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Kelly Worrall’s story: The costs and the courage of coming out

"When Kelly Worrall took off her men’s clothes for what she expected would be the last time in 2011, she felt free.

'It was very liberating to be able to give myself the opportunity to be who I needed to be in the moment,' she says. 'For 37 years I've played by the rules and I’ve done everything I was supposed to do, and it didn’t make me happy. I still felt trapped inside.'

As a seven-year-old, Worrall wished she had been born a girl. She wanted to wear long skirts and grow up to be a tall, beautiful woman. But it was the 1980s, and transitioning back then was barely an option on most people’s radar. So she repressed her feminine self. Until she couldn’t anymore.

Coming out gave her permission to be her true self, she says.

Now, after two years of living full-time as a woman, she is presenting again as a man. Does this make her any less trans? No, she answers without hesitation.

This is her story.”

Detransition is Deprogramming

When FTMs express disdain for detransition, they talk about it within the framework of trans rhetoric, which equates detransition with reparative therapy. They assume that I am accepting the female gender role they felt pressured to take on before they found their way into trans-masculinity. Of course it is unappealing to think about going back to the performance that was so painful that evacuation was necessary. I am not going backwards. I am living in a completely different way than I did before or during transition because now I know I can opt out of both forms of gender conformity.

Truth is not a hedonistic pursuit. Detransition is difficult because it can feel as if everything one built around themself will crumble if they don’t hold on to the things the trans community taught them. The ideas presented by the trans community don’t just apply to how people relate to their sex; they color the whole world. People are separated out into “cis” and “trans” and taking the side of the “underdog” makes it difficult to divert from the trans script. It can be frightening to think about losing the life story and identity that being trans creates. Often people may not want to think outside of the dogma because that means leaving the group where they have made friends and found comraderie and a sense of belonging and order in the world. Detransition can mean losing community, losing credibility, and losing the validation of others glorifying FTMs as brave and unique and admirable.

Detransition isn’t a process where someone is waiting at each milemarker to give you a gold star. It is necessary to want to find a new way: you get what you put into it. It is impossible to stay within the framework of trans rhetoric and still detransition. Without the desire to seek out a new way of thinking, all this is just a self-fulfilling prophecy of defeat. FTMs who criticize the process I’m going through don’t understand this: the path I sought out is rewarding, but there is no carrot dangling in front of me.

When I write about detransition, I do not mean “retransition.” Some people use the two terms interchangably – like Joel Nowak and thirdwaytrans, both de/retransitioning former MTFs. Retransition implies a second superficial journey: the MTF part of the term FTMTF. Some people have used this acronym to describe me, but I am not FTMTF. I don’t have to try to pass, I don’t have to wear different clothes, I don’t have to change my voice, I don’t have to do anything but be what I am. Using the terms retransition and FTMTF would imply viewing my time being FTM as a foundation to build on. I have always been female, and it is from that understanding that I detransitioned.

Redressalert has written about her experience with being vulnerable to sex stereotypes early on in her detransition. I have fallen into this trap as well. I spent a lot of time obsessing about how to tweak subtle gestures, voice tones, and ways of taking up space into a feminine form. I grew my hair out for a while, and I attempted to use MTF voice training to alter how I spoke. I dressed differently, and I tried to use my knowledge on how to pass for male to invert my presentation. Like Redressalert, I realized that all this was self-harm. I do not do this anymore.

It is not productive to change myself in order to change the perceptions of others. Detransition is the furthest thing from conversion, or from what I imagine reparative therapy would be. Detransition is no rigid course of treatment for those who believe transition is morally wrong - it is the absence of all the rules, community-created goalposts, and judgements that transition consists of. Detransition is not an externally directed movement, it is just the act of looking around honestly, and adjusting accordingly.

Detransition does not mean ceasing to be aware of gender, or how others perform it. It means opting out of playing a part for others, and recognizing that I can’t control how other people will categorize me. I refuse to change myself in order to make my world more friendly anymore. My direction comes from within instead of from outside measures of digestibility and normalcy. I am becoming more and more aware of when I am performing out of habit, or when I feel pressured to perform, and I make it a goal each day to come back to myself.

It can be hard to meditate in the standard sitting form, because it is often too painful to be completely in my body. Instead, I have been working on making every activity a form of meditation: writing, reading, laying down, cooking, eating, showering, walking, exercising, being. I found that it was impossible to “just be myself” when I first began to detransition, because I actually didn’t know who that was. I am closer to knowing now, but without building awareness long-term I could not begin to weed through the overgrown garden of influences that have intertwined inside me.

I decided to do something different without having a roadmap. This isn’t a step-by-step process, but there is a growing number of women talking about what it’s like to take a new path when they stop identifying as FTM. I have internal motivation to break open and find truth and that has rewarded me. To one who is cynical and holds on to trans rhetoric, there is no reason to try something different. Trans rhetoric is its own universe: there can logically be nothing outside of it. An open mind is required for detransition, because this is not a pseudo-religious, blueprinted endeavor that provides a script for one’s worldview.

The year and seven months that I have been detransitioning have been a continual process of change. I am spiraling towards a center of being and knowing. There has been a clear pattern of movement that feels more and more like a vector and less like wandering in an endless desert. Detransition is deprogramming: putting down all the performances, the perpetual analyzing, the coded gender recipe. Detransition is coming back to a sense of self that isn’t just a reaction. It involves taking off all assumptions, all judgements, and all the stories I’ve collected about my body and who I am.

I call myself butch, but it’s not an identity. It’s not a word I really contemplate in the context of myself as an individual, it’s just a descriptor of how I fit into a gendered world. Butch isn’t masculine. I work on breaking my habits of performing masculinity and femininity on a daily basis, and that’s what butch is to me. I no longer qualify and quantify each movement I make. I’m not keeping score anymore, because gender is a game rigged in favor of men.

I don’t have the emotional strength to watch this video right now. Nathan Verhelst’s story has made me feel numb in a way that very little of this gender bullshit has in a very long time. I guess it felt similar when my two mtf friends were murdered, but that was 15 years ago now and I’ve had a lot of time to distance from it.

But I’m also reblogging because this post is a really beautiful piece of writing. I just found Joel’s blog last night - as you may have noticed, Gallus only links to detransition sites now. Joel (retransition author) is a lot more grounded than the author at m2f2m, but then again Joel’s been detransitioning for 7 years, as opposed to six months.

I know these are really hard things to talk about, and probably nobody wants to discuss it. But I’m putting this out there to create a space for the few people who do.

And I want to emphasize that as opposed to what the misogynist tumblr transwoman crew says, I’m not transphobic. I’ve been living like this for a very long time and I care very deeply about trans people. If you are dealing with trans issues please feel free to message me or use me as a resource any time. I didn’t know Velherst so I couldn’t be there for them, but that only makes me want to be there for everyone else even more.

I know that not everyone who stops T or re-transitions sees it as “detransitioning” or regret, but it was interesting to read another type of experience. Among other things, the author writes about getting pregnant after a year on T.

PS: this is a guest post on a blog that is REALLY awful and full of anti-trans sentiment, but this particular post is okay (and I think it could be useful for some people, considering the dearth of info on re/detransitioning; otherwise I wouldn’t bother linking to a site like this).

How I returned to myself

How I returned to myself

I thought I would give a brief overview of how I returned to myself and let go of my transgender identity.

My story was pretty typical at the beginning.  I had fantasies of being female in childhood which then become eroticized in puberty.  During my teenage years, I didn’t think there was anyway I would ever actually transition, but then when I got to college I discovered some of the beginnings…

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Why I am writing this blog

Why I am writing this blog

My last post made me realize I did something I want to avoid, which is to get into the ongoing fight between radical feminists and trans activists. That is not really my goal for the blog. In fact one of the reasons I do this is so that there is someone other than radical feminists or religious conservatives talking about some alternative ideas around this issue!

I am no radical feminist, I…

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Repost: My very first blog entry

I began blogging at retransition.org a year ago this month. This was my first blog post there—a year later I think most of it still represents where I am at and what I am thinking pretty well. A few things maybe have shifted a bit, but I will get to those in a later post.  Here is what I wrote a year ago:

Hi,

Typically, it will be noted by trans-activists and even a lot of the mainstream media that the percentage of people who express “transsexual regret” make up a minuscule percentage of those who have transitioned from living in their birth genders or had any gender reassignment treatment or procedures.  These people usually are portrayed as aberrations within the transgendered community.  They are sad “problem cases” who can’t “get their stuff together” and are now doomed to live out the rest of their lives in agony. Transgendered people have it hard enough without stories such as these that can be used as anti-trans propaganda.

Here’s another thing – there is a lot riding on the notion that once someone transitions from one gender to another they usually don’t go back.  The idea that gender identity is fixed and permanent and not at all related to sexual identity is really important in helping make society more comfortable with the idea of people changing genders.  It helps make the idea of getting insurance coverage for transgender care more palatable and makes enacting trans-friendly legislation a lot easier.  “Gender” is still a sacred space and there is an expectation coming from somewhere in the middle of mainstream society that if people really do have to cross gender lines it needs to be done earnestly, responsibly and permanently.

But here is one more thing, and this is why I, your humble narrator, am here.  I have a feeling that there are a lot more out there than are coming forward who have transitioned from one societal gender role to another only to discover at some point later in their life (be it five minutes or fifty years) that maybe it doesn’t feel right anymore and they don’t know what to do about it (or are scared to even admit having these feelings.) Because these people go against the narrative of a fixed gender identity, I have a hunch that there are many more people in this position than are politically expedient to report. Many of the fantastic LGBT community centers, trans-advocacy groups and medical providers who now have good resources for those wishing to transition do not have much in place to help the post-transition and/or post-surgical-reassignment population that wishes to transition again, this time to their birth gender.  It is already quite a task to get funding for anything related to “transgender” so one can imagine the additional burden it would be to get programs established for those wishing to transition back (not to mention a PR nightmare.) The question remains though, what about people who have transitioned out of their birth gender who want some information about what the process of transitioning back to their birth gender? What resources can be provided to this underserved community?

This is the space I found myself about about 5 years ago and it is a very scary place to be.  For me, my own confusion about gender identity had danced in and out of my life since I can remember.  Was I was born in the wrong body? Was I was born in the wrong sex?  It was a source of hidden shame that I had these thoughts and the few times that I confessed them to friends or family were disastrous.  In 1995 I saw the Internet for the first time and I suddenly had access to to talk to people who had feelings like I did and knew that I was not alone.  (Starting in elementary school I pretty much mastered the library sciences to read any and all published material on the subject of transsexualism.  Within 5 minutes of being on the Internet I saw that I had access to resources and literature that positively dwarfed what I had seen in my life up to that point.)

I was on my way.  And it was an incredibly exciting period of my life.  I was going to be my “real self” at last.  Any hurts from friends, family or “the world at large” were mitigated by the glow I had from finally achieving something that I had considered my entire life. For me it was really important to do things in what I perceived as the “right way”.  I followed the Standards of Care.  I consulted with experts on the subject. In my heart I felt I was on the right path.

I transitioned to my new gender role and although mostly happy for about 5 years I still had something gnawing in the back of my mind that wasn’t right.  I began to question the whole concept of being “born in the wrong body” as it related to me.  I turned these thoughts over and over in my head. Was I really the gender I had chosen to live openly as or was my essence – the stuff that makes me me – coming from a place that was neither necessarily male nor female but just “me”?   What made me who I am?  I began to look back on my birth gender just like someone might revisit an old neighborhood or town they are too embarrassed to admit they came from but at times still secretly missed. There were things about my birth gender that I had fought hard to repress that I now found that I missed.  I also found myself deliberately acting out stereotypes by emphasizing things about me that I perceived to be in accordance with my newly expressed gender identity and de-emphasizing those that were not.  I think a lot of us do this (and it doesn’t matter if you are trans or not) but sometimes it is great just “to be”.

After years of avoiding reading anything related to being transgendered (because after a lifetime of dwelling on it I was totally exhausted) I turned once again to the Internet to see if there was anyone out there like me and had found themselves in the same questioning state as myself.   While there were even more resources than ever for people wishing to work out their gender identity issues they all seemed to be pointing in one way – the steps leading to transition but not the steps leading away from it.  Although I read a few very lucid accounts of moving back and forth between genders after “transition” they paled in number compared to the horror stories of regretful transsexuals who had either soldiered on unhappily in their reassigned genders, killed themselves or went back to their birth genders in most dramatic fashion, often becoming reactionary fiercely intolerant people and having a “religious” component to their “conversion”.

I once again joined support groups and found a lot of really cool people there but few that I could relate to in terms of wanting to transition back.  I got a few comments that I had somehow become afraid to be who I needed to be. A lot of people saw me as retreating from something.  I saw the opposite – I felt like I wanted to grow.

For me this has been all along about feeling “gender congruity”.  It has been an elusive quest but maybe sometimes you have to take a few wrong turns on your journey to get where you want to be (or at least headed in the right direction.)    I am still on that journey.  I am a lot closer to being where I want to be now than I was 5 years ago, but I have been taking my own sweet time.  I have thought about starting this blog for awhile but I have worried for so many years about transgender related issues do I really want to spend any more time on the subject?  I want to move on.

I have to admit that it has taken me a long time to actually start this blog because I have been scared to write this. Scared of hurting someone. Scared of getting hurt. Scared I am going to say something that gets misinterpreted.  I guess, more than anything else, scared of trying to figure some of this out in public (which I have come to the conclusion is the only way I can figure it out.)  I don’t have a map and I am not entirely comfortable.

But I am writing this because I suspect that there is a marginalized and isolated population which I am a part of that needs to be a little bit more out in the light. I understand why our story is not perceived as being the most helpful by those fighting the good fight for understanding and respect for the trans community.    But we are out there and we need resources and support beyond those tied to religion or some form of repentance/”conversion therapy”.

So this blog post is signpost of sorts – just one voice out there looking for other signs of life. I have seen a few other blogs starting to talk about this.  I have yet to find a clearing house of resources (is there one?) What are the legal obstacles of going back?  What are the psychological and medical issues? Is there a place we can talk about this?  Do we need to make a place where we can talk about this?  Is there a place on the web that I should be going to?  How can we have this conversation without being harmful to our brothers and sisters who fall under the umbrella of “transgendered”? Any thoughts please send to me at j@retransition.org.

I believe the understanding of trans-related issues is still very much in its infancy. I personally am wary of anyone who says “they have it all figured out” about anything (your mileage may vary). There are many assumptions about gender that we as a species have held for millennia that are only now just eroding.   The recent bill in California allowing students to be treated as the gender they perceive themselves to be and the backlash that has already begun is part of the process we as a society use to figure out how we deal with all of this. It is a conversation we are ALL going to have to have and I think all voices have to be part of the conversation.

My experience is only my own experience.  My gender identity is only my own gender identity.  My beliefs (as fluid as they are) are only my own beliefs.  I am not you. I cannot know what it feels like to be you (nor you me.)  By telling part of my story I don’t want to discount others’.  In life I strive to be gentle, loving and affirming (strive being the operative word – I am only human!)  I do not want my story to be used for hate or repression.

Although I feel secure in my birth gender and finally know this is the only “home” for me, I still identify as transgendered because of the journey I have been on.  In retrospect, I realize that some of the doubts I had about the validity of my needing to change my outward gender expression were valid.  I could have saved myself a lot of expense and major sidetracks on life’s journey if I could have known this sooner.  Unfortunately some truths are harder to tease out than others. It took me awhile to get here but “here I am”.

I am sure there are those on this journey who have never had the slightest of doubts and they are coming from a place that I cannot pretend to understand.  I don’t want to stand in their way. Also, just because someone has some doubts I am not saying this means they should not transition.

For many, expressing their gender identity as they believe/know it to be appears to be working for them and I think that is wonderful.  Even though it can still get pretty bad out there, I think there is more tolerance in the world than even a decade ago.   There have been many “transgender pioneers” who have conducted their lives with dignity and, simply by the act of living their lives, have brought compassion for trans issues from even the most unlikely of groups and individuals.  I do think that to move this “conversation” forward there needs to be a universal acknowledgment and understanding that gender identity can be just as important to people who are not transgendered as those that are. Most transgendered people believe with a burning passion that their gender identity is independent of their birth gender and it is this passion that helps fuel some of the tremendous bravery that often goes with making a gender transition.  But people who are completely comfortable with their birth gender can believe just as passionately in what gender means to them and, more importantly, how that impacts their own core identity. Just because I may believe in the possibility that brain sex can be different from someone’s biological sex it doesn’t mean I can force you to believe the same. How one constructs gender is a deeply personal thing exclusive to each of us as individuals. The beliefs and things we hold sacred always have to be respected. We should all be able to live our own truths as long as they don’t infringe upon or harm anyone. What I can do (and hopefully what we as a species can do) is maybe help you get to a point where you realize in most cases the whole “gender thing” really doesn’t matter.  And in the cases where it does matter (and there definitely are some) let’s not resort to bigotry or hatred.  Let’s work it out.

As a civilized society we should ALL be able to move through the world treating others with the respect and in the manner that we would wish ourselves to be treated. I think it is sad that many people still “detransition” because of societal or any other pressures.  We only get one life and we need to be who we are.  I do not want to be part of anything that encourages people to detransition for what I consider to be the “wrong reasons”, namely societal persecution and prejudice.   However, for those who have already transitioned and who, after doing the kind of soul searching that accompanies decisions such as this, have decided they are open to the possibility of transitioning back to their birth genders I want to say that this is nothing to be ashamed about.  In addition to those who have found their true gender identity by returning to living their birth gender I have read experiences from people who returned temporarily to their birth gender only to realize that it still wasn’t a good fit and moved back to their own “true gender” more self-assured in their identity than ever before.  I have read other stories where people have moved into a sort of “third space”.  Exploring options is a good thing.

I don’t want to be blogging about this the rest of my life and it is not my desire to become a full time activist but I do sincerely want to say “yo”.

Driving back up to UBCO, I quickly snapped a photo. This is near Nicola Valley. The view driving to the Okanagan has been one of my favorite things about moving back. It kind of calms me down in the midst of all the stress of retransitioning.

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