A story about discovery

What happens when you transition genders and then decide you want to go back?

Sometime in 2011, Crash started to feel an increasing, pressing sense that something was wrong. For a cerebral person who tends to chew over decisions for hours, this particular problem led to various thought-spirals, all of them circling around ideas of gender: What did it mean to be a man, what would it be like to live as a woman? The idea was appealing but also daunting. Crash considered the costs of adopting a different gender identity: It confused people, made them nervous; people could question your reality or even your right to exist. There were practical questions too. How would Crash explain all this to friends, to family members? Would they take it seriously or insist it was just a phase?

But those thought-spirals always kept ending up at the same place. The status quo was no longer tenable. Despite the social costs, the judgment of the world, and the medical uncertainties, Crash felt the increasingly urgent need to take action.

And so four years after transitioning from living as a woman to living as a man, four years after that first shot of testosterone (“T”), four years spent passing “pretty much 100 percent of the time” as male, Crash gave up on the T, on the male pronouns, on her identity as a trans man. That summer in Chicago, Crash (who now goes by a version of her birth name but asked to be referred to by her online pseudonym) began her detransition.

Only a very small proportion of those who transition come to reconsider the decision, like Crash, and end up detransitioning back to the gender they were assigned at birth. A 50-year study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior of transition results in Sweden estimated that 2.2 percent of people who medically transitioned experienced “transition regret”; other studies (published in Psychological Medicine and Sexologies) indicate that the incidence of regret may even be lower. But as trans issues become more widely discussed, there seems to be — at least anecdotally ��� more talk of detransition, too.

“There’s more and more of us coming out of the woodwork all the time, it seems like,” Crash said. That’s a striking contrast to four years ago, when Crash first started to think about living as a woman again. But she didn’t know anyone else who had detransitioned, and online searches didn’t turn up anything helpful. These days, there’s an active community of people on Tumblr who are blogging their detransitions; there’s a zine by detransitioned women (Blood and Visions: Womyn Reconciling With Being Female) and a handful of Facebook groups, each with a few hundred members. This summer, Crash, a slim 30-year-old with rosy cheeks and dark hair, went to what she believes was the first in-person gathering of detransitioned women, on the West Coast. The 16 attendees went for walks in the woods, cooked, had workshops on spirituality and embodiment meditation, and joined together in a singing circle for women with testosterone-altered voices. Mostly, though, there was just a lot of talking — and relief. “For a lot of people, it was the first time they ever met other detransitioned women [in person],” she said.

A zine by destransitioned women

A zine by destransitioned women

One reason stories of detransition are so difficult to find is because they’re not all that common. But Crash and other detransitioned women — women make up the bulk of the online detransition community, though there is at least one detransitioned man who blogs — wonder if there isn’t another reason: Their stories are uncomfortable to hear.

Just as there is diversity in transition stories, people who detransition are not a monolithic group. Some go back to living as a member of the gender they were assigned at birth because their families or communities refuse to accept them as trans; others, including many of the detransition bloggers, say they were socially conditioned into transitioning. Their experiences go against the “born this way” narratives that dominate mainstream trans discourse, which generally holds that people who transition were born into bodies with the wrong gender, and that their transitions right this wrong and set them on the path to happiness and fulfillment. “Ninety-five percent of my patients [who transition] are so happy,” said Dr. Deborah Dunn, a family practice physician’s assistant at Chase Brexton in Baltimore, who primarily treats trans patients. “Even after just that first month [on hormones], I can walk in the room and see a change, a light, something that emanates from the person. They feel affirmed.”

Out of the more than one thousand patients Dunn has treated, only three have detransitioned; each did so because they “couldn’t take the rejection from society,” she said. “One of my patients was 21, had completely transitioned to female, got her name changed, all her legal documents taken care of,” Dunn told me. “She had started her first year of law school and decided to come out to her pastor. [Members of the church] formed a circle around her, anointed her head with oil, and told her every bad thing that would happen to her was because of this transgender sin. The next time I saw her, her name was back to Michael. She had a beard again. She was so dysphoric. I don’t doubt that she’s going to be back in and out of hospitals just struggling.”

But the detransition bloggers had a different experience, one that they think is important to share publicly — even if people are sometimes reluctant to listen. “People will ask me about [my detransition], and I’ll get a couple sentences in before they interrupt me with their own version of my story,” said Carey Callahan, a 34-year-old detransitioned woman from Cleveland. “I don’t think it’s just that people like trans feel-good stories — they just like feel-good stories in general. And my story is so not feel-good.” The bloggers write about how they’ve come to understand their own transitions as a response to trauma, or an expression of self-hatred stemming from living in a patriarchal world, or a capitulation to social pressure. “I thought [transitioning] would solve my problems,” said Elan, a 42-year-old who transitioned from male to female at 19 and detransitioned 20 years later. “But no matter what I did, they were still there.”

When detransition is mentioned at all, it’s often by someone arguing that people shouldn’t be allowed to transition, or even that trans people don’t really exist. And so when detransitioned people talk about how they regret their transitions, or theorize that social pressure and/or trauma played a role in their decision, some worry that they’re giving ammunition to the enemy. (A right-wing news site recently featured a post about “real-life victims of the transgender cult,” prominently featuring quotes from one of Callahan’s YouTube videos.) But the growing number of detransition bloggers believe it’s important to find a place for their stories — even if they don’t always get a warm welcome from others. “Detransitioning was a super isolating experience,” said Callahan. “I want people going through this really weird thing to know that it’s not always going to be weird.”

The first time Crash told her family about her plans to medically transition from female to male was at her mother’s funeral. She was 20. In retrospect, the timing seems fraught. But all her relatives were there, using the wrong name and the wrong pronoun. (Crash asked to be referred to with female pronouns throughout this story.) Plus, it had been a long time coming.

As a child, Crash liked reptiles and sci-fi books and didn’t care about looking pretty. Most of her friends were boys. When she was 9, her family moved from a Chicago suburb to a more rural area. In this smaller, more conservative community, Crash stood out — and not in a good way. “A lot of the other kids were really cruel to me because I was different. I was really socially ostracized,” she said. “And a big reason why they treated me that way was because I wasn't what a normal girl was supposed to be like.”

Puberty was miserable; she hated the way her body was changing, its unpredictability and softness and surprising vulnerability. She knew early on that she liked girls, and when she was 15 she started going to the gay youth group at the Unitarian Church. Around that time, she cut her hair short. She still remembers vividly the first time someone assumed she was male. A girl she’d never met before came up to her in the school hallway one day: “You’re such a cute boy,” she said. It was shocking: Crash had never been misgendered before; she had also never been called cute by a stranger. She started dressing punk and referring to herself as “a boy dyke.” At the queer teen dances that her youth group put on, she’d get hit on by straight girls and gay boys. When she was 15, she adopted a new name that was more masculine. Though her parents were largely accepting, Crash’s relationship with them was contentious — particularly with her mother, with whom she had once been very close, and whose depression was becoming more severe. Crash projected a tough, punk exterior, but the cruelty of her peers still took a toll; she was involuntarily hospitalized for mental health issues as a teenager.

“There’s more and more of us coming out of the woodwork all the time, it seems like.”

After what was largely an unhappy time in middle and high school, college was a revelation. When she showed up to her small liberal arts school, the resident advisor had made colorful name tags for everyone’s doors. Crash’s had her given name on it; when she told the RA that she actually preferred to go by her new, more masculine name, the woman apologized profusely and rushed to make her a new name tag. It was 2004 and trans issues were just starting to become more widely discussed on college campuses. The RA peppered Crash with questions: Was she okay living on this all-female floor? How about the shared bathrooms? The RA and others at college “bent over backwards to try and make me comfortable,” Crash said.

Those first few months at college, Crash was identified as — and increasingly identified herself as — a trans man. “People looked at how I presented myself, my mannerisms, and they were just like, ‘Oh, that's a trans dude.’ Everyone assumed that I was male-identified, and I was like, ‘Okay. These are all new people. I'll use this as an opportunity to see if I like living as a guy,’” she said. And she did — particularly on campus, where being trans made her something of a minor celebrity. “I got a lot of positive attention,” Crash said. “Back then not as many people knew about trans issues, but the ones that did felt like that made them on the cutting edge of being progressive and cool, like they got cool points for being supportive to trans people.” At the time, all this interest in her life felt validating to Crash, even as she sometimes felt that people were treating her as a symbol more than an actual person.

While many trans people still face social ostracism (not to mention higher murder rates, housing and employment discrimination, and a host of other problems), those who are members of progressive social scenes sometimes contend with the opposite. “I was around a lot of hippies who really wanted trans friends for, like, credibility,” said Carey Callahan. After her transition, she had a new appreciation for what it felt like to be tokenized. “I talked about it with a black friend of mine. He was like, ‘How about when they want to take Instagram photos with you every time you hang out?’ I was like, yep. It was like being a vegan cookbook — other people used you as a symbol for communicating about themselves.”

Crash had spent so much of her adolescence obsessing about gender; she had hoped that having a definitive answer — I am a trans man — would clear up some of her brainspace. But as she regularly identified as male, she found herself thinking more about gender, not less: “I started caring more about how other people saw me. I wanted them to see me as male, and when they still read me as female I got more upset, whereas in the past that hadn’t really been a problem.”

Being read as female felt like failing; to avoid it, Crash began studying online guides written to help trans men pass. “[The guides] tell you what kind of haircuts to get to make your face look more masculine. What clothing to wear, ways to disguise the shape of your female body,” she said: Don’t shave your head, because the shape of your skull might look feminine. Don’t wear bangs; they feminize you. She scrutinized herself for any signs of femininity, which increasingly became equated in her mind with weakness and frustration.

As Crash regularly identified as male, she found herself thinking more about gender, not less.

By the end of her sophomore year at college, Crash had been living as a man for nearly two years and was starting to think about medically transitioning. Throughout Crash’s time in college, her mother’s depression had become more severe; that spring, she committed suicide. Her death was a kind of galvanizing event for Crash. “It was like, ‘That's it! There's no way I can take this any more,’” Crash said. “I felt all this gender and body dysphoria angst. I would feel desperate and suicidal sometimes, just thinking, ‘What am I supposed to do with my life?’ I just needed to figure this out.” Shortly after her mother’s suicide, Crash dropped out of college, moved to a queer/punk house in Chicago, and began taking steps to medically transition.

When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the psychiatrist’s bible of mental disorders, was updated in 2013, the diagnosis of gender identity disorder was replaced by gender dysphoria: distress at feeling the gender you identify with is contrary to the one you were assigned at birth. The DSM’s authors also took the unusual step of issuing a fact sheet that serves as a kind of disclaimer: Some of us have qualms about labeling trans people as mentally ill, it basically says, but “to get insurance coverage for the medical treatments, individuals need a diagnosis.”

Gender dysphoria is, then, a fundamentally controversial diagnosis. While the diagnosis suits some trans people, others may not necessarily hate their bodies — but getting treatment requires them to officially testify to having those feelings. It also puts medical practitioners in the uncomfortable position of issuing what amounts to permission slips for adults seeking to make decisions about their own bodies. According to guidelines issued by the World Professional Association for Trans Health, the leading trans health organization, in order to begin hormone therapy or get chest surgery (which can include double mastectomy, chest contouring, and/or augmentation mammoplasty), trans people need one referral from a qualified mental health professional; to get genital surgery (hysterectomy, surgical castration, and/or genital reconstructive procedures), they need two referrals – from qualified mental health professionals who have independently assessed the patient.

“Women who want to enhance their breasts or get rid of their wrinkles don’t have to have therapists write letters for them,” said Deborah Dunn. “It looks like a double-standard.” So when detransitioned people question whether they received adequate medical care, or criticize how quickly they were able to begin medically transitioning, some hear that as a worrying call for more gatekeeping and restrictions.

When Carey Callahan saw an Ohio therapist in 2012, she wasn’t looking for psychological treatment or permission from an authority to transition; she just wanted the letter. “[The therapist I met with] was like, ‘I think if you want to put hormones in your body, that’s your business. If you want the letter next week that’s okay.’ I had the letter at my second or third appointment.” But when Callahan began taking testosterone, her feelings of alienation from her body got worse, not better. It took her a few years to realize that the various feelings she had subsumed under the umbrella of gender dysphoria — a deep feeling of disgust for her breasts and butt and thighs; an obsessive preoccupation with misogyny — were actually long-term reactions to trauma she had suffered as a young woman.

Gender dysphoria is a fundamentally controversial diagnosis.

“What I really needed was for someone to ask me about dissociative symptoms,” Callahan said. But therapists who do ask probing questions about trauma or who won’t provide a letter right away risk being accused of gatekeeping or labeled as transphobic. “If that therapist had said, ‘I’m going to need you to fill out this checklist about dissociative symptoms [before I give you your letter],’ the first chance I got I probably would’ve gone on the internet and said, ‘Don’t go to this lady,’” Callahan said. Other detransition bloggers tell stories similar to Callahan’s — months or years after they transitioned, they came to realize that their dysphoria, their feelings of disgust with or alienation from their bodies, was not solved by transition in part because they had other causes: internalized misogyny, autism spectrum symptoms, or PTSD from previous trauma.

When Crash went to get her letter, the therapist did express some concern about how recently her mother had committed suicide. But by that point, Crash had identified as trans since starting college, and her therapist agreed to provide her a letter after two sessions. Though Crash now wishes the therapist had pushed back more, she also acknowledged that it would not have changed her decision to transition: “I don’t think anything would’ve stopped me at that point.” The therapist gave her the letter, and later that week, a nurse gave Crash her first vial of T and taught her how to inject it into her thigh. That night, her friends threw her a transition party.

Crash began injecting herself every two weeks. At the time, she was working a variety of odd jobs — everything from being a film extra to doing yard work — and didn’t have health insurance, but the clinic she went to received enough grant funding that her treatment wasn’t an undue financial burden: A vial of T and enough syringes to last five months cost her about $50. Crash had been more or less living as a man for two years and thought she knew what she was getting into, but she was surprised by how different it was to pass 100 percent of the time. She moved through the world with a new sense of confidence. While trans people who don’t pass are vulnerable to violence, Crash, who now read as unambiguously male, felt much safer walking city streets alone than when she appeared more feminine. Social interactions were easier, too: “People were a whole lot nicer to me, a lot friendlier. They made small talk. I'd be waiting for a bus, and people would just start talking about the weather,” she said. “It kind of felt like I was joining the human race.”

When Carey Callahan started taking T, she was surprised to find that other people’s feelings seemed further away — and that that distance felt like a kind of relief. “On testosterone, pissing someone off was a breeze,” Callahan wrote in an essay she published earlier this year. “Their feelings were their business. I was focused on whether I was going to get mine, whether that was money or attention or the good experiences I felt owed. And I did feel owed.”

But after Crash had been on hormones for about a year, the initial euphoria of transition faded, and she felt more ambivalent about the process. Passing as a man allowed her insight into the way men talked when there weren’t any women around, which wasn’t always pleasant. While she liked the physical changes, she also started to worry about how emotionally numb she felt on T. And her anxious, obsessive thoughts about gender and identity hadn’t been solved by transitioning, either: “I had naively thought, ‘Oh, I'll transition, and I'll never really have to think about gender stuff again,’” Crash said. “I found out I was wrong about that pretty quickly.”

Almost two years after she started taking T, she went off the hormone and identified as “a genderqueer guy but still a guy.” But as the effects of testosterone waned and her body began softening and changing shape, her dysphoria returned: “I would look at my body in the mirror and just be kind of revolted. It just didn't feel right. I didn't feel like I could stay present in it.” After about two years off T, she decided to try again, this time taking a lower dose. After a year and a half back on it, though, Crash started to once again feel that something was off in a subtle but crucial way. She missed being visibly queer; she was troubled by how her face was transforming. “I liked almost all of the physical changes, but when my face started changing too much I was like, ‘I don't like this,’” she said. “It's kind of a big deal when you're like, oh, my face doesn't fit anymore.”

Crash missed being visibly queer.

Crash stopped taking testosterone again, but she still considered herself trans; plenty of trans people weren’t actively taking hormones, after all. Her body softened somewhat, but her voice remained deep, and she could still grow a thin beard. After a year and a half off T, being called “he” sometimes still felt right, but at other times it felt really wrong. She began to describe herself as genderqueer, or a mix of different genders. Just as starting testosterone hadn’t “solved” her gender puzzle in any sort of useful way, stopping it left her with plenty of questions, too. She started wondering why she felt so afraid — so repulsed, even — at the idea of being seen as a woman. “I realized that I had internalized some very limited ideas of what women were,” she said. When she thought about her pre-transition body, the one she had been so intent on changing, she began feeling something that was, surprisingly, like a form of grief.

Crash felt nervous about how her queer and trans friends would react if she admitted to questioning her transition. “There were a lot of rules about what you could and couldn't say,” she said. When, as a teenager, she first started thinking about transitioning, she found dozens of LiveJournals and blogs by trans guys; when she looked online for similar resources about detransition, she found very little. On a private listserv for women who detransitioned, she found one person she could be open and honest with, a woman with the online handle Redress Alert. Redress, who was a decade older than Crash, had detransitioned several years ago but was still working through what it had all been about.

Crash and Redress began dissecting their experiences further, emailing and talking on the phone several times a week, trying to work through a situation that felt both baffling and overwhelming to both of them. Though she was from a different generation, Redress bonded with Crash over similar experiences. They talked about how their childhoods had been distorted by bullying, how hard it had been to move through the world as a non-gender-conforming girl. They talked about how transitioning hadn’t fixed their dysphoria but in some ways exacerbated it. They dissected the role internalized misogyny played in their feelings of revulsion at their femininity. They analyzed what they saw as the hierarchy within their queer scenes, where butch lesbians were perceived as less cool than trans men. Crash also began to reconsider those months after her mom’s suicide, how she hadn’t cried once, how all she’d wanted to do was talk about her medical transition, how appealing it had been at that moment to imagine that she could become a different person.

Maybe she was a genderqueer dyke, Crash thought. Or maybe she was simply a woman.

Crash was worried more about coming out as female than as trans. “I was actually afraid that people wouldn't believe me, that people were going to think I was nuts or confused,” she said. First, she disclosed her detransition to her closest friends, then to her wider social circle. “When I came out to my family, that was a big deal. I was scared,” she said. “But they were fine with it. No one really had the negative reaction I was expecting. And I realized — oh, that was all me. My anxiety and my insecurity, my fears about what it means to be seen as a woman.”

But detransitioning was not the traumatic experience that Crash had feared it would be. Around the same time as she started identifying as female again, Crash also stopped smoking weed and started meditating. Through helping out on a friend’s farm, she discovered that she loved doing physical work that connected her with the Earth. Both before and after her transition, she’d spent so much of her time in her head; now she felt as though she was finally learning how to connect with her body, and with the external world. Crash is not alone in these discoveries; detransition bloggers can sometimes sound strikingly Oprah-esque in their advocacy for mindfulness, body acceptance, and techniques for staying present with troubling emotions. “I think it’s valuable to explore your dysphoria,” Cari, a 22-year-old who blogs as Guide on Raging Stars, said in a recent video. “Take some time, sit with it. What kinds of feelings you have towards your body, where the disconnect is. Is there some reason that you might be experiencing it?” Detransition bloggers write about managing their dysphoria through therapy and power-lifting and Zen Buddhism.

And, of course, writing. For Crash and Callahan and others, sharing their stories online was both an attempt to sort out what they were going through and also to share their stories and help other dysphoric women. Blogging was also a way to connect with “a support system that is people spread out all over the country,” as Callahan put it. In just a few years, the online detransition world — clustered mostly on Tumblr — has grown exponentially. “I never thought there would be this whole community, just within three years,” said Crash.

Like many of the detransition bloggers, Crash uses a pseudonym. Carey Callahan did too, at first, wanting to protect her real identity from online vitriol. “People get really turned up and agitated about this stuff right away. It’s easy to get labeled as transphobic and have people not listen to the nuance of what you’re saying,” she explained. But over the years she’s been blogging, the responses she’s received have surprised her. “I’ve gotten messages from trans people who are like, ‘I’m so happy I transitioned, and it’s the best thing in my life, but I support what you’re doing,’” she said. “It’s the straight guy who’s a trans ally who’s generally much less receptive [to my story] than trans people, who have a lived experience of these complexities.”

After she read a widely shared Medium post in August, by trans author and activist Julia Serano, Callahan decided to post a video under her own name, arguing with Serano’s assertion that detransitioned people are still on the trans spectrum. Sitting on a beige couch in her living room, she looked straight at the camera: “I’m a real person and you have to deal with my existence,” she said.

When Callahan heard that two dozen detransitioned women would be gathering at the final Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival last summer, she had qualms about attending an event that’s long been considered controversial for its “womyn born womyn” policy, which pointedly excludes trans women. “I came up in a scene where protesting Michfest was the real cool, radical thing to do,” she said. “I didn’t tell any of my friends [I was going]. But there were all these detransitioned women going, and that was very special. I didn’t have anyone in my day-to-day life [who had detransitioned]. It was an opportunity to go from zero detransitioned women to 25. That’s huge.” (Callahan said she saw a number of transwomen at Michfest, which made her feel better about the whole thing.)

But beyond this association with Michfest, detransitioned women have to contend with a history of tensions between trans rights advocates and certain strains of radical feminism. In 1979, Janice Raymond published The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, which argued (often in inflammatory and hateful terms) that trans people were essentially living a lie. Raymond and other radical second-wave feminists saw transgender identity as a kind of false consciousness and a further expression of gender oppression: A butch woman was gloriously non-conforming, but a trans man was a capitulation to patriarchy. The most vehement adherents of these beliefs likened transition to mutilation. These days, most detransition bloggers argue in favor of people’s right to do what they want with their bodies, while others edge close to Raymond’s way of thinking. These historical tensions provide some context for why the detransition debate can feel so contentious.

“It’s easy to get labeled as transphobic.”

In Serano’s Medium post, she wrote about how narratives of detransition, even supposedly “trans-friendly” ones, end up implying — either directly or implicitly — that there should be more limits and restrictions on trans people’s right to make decisions about their bodies. Supposing people can be socially conditioned to transition — despite pervasive cultural transphobia — “I would ask: Why is this even a problem?” Serano wrote. “I mean, so long as these supposed ‘cisgender-people-turned-transgender’ are happy with their life choices and their post-transition lives, why should anyone even care? Frankly, I believe that this concern stems directly from the transphobic assumption that cisgender bodies are valid and valuable, whereas trans people’s are invalid and defective.”

These arguments often come down to questions about narrative: who has the right to to tell what story, and why. Detransitioned bloggers simply want to speak openly about their personal experiences. Trans advocates worry about what use those stories will be put to — that they’ll end up being mobilized to keep children from transitioning and to make medical transition more difficult to obtain. When a detransitioned woman argues that living in a patriarchal society can cause or exacerbate gender dysphoria in women, some trans people hear that as an invalidation of their own experiences. And when trans people imply that detransitioned people are on the trans spectrum, as Serano did, then some detransitioned people feel written out of the story. Everyone accuses everyone else of denying their reality.

Though Crash is in a much better place these days — she lives on a farm outside Portland where she tends a fruit orchard and looks after a herd of rambunctious goats — she still sometimes feels a complicated kind of grief for her pre-transition body. “I miss the chance of having been able to experience what [my body] would have grown into without being modified,” she said. Those years on testosterone have had a lasting impact on her body and voice, and she still gets read as male sometimes. She’s also concerned about the potential physical effects of stopping and starting hormones. (There have been very few long-term medical studies of trans people and essentially nothing about detransitioned people.)

Detransitioning has inspired Crash to think more about her fraught relationship with her late mother. “I can still see her face in my face, see her hands in my hands,” Crash wrote in a Tumblr post last year. “I didn’t want to see that. I took t so I wouldn’t have to see that. If I was like her I was doomed. I was weak and I was going to fall apart and totally lose my mind and be a walking corpse and then die. Because that’s how my mom ended up….I tried to kill what of her was in me by transitioning.”

After having spent so long trying to distance herself from her mother in various ways, Crash is increasingly appreciative of how her love of farming is rooted in that childhood time she spent in the yard with her mom: “I see so much of my mom’s influence on my life now and it pleases me and haunts me,” she wrote. When she daydreams about having her own farm someday, she plans to leave part of the land wild, as a tribute to her mother: “Whatever I do, I will extend her.”

The day before the election, Crash decided she was finally ready to put her face out there and posted her first video — “An Account of My Transition and Detransition” — to YouTube. It was quickly found by a conservative blogger, who took her story as evidence of “her former captivity within the transgender cult.” The next day, Crash watched the election returns while on a Skype call with friends, growing increasingly horrified as the night went on.

Since Donald Trump’s election, she’s been posting much more frequently, and unlike before, many of the posts — about Standing Rock, about Trump’s cabinet picks, about immigration and the patriarchy — are only tangentially related detransition issues. She’s fearful of what the next few years will bring. “A lot of people still mistake me for a dude — and a white dude at that,” she said. “I can blend in in a lot of cases. But I’m still freaked out. I know a lot of people who can’t blend in, and I’m worried for their safety.”

She’s also become more interested in finding common ground in the face of potential threats, even that means uniting with trans activists she’s argued with in the past. “I still may have disagreements with some members of the trans community, but we’re up against a lot of the same shit,” she said. “From what I’ve found, it doesn’t matter if you’re currently identifying as trans of not. Having a trans history, having ever transitioned, can definitely impact how people see you. They’ll objectify you, treat you disrespectfully, see your body as freakish. Coming off as gender non-conforming can cause a lot of hardships, no matter what you call yourself. Our lived experiences are similar in a lot of ways. We deal with a lot of the same problems.”

Rachel Monroe is a writer living in Marfa, Texas.

Illustrations by Steve Kim