Change Your World-NOT your Body

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why I HAVEN'T Transitioned by Karin Felicitas

I am a middle-aged German woman. Last year, I began to think about my sexuality more deeply and intensively than ever before. Part of this process was that I systematically researched information on transgenderism and FTMs online, reading German and English websites and watching on Youtube a number of self-presentations by young transitioners, and a few by middle-aged FTMs. I contacted transgender people – individuals, groups, and organizations – in the 3-dimensional world and became interested in ''binding'' techniques and the medical details of taking ''T'' and ''gender reassignment''surgery. I researched doctors and other therapists concerned with ''gender dysphoria'' in my vicinity and had an initial consultation with one of them. All these activities were driven by my trying to figure out whether transitioning could be an option for me, without reflecting on the concept or its political implications.

Eventually, I stumbled across ''The Dirt from Dirt'' – and immersed myself into this blog, for what I read immediately resonated with me. Before long, I found the firm and unequivocal critique of transgenderism, in general, and of the concept of transitioning, of being ''born in the wrong body,'' in particular, expressed here to be justified. It got me to critically review my self-image as a woman, specifically my poor body image which had deeply distressed me since my teenage years, casting a shadow over my social life, my relationships with men and women alike. Reading Dirt and other feminists such as Sheila Jeffrey, I suddenly realized that a feminist perspective (of any school or approach) had been radically absent from my life; an absence which, I have come to think, is typical of internalized misogynyIn a society deeply entrenched in misogyny and sexism, it now appears to me almost inevitable that a girl would become alienated from herself, her body, and from other women. The ultimate manifestation of such self-alienation is the feeling that one is ''really'' a man; the only antidote to it is feminism, that is, a critical reflection on how one's own life as a woman has been shaped by living in a world none of the societies of which is governed by moral equality of men and women. 

There are several good reasons to reject transitioning, not the least important one being the serious health issues involved. However, the only thing that in my view has the power to get women who suffer severe body dysphoria to reconsider the alleged medical solution is an awakening or growing political awareness of their own internalized misogyny and lezbophobia, an awareness in the light of which transitioning makes no sense. In her article, ''Transgender Activism, '' Journal of Lesbian Studies, 1:3-4, 55-74 (1997), Sheila Jeffreys writes, contrary to the idea that the feeling of being ''born in the wrong body'' cannot be successfully addressed therapeutically otherwise than through ''gender reassignment'' treatment:
''Counselling is possible to encourage clients to take a more political approach to their situation and to realize that they can rebel against the constraints of a prescribed gender role, and relate to their own sex in their native bodies.. '' (70)

I agree but have to say that my personal, though not necessarily representative, experiences with explicitly ''feminist therapy'' as well as with gay & lesbian counselling has been that of an entirely uncritical attitude towards transgendersim. However, this cannot come as a surprise, given that transgenderism has been embraced by the gay and lesbian rights movement, as is shown not only but especially by the acronym by which that movement is widely known: LGBT. Therapists and counselors are practitioners whose work is informed by concepts that have been formulated not by them themselves, but by theorists, generally academics, and the critique of which is the theorists' job, it cannot be expected from the practitioners. The treatment of clients or patients diagnosed with ''gender identity disorder'' will change to the extent to which this diagnosis gets challenged conceptually.

Karin Felicitas
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6 comments:

  1. Its so good that you considered the issue from all sides before doing anything drastic and permanent that could harm you. Yes, here in my country it is all Butch/Femme/Trans and we are being are being lumped in together more and more. I don't want to support the needless butchering and medicating of women's bodies for profit & that is how transitioning seems to me. I also wonder what non gender conforming women do in some developing countries where the money & treatments might not be available? Is this just something we are doing because we can? Is it just providing a niche market for more doctors and specilalists? It may seem harsh, but my Grandma used to say "a fool & his/her money are easily parted".

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  2. Great post Karin, very well written with many interesting points to think about. Dirt is a real godsend.

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  3. Since I begun tackling transgenderism, it has become increasingly clear to me that there is an almost complete absence of any critical reflection on the concept of ''trans''; instead, there is utter confusion, coupled with caution not to engage in discrimination against anyone making an identity claim that is, or is taken to be, at odds with heteronormativity. Unfortunately, what gets lost in this anxious political correctness is that refusing to critique trans ideology in the light of its political implications entails letting down those kids who are too distressed and too young to be able to critically reflect on it, surrendering them to the male medical machine and their homophobic parents who would rather see their daughters have their bodies mutilated in order to become ''normal boys'' than accept that they like girls.

    My mature age did not prevent me from being susceptible to the epidemic of FTM euphoria on Youtube; I needed a little help from a feminist activist whose firm, unequivocal, and well-founded rejection of the concept of transitioning has (I use this phrase sparingly) opened my eyes. Thanks, Dirt.

    Karin Felicitas

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  4. Karin, thank you for this very insightful post and personal account of your life.

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  5. I think it's a good idea to promote that just because you have gender identify issues or body dysphoria, it doesn't automatically mean you're transgender. However, on the other hand, there's no reason to shove your ideas down someone's throat (e.g. posting other people's info from youtube) and have them agree with you when they obviously don't. How about trying a less aggressive and criticism approach? This way, people won't come off on your idea as transphobic.

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  6. Hi, I haven't posted in a while. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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