Warning: this is a speculative piece of writing, not an official announcement, although I have recently begun to imagine an 'ideological' detransition (from trans woman to GNC male). Here, I'm trying to articulate and reflect on my thoughts and feelings, and imagining myself from a different perspective. In this post, I'm Gina viewed from the Venn diagram part of me that's sympathetic to the cause of women's sex-based rights, and how I fit in this ontology. As I'm also a trans rights and queer figure, this may not be the final argument.
Gender-Critical Gina: the looming detransition
'People suffer because of social expectations around gender and sexuality. One response is to help them meet those expectations, whatever the cost in money or pain. Another is to dismantle the expectations.' (Christopher Reed, Axiomatic)*
The 'me' that's telling me to detransition, is sometimes loud right now. This isn't about hearing voices in my head, more a Lacanian series of Venn diagrams of competing influences, pulling me in different directions. Three months of observing and then increasingly embracing a different way of seeing gender. That expectation of analyzing and exposing gender-critical feminism for the bankrupt perspective I expected it to be, which to my horror became my Mirror Phase.
The Gender-Critical Venn diagram goes as follows: Gina, you've acknowledged the differences between you and the women that you know. You've acknowledged a global, historical narrative of oppression that women experience that you haven't, as a trans woman, experienced. So why keep using this label 'trans woman'? There are other possibilities, they're familiar to you by now. Gender nonconforming m____. Trans-identifying m___. Given the offence you're giving to some, is it worth ignoring these sex-based labels for the appropriation of another social group's suffering? Some women at least are anxious about trans women entering their space and erasing their language. What's your contribution to their distress?
The mantra of my new crowd drown out the old ones. 'Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?'
As a gender nonconforming ma__, a trans-identifying ma__, how much really changes? Can I recall the last time I needed to refer to my gender anyway? How many times have I used women-only spaces, and that's before my recent decision to avoid them altogether. Perhaps it's the lockdown, but the public realm almost disappeared making it even more stark. Confined between home and the journey to work, and the supermarket expeditions and walks in the park, when exactly do I need to verbalise a sex/gender label that I'm not already signifying proudly in my appearance?
Is this the irrevocable conclusion to a journey that started when I decoupled from the word 'woman'? How much of this journey is left? How long before I drop the 'woman' from trans woman, and for that matter the word 'trans'? How long before my revolution completes its circle, only now dressing and expressing myself as I want, with body modifications and the continuing hobby of voice therapy to sound less masculine? Where does this end? An impatience with transness and trans activism? Or an admiration for trans women in the same way that I admire women. Will it get fractious? A mutual animosity towards the trans women who accuse me of selling out? I wonder if the antagonism will push me further into the arms of a different movement. Late night online donations to a GC cause. Becoming a vocal supporter of Maya Forstater's advocacy for prohibiting trans women access to women-only spaces.
Has 'trans woman' been a core truth? Or has it been a framework for bringing to life a mode of self-expression that previously eluded me as a man, where the closest appropriate language started with 'woman'? Can that framework be abandoned now as I return to an identity equipped with a language I never had?
I sit at home, with labeled possibilities, not all of them with the word 'woman,' and a few with the word 'male.' Whatever language I use, a process appears to near its completion. A stunted mode of self-expression that lay locked in a box while I grew up loving football and being Han Solo whenever we played Star Wars (or Will Scarlett if it was Robin Hood, or Gawain if it was King Arthur) has taken over me, fusing with the boyish stuff: I can now also be Leia, Maid Marion, Morgana Le Fay. I sit watching something online, shouting conversations with my female flatmate who is in the next room. My voice is masculine, not everything these past four years has been transformational. But overall, aesthetically, stylistically, conceptually, socially, I am close to what I always imagined, having broken my programming. What's left is a troubling, stubborn snag on the highly political language of female identity and oppression, something I can't ignore so easily. My flatmate, chatting to her boyfriend on the phone, refers to me with 'she.' My flatmate, who recently agreed to stop using the term 'cisgender' when describing herself in relation to me, who in discussions on our respective identities now points at herself and says 'women' and to me, 'trans women,' is almost there. I re-imagine her dialogue with her boyfriend, she replaces 'she' with 'he' in her reference to me. And from then on, when describing herself in relation to me, points to herself and says 'women,' and points to me and says, 'men.'
I imagine how this could be next. A big conversation with my flatmate. 'I'm thinking of detransitioning. I think I'd like you to use male pronouns with me if that's okay. To refer to me as a man. To accuse me of male privilege (where we used to decry it together). Let's see how this goes.'
There is a strain, I can imagine, on friendships too. My flatmate has been so supportive. Will this detransition anger her? 'Make up your bloody mind, will you?' And then maybe she'll acknowledge her own anger and perhaps even smile as she shakes her head, and say, 'Men.'
*The opening quote comes from a statement I found in a twitter thread by arguably one of the UK's most significant GC feminist voices, and editor of the quarterly journal The Radical Notion, Jane Clare Jones. Concerning the quote, Jones highlights the experience of a Penn State University professor, Christopher Reed, who produced a declaration/guidance on ways of approaching issues (specifically research issues) of gender and sexuality with an open mind. The text itself by Reed is called Axiomatic and is probably downloadable through a search engine, though I downloaded it from a twitter thread by Jones, whom I follow on twitter.