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.