I have found a webpage with advice for detransitioning. The webpage is under construction. It’s also a small, never-finished supplement on “Susan’s Place,” a website dedicated to providing information to trans people in transition. (Some of the claims on the website are controversial.)
It is a little shocking. Not in itself–it is written in clear, level-headed, clinical prose, laying out different reasons for detransition and different factors to consider when planning the journey back. But I don’t remember seeing any such précis when I detransitioned. I felt almost completely alone. Nothing about it seemed straightforward, either. I didn’t feel like I was in process, or that I was considering anything. I felt like I was quitting.
I felt desperate above all else. I was still not sure that I would be able to become a woman again, let alone a normal woman, and so I was extremely anxious to establish feminization, to gain ground. I was also defensive about my female identity–I felt suspect, insane, and I was eager to assure myself and everyone else that I was really a woman, that this was real.
I fel isolated. I had some support from counselors, and a great deal of support from friends and family. But I didn’t feel as though I was part of any group–I felt, rather, as though I was formally distancing myself even from the tiny community I had joined. I felt unique in the worst way.
I felt pessimistic–I was in despair. I believed that I would never be normal again, that I would never be attractive again, that I would never look like a woman again. I believed that I would never pass. Part of this is down to my therapist–she underestimated my body’s ability to shift back, and effectively locked me into the point on the presentation spectrum where she had first met me. Part of it was simple transphobia. Part of it was simple unhappiness. I don’t think I would have been confident in my ability to do anything.
I also feel as though I was left to my own devices. Nobody challenged this decision, or tried to oversee it in any way, apart from offering a very bare-bones level of support. The care providers I worked with at Kaiser didn’t seem to think of themselves as having much of a role. They didn’t seem to see me as going through anything, only stopping the process I had embarked on earlier.
This wiki describes detransitioning very much as a process. Not only that, but as an affirmative decision with pros and cons. Susan also describes detransition as a difficult process that requires a great deal of careful thought and planning–not something one can just rush into:
Detransition has to be done considering the consequences just the same as when having chose [sic] to transition in the first place.
Nothing could have been further from my approach–or what I gleaned from the reactions of the people around me.
I don’t know if Susan’s approach is right, or even if it would have been more helpful to me. I know that I wouldn’t have responded well to any demands that I slow down or delay.
It might have helped me to see some of the pragmatism reflected here:
While on paper it is best to try and prevent regret of transition, in the effort to try to be more true to self identity wise, it’s easy to overshoot the mark using stereotypes of dress and/or behavior to gauge progress.
On the other hand, it might have made me even more miserable to hear that my gender from there on out would be a performance–that no matter what I was, I was building a gender. I was desperate to establish that I was still genuine, not artificial or studied.
And this is interesting:
The choice to detransition back to the gender role assigned at birth can be a much more difficult task then starting transition was. Depending on the progress made, it can be impossible to revert without loss of privilege previously enjoyed. (because one can’t “take back” coming out)
I don’t know if I agree, either. Detransition itself might be a difficult process given its ambiguity and infrequency, but it offers a safer harbor. People who detransition transition back into cis identities and bodies: the privilege inherent in this status can’t be understated.
Moreover, I disagree with her statement that one can’t erase coming out. I encountered a lot of support in my decision to burn my manhood down and never look back. I think some of the people around me, my parents in particular, were happy to pretend it had never happened. Some of my family had trouble acknowledging my transition while it was happening, and processing the changes to my body and my presentation as drastic or decisive. Some of the ease of back-shifting is also related to our attitudes towards gender. We think of gender as permanent and binary, and so we choose.
And then it just trails off:
(discuss why happens and how to manage)
Most of the page is devoted to retransitioning, which Susan distinguishes from detransitioning. Retransitioning is adjusting your transition, either by adjusting your target gender:
Retransition, while technically a way to resume transition in progress, is where one changes path to fit a unique identity. Most of the time this means an androgynous identity and/or expression, where acceptance of the grey zone between male and female is preferred to attempting to act a role in the name of appeasing society.
…or by modifying your strategy for better success:
Stopping transition from lack of social support may be from any number of factors that may not be apparent at first glance. Not “passing” as ones gender nay be bad choice in clothing style and/or colors, need to change hair style, or facial hair removal. Subtle mannerisms such as walking style (hips vs shoulders) and how voice is used (statements vs question tones and emphasis of beginning of words vs a flowing effect) can shape how gender is perceived.
I’d never heard these terms used this way before; usually retransition and detransition are used interchangeably, and I use them that way myself. I’m not sure there’s any standard here. I’m not sure what to think about this distinction.