Red Flags and Radicals: A Detransitioner’s Response to the Unhappiness of Andrea Long Chu
Carey Callahan

Responding to CC’s “Red Flags and Radicals”

First off, allow me to state that I truly believe these stories from people presenting the “other side” are not only important, but essential in order to keep our feet on the ground, so to speak; the whisper in our ear that reminds us of our mortality. I also welcome any and all testing of my convictions and decisions I’ve made that indeed changed my life; as much now as when I transitioned back in 1988. Believe me when I say that no one has been more critical, a tougher zero-tolerant judge, than my own self in regards to my journey to authenticity.

CC presents as “formerly trans”, but de-transitioned thanks to “red flags” that alerted her to “our (her?) fantasies, our (her?)misunderstandings, our masochism, and our obnoxious relational habits”, which when taken for the candid and brave admissions they most certainly appear, cannot help but guide any informed reader able to read between the lines to acknowledge the distinct possibility that CC was not trans to begin with. A butch lesbian perhaps, but not trans, and the gender dysphoria she speaks of having was possibly the result of mixed signals brought on by her “red flags” above-mentioned.

I also acknowledge as fact that not everyone experiences GD at the same level of intensity, although it has been proven that this intensity increases with age. Perhaps CC will come back to where she was in a few years or even decades and begin another transition. No one, and clearly not CC from the sounds of it, can know for certain what the future has in store for her, and I will not waste time on conjecture as it is her life to live.

I view the present state of the healthcare system (and every country is different) in regards to treatment for trans folk, as being under the gun to catch up with the rising demand for treatment. Why is this, one may ask? Well, one thing that the recently accelerating and quite favorable media presence for trans women (and girls) and trans men (and boys) is generating is an air of almost make-believe certainty that the wicked witch is gone and “it’s safe to come out now”! Well, is it really? Our detractors and haters have untold amounts of money to fling about… I’ll bet Andrea Chu got at least $2K for her latest piece of self-pitying and melodramatic inaccuracies that she appears to state we all share. We have the Donald in the WH, who got there pretending to and actually running on a platform of LGBT protections when in fact the opposite was ever-present in his mind, and upon his presidency the transphobic lunatics were essentially given a green light and thoughtless violence toward trans folk is ever-increasing as a result.

Even in Canada, where I live, the healthcare system is being stretched to breaking because of the vast number of people believing it’s safe to come out. In the city in which I live, as I’m quite active in the LGBTQ+ community and belong to several groups and foundations, I’ve seen people as old as 65 deciding to follow their dream of transition as they’ve seen others their age do on Youtube and even mainstream media. I’m also involved with groups that meet with city officials and governing bodies in order to find affordable and safe housing for LGBTQ+ seniors. This is not going away anytime soon, believe me.

Despite the strain on the medical system, I believe (as I always have) that medical treatment for transgender individuals should be covered under medical plans. Red flag time, CC? Actually no, because I also believe that those seeking medical/surgical transition (whether HRT, puberty blockers, top or bottom surgery, whatever) should be thoroughly attended upon by learned professionals who can determine, and make recommendations based on their findings, as to the extent to which medical/surgical intervention may help alleviate a person’s GD, and even whether such a diagnosis is present and evident. This is NOT gatekeeping. Believe me, I know gatekeeping having had friends attend the Clarke Institute in Toronto back in the 80’s under the gentle ministrations of Zucker and his ilk, who not only used his position and his patients recklessly in order to formulate and uphold his ridiculous theories of “being trans” and the ways they thought they could “cure” such, but to only let those through the “gate” who would most likely disappear (given their ability to “pass”) and not cause undue embarrassment for the clinic, which would allow him time to prepare his earth-shaking treatises and get his name in all the important papers on the subject. His theories and practices are now just one toss away from the place that houses Blanchard’s theories. Anyway, I was fortunate enough to be able to squeak through and, at the “suggestion” as to my best option for my future from all the therapists, psychs and others treating me, disappear into society. This advice I did follow… for 30 years! But hey, I’m back, and perhaps a tad wiser than before… and I really did miss so very much my friends from the LGBTQ+ community from whom I severed myself back in the ‘80’s at the advice of the gatekeepers.

So, not only was the gatekeeping model disastrous for thousands of GD sufferers (and my former loving friendships), but now it appears the opposite is equally so. People (perhaps in the same boat as CC herein) seem to be rushed through whatever system is presently in place in most US centres without thought as to the possibility of other, related diagnoses being the cause of their discomfort. In England, I understand all one has to say is that “I’m a woman” and you get a GRC card stamped (or whatever they have) with that “credential”, and again, no thought at all as to the veracity of such claims or even a psychologist’s recommendation! It, understandably, has more than a few people up in arms over there.

I’ve met a couple of de-trans here in the city who have attended at and advised at least one of the support groups I’ve attended (as mentor) as to their reasons for thinking they were trans in the first place AND, most importantly, their reasons for de-transing. I firmly believe, despite the fervent objections of a few of the more, shall we say, unstable members of the support group, that hearing the “other, dark side” of transition is very important in that, should we come through the ordeal (and it is truly dreadful to think we could be fooling ourselves) unscathed and undeterred in our transness, we will be so much more confident in making our decisions, more educated and even thankful for realizing there have been mistakes made by people like us because, well… we’re all just people, and prone to mistakes. Every one of us.

Therefore, I completely agree with CC in that it’s more than merely desirous to engage in conversations with de-trans folk, I believe it’s absolutely necessary in order to either cement our convictions or perhaps (on an individual basis) find things in common with other de-trans folk and ward off unnecessary treatment that may not be reversible and for which those NOT actually being trans will probably live to regret.

I’m not sure why, except to possibly bolster and augment the reasonableness behind her decision to de-trans (hey, we believe you… you’re not the only one!), CC spends so much time on stats as they can not only be misleading and subject to all manner of interpretations, but in the realm of trans and de-trans, time and time again the “facts and stats” have been proven to be erroneous. I mean, 10 years ago I would never have participated in any survey, even as an alumni of the Vancouver GDC and paid big $ to do so, and my account would most certainly have bolstered most if not all of the “positive” aspects of transitioning.

I’m very sorry to hear about CC being denied or even uninvited to speak on panels because the subject was too “controversial”. I don’t believe “ANY voices should be silenced regarding this or any LGBTQ+ topic, save those of the Nazis (no one really likes those guys). I also believe the terfs (sorry, no slur intended); rather, the gender critical, HAVE to have a part and a voice in all discussions henceforth.

I also tend to agree with CC concerning the masochistic nature of Ms. Chu and the “permanent wound” she can now look forward to getting having spent untold amounts of money to achieve (sigh). Not one person, that I’ve seen to date, has had the gumption or nerve to provide an alternative conjecture as to why Ms. Chu is so very “down” and just plain sad about it all. From my own perspective then: 5 years ago, after I had worked for over 25 years in law firms sitting at my desk mostly and typing all manner of Court documents, etc., I was also slowly (like the boiled frog analogy) gaining weight and got to be over 250 pounds, but I hid it well (from others) under baggy outfits and (from myself) in the form of fat denial. In the course of a summer (2012) during which I took a “vacation” (ok, I semi-retired until just last year)… I lost 80 pounds, and have kept it off since. Absolutely everything has improved: my happiness, my health generally, my sex life, my outlook, the clothes I can wear, everything. I look at Ms. Chu and the way she has to sit in that chair and I wonder whether she may benefit from eating a few less sandwiches, donuts, junk food or whatever she is currently stuffing herself with. I certainly don’t mean to downplay the suicidal indicators CC mentions that have nothing whatsoever to do with one’s weight, but wonder whether such (as well as Ms. Chu’s histrionic display of “poor, downtrodden her”) are mere symptoms, and that some underlying cause yet to be determined is at fault. Sure, I also understand that some people are born with metabolisms that either work too well or not enough. Hey, there are treatments for such.

Being trans is just one aspect of our lives, and in no way either contributes to or saves us from experiencing all the other things people are prone to suffer: mental illness, eating disorders, etc etc. I mean, first and foremost I’m a musician, then a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a paralegal… being trans is way down the list. I believe it entirely possible Ms. Chu may have serious problems other than being trans.

Would this be sufficient to cause Ms. Chu to be “not rational” as CC states? Would it be sufficient reason for Ms. Chu to appear to toss us all under the bus of public opinion? I’ve already seen a few articles from the ridiculous religious right that are completely based on her “Unhappy New Vagina” tale, as well as one from the dude who penned that ridiculous “Harry/Sally” tripe, taking Ms. Chu’s candid observations and admissions and making the mental (certainly fitting) leap to the conclusion that none of us trans folk would ever benefit or achieve any measure of happiness from GAS. They love her! She’s going to be cover girl on their next edition of their best little god-fearing, proselytizing zines. Ms. Chu, I’ve come to understand, has always been on the ragged edge; a contentious and fringe element of dissention and controversy, and it’s extremely telling that the NYT would run such an irresponsible and demonstrably erroneous (on so many fronts) piece at this particular time in history. I foretell an end run against our LGBTQ+ movement in the very near future (if not already happening) with the money and backing of God’s own purse. We have not heard the last of this one.

As a baby trans, I hung out in Vancouver’s West End, and though we had queer people who could be described as radical, I did not find other trans or queer folk I met characterizing our caregivers as controlling or who would “express a need to control rooted in basic hostility”. Perhaps times have changed. We adored our doctors (I still send a card at Christmas to my former GP) and held our psychs in great esteem. The praise, hugs and kisses they got when our assessments came through must have made their jobs so fulfilling. Then, of course, we would disappear once we got what we wanted.

Despite a “gatekeeping” mentality to the entire system back then, I do not believe we were ever counselled to “act out whatever current impulses are strongest” as opposed to taking personal responsibility for our transitions. Certainly Vancouver is not Philadelphia, but a person would not be crazy to imagine the latter would be years ahead of the former in relation to affirmative care. What CC is describing must be a subgroup within the mainstream of the trans/queer scene, and those that peopled such must have been one step away from joining some cult. CC at least had the good sense to not be completely persuaded by such reckless philosophies (if you can call it that), and kudos to her for bringing this to everyone’s attention in as much as the readers, some of whom may be just starting or considering their own transitions, may steer clear of such fringe groups, no matter how attractive they may appear. For myself, as my transition was an extremely personal experience, I had a lot of friends, but I never actually joined any “trans” group, assembly of queers or even spent much time in the support groups, but hey, not everyone is like me, and some really benefit from having a peer group to guide them.

Longstanding patterns of identity diffusion, social skills deficits, struggles with emotion regulation…” and may I add inability to keep jobs, friends, money; as well as lack of ambition; a lack of desire for intimate relations; extreme drug and/or alcohol abuse; criminal activity; poor attention at school, social withdrawal due to anxiety over cross-dressing, etc, etc… what can I say? These are hallmarks to being GD, but CC is stating that these are red flags that indicate what? Things other than GD? As for twisting the readers’ hearts at the mention of “loved ones” wringing their hands at all these “red flags”: theatrics at best.

Oh ya, fyi CC: Jesse Singal is a journalist, and has no science degree nor, as far as I can tell, does he utilize any actual science as a basis for his scribbling about trans issues about which he knows very little, but is taken as an authority by everyone seeking alternative answers for being trans and caring for trans’ health outside of affirmative action. The right loves him, and he is admittedly cute…, but his “When Children Say They’re Trans” is just so much BS (I’ll save that critique after I’ve read the absolute thousands of folk opposed to his oversimplifications and dime store rhetoric).

To wind up, CC, de-transitioners are exactly why informed consent is necessary and why we have to divest our right to sue the doctors should something go wrong or we have regrets or a million other reasons we can’t imagine right now. You may find a doctor in the Philippines who will operate on someone without a waiver, but in North America? Unlikely, as it was back in the ‘80’s, today and in the foreseeable future.

As for the transition process itself, though we are all different and experience transness differently, one thing remains constant: that is, in order to live our authentic lives, we must be prepared to lose everything… family, friends, jobs… and no amount of “getting a handle on your patterns” or preparation of any kind other than for your basic necessities is going to really help. There are just too many variables, and friends’ and family’s emotional responses will make it impossible to even conceive of trying to plan it all out. Also, we are NOT responsible for others’ reactions to what is life-saving affirmation for us (well, some of us, CC). I do not under any circumstances think that we are being selfish by thinking of our own happiness, and if the people in our lives think otherwise, feel free to show them the door as they will weigh you down and you will drown while trying to satisfy your present needs and their needs as well, and more often than not, they WILL conflict. I’m saying this to the other readers, the ones who are at the beginning of their journey toward their authentic selves. Seriously, think of yourself and what you need foremost. Your friends and family with either support you or not. If not, they are dead weight and will have shown their true colours, something which will be made evident in the future under different circumstances. Don’t think their lack of support will be merely over this one issue.

CC, I’m not sure your analogy of getting a face tattoo can be held by any serious-minded person to be commensurate with the life-affirming need to transition. With some folk, I suppose, it can be analogous, and I have run into folk who feel they can transition from one to another overnight, and then back the following day. How do I feel about that? I’ll leave such critique for another day and another mood, less acerbic.

Thank you for such a candid look into your life, and for what it’s worth, I believe you made the right decision. I believe your intentions were good in writing this article, and I hope you don’t consider I’ve been over-critical of you or your thought processes.