Guest Blogger

Re-transition

Filed By Guest Blogger | October 25, 2008 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Christine Daniels, gender transition, Mike Penner, re-transition, sports writer

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Zythyra is an acoustic musician, writer and activist who lives in New Hampshire.

I read the news yesterday of Christine Daniels re-transitioning back To Mike Penner. As a person who did RLT for over a year and then re-transitioned, also while in a fairly public profession, I truly understand the difficulty of this decision. It was among the hardest decisions of my life, much more so than my original choice to transition.

The news stories I've seen of re-transition have often been sensationalist, over the top accountings of this situation, containing mostly stereotypical views of transgender people. I don't know the reasons for Christine/Mike's decision, and I'm not going to speculate on them. I respect her privacy. If she ever decides to write about her experiences, I will look forward to reading them. If she chooses not to share these in the glare of the media spotlight, that's completely understandable.

Not everyone who starts on the road to gender transition decides to continue. Everyone has different circumstances to take into account when deciding to step back. Families, finances, health, religious beliefs, etc. Many of us live very different lives than those portrayed by the media. I'd like to share some thoughts about my own reasons for re-transitioning. I could easily fill up a book or two, here are a few of the more significant factors that informed my choices at that time,

Not wishing to be tethered to a medical process for the rest of my life. I've always been one of those people who won't even take an aspirin when feeling sick. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of needing to have regular appointments with an endocrinologist, blood work, and daily hormone regimen. I was always pretty sure that I didn't want surgery, so then there was also the issue of possible negative side effects or complications from long term hormone use. Add into the mix that I have no health insurance, and so all treatments would be paid for out of pocket. I know, even if I had insurance, the chances of it actually paying for treatment aren't good.

My need to make a living. I'm a self employed musician, and I give private music lessons. When I transitioned and went "full time" in a rural southern town, I lost a lot of work, and experienced significant decrease of what was already a low income. You can well imagine Johnny's mom's concern about him taking guitar lessons from a "dude in a dress". The calls for playing weddings and private functions from other musicians who previously hired me as a side person stopped. I still managed to get enough work to survive, but offers to play Michigan Womyn's Music Festival as an out transwoman singing songs about being a gender outlaw didn't magically appear. They still haven't called me. And trans music festivals don't yet exist...

Coming to realization that I was neither of the binary genders. I think that in the beginning of my process, I'd figured that since I hadn't ever been happy or comfortable as a man, thus I must be woman. Simple. And so I transitioned. As my perceptions shifted from seeing gender as either/or, to a broader continuum, I realized that although I wasn't a man, I also wasn't really a woman either. I was something else, that I didn't even have words for expressing.

Religious/spiritual belief that g-d/dess created me exactly as I am, woman spirit in a male body, for some special purpose. It's my life's journey to figure out how to use this unique gift. Transgender people have existed throughout history, in all cultures. Many have lived as exactly who they were without any sort of medical intervention. Perhaps that's my path. A strange journey to be sure.

Need for physical safety.
As we know all too well, transpeople are murdered for expressing who they are. Did I mention that I was a non-passing genderqueer woman in a rural southern town? I must have had an angel over my shoulder that entire year.

I didn't return to male, although that's likely what it looked like from the outside. I simply returned to wearing male clothing, and since I hadn't started HRT, no physical transformation had occurred. Interestingly, although I am supposedly male, I am still sometimes perceived as a woman by complete strangers. I make no attempt to act male, for that matter I make no attempt to act female either. I'm always the same person regardless of my external appearance. I don't have different persona depending on what I'm wearing. Mostly I'm just frumpy. I currently identify as neither gender - androgyne. That's what works for me, at least for now.

I don't consider that my gender issues were resolved when I re-transitioned, nor do I ever expect them to be. This will be part of me for the rest of my life. I didn't transition back to male. I transitioned to something beyond binary gender. I still feel a disconnect between the physical and mental. Things could change, I could wake up tomorrow, and decide to transition yet again.

I continue to work for the day in which a person doesn't have to be one or the other, that it will be possible to live anywhere on the gender continuum that feels right for each of us and to express that safely in the world. I wish Mike/Christine all the best in her journey.


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Which was harder? Going from M to F or "back?" (I understand that you didn't really go back to "male," per se, but "retransition" kind of goes along with going back to male from female.)

Good Lord. I'm not sure that makes sense, but it's as good as I can do right now. LOL

Stopping transition was harder, no question about it. But I also knew it was the right decision for that time and place.

I know what you mean about "retransition". I used the term since the articles about Christine/Mike used it. I'm not quite sure what term to use for myself, LOL.

It's also never over for any of us who stop transition. Since this summer I've been contemplating some sort of transition again.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 26, 2008 12:43 PM

Please don't take this as argumentative, Zythyra, because I truly believe that everyone should be able to live their life as they feel most comfortable.

But as a transsexual, I have just a a couple of questions regarding your stated reasons:

1) "Making a living": are you or have you moved from your small town? If not, it seems the stigma having transitioned then gone back will still make it extremely difficult to make a living.

2) "Safety": in my experience, transgender people who straddle the gender line are often the ones in the most danger. You say that you are "still sometimes perceived as a woman by complete strangers," even though living a "man." That, to me, seems to be a very risky category.

I think many transsexuals feel it personally when someone --especially if they have the media's attention, as does Mike Penner-- decides to "de-transition," because most, if not all of us, had to face the pointed questions from loved-ones when we came out to them, "What if it's just a phase?! What if tomorrow you decide to go back?!" I know that was hurled at me by several very close people, including my daughter. In answer, I used to say something to the effect of, "Well, that almost never happens. That it happens often is a myth."

Being transsexual even when you pass really really well is extremely hard. It's a sort of hard that lasts and lasts and lasts, your whole life. So maybe when someone de-transitions, it's scary to us, too, because we've all harbored those thoughts in the recesses of our minds that it might be easier if only we could go back.

I wish you the very best, no matter what gender you decide to live as.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 26, 2008 12:59 PM

Oh, and I realized after I posted my comment that underlying what I said is the essential belief that anyone and everyone should have the right to live as whatever gender they feel most truly captures the essence of who they are and makes them most happy. That includes the right of switching back and forth, many times if that's what they need to do. Most importantly, they owe NO ONE an explanation. even if their actions make others, including me, a bit uncomfortable.

Respectfully, Zythyra, that's why I was questioning a couple of your reasons because I had the feeling that you felt it necessary to justify your actions and so you came up with a few reasons that, under scrutiny, may not hold up.

"1) "Making a living": are you or have you moved from your small town? If not, it seems the stigma having transitioned then gone back will still make it extremely difficult to make a living."

Many thanks for your comments Brynn!

When I re-transitioned the work reappeared. A musician with whom I'd worked previously asked me if I'd be willing to show up for a gig wearing male clothing. When I said yes, I started getting calls for gigs again. I have since moved from that small town in the south to an even smaller rural town in the north. LOL.

"2) "Safety": in my experience, transgender people who straddle the gender line are often the ones in the most danger. You say that you are "still sometimes perceived as a woman by complete strangers," even though living a "man." That, to me, seems to be a very risky category."

Yes, living outwardly in between genders is very risky. But it's risky for every gay, lesbian, trans person, even if gender conforming. In a perfect world, I would wear more visibly female clothing, however I play it safe and tend to wear either clothing of my birth assigned gender or androgynous clothing that either gender could wear.

"I think many transsexuals feel it personally when someone --especially if they have the media's attention, as does Mike Penner-- decides to "de-transition," because most, if not all of us, had to face the pointed questions from loved-ones when we came out to them, "What if it's just a phase?! What if tomorrow you decide to go back?!" I know that was hurled at me by several very close people, including my daughter. In answer, I used to say something to the effect of, "Well, that almost never happens. That it happens often is a myth." "

You've brought up a great point regarding the stigma of de-transition and "what if it's a phase". I think I've likely internalized this to an extent. Although I often mention that I re-transitioned to other people in the trans community, I've rarely told my full story. Seeing responses to the Mike/Christine news made me realize that I need to be more vocal about this. There are many people in the trans community who don't transition or de-transition. I think as a community we've swept this under the carpet, and those of us who de-transition tend to disappear. The result is that people only hear about "successful" transition stories, or the occasional sensationalistic de-transition stories from the media.

"Being transsexual even when you pass really really well is extremely hard. It's a sort of hard that lasts and lasts and lasts, your whole life. So maybe when someone de-transitions, it's scary to us, too, because we've all harbored those thoughts in the recesses of our minds that it might be easier if only we could go back."

Absolutely true!

"I wish you the very best, no matter what gender you decide to live as."

Thanks!!

"Respectfully, Zythyra, that's why I was questioning a couple of your reasons because I had the feeling that you felt it necessary to justify your actions and so you came up with a few reasons that, under scrutiny, may not hold up."

I think I can guess which reasons might not hold up to scrutiny. Since sometime in June, I've been seriously rethinking transition, and have questioned all my previous reasoning.

One important detail that I left out of my original post. After a full year of RLE, my therapist gave me an approval letter for HRT. She recommended a trans friendly endocrinologist, and I tried to schedule an appointment. They would not accept me as a client because I had no health insurance. That was the derailing event.

Well, this answer is turning into another book :)

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 27, 2008 12:37 PM

Thank you for addressing my questions!!

I am really glad to hear that work has reappeared, although I'm sad it went away in the first place.

Ultimately, in my opinion, transition should be about happiness. How can one best live life in happiness? I just wish other people understood this better and respected our choices, whatever they are.

Take good care of yourself, zythyra.

Interesting story. I hope we reach the day when everyone can just express their gender as they want to, and not be constricted by external factors.

I sure hope I'm still here on the planet to enjoy that day Alex!

Hi Zythyra!
Thank you so much for your comments about re-transitioning. I REALLY appreciate it! Six years ago after watching several transitioning programs on the television my partner asked me when I was going to transition. (I always cried when I'd watch those transition shows.) My doctor and the therapist I saw are both gay, so they were supportive in every way.
After two and a half years of taking 'T' shots, I just couldn't quite feel comfortable. It's not that I minded the physical changes. . .I always looked masculine anyway. It was how I felt emotionally. I realized I did not want to lose some of the female qualities I had. And these little 'nudges' about my health kept playing in my head. I was also bothered a bit by some of the transmen I ran into who were trying too hard to be macho or masculine. It was almost overkill. As strange as it may sound, I did not like the constant powerful sexual urges and how much time I used up with my sexual preoccupation. It was almost too much for a 50 year old. And was frustrating to my partner. I was told the urges would calm/settle down, but they never did. Once or twice a week is just right for us.
So, I chose to discontinue the 'T'. Today, I honestly do not care what pronoun people use. Rather than choosing to be no gender, I choose to be both genders. How people choose to deal with this, is not my business. I am 1/4th Native American and decided to tell others that I am 'Two-spirits" physically and just ME spiritually. And surprisingly, I have found peace and self-acceptance with this.
However, like others who commented, I completely support others who want to transition forever, fulltime, etc. etc. The goal is that one is happy with who they are and how they live. I say, "Live and Let Live".
Thanks much for your article. I don't feel alone anymore.

Jennifer Kisner | April 15, 2011 12:55 PM


I see the thread is pretty old. But, hopefully, your life is working out. I'm a post-op MTF and pass very well. But I'm still struggling 2 years later with my transition. I'd like to explore whether/how to re-transition although I can do nothing to reverse my SRS.

But I have failed so far to identify any profession therapists or doctors who work with re-transition patients. At least I can't find them on the Internet. There are lots of people to help you transition but the reverse isn't true.

Are you aware of ANYONE I could contact to see if anyone can help me re-transition? I just need a starting point. I live in Greater Kansas City in USA.

I hope to heat from you. And P hope you're doing wel..

Thanks,

Jennifer


Hi Jennifer,

I've never heard of anyone who advertises as specifically working with re-transition or alternatives to transition, however, I imagine there are people who could help. The therapist who helped me during my transition was also helpful with my re-transition process. In recent years, I've also found other people on trans forums who have gone through similar journeys. It's been helpful to know that we're not alone in dealing with these issues.

Z