Detransitioner Perspective: Where do the doubts go?
When I was a fourteen-year-old boy, I decided I was transgender. This was around 2012 or 2013, when the trans wave was still barely a ripple. My reasons will sound familiar to anyone who’s had experience with this phenomenon: I had undiagnosed autism. I was being sexually harassed in school. I didn’t have any close friends. Most importantly, I spent a lot of time online. That was where I was exposed to transgender ideology for the first time.
That ideology told me: any discomfort with restrictive gender roles or your developing body is a symptom of gender dysphoria. The appropriate response to gender dysphoria is to transition. You need to transition as soon as possible. If you wait too long to transition, you won’t be able to "pass". Anyone who restricts your access to hormones is a bigot who wants to hurt you, which means you can lie to them with impunity. (This looks like claiming to have had gender dysphoria for a long time, exaggerating symptoms, hiding or underplaying parts of your experience which might be red flags, and making suicide threats you'd never actually go through with.)
The truth is, I didn’t buy it at first. What changed my mind wasn’t that I was exposed to convincing evidence or that I was hypnotized and brainwashed. I changed my mind because I wanted to believe it. My life felt like a nightmare, and becoming trans seemed like a way out. If I was trans, I’d no longer be an oppressive “cis white male”. I would be special and valuable. I’d have friends. People would stop hurting me. I wouldn’t have to deal with the terrifying experience of going through puberty and becoming an adult. I wouldn’t have to face the responsibility that came with adulthood, a responsibility that I felt totally unprepared for.
The reason no one could talk me out of it was because being trans accomplished everything I hoped it would.
Some trans people really are severely mentally ill in ways they can’t control. Many more are, deep down, willfully delusional. Believing I was trans solved all of my problems. All of sudden I had a group of friends—mostly teenage girls who identified as some variant of nonbinary, bisexual, or queer. One of them, who called herself a lesbian, started dating me. That was my first-ever relationship. In left-wing communities both online and off, my words suddenly carried weight. My pain was considered valid and important. The harassment stopped after I changed schools. I started taking puberty blockers and estrogen, and my body stopped masculinizing. My skin and features softened. I felt like I’d evaded execution.
If my confidence in my decision ever began to waver, it was easy to find reassurance. The ideology of gender identity is so flimsy, so obviously counter to reality, that trans people are constantly questioning it. In any one of the many trans forums scattered across the internet, you’ll find dozens of posts from people admitting that they’re not sure they’re really trans. They think, maybe they’re wrong, maybe they’re “faking it”.
The thing is, everyone else is faking it too.
When these poor people, many of them kids, share their doubts, they’re bombarded with replies telling them no, of course they aren’t faking it, every trans person feels like that sometimes. Doubts are normal, but stay the course. It’s just internalized transphobia. You should stop listening to those TERFs. You shouldn’t let your bigoted parents prevent you from becoming your true self. You can’t imagine how much better you’ll feel once you’re on hormones. You wouldn’t believe how much happier we’ve all been since we got our surgeries. If you keep going, you’ll be happy too… just like us.
Of course, none of these teenagers would ever be honest with their parents about these doubts. That might get in the way of their quest to socially transition, be put on cross-sex hormones, and get surgery. No, these kids know what they want—and they also understand, on a level they don’t want to admit even to themselves, that it’s bad for them. That’s why they’re making those posts: not because they’re hoping someone will talk them out of it, but because they need validation to shore up the crumbling walls of their delusion. Other trans people, both adult transsexuals and recently-recruited teens, are happy to provide this. It helps them too; if they say they’re happy often enough, they can almost believe it.
If your child is struggling with gender dysphoria, you’re in an unenviable position. Identifying as trans is probably giving your kid a lot of what they need, at the cost of their body and their future. They’ll fight hard if they feel like you’re trying to take that away from them. I’ve never been a parent, and I can’t imagine how difficult a situation that must be. But, if your child is anything like I was, their trans identity isn’t as stable as it might seem.
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