—Who gave you the letter?

Emma I think it was the therapist from college. I think. But I also know that you can contact Planned Parenthood and say, I need a letter and they will produce one for you. And I know that because I needed one going the opposite direction. And that was when I became privy to that being their system. Huh. Like you could call.

Lisa Let's about that after. I want to hear more about that. Okay. So you got a letter, you got hormones.

Emma Yeah, very quickly. Got hormones.

Lisa Do you remember what that experience was like physically and psychologically to go on hormones?

Emma Well, they're a stimulant, so I felt better initially because it's a stimulant. I also had hope that I was doing the right thing and changing my life for the better. And that hope really affirmed that I was doing the right thing. So, you know. I came to realize that that later on that that hope is is like unbounded in reality. You're hoping you can become something you're not, but you're not realizing that you you can't ever become that other thing. So I think that's where a lot of the euphoria, so-called euphoria and and positive outcomes come from in the first 1 to 3 years of transition. It's like this, oh, my gosh, I'm becoming and becoming this thing I want to be. I'm leaving behind everything I've got and I'm remaking myself. It's a salvation. It's a rebirth. And then that fades away, as you realize. Okay, well, I've got hormones. People on the street perceive me as male. People in private settings perceive me as male. If they're not aware, if you're not queer literate, you know, because once they are there, they see you as they can. If they can see trans, they can see you. And that's a whole other thing.

Lisa Queer literate. Yeah, that's interesting.

Emma So I avoided a lot of queer spaces in that time because I didn't want to be associated.

Lisa And you don't want to be you didn't want to be read as trans. You wanted to be read as male.

Emma Yep. Why was. Which is.

Lisa Oh, go ahead.

Emma I was going to say that's really a big part of why it all came apart from me, I think. I think a lot of people who just want to look male, transition's a fine thing for them because their end goal I think a patient if their end goal is to appear more male or appear more masculine, then transition fits that. If your end goal is to become a man or be a man, you're never going to be happy because you can't get there. You know, you're get it. You get to the point where you're getting read as male and it's a certain level of comfort maybe for you, especially if you're hiding from abuse. And then you get to a point where you're looking at phalloplasty and you're like, Wait, these are really the options. Like, how are these the options? What are the success rates, you ask insurance with the success rates and they give you like an absurd number, like 80% success or some shit like that. And then you go into the actual doctor's office or you do your research by sticking around phalloplasty groups long enough and you see that the success rate is like negligent. It is like not I guess they're considering it a success if you don't die. Like I don't know what the success is that they're saying they're getting because they're they're not.

Lisa Well, it's good to even question how do you measure success when it's not a medical one? It's a medical intervention for a psychological problem. I suppose they measure it with satisfaction or psychological well-being, but I'm not sure how much long term research they have about that.

Emma Or if they're even measuring that in their in their research, you know, you can't represent data that you don't take in research. That's my other dog. Yeah. So, hey. Yeah. I forgot where it was with that, but.

Lisa So you. So. So you. So you decided this was the path. You went on the hormones, I guess how did you get to the surgery?

Emma Honestly in my. I wanted to stop binding because I had double D breasts that we're not—binding hurt. I also historically have been an athlete and I liked working out. I wanted freedom from binding. Six months after testosterone, I made an appointment, got seen by a doctor and got them cut off.

Lisa And insurance—you were on your your school insurance or?

Emma I was on my my dad's insurance at the time, but I did it out of pocket. Who?

Lisa And did it? Did your, were your parents involved at all?

Emma Yeah. They drove me to the appointments.

Lisa Do you know how they felt about about your progression through this medical experience?

Emma My mom at one point when she was driving me to surgery in the morning of goes, you don't have to do this. And my response was, yeah, I do. And I know all the thoughts that were going through my mind right then. And it was yeah, I do, I've told people. I'm going to. Yeah, I do. That's the path you take when you're trans. Yeah, I do. I want to become a man. Yeah, I do. Men don't have breasts. Like I also, there's there's also a component there that I don't know if I am autistic, I don't know if my black and white thinking was youth or autism or trauma. But I was very, very prone to black and white thought as a young person. It's something that I've gone through a lot of current behavioral therapy and growing up, you know, after 25, your brain finishes. And I felt it and could suddenly see gray and hold two truths simultaneously and, you know, all of those things. But my very black and white thinking was like, Oh, I flipped a switch to trans. Now this is what we do. You know, we do what we do. We we're on that conveyor belt and we can't get off of it. And it was like that. I there were glimmers of like, oh, well, I don't want to say there was glimmers of, oh, I might have made a mistake because there really wasn't. The social benefits of transitioning outweighed anything that I felt like I was losing or any uncertainty I had, both in how I was treated better when I was perceived male, and also the immediate affirmation of my of my peers when I was young being like, Oh, my God, you're so brave for transitioning. I thought I was a success story, though. I did not think I would detransition ever in life. I thought I had made the right choice. I thought that. It was who I was. I thought it was a need. I believed that my brain was different, like a different gender than my body. I even had a therapist at one point told me that I was likely intersex without ever having looked at me or ever having done or talked to a doctor who had looked at me, which I think now is severely negligent. But the therapists believe the stuff that they tell you. Any questioning I had was was cut short by therapists affirming. Affirming the most delusional stuff, by the way, like affirming that trans sexuality is a form of intersex, affirming that just because your brain is different from your body, that makes you intersex. But then you have to believe that the brain is where the gender is stored, right? And that's not real. It was a relief when I finally came out of the delusion. It was scary and it was terrifying. And I didn't think I was going to be able to do it, to stop everything. But it was, it was a relief to have the radical acceptance of my my, my body and myself the way I hadn't had when I was 19.

Lisa Well, how did that happen? What changed? You said initially you would be counted as a success story. You were happy.

Emma With that? I had therapists tell me that. Yeah. Therapist literally told me that I had peers at a psych at a psych ward I was in tell me, like, oh, I know all these trans people that are so fucked up, but you're fine. Like, that's awesome. And I was like, Well, we are in a psych ward right now. Like, maybe evaluate that, but hmm. People, you know, people just thought I was really even even keeled and, like, very normal. I worked in like facilities management, like, you know, normal guy job. I worked in a male dominated industry for my professional realm, which is something that I can't really talk about on here because you wouldn't be able to find me and I just blended in you okay. You know, I was never really flamboyant or queer in any way. I never really did the whole where I work. What your society says they're supposed to wear is manly. Um.

Lisa Did you like wearing those clothes?

Emma I felt safe. Certainly. It's certainly easier to dress yourself as a guy because there's less, you don't have to think about how you're being perceived as much. You know, it's pretty simple. You dress for function, but you don't have to like think about how you have to look a certain amount of nice so that you're perceived well as a female, but like you still need your clothes to function for the very physical labor job you're doing. But you also, you know, there's so much that goes into being a woman successfully in the world, which has been another heartbreak of mine that I'm having to relearn how to be, how to be a woman. And when I say that, I don't mean how to put on the skin of a woman and walk around pretending I am one and catering to stereotypes. I mean that I forgot to protect myself. I forgot to protect myself. For the first. In the first year after transitioning, I was sexually assaulted twice. Once was date rape because I forgot that you have to be so much more careful as a female. I was. I don't know, harassed at work. I lost a few jobs, like professional connection jobs just because they didn't want to do business with a woman. I became acutely aware of my my position in society and that it was subservient and that it was violent, for the recipient of violence. And that it was less monetary, like the wage gap is real. That's all I'm going to say. Having done business as a male and having had all the doors open to me and having been able to sustain myself even as a beginner in my field for a certain time period, and then trying to do that business interfacing as a woman. I make a third of the amount of money I did as a male.

Lisa Is there anything you learn to bring with you, you know, from living as a man? Any way of being that can be adapted and adapted.

Emma I think that's a daily struggle I'm working on. I am very jaded and I will admit that I am very jaded. I wasn't jaded when I first transitioned. I was running around wearing whatever I wanted to wear, going, Oh my God, I'm so glad I get to be a woman. Like, you know, just a sense of relief, whatever. And then the way I was treated was what made me jaded over the last couple of years. I would say that what I what I think I learned the most is it is as bad as you think it is behind closed doors with men. That being said, I'm much more and much more compassionate towards the struggles that men have. I'm much more compassionate where I know instances and I'm scared to even verbalize them because we don't need more of more of that. And I don't know that we don't need more of that in writing, but like, how am I trying to verbalize this? I have a compassion for the loneliness. Men get a lot less love, get touched a lot less. A lot of them are touched-starved. I have compassion for the self-imposed hierarchy that they all have to duke it out over to survive and how hard that can be. I understand the motivations of a lot of them now in a way that I did not before. Does it benefit me now? I don't think so. I don't think there's much that I can learn from I know who to avoid, though. Maybe that's maybe that's a way I can say, like, that's helpful. I know how to avoid. I also know that there's no right way to be a woman. If they want to hate you, they're going to hate you. Whether you dress slutty, you're dressed like a nun. It has nothing to do with that. Hmm.

Lisa So can we go back to how you came to detransition? Because you were appear to be happy. People said you were happy. Then what happened?

Emma I just had this realization that you could have become a man like you can never change that. I realized I was chasing something that was un achievable. I also before. Before that realization was having heart problems because of the testosterone. My hair was falling out. I was physically kind of falling apart. And then I so because of all of this health issues, I went off of testosterone. And when I went off, that's when the the radical realization at me, that was when I was like, oh, wow, if I had just accepted myself before I can save myself all of this pain. I could have saved myself this, like, attempt at something that I can't be.

Lisa And then what was the process? What was the process of leaving that identity behind? And what was the process physically for you?

Emma Yeah. So physically I am a wreck. Testosterone has a lot of side effects that they don't tell you about. I also want to clarify that my hair was falling out because it was sick and I went to a barber at one point that told me I looked like I had, quote, chemo hair. It wasn't male pattern baldness inherited by a gene from my mother's father's side. That's not how it works when women take disaster. How it works is there's DHT and it makes your hair fall out like it's a 1 to 1. It's not genetic. It's also I bring this up to you, because right now in the in the TikTok realm and in the culture sphere, people are criticizing a 20 year old girl who went on testosterone at 15, lost all her hair. She's been one of the most outspoken to detransition or as of the week and people are saying a lot of misinformation, you know, about it being genetic, about about balding, being a male, a male thing. It's literally just a female takes testosterone, you lose your hair. That's it. It can also be an indicator that you're ill. You know, it can indicate your health or your hormone activity. That's why when when women get pregnant, their hair texture changes, you know, similar to that sometimes not everybody also, by the way, not everybody, but.

Lisa Oh, and not everybody loses their hair, right? Not everybody on testosterone loses their hair.

Emma Some do you know do you know anyone over ten years you still have their hair?

Lisa I'm trying to think of the trans men I know or have watched in how many have hair? And I don't know, but I'm.

Emma Certainly I'm just curious now. How many are there who aren't balding? I don't know. I mean, I don't know. I, I want to look into it, too, because I can't really name anyone. That I know who has been on it more than ten years who has hair like a full head of hair like a. Yeah. Well, we'll see.

Lisa We'll see if people listen to this, if they write to us and tell us. I mean, the people I'm thinking of who I know personally. Ah. All three of them are bald. But that's a very small sample size.

Emma [00:40:30] Yeah. And also, you know, we have this we have this trans obsession with its aesthetics as well. And that I'm kind of trying to deprogram my brain from things such as thinking of breasts merely as indicators of your gender or your gender performance and not as functional organs that were designed to be a part of your body And. I'm trying to articulate something right now that is misdirected. Basically my experience having my breasts cut off and then talking to doctors about, quote, fixing the problem, you know, how to detransition and how to fix all the things that we fucked up about my body. I was talking to doctors and I became really, really aware of their focus on the esthetic component of breasts. Psychologically, I wanted reconstruction because. I wanted one fewer way to be othered. Going forward, I wanted one fewer scar to look at. You know, I don't need yet another way. And I still have and always will have the scars and the fact that these aren't breasts, these are silicone balls that were put under my muscle to replicate the idea of a breast. And that is very distinctly different from being a breast. And I think that trans ideology tends to conflate esthetics with reality, and we need to decouple that because it is confusing to young people who are gravitating towards the movement. That is why a young girl could think that she could become an actual man, because we we codify this language. We say top surgery instead of double mastectomy. We, you know, shroud it in almost like a brand. And it needs to be demystified. There are a shocking number of girls in these detrans groups asking if their breasts will grow back after top surgery. Does that sound like they got informed consent if they think that they can grow their breasts back after top surgery? To me, it doesn't. And I didn't know personally that that I wasn't going to have nipples after my top surgery. They really did not clarify what a nipple graft is, is when they take the nipple and they cut it off and they strip the back of it and they turn it into a graft. So they turn it from a nipple into a skin graft, and then they graft that skin graft onto your chest. That was not adequately explained to me as a teenager when I got them cut off. It just wasn't like I did not know that until I was getting I was sitting in a doctor's office asking for help. And they were explaining why it would be really hard for them to reconstruct my chest versus a cancer survivor's chest because it had intentionally been altered down to the grafts to to look male in a certain way it wasn't. Yeah. So I went to three separate surgeons looking for reconstruction. One was the surgeon that did my surgery. I had no motive at the time. Now, I would like to know what he does to make sure he doesn't do this again to another teenage girl. I would like to know that he has more measures in place than just listening to one therapist's note. I think that's absurd, especially given the power trip that these therapists are on and the doctors, for that matter, you know, they think they're God, but they're not. And so I went to three different therapist offices or sorry, three different surgeons' offices. One was the original surgeon. He sent me back a cheery email saying he'd be happy to charge me more money to put implants in my chest. The second one was a well-known surgeon in my hometown that I knew did trans surgeries and would be familiar with a with what they do when they do top surgery so he'd know what was what was likely there. Turns out they all do them differently. So then he didn't know what was there. There's a layer of skin that sometimes they cut out and sometimes they leave in. And there was a big unknown and it would be there when they opened my chest up. And so I tried to go on his waitlist. I talked to he had a very long waitlist. So I kept looking for surgeons and I found another one, the third surgeon that I did a consultation with, and I don't remember exactly why I went with this or why I went with the second surgeon or the third surgeon, but the third surgeon, they helped me immensely with aesthetics when I first went off testoerone, because when I first went off testosterone, I looked wasted. Like the muscle mass starts wasting when you go off of T, but you still have the low body fat. So I lost a whole bunch of weight really fast. I looked really sick. My face was sunken in, all of the collagen and fat that's supposed to be in certain places when you're a certain age and female weren't there. So I looked really old and I still had this like aesthetically driven, oh my God, I have to fix this image because, you know, I was like, oh, my God, I'm being read as male. It was very uncomfortable. So I went and I got fillers in my cheeks to try and reverse some of what had been done by testosterone. And it honestly, it works like an eye, but I'm not going to keep that in my going to do that again because I've grown a little bit and don't really want to keep fucking with my body. Like, I don't feel like I need to endlessly keep messing with my appearance. I think that's something that I need to leave behind in the old an old ideology. But they were really helpful and they had never seen someone coming in for reconstruction. So I have developed actually a pretty good relationship with this surgeon's office because they had never seen a detransitioner before. I was the first and they actually ended up, one of the nurses did a podcast with me, just trying to get the information out there. And it changed the way that they looked at. They were very responsible. By the way, when they saw me, they were like, have you lived as as a woman for a year? Like, are you sure about this? Like, they went through all of the things you're supposed to go through that I did not get the first time. And I got to tell them my story. The search I ended up going with, I think I only I think I chose him because he had done a reconstruction on it on a double mastectomy before on a top surgery, which is, you know, concerning like you don't want either way or you don't want it to not be happening at all and then to be clueless. But you also really don't want them to have already done this a hundred times. Yeah, we want to minimize people being in the situation.

Lisa Did you tell the therapist? Have you ever talked to the therapist?

Emma I could not get in contact with the therapist. I sent one. I found to the first therapist. And I sent her. Basically, I forgive you for almost ruining my life message, even though that's not totally how I feel. I felt like I needed to. I'm really, really, really struggling with how to close this chapter. I am. I'm feeling immense grief. I'm feeling immense trauma. I have PTSD from it. And that PTSD is exacerbated by the fact that. The ideology is everywhere. I'm having a very hard time getting away from it and suddenly seeing a whole lot of women gravitating towards the they/them component of the ideology to get away from for the same reasons I did, you know, a bunch of years ago. So I have to watch all these other women make the same mistake I did. Um, and I just have to wait. I just have to wait at this point because I can't be around it. It's not fair to me, you know, given given everything.

Lisa Do you think that it can work for some people, or do you think this is as long as it's this population of kind of teen girls with mental health issues that it can never be appropriate?

Emma Well, so there's two different things going on. One. But they but they can they can influence each other. One is the medicalization and the the the the medical route. And the trans route is one one path. The other thing that's going on is this like linguistic dodging of womanhood that offers the same relief as as the first path to some people. I never had tolerance for that one. You know, I. Incidentally, it was the gateway drug to me transitioning medically because I did initially identify as non-binary. Not even understanding what that meant. And I think most of them don't. I think most of them don't understand what that is, who put that in their body. But so identifying as identifying out of womanhood, I don't think that will bring. Ultimately, that's going to be a fad that's going to die because. What happened. Instead of instead of people genuinely treating these individuals as if they are not a woman, they're just making their political stance evident. And I understand why they're doing it. I understand the the drive to distance yourself from being treated as a woman because it fucking sucks. Sexism is real. Misogyny is real. Rape is really get all. It all sucks, but. So I think that trend is going to die down inevitably. But of that of those people, some of them are going to pursue medical intervention. And I don't think that's going to go well either. I think the perfect I think the actual person who should be receiving transition health care is someone who aspires to appear as the opposite sex is is. Like Buck Angel, for example. He speaks out consistently of being aware that he is aspiring to appear as the opposite sex. And there is a lot there that just keeps your feet rooted in reality, keeps you grounded in reality and not a delusion.

Lisa Yeah. And Buck is someone who's very aware of biological sex and who feels like he really had a mental issue and that this was the appropriate way to address it. But he was an adult and he had many years to think about it and is quite concerned about people like you.

Emma Mm hmm.

Lisa What do you what do you wish the therapist would have done when you came in there and said, I wish I, I wish I wasn't a woman. I wish I didn't have to be a woman. What do you think the appropriate response would have been?

Emma I think the appropriate response would have been teaching radical acceptance, teaching, you know, the way that a therapist would be trained to handle a delusion if someone walked in there and was like, I'm a bird. That's an absurd example, but it was a delusion for me and I know it is for others. And I think that whatever therapists are taught to grounded people in reality would have been the best response, especially considering that if you have a patient who for whom transition is the right move, it will it will resolve itself like it will become evident that that is the necessary or the necessary last resort. Statistically speaking, the patient sitting in front of you probably isn't going to benefit from that. And so to immediately treat them as the rarity is is also negligent. You know, you should be treating them as as the average until it becomes evident that they need more. So I wish you'd just help me with acceptance.

Lisa What about the surgeons you mentioned and the endocrinologists you mentioned when you were in reconstruction that they asked you these questions that they the other ones didn't. You came with a letter, that was the requirement. So what should the requirement be?

Emma A psychological evaluation by a doctor who does not believe in affirmation therapy. A doctor who believes that this is sometimes an appropriate treatment but sometimes isn't. But that doesn't make the endocrinologist a bunch of money over a long period of time, does it? If you're weeding out patients actively. And then same with surgery. I think they should have a psychological evaluation done by a third party that is non-biased. At the bare minimum, they should also probably have a time period, a year, two years, three years. Come back in two years if you still feel this way. Mm hmm.

Lisa I remember my friend wanted a tattoo, and she got the advice of draw the picture you want. Put it in a drawer. I really think it was five years. Come back five years later if you still want it. And she did. It's a great tattoo. I got a tattoo on a whim in Mexico that got infected and rotted off. And I, I often I'm I'm glad that these interventions weren't available to me when I was young. Because I was so uncomfortable in my body and so sad that my body did not look like what I thought it was supposed to look like. And so ashamed. And sometimes I think that about the rush to transition, which is. I'm not. If you hate your body. I don't think that transitioning it to the appearance of male or neither male or female will necessarily lead to loving your body and what you're talking about, radical acceptance, is very difficult path. Doesn't make anybody any money, except maybe you pay someone to lead your meditation group. I don't know, but it's, um. I. I think that if the problem is hating your body and it feels intolerable, but teaching distress tolerance and radical acceptance and self-love seems like a good idea. And somebody may come out of all of that and think, I still want to do this. I want to do it for me. But there's the rush. It's the rush is doesn't give people time to digest the information and their goals. What was how long was it for you? How long were you living as a man until you detransitioned? And how long? Years? Six years.

Emma On hormones. Six years on hormones. And how so? Probably closer to seven.

Lisa How long have you been detransitioned?

Emma Two years.

Lisa What are your needs now? What do we need to do to help detransitioners?

Emma I mean, very. So so health care to help pick up the pieces because I currently have gI issues I did not have before. I know other detransitioners do to a number of us have developed new allergies to foods that we did not have prior to taking disaster. So like rigorous  endocrine follow up care. I also likely have a thyroid issue now that was probably triggered by this or exacerbated by this. Not saying it wouldn't inevitably have happened anyways because it runs in my family, but it usually doesn't happen until later in life. It doesn't usually happen in your twenties. I also had strange endocrine things happening with, like my body trying to go through menopause and then not going through menopause quite. And then, you know, a whole bunch of it. I look at forums for bodybuilders, for women who abuse testosterone and other, you know, like doping methods because those are the people who basically are the same to me. And you'll get honest answers from them that you won't get from the trans male forums. It's also a body having come off of it, off of those hormones, too. They are looking at. So medical care, physical, physical, medical care to pick up the pieces. Some of that could also probably be like fertility care. I don't know. Then also mental health care. That I don't know that we even have yet. Grief. How to grieve. Because that is the predominant emotion that many of us feel after is grief or rage or. And most of us have PTSD, too. So figuring out how to how to treat the PTSD and the grief in terms of mental health care, I would say we also need a society that is more inclusive. Which looks like not doing pronoun circles if people need to tell you, they'll tell you. not bringing up this thing that traumatized us over and over and over again and then bashing you over the head with it as if it is the morally righteous way of thinking. Not having that be the predominant culture. I look forward to that sometime in the future. Because it is traumatic. It is traumatizing. It is triggering. I was in a classroom. My most recent schooling and back to school after I graduated to, to get a specialty in my field. And there is an 18 year old student there. Reminded me of me. She was transitioning and the teacher. So this kid, this 18 year old student, who may or may not actually decide that she's trans and transitioning is gonna help her, was talking about one in top surgery and instead of the teacher saying, hey, you know, here's some resources that are non-biased, that are non affirmative, whatever to actually help you. Or instead of saying this is not something we can talk about in class because it's not appropriate or whatever. She goes, Yeah, me too. And I couldn't be in that classroom. I couldn't get what I needed in that space. So how do we make spaces that are genuinely actually actually inclusive? I don't know that we're ready for that conversation. It doesn't it doesn't benefit people's selfish need to virtue signal to actually be inclusive. Because how can you virtue signal something you're not doing? But that is in need of detransitioners, and that is a conversation that we've all been having with each other, is how to read function in society as it is right now. Other things we need, basic legal help for how to undo all of the changes that we made. There are not forms for that. No one expects you to hit edit undo on that. So we're having to refill out the gender change forms again. And they're saying things like, Check this box if you've had adequate surgery. What box do we check? You know, so just a another another legal pathway for people to undo that change is necessary. I think. If we're talking not just about what we physically need and what we need, mental health wise need, but also societally what we need. I want to throw the whole thing out, but I can't. So in response to all of the people who are. Really losing their minds about detransitioners right now, I would like to start talking about what is detransphobia, because there's people online telling us to kill ourselves. I am getting the most hate I have ever gotten ever after speaking up for myself. And it's from other young, young people who may or may not detransition themselves in the future. So, you know, that conversation has to expand. I've been taking the approach of appealing to the, quote, helpful ally by saying, if you care about young people with dysphoria, you will care. Then you also have to care about detransitioners, because we are those people. It's all it's all one. It's all one umbrella. But yeah, we definitely I mean, you know, most of the people have spoken out. We're a very underrepresented group of people because you have to be really strong and kind of not care what people think about you to be able to go out there and say, [01:03:30]Hey, I'm baring my soul right now for the thing that hurt me the most in my life that I did, trying to help myself, by the way, that I was encouraged to do by professionals, by the way, that I was affirmed socially by my my peer group. And it didn't work out for me for whatever reason, you know, you realize it's bullshit or it's just not right for you or whatever, and you're vulnerable in that way. And then people hate you [29.3s] and you know, it takes a certain level of bravery and a certain level of not giving in to do it. But that's why we're wildly underrepresented because, you know, it's not fun.

Lisa Right. I mean, it really we don't know how many detransition laws there are because most people don't have the fortitude or the will, the energy to speak up.

Emma I really I really don't I just don't feel like I have a choice because I don't want this to happen to anybody else. And I'm alarmed at seeing the social trends right now. Alarmed at seeing there be, you know, everything that could have gone differently for me being in the mainstream.

Lisa Well, I feel the same way. I don't. Yeah, I, I it would be great for me if I would stop doing this, but i, i. I can't until the media starts reporting the story better or I'm stuck here. And of course. I've never been through anything like what you've been through, but I. I feel this responsibility. And as as a parent and as a parent watching other parents make decisions that I know they think are in the best interest of their child. And I know they're terrified and I know they're fiercely protective, both of their children and of. Of themselves. Of what they've done. And that's why they're not open to hearing from me or you or the many other people trying to speak up. So I guess my last question would be about parents. Now, you were 19, so you didn't need parental consent. But what should parents do if they have a child like you who they if they're familiar with the research and realized that you're not the cohort for whom such medical interventions were intended, and they understand that you're going through much more than just gender issues. What should they do?

Emma Well, that's going to sound harsh, but the peer influence and the peer pressure is real. And I think the only thing that you're also taught to vilify your parents, if they raise questions, if they say, hey, I've known you your whole life, I don't think this is you, you didn't show any signs of this as a as a child. They're transphobic as the rhetoric is what we're taught. And I really internalized that when I was young. And I'm not sure there's much my parents could have said that would have made me listen to them. I do wish that they had pushed back. I wish that they had pushed back and not affirmed. But my mom was talking to me about this recently and she said, well, we were worried you were going to kill yourself, because that's the other thing you hear. If you don't affirm your child immediately, they're going to kill themselves. Studies show studies show that the people who transition, the sense of satisfaction goes up to a certain point, a certain number of years after. And then the rates of suicide are the same, if not greater. I don't know exactly what it was, and I don't want to put more false data out there, but that is a study that we can find. So I know my parents were acting out of fear that I would kill myself because that's what we were all told. Heck, I even internalized it. And if I had a kid now. So I think about this a lot because I'm at the age where I'm starting to think of our kids. My partner and I are, you know, that that's the next thing that I'm doing with my life and. I don't know what I would do if I had. I'm scared of it. I am actively afraid of it. And I'm looking into homeschooling. I'm looking into religious schools and looking into trying to set it up for an ideal environment, not encounter gender ideology. But the internet exists. Or else don't let me get in phones till they're at least 13. I say that now. I know once you have kids, it's it's hard and it's you give them a tablet. Just. You know, but if my kid came home and said, Hey, I think I have a gender card, I'm sorry, I'm gonna try to. I the thing that would have worked for me is taking away my access to my peer group, taking away my access to I would take them out of that school. I would get rid of their social media. I would you know, I don't know how I would do this without. I mean, the goal is to I don't know, we wouldn't move. Like, honestly, I oh, that's a that's also very like an emotional response on my part. But I also think that's the only thing that would help me. The only thing that would have deprogrammed me because I was programed by this cult basically would be to cut off my access to the cult. So it's not an easy and there's not an easy answer. But I also think if my parents had been gender critical and had taught me growing up, Hey, there's this thing out there. This is what they say it is. But it's not what they say it is. And if I had been taught to be critical from the beginning, I think things would have been different. But we didn't know that this was something we'd have to look out for.

Lisa Yeah. Well, Emma, as we're calling you, I am so grateful to you for sharing this story with me. I'm sorry for what happened to you, and I hope that hearing your story will help others.

Emma Thank you for letting me have this opportunity to share.

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BROADview
BROADVIEW Podcast
Discussions about the impossible-to-discuss topic of gender...whatever the heck that word means.
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Lisa Selin Davis