Autism Desister Feminism Mental Health Neurodivergence Trans Issues

From Trans to TERF: My experience as a desister

I’m Hazel. I’m a 31 year old woman, who was diagnosed as autistic in adulthood. At age 17, I experienced Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria. Here is my story.

TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of self harm and suicide.

Background

Looking back, I can see how several things in my childhood and teenage years contributed to the fact that I ended up experiencing gender dysphoria.

My mother was the type to relish the fact she had a daughter. She wanted to dress me up in pretty dresses, with bows in my hair and frilly socks. If you know anything about autistic sensory issues and Pathological Demand Avoidance, you can probably begin to understand why being pushed to dress in uncomfortable, excessively girly clothes would be unpleasant to an autistic girl. I started to eventually reject everything ‘girly’. I refused to wear dresses or skirts – it was jeans and t-shirts exclusively, even at weddings. I rejected the colour pink, despised the idea of make-up, and ended up in friendships with exclusively boys. It didn’t help that my mother would often tell me that I ‘should have been born a boy’ in reference to my gender non-conformity.

Feeling ‘not like the other girls’ (and not in the quirky, attention seeking way) is quite common in autistic girls (and women). Being autistic in general can make you feel like you don’t fit in, that you’re different to everyone around you. I didn’t ‘feel’ like a girl, because the girls around me felt so alien to me. I didn’t relate to them at all. In my early teens, I used to look at them like odd sheep, all with the same hair, clothes, bags etc. They were the weird ones. But by my mid-to-late teens, I felt like the weird one. I didn’t fit in. I didn’t feel like a ‘normal’ girl. It is easy to see how, when introduced to trans ideology, it would be so easy for me to latch onto it, convincing myself that I ‘should’ have been a boy.

My peer group didn’t help. It’s not easy, being an atypical teen. I was told to ‘stay in my gender’, amongst other hurtful things. I couldn’t make friends with girls, and I didn’t feel like I could fit in with my guy friends, because I wasn’t one of them. I wanted to dress ‘like a boy’ and act ‘like a boy’, without strange looks, bullying or criticism from my college classmates. Sadly, it didn’t seem possible. It felt like the only way I could live how I wanted was to become male.

Period of Dysphoria

My period of acute gender dysphoria began in September 2009, 3.5 months short of my 18th birthday. It was all-encompassing. I felt like I needed to transition NOW to ease my dysphoria, otherwise I would surely end up committing suicide. It didn’t take long to come out to my then-boyfriend, my mother, and some of my friends. It was easily one of the worst periods of my life. I wouldn’t have listened to anyone who told me that I was wrong about how I felt. I was self-harming daily. The urges to end my life were intrusive. I really did feel like I was just surviving day-to-day, trying to stave off the urges to commit suicide by imagining a future where I’d be on hormones and have surgery. A future where I would feel like myself. My mental state ended with my mother telling me that I was ‘fucked up’ and ‘not welcome’ under her roof until I’d had psychiatric help. (My mother was emotionally abusive and we haven’t been on speaking terms since this happened, but that’s another story.)

I cut my hair very short, and I started to dress more ‘like a boy’ than I ever had previously. I’d never been entirely comfortable with my body, but now I couldn’t stand it. I’d sleep in boxers, but the presence of my breasts made me want to die. Transition, and surviving long enough to get that far, was the only thing on my mind.

My suicidal feelings lifted a bit after my mother kicked me out, and I went to live with my dad. Her emotional abuse undoubtedly contributed to my depression. The gender dysphoria persisted for about a month after that. It actually dissipated on night, along with my depression, almost like magic. I was home alone, and my plan was to get into the bathtub with my self-harm blade, and cut myself deeply, with the intent of bleeding out. Instead, I felt my depression and my dysphoria lift, and I got out of the bath feeling ‘female’ again. The next day, I went shopping and bought myself some feminine clothes. There was definitely some kind of shift that happened inside of me that night, one that I’m still not able to explain.

I still occasionally feel ‘male’ even to this day. But it’s a feeling that I can easily shake. With age has come the ability to not care what people think of how I dress or how I behave. I now accept my body for what it is, and I no longer believe my body parts or my chromosomes should have any impact on how I should live my life. I am an adult human female, but by no means do I have to act like a stereotype.

The Depo Shot

One thing that has always stood out to me, is the fact that the onset of my gender dysphoria was exactly around the time I was weaning off the depo contraceptive injection. I’d only had one injection (intended to last 3 months) but the side effects were too much for me to handle, so I opted not to get the next shot when it was due. Throughout my gender dysphoria, my hormones were still messed up from the shot. I know this because I wrote in my transition journal that my period was late, and I was worried I may be pregnant, and about the impact that that would have on my dysphoria.

David Ludden Ph.D. at Psychology Today describes Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria as occurring in adolescence, the overwhelming majority of which are females who had experienced no signs of dysphoria prior to puberty. It makes me wonder just how many of them experienced gender dysphoria starting around the time they started hormonal contraceptives. It’s by no means something I’ve studied, it’s just a thought that I’ve never been able to shake. If anyone has any relevant experience, I’d love for you to comment below, or to contact me on Xwitter.

Experience With Hormone Blockers

In my late 20s, I sought out treatment for Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This led to me being administed Zoladex, a GnRH Analogue (gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist) to stop my menstrual cycles. It is also referred to as chemical menopause.

GnRH Analogues are also used as puberty blockers for children with gender dysphoria. I want to share why I, as someone who has actually been on this medication, finds this practice to be horrific.

The side effects of Zoladex can be brutal. I felt so horribly depressed and suicidal in just the one month I stayed on it that I knew I couldn’t let myself have another injection. I felt so awful about myself – my self esteem was through the floor. Life felt pointless. That month was very difficult to survive. The thought of pre-pubescent children being given these very powerful medications chills me. Depression is listed as a side effect on the patient leaflet. Other side effects include loss of bone density leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis, reduced heart function, blood clots, liver problems and psychosis.

Where I’m At Now

How do I see gender now? I suppose I would call myself a gender atheist. I am now comfortable with the fact that how I choose to present myself to the world has nothing to do with what genitals I have. I am an adult human female, but by no means do I have to act like a stereotype.

I used to be a trans ally, even until very recently. However, the way things are going with the Trans Radical Activist community has me concerned. As a feminist, I despise the fact that trans-identified males are taking away from women at every turn. In sports, in private spaces, even in prisons and women’s shelters. As a woman who has been abused, I do not want men accepted into places where I am vulnerable, such as public bathrooms. Women have fought hard over many years for their safety and rights. I find it horrific to see those rights and safe spaces being ripped away by men who want to play dress-up. Women have always been oppressed. Only now, men are allowed to dress up as us, and oppress us further. If we have anything to say about it, if we are uncomfortable, we are labelled as bigots, TERFs, and often faced with violence and death threats.

The damage the trans community are doing to the LGB community is also very apparent. LGB people have fought for acceptance and the right to live peacefully for years. Their work is now being undone by garish, loud and violent trans-identified males, who have tarnished the Pride flag with their behaviour. Lesbians are being called bigots now because they refuse to sleep with trans-identified men. #LGBwithouttheT is now trending more than ever. I do hope that LGB people can protect the progress they have made, before too much damage has been done to their reputation.

The reaction from trans people to my speaking out as a desister has been… Interesting, to say the least. These are the same people who would have told me, aged 17, that if I felt like I was trans, then I was trans. The same people who would shout from the rooftops that only an individual gets to say what their gender identity is, and anyone who questions it is a bigot. Those people now tell me that I was ‘never really trans’, which is a phrase often used to silence desisters and detransitioners. It seems that these trans activists believe that anyone who desists or detransitions was ‘never really trans to start with’, a logic would conveniently put the detransition rate of actual trans people at 0%. I’ve also been told (just yesterday, actually) that I wasn’t a real person, and that my Xwitter account was fake, created just to discredit and harass trans people (despite my profile being 3 years old, and me mostly posting about cats). Trans-identified people are determined not to acknowledge the existence of desisters and detransitioners, so much so that they will deny what is right in front of them.

Quotes From My Transition Diary

I want to finish with some quotes from my Transition Journal. I hope that these will give some insight as to what went on in my head, as a 17-year-old autistic ‘trans’ kid.

‘I felt like I should have been dressed like all of the other guys there, and just didn’t feel right dressed as a girl. And the more masculine I dress, the more comfortable I feel. I wore a shirt and tie to college the other day and felt great until people started questioning me. And it feels like the only way I can be myself without being questioned is by being a boy… Which is fucking scary.

My entire life I’ve never worn make-up wilfully. I dressed entirely like a boy from the age of 14. I cut my hair short in January. All of this just makes me feel so much more comfortable. And it’s so hard making friends because they girls don’t like me and the guys don’t really understand why I am as I am. I’ve been told “stay in your own gender” and other things but I really just do what I feel comfortable with. I feel like everything would be so much fucking easier and so fucking right if I was a boy. I’d just be able to fit in fine, be friends with who I want, wear whatever I want, without being fucking questioned every step of the way.

‘I’m not a girl. Just looking at me – how could anyone have watched me grow up and think I was meant to be female? I’ve never been girly, I’ve never wanted to wear skirts or dresses or make-up… I’ve always wanted to play the drums and make male friends and play football… I remember wanting to be on the school football team in year 4 and in year 7, and always hating the idea of being on a girls team. An all-girls school has always sounded like a personal hell to me, and I always hated doing girls sports in PE. I remember wanting to join the boys PE class, too. It’s always been there, I’ve just never been conscious of it until recently.’

Recommended Reading

Trans by Helen Joyce
Material Girls by Kathleen Stock
Feminism for Women by Julie Bindel
Time To Think by Hannah Barnes

4 thoughts on “From Trans to TERF: My experience as a desister

  1. Well how do you get more to also realize that trans in enforcing stereotypes and actually setting women back? They treat men and women as just walking homrones where you can just pick what you want and be that. Instead of treating everyone as equal in presentation and role they treat man as masculine and woman as feminine. Who said man = masc and woman = fem? How about instead creating more intermixed options, clothes without sexed labeling, etc? Why as many people transition if they felt they just could live their life as they wanted regardless being considred male or female? I feel trans has set everything back by enforcing stereotypes and hope we break this.

    1. I absolutely agree with all of this. As is very clear to me now, back when I was a teenager I really didn’t feel like I could be who I wanted to be, whilst being female. My social group was responsible for a lot of that, as was my mother. It’s a real shame.

      1. Thank you for your powerful words. My 18 year old autistic son is struggling with his gender identity. He believes that because he isn’t comfortable in his body that transitioning is the answer. He just doesn’t understand that it’s doing nothing more than putting a temporary bandaid on the issue. He doesn’t fit in and struggles socially. That is what we have to work on. And it has taken a huge toll on his how he feels about himself. In some ways, I feel like I’ve failed him. I worked d worked with him to get where he needs to be academically but I didnt put enough emphasis on his social well being.

        1. I’m so sorry to hear this. It is awful to see other autistics going through the same struggles I did. I’m very fortunate that I didn’t reach the point where I did any irreversible damage to my body but sadly it isn’t the same for all autistic kids. I hope for both of your sake he is able to come around the accepting himself soon.

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