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Please Tell Me If I Regret Transitioning

I'm just a little guy, how am I to know?

A trans flag, made of blue, pink, and white stripes, in chalk on black pavement
Katie Rainbow

A lot of cis people have made careers writing dumb shit about trans people. Generally, I try to ignore them: cis people have been opining on my transition for over 20 years, and since 99.9% of them are not my doctor, I don’t really care. But I have come upon an opinion so mind-bendingly insulting and stupid that I have to exorcise it from my brain in a blog.

The cis person in question is Jesse Singal, a writer you probably know from having lots of unpleasant opinions on trans people like me. It’s no longer clear, if it ever was, what Singal’s deal is, why he’s so obsessed with trans people, in particular youth, and our lives. Singal’s latest take is that trans people can’t be trusted to know if we regret transitioning or not.

In the tweet, part of a conversation touching on everyone’s favorite unproven boogeyman of a mass crisis of detransition, Singal wrote, “Someone’s self-report about whether they regret a medical decision isn’t necessarily reliable. People aren’t good judges of their own decision. It should definitely be a part of how we evaluate treatments, but it’s far from the whole story.” He then compares trans people saying they don’t regret transition to a study on homeopathy. 

I cannot believe I am going to explain this, but: the homeopathy comparison is patently ridiculous when we’re talking about transition. Someone stating that homeopathic medicine, say, cured their cancer can be easily measured by running medical tests to see if they still have cancer. There is no such test to prove or disprove someone saying “I am happy with my decision to transition.” You just have to believe what trans people are telling you, and we simply can’t have that. 

To be fair, Singal did not invent this argument, which takes many forms: the bunk theories of rapid-onset gender dysphoria and social contagion; pathologizing trans people or citing mental health conditions to claim we aren’t “really” trans; the particular obsession with trans youth, whose self-knowledge and decision-making can be undermined and litigated in a way that’s more difficult to do with adults. None of the big-name anti-trans people ever just come out and say that they find trans people gross, that they wish they could still make shitty jokes about us without facing consequences, that seeing trans people happy fucks up their own sense of what gender is and that makes them think about their own lives and that sucks. I wish they would! I would much rather have someone say “I find you disgusting,” because then I can trust their ability to know their own minds, say “You sure do!” and continue living my life.

I’ll go out on a limb and say there is no one who spends more time wondering if transition is a good idea, who spends more time monitoring their own happiness with it, than trans people. We are pretty good judges of how we feel about our transitions! I worry that the war over opinions like Singal’s flattens our ability to speak openly with each other, that we have the present to the world these perfect lives and frictionless transitions to not give the anti-trans side ammo to twist against us. I worry these incomplete pictures can lead to people who struggle with some of transition’s challenges feeling like they can’t talk about it, which makes them easy prey for detransition grifters who want to convince them it was because they were tricked or lied to by some nefarious agenda. The reality is that many things about being trans are hard, and I often wish I didn’t have to deal with them. It was a bummer to go bald! It sucks to have men tell me it’s too bad I’m not “really” a guy when we’re flirting. It sucks to be too small to buy t-shirts that fit, it sucks to have to stab myself in the ass with a needle every two weeks, it sucks to have to fight so hard for hormone refills, it sucks that I’m afraid to visit my parents because I might need to use a bathroom. It sucks to watch the anti-trans side argue that no one knows the long-term effects of medical transition when I have 20 years of experience with HRT that I would happily offer up to medical science if they actually cared about it, which is why my medical care has not improved in 20 years, which is why my doctor still says “I don’t know” when I ask him questions about my long-term health risks. 

And yet–and maybe Singal and co. would not believe me–I do not regret transitioning, which I am confident has brought immense joy into my life that has made its challenges worth it. (I went bald but grew a beard, like every other middle-aged trans guy, so it evens out.) There is no decision you can make that will guarantee permanent satisfaction and happiness–this includes transition, and also every decision that cis people make. I am perfectly capable of sitting with this complexity because I am a human being whose life choices can’t be independently scored like a movie review. If Singal can tweet his way into solving that problem, I’d love to know his secret.

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