Really learning a lot from this exchange on gendertrender between Gallus, Moira and 23xx

Gallusmag said:

I would never ever refer to a female transitioner as male or with male pronouns, even knowing that it “hurts her feelings”. Because even if it hurts her feelings I think it is really important to “hold the door open”. I don’t mean giving women a bunch of shit for transitioning. But holding the line that says “I accept you as a sister”. Women I know who have detransitioned know that I am someone they can talk to who supports them as a fellow “gender nonconforming” woman: and that I always have.

(Rest of it in comments here.) This is the same feeling I get from reading dirt’s blog as well. dirt and Gallus both care very deeply about female transitioners. And the female detransitioners I know have really appreciated having that door held open for them.

And then I think, who is doing this on the mtf side? How would it happen? But the picture is completely different.

The radical acceptance of feminist sisterhood is unique to female culture. I have personally benefited from it a lot in my life, both from the decades-long friendships I’ve had, the shared concerns and in-depth discussions, and now (ironically) in having a space to actually articulate what it means to be male but live as a woman, with a few very close friends. To put it simply, it’s a collective power which we all share and cultivate in each other. Thanks sisters, I really love you and I would never have become the person I am without you! ❤ ❤

But what about the brothers that I’ve never felt like I had?  When I was in the psych hospital at 17, and the (male) therapist was trying to get me to read the Robert Bly/men’s movement books, was he reaching out to me in “brotherhood”? I guess, but it wasn’t a brotherhood of radical acceptance. Really, his motivation was the same as the skinheads who didn’t want me at their hardcore shows any more: “You need to man the fuck up,  bro.” He was just a little more “polite” about it.

And it was the same motivation as my sixth grade English teacher who got me to lift weights for a few months. (Well, maybe he had some pervy motivations about that as well, though he never touched me and I don’t remember noticing any inappropriate stares from him.) I was skinny and effeminate but I still had “potential” to be a “regular guy.” Of course, that didn’t keep me from getting sent to the principle the next year for “acting out” (wearing shorts, having long hair, painting my nails, etc.) Fuck.

But what is the “shared” experience of brotherhood or “radical” male acceptance, as it exists today? (For example – on reddit.) Sharing the feeling of power over. “Well dude you may be weird/gay/kinky/a tranny but we’re both better than women/black people/jews/fat people/stupid people/faggots/etc. Cheers bro!” Ugh.

I’m so glad that Joel Nowak is doing his mtf detransition blog. That’s a resource that we’ve needed for a really long time. Most of the male detransitioners I’ve met in my life were straight crossdressers who took hormones for a few years, then decided to quit because it was killing their boners. I’m not trying to play No True Scotsman – that’s who they were before they became “transwomen”, and they continued to crossdress part time after “detransitioning.” So, not really people I could relate to.

Joel doesn’t seem hung up on re-establishing his masculinity, it seems more to me that he just wants to be a whole person. And there’s thankfully no talk of clothes! He still seems to believe in the ideas of “transmisogyny” and true transsexuals, but he does seem to genuinely care about other males who are or have been trans. It’s an awesome start! And the tactics he uses don’t need to be the same as Gallus and dirt, because obviously his audience is quite different. His blog is a lot less angry and judgmental than the author of m2f2m and transgendersurvivor. And it’s way more sensible than sexchangeregret, whose author seems a little off his rocker. (Like, how many masturbatory books does he need to publish about his crossdressing? Seriously!)

What would radical acceptance in a male community look like, in a postive way? Is it something I could ever want? I work in a virtually all-male environment. Yesterday I gave a presentation to a room full (standing room only) of 40 men and one woman. The woman and I have never spoken, and she ignored me when I tried to say hi when I came in. Working with all men felt lonely at first, and it still does, but you get used to it after a while – every women who stays in STEM has to, eventually.

But the only reason I’m comfortable in that situation now is because I’m different. Like Auntyorthodoxy has said, sometimes the reason you’re trans is not that you “know you’re really a woman”, but that you know you don’t want to be a man.

I hate to flog this yet again, but the last thing I would want in a male community is the DGR male radfem contingent telling me I’m not a woman. Yeah bro, I know I’m not female. I also live as a woman, and my living this way is not directly harming any females. That’s not true of all trans women, but it’s true of me! Deal with it. And after you’ve dealt with it, let’s try to think about a way forward that’s not just you rigidly parroting things that don’t apply to you.

And to be honest, I’m suspicious of trans-critical males on principle: because where is the harm to males as a class within trans politics? I don’t see it. Of the trans-critical men I’ve known irl, they all had an axe to grind. Either they felt like their own transition was a failure, or they were a wannabe transitioner, or they were a homophobic and misogynist crossdresser, or they were a straight up homophobic heterosexual bro. Honestly, a lot of trans-critical males are even worse than trans males! And that’s saying a lot!

I do think trans politics is harmful to many of the small group of males who spend time identifying as trans. There was a thread about transition frustration on trueselves last year that was heartbreaking. An mtf who’d been on hormones for a year and a half was complaining that they didn’t pass, it felt like a waste of time, and they didn’t know what to do. But the only “support” was the same old bs that caused the problem in the first place – “Hang in there! You’ll get there! Who cares, now you’re your true self! You can be happy! Cis people are stupid! Blah blah blah.”

Q: Why couldn’t they have gotten some more honest input up front?

A: Because honest input is “transphobic”.

Total laugh or cry time.  😥

note: slightly edited from original post here.

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That time Dr. Norman Spack was my endo, or, The “dollmaker” loves autogynephiles

I was 17 when the psych first told my parents he was ready to refer me to the endo to start hormones, but my dad threw a fit during family therapy. He called the psych a quack, made up some mental illnesses that didn’t exist which he said I had, and yelled a lot. It sucked. I really liked the psych. He was an extremely tall, gentle man, with glasses and a grey mustache. He lived with his (male) partner in a fancy brownstone in the south end of Boston (where he saw patients in his office on the ground floor), had an original Andy Warhol soup can print in the hall, and let me smoke cigarettes during our sessions. I always felt really cool sitting in the leather chair in his office, looking at all the books on his shelves and putting out my unfiltered Camels in a glass ashtray.

Anyway the so-called compromise was that I would go to college as a girl, but put off hormones for a year. Needless to say, at the end of the year I dropped out, got a job in the city, and started buying my own hormones (from the plastic surgeon Benito Risch, who didn’t require a script if he thought you looked trans). But then I got into drugs, and in one of my few acts of self preservation I ran away from my drug friends and went back home to live with my parents. This also meant going off hormones which sucked in a way it’s hard to describe.

Eventually things got straightened out and I had a succession of endos, and got back on E. I also got $5000 from a student loan refund so I got an orchiectomy. I didn’t like the idea of being dependent on the medical-industrial establishment for the rest of my life, and at the time I assumed that post-orchi I could quit hormones if I wanted to, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. At least I wouldn’t have any more of the poisonous testosterone fucking up my body! And they’d been prescribing me premarin (literally made from the pee of pregnant mares), which made my stomach hurt.

I did indeed quit taking estrogen, but actually it stunk. It wasn’t as bad as the first time I stopped, because besides it being my own choice, my testicles were gone (thank god!) and my testosterone production was a lot lower. But your body still produces hormones even without gonads, and my body was making more T than E. Over about a year I became flat as a board again, my face got leaner, and worst of all I started having hot flashes. I wasn’t sure what they were at first but I was dating a woman who was 40-something and she diagnosed it. (I was 23. I was also a vegan, a chain smoker, and an alcoholic, which I’m sure contributed to my problems haha. Though I never would have admitted it at the time.)

My primary care doctor was like “You need to get back on hormones, at least something!” (Meaning: either estrogen or testosterone.) She was worried I would get osteoperosis. But she wasn’t in touch with my previous endo, so she referred me to Dr. Spack.

Dr. Spack’s childhood gender clinic was pretty new at the time, but he also saw patients in “private practice” at a separate office out in the suburbs. I was deemed “too old” for the clinic, though I also have a feeling part of this decision was made based on my looks and my backstory. I had been hanging out in the gay community since I was 16-17, and then from 18-22 most of my friends were artsy lesbians. So, I wore pants from the thrift store that didn’t fit, knit hats in the summer, tshirts with holes and random paint stains, and smoked unfiltered cigarettes. (Though I guess that last was a holdover from teenage boyhood.) Lesbians my age definitely knew where I was coming from because they usually assumed I was one of theirs, but Spack wasn’t sure what to make of me. Not to mention, the fact I had quit hormones of my own choice after the orchi perplexed him. But at the same time, I wasn’t an easy “do your business and get out” client like most of the daddy transitioners. He couldn’t male bond with me, or objectify me! Oh, the horror.

As I came to find out, at my first appointment, the “private practice” was where he saw all his adult autogynephile patients. I didn’t know that word at the time (this is 97-98) but it was totally clear once I read about it on Anne Lawrence’s site a year later. And not only did Spack have two offices, but he had two appointment books, one for each clinic. Everything was separate: his “showpiece” (child) patients, and his money-making patients.

Like my primary care doctor, Spack was worried about osteoperosis, but he wasn’t sure how to dose me because of the orchi (and the smoking), so he put me on the patch. Except it really didn’t work well, they were too weak so I had to wear two at a time, and they gave me rashes. He insisted on patch over pills because he said he was worried about my liver, but I can’t help thinking he was being overly conservative because I didn’t make any sense to him. I certainly wasn’t the beautiful doll he talks about in his disgusting TED talk! The fact that I’d already been living full time for thee years and changed all my id by the time I was 21 just seemed confusing to him.

I only remember two appointments really clearly. The most memorable was certainly my first encounter with a daddy transitioner. Anyone who’s ever taken hormones or worked at a clinic that prescribes them has seen some of the weirdos who come in. The trans providers at Boston City Hospital were always going back and forth about scheduling all the trans clients on the same day, or just mingling them in with the rest of the patients. The theory being, maybe the weirdos will weird fewer people out if they all come and go in a block. Or maybe it’s worse to concetrate them? Who knows?

Anyway I very carefully had my nose buried in a book because I sure as hell didn’t want to talk to anyone at Dr. Spack’s private clinic. And what made it even worse was that there was no receptionist – just Spack in with a patient, and me and the weirdo in the waiting room. I think she had been there when I arrived, but then she left for the evening. (It was a Saturday.) What was left of the weirdo’s hair was a wispy blond ring around the back and sides, grown out too long (think Brian Eno), and he had correspondingly light eyebrows and eyelashes. After trying to make eye contact for a few minutes he finally leaned toward me and said “You’re so pretty, when did you start hormones?” I looked at him, and his long disgusting fingers, and the slight puffiness around his lips and the softening around his eyes that made it obvious that he too was on hormones, and I didn’t even know what to say. Fucking terrifying.

I can’t really remember but I think maybe I said “I don’t want to talk about it” and turned the page. He sat back in his chair, looking unhappy. I felt super tense until Spack’s other patient came out, and he brought me in. And then I left as soon as I could. Later I worried I had acted “transphobic”, but I talked it over with my mom and she was immediately sympathetic and said “That sounds really uncomfortable. You were totally in the right.” Thanks mom! I love you!

The other appointment I remember was mundane, but supremely irritating. The secretary apparently “put me in the wrong book”, so when I showed up to Chestnut Hill they didn’t have me on the schedule. And then Spack made me wait three hours, until he’d seen all his daddy transitioners, and then couldn’t understand why I was irritated. That was the final straw for me with his bumbling bullshit. (If you watch the video, you’ll see what I mean – this man is far from a genius.)

I ended up seeing a really delightful Thai endo after that, who I only stopped seeing because he moved away. Which was tragic because then I had to see a complete fucking creep named Dr. Safer, who frankly looked a lot like that long-fingered blond daddy, except with less hair. Total pervert vibe. He was so horrible I just started ordering hormones off the internet and self-medding for a few years.

A year or so after I stopped seeing Spack, I made friends with a trans girl a few years younger than me, who had started hormones and transitioned while still in high school. It turned out that she had been seeing Spack at the Children’s Hospital clinic, ever since it first opened. It was 2000 now, and we had both been reading Anne Lawrence’s writing about autogynephilia. One day, she confided to me:

When I first read about autogynephilia, it was a relief. It exactly explained my entire experience. When I was a kid I constantly daydreamed about being a girl, and then after puberty I fantasized about it. The thought of being female has always turned me on. But I knew I couldn’t bring it up with the doctors. I just told them I’d always felt like a girl. But it feels great to know I’m not the only one like this!

Once again, it was really driven home to me what total bullshit gatekeeping was, in practice. Spack thought this girl was a “true transsexual”, because she was gender-conforming, she lived in the same suburb he did, her parents drove her to her appointments, and she repeated all the lies she’d been told to repeat by the generations of trans women before her. But based on the way I dressed, the friends I kept, and the fact that I was critical of the trans narrative and trying to live free from gender, he lumped me in with the autogynephiles. Good intuition there, buddy!

The more my trans friend thought about autogynephilia, the more confused she got. She had always had long hair and dressed stereotypically feminine, but she decided to experiment. She got a short haircut, started dating another trans woman, and adopted a kind of “butch” presentation. She and her girlfriend (well, one of her girlfriends – needless to say, these people were all poly) would take turns topping each other in anal. Good for them, I guess? I mean, I’m all about questioning the narrative, but the girlfriend was certainly a male-privilege-denying trans misogynist. Ultimately, I semi-intentionally lost touch with them. Not because of the trans stuff, but because I got fed up with the endless polyamorous drama! Seriously!!