As with any detrans individual, there are limitations to my experiences within transgenderism. I have never undergone any surgeries, and the true length of my social transition was only a fraction of the length of time I identified as trans. Likewise, I came from a specific online community that preached specific gospels, which may not line up with others’ experiences, especially those who came from the incel “transmaxxing” subculture or 4chan’s /lgbt/ boards. Additionally, I’m an upper-class first-generation heterosexual American who did not exhibit a typical autogynephilic disorder; your mileage may vary depending on how closely you fit that profile. There are multitudinous reasons why all of us ended up where we did, so there is no one way to address every route. However, this is what worked for me, and anecdotally, what seems to be working for others who have undergone or are undergoing the same process, regardless of our etiological origins or similar family, friendship, and online backgrounds. Discarding all of that, there is one thing that binds us all: We are men who did not want to become men, whether we acknowledge we are still men or not. The question that I will address, in generalized tough-love fashion, is this: How do you find your way back?
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Before getting into the meat of this, we have to address the feelings which immediately precipitated your search for answers and aid. There was a moment, maybe it was recent, maybe it wasn’t, that made you realize “Oh shit… this isn’t working. I’m not better.” Maybe you’d been feeling it for a long time, but only at that point did you finally let your mind entertain the thought. For me, and for many I’ve spoken to, it metastasized like this: “I don’t like being trans.”
Sure, you may still think “trans” is some sort of innate feature — maybe an ingrained psychological phenomenon, a “female soul,” or an endocrine disorder — but still, the thought creeps in. “I don’t like being trans.” Can you put your finger on it? Not yet. But something feels wrong. Something’s not right. Is it the bodily pains? Nerve damage, incontinence, painful erections, or the absence of any genitalia at all? Is it the crying, the mood swings, that feeling of helplessness and fear unique to cult brainwashing? Is it the fact that, despite all you’ve done to hide the truth from yourself, you still see what you’re running from? Or is it, perhaps, seeing the scars and the bodily changes for the first time in new, blinding light? Noticing what you you were trying to keep from being noticed?
Is it not fitting in with the girls as much as you thought you would? Is it feeling wrong among them, feeling distant, feeling alienated just as much as you did from the boys before all this started? Or is it realizing you won’t go out at all, because you’re afraid. Why are you afraid? Questioning this can lead you here too. Why are you afraid to leave? Is it the fear of being seen? Being found out? Being harassed, assaulted, murdered even? (I’ll let you in on a little secret right now: that’s not going to happen, so you can drop that anxiety ASAP) Is it keeping on the mask at all times, worried that slipping would prove to you and everyone else that you’re not what you say you are? Even hyperfeminine men have this problem, noticing that despite their existing femininity, they still look uncanny compared to real women, and thus, training themselves to approximate them better, refining it to a science.
Or maybe you’re not trying that hard. Maybe you’re aware that you still pretty much look like a dude. Maybe you’re getting “misgendered” all the time and it’s wearing you down. No one’s seeing the real you. No one’s noticing the you that you’ve cultivated in your mental character creation screen. Maybe you’ve gone far — very far — down this road and still only get a pitied “ma’am” from store clerks and coworkers trying not to offend. Maybe you feel clownish but don’t know what else to do to comfort something raw that you’re hiding from yourself. This too is a miserable existence and a miserable experience, but it can be overcome without going to even more drastic measures.
Regardless of how you got to this point, you did. It started with the confusion and disarray that comes with overcoming the first layer of cognitive dissonance. That happened organically. The next layer is worse. Much worse.
Despair, Part I
This is where the tough love comes in. Test this out on yourself. You might be one of the lucky ones who knows what you are, really knows. If you’re not, this is going to hurt. I’m not responsible for your reaction to it:
You are a man. You were always a man. You are still a man. You will always be a man. You are male. You were always male. You will always be male. Your appearance doesn’t matter. Your hormone therapy doesn’t matter. Your surgeries don’t matter. None of it makes you a woman. Your sex never changed. Your feelings that you are a woman are a delusion. You are experiencing a delusion. It’s not real. It feels real but it’s not. You are a man who wants to be a woman, nothing more. You will never get what you want. Others may try to give you what you want but it is only an illusion. The research is fake. The treatments are fake. The clinicians are lying. Your friends are lying. You have been brainwashed. If you continue on this path, you are going to send yourself into an early grave over absolutely nothing.
If you’ve been brainwashed in some of the same ways I was, there was a point in that chunk of text where, reflexively, a voice in your head began screaming at you to kill yourself. That it would be better to die than accept the truth, and that you would die if you cease “treatment.” This apocalyptic rhetoric that pushes you to fear yourself, fear dying by your own hand, wrests any and all self-control, self-knowledge, self-empowerment from you. It hits like a hammer ringing a bell, it shakes you so hard it feels like it’s splitting your skull. Unfortunately, that paranoid, PTSD-like feeling has to be confronted. Piecemeal, little by little, but it must be addressed before anything else can happen. You will not be able to detransition if you are still deathly afraid — quite literally — of the truth.
Everything else, the body image issues, the social roles, the isolation, everything else is contingent upon you accepting the simple reality of your situation. It will take time. It took me many months; it takes some people years. You have to weather the storm. You have to learn to tell yourself that these feelings are temporary and fleeting, even if they feel all-encompassing. You don’t have to make a full peace with it, but you have to be able to get yourself down from the ledge every time it comes up.
You will find yourself retreating from it. You will find yourself lost, set adrift, dissociating, endlessly self-soothing. You will try to hide. That’s normal. That’s natural. But you need to force yourself to confront it. Once it gets to the point where you no longer feel a death drive impulse over accepting your birth sex, then you can move on to the next.
Before I move on though, I must note: This is the either the hardest or second-hardest part of the process. This will take a long time to get over. You may not even fully get over it once you detransition. It’s not uncommon for these feelings to return when other things in life get hard. Part of accepting reality involves accepting that this will be a part of your reality for quite some time. Take these initial moments of self-exposure, of robust honesty, to build your ability to face facts and break the looping thought cycles.
Acceptance, Part I
Allow me to be cheesily motivational for a minute. Look at the above painting. Note its title. Note the color choices. It’s not a bright, cheery painting, despite it being “after the storm.” It’s still dark, shadowy, and mostly grim. There’s a long road ahead, arduous, treacherous, and uphill. Yet, right at the mountain’s peak, there is sunlight. You’re still surrounded by the clouds. You’re on the other side of the mountain pass. You have a long way down and a long way up, but you see the break in the clouds. You see there is something beyond where you are right now. You know there is a way out. You know there are things to look forward to. You don’t know what they are. You don’t know what awaits you on the other side of the mountain. You know the storm could roll in again at any time, and trust me, it will. And yet, on faith, reflection, and intuition, you know you don’t want to be where you’re standing right now. You know you have to walk forward for anything good to happen. It won’t be given to you.
“Detransition” is a tricky term because it almost implies a regression. The idea that you’re returning to your birth sex or gender (which isn’t true because you never left it) means returning to old habits, old ways of living, revisiting old stones better left unturned. Maybe in some ways it will, at least at first as you readjust from coming off the medication. But you are not the same person. Transition, even just a social transition, changes you in substantial ways. It reorients your entire life. It places certain things into perspective, brings them into sharp relief. It may provide new solutions to old problems, but it also brings new problems, some of them severe enough to lead you here. Note also, that none of us can ever go back in time, not even those who haven’t transitioned. Age brings with it wisdom and experience, and throughout this whole process, even if you haven’t felt it happen, you have grown. Maybe not as much as you should have, but you have. Just being alive in the world does that to you. It can also set you back, but whether you let it is up to you.
The first thing to get me to contemplate detransition had nothing to do with gender at all, but with certain core traits of mine that I latched onto as the ego collapses began rocking me regularly. Almost everything else about me, everything that I used to consider an intrinsic part of myself — my speech mannerisms, my style of dress, even some food preferences — shifted and changed wildly for years, even before I was trans (mostly because I was a child). But some things stayed the same. I was still an obsessive researcher. I was still paranoid and conspiratorial. I was still enamored with power and the people who had it, wanting to understand how it’s used and why. My analysis of it was warped, skewed horrifically by all of the absolute garbage I had consumed for so many years, but my interest in it never truly waned, even when I wanted it to. The obsession with analyzing power and the paranoid fear of those who wielded it are genuinely two of my core traits. They have always been there, even as a child, and they remain with me today, though in healthier doses. Even many of my memories of the past were inadmissible as core traits that defined who I was. I am missing vast swaths of information, lost to drug use, agoraphobia, online addiction, extreme stress, or just the sands of time. The ones that weren’t lost were dramatically warped through the brainwashing process, and later, the recovery.
Still, it was those two traits which enabled me to analyze trans from an observer’s standpoint, rather than as someone still obviously stuck in the throes of it, clawing for a way out. Navel-gazing about whether I was a “real” woman or whether I wanted to “live as a man” was a necessary part of the process, but it didn’t provide any clear answers and it offered no comfort. It didn’t help me understand what had happened and why so many of the choices offered to me during times of crisis led me down the path of self-destruction.
What made the first domino fall, what pushed me to face the facts regarding my own transition, was looking into the political networks involved, the moneyed interests propping them up, and truly waking up to what I had been noticing but pretending that I hadn’t been. I could explore with you all the rabbitholes I went down, but that is probably appropriate for some other future essay. The point of this anecdote is that in leaning on aspects of myself that have always been stable, that are known quantities regardless of any other trapping I’ve worn during periods of profound ego disturbance, I was able to look at the external state of things objectively for the first time, divorced from my personal feelings. Seeing that this was the result of a vast network of political and economic actors that had been deployed at around the same time I began identifying as trans helped me understand that this was not something intrinsic to me, and that while my choices were still my own burden to bear, I wasn’t making these decisions on my own, nor were the feelings of dysphoria borne from some sort of permanent internal defect either.
This only helped me because I knew myself well enough to trust my ability to research and my suspicion of powerful elites. I could look at what I saw and say “Yes, okay, these are the facts outside of me, and I can’t change them.” Having that one foundational cornerstone, the handful of traits I know are part of me and are not borne from others, enabled me to see the world as it actually was, which in turn, led me to see myself and — to truly see — how I interact with the world.
You don’t have to have those same traits to do the same. Maybe political networks don’t have any effect on you, and you have no interest in them. It doesn’t matter. You just need to consider the few things that are specific to you, not contingent on others, those parts of you that help you understand the world as it is. When you’ve upended everything you are to be something that you’re not, you need something to grip onto, something that you know is you, and isn’t coming from someone else. Your likes and dislikes are fluid and many of them external, your memories unreliable and possibly falsified through years of change, your style of dress, your aesthetic tastes, your favorite brands/music/foods/etc., all of these are subject to change. What is it that you do that you know separates you from others? What about you has stayed stable for your entire life? A skill, a talent, a hobby, a means of being, of relating to others, to the world, anything. What is that?
Once you figure it out, you hold onto it. You make that your thing. You use that to weather the storms. When the ego disruption hits, and it will hit often, you latch onto that thing or set of things, and remind yourself that even if you aren’t what you said you were in any other area of life, even if everything else is a performance, or for someone else, or a failed coping mechanism, you are still this one thing. As you set yourself adrift in the open ocean of detransition, forced to recalculate and reorganize everything you thought you knew for however long you were trans, use this as an anchor so you never drift too far away from who you are and who you’ve been. Who you’ve been is a part of who you are and it always will be, but you may not be at the stage where you’re ready to understand what that means.
It helps also to have a few very powerful, very positive memories, usually from childhood, despite my claim that such things are malleable and falsifiable. Think about biking to the playground on a warm summer day, or a first love, or a particularly beautiful Christmas. Whatever it is, even if it isn’t strictly “real” anymore, even if it’s changed with time and it causes you to put on rose-colored glasses, bask in it. Sit in it. Don’t just remember the sights, but the feelings, the emotions, the sensations, the smells and the other people around. Remember the swelling in your chest, or the sun on your skin, or anything that can help ground you, help place you in your body in an earlier life. Remember what you used to be like, remember that that person is still within you, and that he’s never left. Remember that you have a duty to him, this inner child. You have to begin parenting him, assuming you haven’t been, because he’s you. Failure to do so will surely lead to your own destruction.
Knowing who you are, at least a small part, will put into perspective all the things you’re doing now that are contrived, that are cowardly, that are hiding from the real world, retreating into a delusion sustained by some of the worst people alive today. I hardly resemble the visage of who I was when I was trans, but I am still ultimately the same person. That’s the important part: the constancy. There will be many things that change, but they must revolve around an axis, that axis being who you already are. The person you are without even trying to be, without wanting to be. You have to take stock of what you are, who you are, and work with it rather than against it. That doesn’t mean you don’t change, but it does mean gaining a deeper understanding of what it will take to change and what changes will be tolerable to you. Don’t worry if you don’t have that just yet; there’s a lot you’ll find out about yourself as you detransition anyway.
Despair & Acceptance, Part II
This is a complicated one. Say you accept your sex, finally. You’re okay with being a man. Maybe you already like being one again, and you realize what you were afraid of wasn’t that frightening after all. That’s excellent, and that doesn’t come easy. But now you’re post-op. Or you’re post-HRT. Or you have all these feminine mannerisms and affects that, despite being stilted performances, have settled in and now require retraining to get rid of. That’s a new kind of despair: The despair of accepting what one is, but fearing that you’ve permanently set yourself back from the ideal of what could have been, that you’ve ruined your potential, your appearance, your body, your mind, your health, your social standing. You’re finally okay with yourself as you were born, now it’s time to deal with the you that’s just been through transition.
Speaking honestly, that’s the harder part. Anyone can accept the sex they were born as — it’s immutable and readily apparent. What’s harder to accept is what’s been lost, either freely given or having been taken while under duress. This is really what people, but especially detrans men kill themselves over. This is the sticking point that blocks the horizon and darkens the sky. This is the shadow cast upon the future.
How do you find love? How do you find peace? How do you deal with the phantom pains? The social rejection? The emotional scarring? The sheer loneliness in having gone through something not that many have gone through? The pain of seeing people continue to throw themselves onto the pastel pyre? How do you move on from something so destabilizing as realizing the last X years of your life have been a lie?
There’s a reason I chose the painting above, with rays of light breaking through clouds, illuminating a vast and mountainous landscape, rather than something dark and dreary. Yes, the shadow is there. Yes, the journey’s getting harder, the mountains are getting steeper. But look: people have settled there, huddled in the vale. There is still light and life to be found because life itself is a struggle, and it is easy for no man, even the ones that do have it easier than most. We all have to fight to survive, to give ourselves meaning and happiness, to secure that which will make our lives worth living. Just because the thing that you thought would save you didn’t work out doesn’t mean you can’t come up with something else, something better, something truer. So long as you’re still breathing, it’s not over for you yet. The clouds will still be there, but so will the sun. You may only see the sun spontaneously, rarely, you may only see it on weekends or once a month or even once a year, but it’s still there, and it will still shine on you if you commit to climbing above the clouds. You can’t bask in it forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it more than once.
Accepting the changes, the deformities, the maladies, the reduced quality of life that comes with being detransitioned isn’t easy. Many of the fears that this brings up are justified; life does get harder. That doesn’t make it impossible though. There are plenty of people out there dealing with worse, but who accept their circumstances and push on regardless. You will never get back what you lost, but if you don’t continue on, if you don’t learn to work around it and with it, if you don’t let it fade into the background, you will never take in anything new either, you’ll never take the risks needed to make up for what you lost. As a man, you need to teach yourself to do that, because the bar is higher for us. There’s less of a safety net. People are not obliged to help us in the same way they are willing to help women. That’s a sad truth; but we can help each other, and we can help ourselves. And we can help ourselves. You may be worse off than you were before you transitioned, but you’ll probably still turn out okay.
A means of acceptance, though, is taking in the lessons that transition taught, treating the whole situation like it was an avenue for self-improvement. Though I still regret my transition, and likely always will, it did impart upon me some gifts and life lessons that I take great advantage of. This is true of any major struggle anyone experiences. There are always positives, but they have to be extracted by force and with vigor. Focusing on those positives will help you keep going. You don’t have to be okay with everything — you likely never will be, about anything, not just transition — but you should look at what it’s offered you in the long run, while stoically accepting what’s been taken and what you’ve been given. Detransition is an opportunity for self-reflection like no other, for self-improvement like no other. Treat it as such, even in your darkest moments, and you will make it out okay.
I’ll end with a few things every man should be doing in readjusting to the demands of the unrestrained male physiology. Coming off of testosterone blockers and estrogen is like stepping through an entirely different world; it’s a massive shock on the body, and in turn, the psyche.
First of all, you should immediately hit the gym (assuming your job isn’t already physically demanding). You will have excess energy to burn, and if you don’t burn it, you’re going to experience severe anxiety, aggression, and drive yourself into a deep depression. Start off slow, but work yourself to exhaustion. Figure out a routine. Talk to a trainer. Or just start running around the neighborhood and doing pushups in your backyard, anything to get you moving. It’s an absolute must.
Second, your libido will come back with a vengeance. Resist the temptation to return to porn, assuming you quit when your libido was lowered. If you simply have to masturbate (and trust me, early on, the urge is going to be intense), use your imagination. Better yet, retain that sexual energy and use it to help build your confidence in finding someone to date. If you want love, you have to work for it, and wacking off at home is going to get in the way of that.
Third, keep a journal. Yes, that sounds gay as hell, but journal. I won’t tell you to find a therapist because honestly, I’m not sure men benefit that much from finding one (also most of them are pro-trans anyway). We actually can deal with a lot of our problems on our own, even if it seems impossible in the moment. Journaling will help with that, and will help with rediscovering one’s self-concept. Learning to monitor and be honest about emotional states is imperative to recovering from this. Additionally, as you fill these journals, you will have references to look back on to see what you were like, a chronicle of your progress, with all the peaks and troughs. It’s incredible stuff.
Fourth, you will have to initiate social interactions far, far more often if you actually want to have a social life. It’s not personal, it just is the way of the world. You have to be a go-getter. Go to places where people meet, take yourself out to restaurants, bars, theaters, show yourself a good time and try to mingle. It’s unnatural, it feels weird, I still don’t like doing it, but when it clicks, it clicks, and it’s worth doing. You need a social life, and as a man, you will be expected to initiate social contact. Sometimes (maybe even often), you will be rejected. Take it on the chin and move on.
I hope this has been helpful for you or someone in your life. I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for reading.
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I wish somehow this could end up in my gender-confused 18-yr-old son’s newsfeed. It’s so well written, with so much care & understanding. I know it is helping young men who are ready for it today & hopefully others will find it when they need to. Thank you 🙏
A beautiful essay. Thank you for this.