• Why Everything Transphobes Think About Detransition Is Wrong

    From Scientific@21:1/5 to All on Tue Aug 17 08:37:00 2021
    XPost: alt.atheism, alt.transgendered, alt.checkmate


    Detransition. By now, you may have heard the term in the news, or
    uttered by people like J.K. Rowling. As transgender people experience unprecedented rates of visibility in the U.S, increasing attention has
    been paid to “detransitioners” — a term that broadly describes people
    who diverge from their assigned gender and then return to living as the
    gender they were assigned at birth. The existence of detransitioners
    brings up various anxieties around trans healthcare: for instance, trans healthcare is increasingly taking a ‘gender-affirming’ stance of
    respecting and trusting a patient’s gender identity without judgment,
    but some, including some detransitioners, argue that medical
    professionals should challenge patients who choose to transition, rather
    than affirming them. (A guide to what gender-affirming care looks like
    can be found here.)

    Detransition is a complicated topic, not least because detransitioners’ stories are often weaponized by anti-trans activists. J.K. Rowling
    recently referenced detransition in one of her anti-trans blog posts,
    and right-wing groups and fundamentalist Christian groups like The
    Christian Institute use it to discredit transness and transition.
    Statistics indicate that transition care has an overwhelmingly high satisfaction rate: Cornell University found that between 0.3% and 3.8%
    of people expressed regret about a variety of transition-related
    procedures, and that most regret was connected to “lack of social
    support after transition” or “poor surgical outcomes using older techniques”. Trans people may also detransition due to transphobia, or
    to stay safer in dangerous conditions such as homelessness, before transitioning again later.

    That being said, research into both transition and detransition remains limited, and the factors that influence detransition shouldn’t mean that
    we stop listening to detransitioners’ experiences. This is especially
    the case given that many simplified detransition narratives completely
    ignore what detransitioners say about their own lives. Much coverage
    around detransition is has been designed to spread anxiety around the
    concept of trans people and enforce cis perspectives on gender.

    Detransition narratives have become a key weapon of choice for those who
    wish to deny autonomy to all people who seek transition-related care.
    Here are some ways in which this works.
    ‘Detransitioner’ isn’t a neutral term

    Describing yourself as a ‘detransitioner’ is a political choice, and one that some people deliberately avoid – in part because of its association
    with anti-trans sentiment. Some people might simply say they’ve gone off hormones, while Brian Belovitch, who was formerly a trans woman, says he ‘retransitioned’. (I use ‘detransitioner’ in this article for consistency, and to refer to those who’ve used the term to describe themselves.)

    Detransition also often refers to an individual crossing from one binary
    gender to another, erasing the existence of genders outside the
    male-female binary. Some people who’ve had gender-affirming care may not
    have been made aware of any possibilities outside male and female. “If I
    was young today,” Belovitch told Paper Magazine, “I would probably fall
    in the middle somewhere as genderqueer or gender nonconforming…had I had
    the knowledge or a supportive family or supportive mentors”. The lack of knowledge about, and acceptance of, non-binary and genderqueer
    identities means that some people may feel pushed into a binary
    identity, or may believe they must be cis, when actually they would be
    happiest as a non-binary or genderqueer person.
    Detransition stories are often more complex than they first appear

    Detransition is more complicated than just the simple story of what is perceived to be a mistake. While some conceive of their transitions as
    unwanted and traumatising, others do not. Ellie, a person from the U.K.
    who underwent testosterone therapy and top surgery before
    detransitioning, told the BBC that “all those physical changes I
    experienced during my transition helped me develop a closer relationship
    with my body — they’re just part of my journey.” Belovitch similarly has made clear that he doesn’t regret his time as a trans woman.

    Many existential questions are prompted by detransitioners that all of
    us can learn from: How do you deal with the difficulty of inhabiting an identity where you may feel radically separated from your past self? How
    do you make decisions for your future self, when you can’t predict your future feelings about gender? What if social transphobia, and familial rejection, hamper your ability to live happily — or live at all — as a trans person? These questions are deeply connected to how inhospitable
    the US is for trans people, and how our conception of gender as static, permanent and embodied in a specific way contributes to this problem.

    Conversations with detransitioners made clear that detransition does not
    have simple roots, and that life after detransition tends to be given
    less attention than the decision to detransition itself. Alex, who
    preferred to use a pseudonym to maintain anonymity, detransitioned
    because of constraints on what their family is comfortable with. They
    shared with me that most people don’t understand their situation, but
    that total understanding shouldn’t be the goal: “Those who need to know will know! I’d like a world where we could have sojourns across and
    around gender with little attention paid to such journeys…It’s an
    imperfect world and we all need to negotiate our own way through it.” Detransition is inextricable from transphobia

    To be clear, I don’t mean that detransitioning is transphobic. I mean
    that detransition, and the coverage of it, cannot be separated from the
    fact that cis people are valued over trans people, that cis bodies are
    seen as superior to trans bodies, and that the stories of those who have
    bad experiences with transition are seen as more relatable, more
    sensible, than stories of those who have bad experiences with cisness.
    Those who seek to ban puberty blockers in the name of ‘safety’ do not
    care that forcing a person to undergo their ‘natural’ puberty can itself
    be violent.

    But detransitioners, too, are capable of being transphobic: take the detransitioners who write for Feminist Current, headed by high-profile
    opposer of Canadian trans rights legislation Meghan Murphy, or prominent
    UK detransitioner Keira Bell, who has attacked the ‘transgender
    movement’ in a statement for an organisation which is trying to ban
    trans girls from using women’s school toilets. Nobody should be
    challenging detransitioners on their personal decisions, but challenging
    them on transphobic rhetoric should be par for the course — such as in
    the case of Thain, a detransitioner profiled by the BBC whose freely
    available, openly transmisogynistic writing was not mentioned.

    Responsible reporting around detransition must simultaneously uphold the autonomy of detransitioners, while foregrounding how inhospitable life
    is for trans people, and refusing to allow anti-trans activists to
    weaponize detransition against those who want and need to transition. Transphobic public figures conveniently leave out the data that
    demonstrates the hostility inflicted upon trans people, in an effort to delegitimize transition.
    The ‘damsel trope’ is prevalent in these stories

    Most of the detransitioners in recent coverage are young, white, slim,
    and assigned female at birth (AFAB). In the worst examples, a shocked, voyeuristic attention is paid to their bodies. There may be close-ups of
    their faces, fetishistic asides about their ‘female’ features — small legs, delicate arms, tiny hands — and hushed mentions of mastectomies or hysterectomies. Most strikingly, the subjects of these articles are
    often painted as helpless, as being shuttled through trans healthcare on
    a kind of conveyor belt. There’s rarely any real recognition of the
    agency they would have been obligated to exercise at various points in
    the transition process.

    There’s a common trope in these stories that existence as a woman is so terrible that transitioning is a kind of escape hatch out of womanhood.
    Not only does this ignore the vast majority of women who don’t
    transition, it foregrounds AFAB people as passive victims. Misogyny is pervasive and powerful, but the idea that misogyny means that AFAB
    people can’t be trusted to make informed decisions about their gender —
    or that sufferers of various gendered traumas, such as sexual assault
    and eating disorders, can’t make informed decisions about their gender —
    is both baseless and sexist. Social possessiveness over AFAB people’s femininity, and their ability to bear and nurse children, is also
    textbook sexism.
    There’s a lack of knowledge of the terrain

    New York Magazine recently raised concerns in a detransition-related
    article about the permanent damage some detransitioners had suffered
    from binding their breasts. Those effects aren’t caused by standard
    binding; they’re caused when people who can’t afford proper binders or surgery bind unsafely. It’s strange not to emphasize that a lack of
    access to transition care, rather than transition care itself, is the
    root of that problem. The same article worries about medical
    professionals “handing out testosterone like candy,” without wondering about whether any of its subjects acquired testosterone outside of the
    medical system (it mentions one person getting testosterone through
    Planned Parenthood, and another getting it, somewhat vaguely, “through
    the mail”).

    There’s a lack of knowledge in detransition coverage about how some
    aspects of transness work, such as waiting times, or costs. Reference is
    rarely made to the established phenomenon of lesbians who take
    testosterone and continue to identify as lesbians. There’s little investigation about what gender dysphoria feels like, or where people
    learn about transness, or what the trans healthcare system is like for
    most people. Without the right information on this stuff, coverage
    crosses over from exploration into fearmongering.
    Gatekeeping isn’t the solution; it’s the problem

    A lot of trans people depend on transition-related healthcare for
    survival. Scrapping trans-related healthcare, or restricting it further,
    would put many of our lives in danger. But the trans healthcare system absolutely needs urgent reform. Katelyn Burns recently reported on how inconsistent standards of care are failing trans patients who undergo
    surgery; people who receive substandard surgical outcomes are wary of
    talking about it, in case other surgeons refuse to take them on — or
    their experiences are used by anti-trans activists to scare other trans
    people into avoiding surgery. An open letter to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health argued that surgeons are falsifying
    their success rates, failing to give informed consent for experimental surgeries, and providing insufficient aftercare.

    Gatekeeping, however, doesn’t address these problems — it just makes
    trans people suffer and worsens the uneven power dynamic between trans
    people and healthcare providers. Avery, whose name I’ve changed to
    respect their anonymity, is a nonbinary person who stopped their
    testosterone therapy to maintain an ambiguous gender presentation. They criticized the risks posed by gatekeepers, who can bar access to
    healthcare to people who don’t perform transness in a certain way. “I hesitated stopping testosterone because I was worried I wouldn’t be able
    to get back on it. I’ve heard of people who don’t want testosterone at
    all considering taking it just to get access to top surgery,” they
    explained. “The idea that a minuscule number of people regretting
    transition is enough to mean every other trans person should be denied/restricted access to medical care is bad enough. But there’s also
    no space for expressing doubts or exploring options when you’ve waited
    years for an appointment and will have to wait another 6 months or more
    if you don’t convince the gatekeeper you’re trans enough.”

    Gatekeeping also poses a danger in the current political climate. The
    Trump administration has continually attempted to roll back healthcare protections for trans people, including a recent attempt to encourage healthcare discrimination against trans people by re-interpreting the Affordable Care Act, which would have made it easier for healthcare to
    be denied to trans people on the basis of religious belief. When trans
    people have reason to fear that their access to transition care may be
    cut off, gatekeeping crosses the line from paternalism into active endangerment.
    Improving conditions for detransitioners must also mean improving them
    for trans people

    What would the world look like if both trans people and detransitioners
    were afforded the dignity and complexity they need? Misogyny would be dismantled, and womanhood would be a far more hospitable territory;
    racism would also have been destroyed, and with it the deep enmeshment
    of anti-Blackness and anti-transness. (Amrou al-Kadhi talks about transphobia’s racist history here, as does C. Riley Snorton in the
    excellent Black on Both Sides.) We’d have far more proactive and compassionate care for the various traumas that can impact our
    development: assault, abuse, neglect. The idea that being cis is better
    than being trans would be discarded. And as Alex said above, we’d be
    able to make journeys across and through gender without divergence from
    cisness being seen as a threat or a fault.

    If this sounds like the ideal world for trans people, that’s because the
    ways in which detransitioners are mistreated cleave closely to, or are identical to, the ways in which all trans people are mistreated. The
    ideal living conditions for detransitioners and for trans people are the
    same — they require a world in which social care, community care, and
    bodily autonomy are paramount, where people can present and identify and undergo transition to whatever degree they please without suffering for
    it, and where oppression on the basis of gender, class, race and
    anything else ceases to exist. That world doesn’t start with greater
    waiting times, or greater social fear about people mistakenly
    transitioning, or greater power given to doctors so that they can
    protect us from our desires. It starts from the ground up: committing to
    care for each other, to listen to each other, and to unmake the
    collective oppressions that prevent us from living freely.

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
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