Q&A With Willow

Age 22, Female

USA

Interviewed February 2022

 

Early Life, Gender Identity, and Transition

What were some messages about men and women, or about gender expression and sexuality, that you received in your early life, before identifying as transgender? What were your beliefs about those things?

I was not allowed to play with legos, lincoln logs, etc because they were “boy’s toys,” despite how desperately i wanted them. I liked to play with boys (mainly because of the “action packed” type of play they had, sword fights, nerd guns, building forts, etc as opposed to playing house or dolls or dress up) but always felt alienated and excluded due to my gender. I was pushed to wear dresses and skirts and “act like a lady” in them and never quite felt comfortable.

How did you learn about transgender identity, gender dysphoria, and transition? What do you think drew you to those concepts?

Friends, the internet. My friend group was all trans/queer, and my boyfriend at the time was trans. I think I felt pushed to fit in, and my friends’ descriptions of dysphoria rang familiar to me, as I struggled with an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and sexual trauma. tldr; wanted to fit in and also thought that maybe my mental health struggles were rooted in my gender identity.

What sources (friends, specific websites, specific social media sites, therapists, books, etc) did you rely on the most for information on how a person can figure out if they are transgender? What thoughts, feelings, or internal experiences did these sources say were evidence that a person is trans?

My friends and trans boyfriend. Boyfriend was especially encouraging of me coming to the conclusion that I must be trans- so much so that he actively hated my best friend, who was also trans, who thought that i most definitely was mistaken and definitely wasn’t trans.

What thoughts, feelings, or internal experiences did you have that you believed were evidence that you were transgender? What do you believe now about the origins of those thoughts and feelings?

“Liked to wear boy’s clothes and play with boys as a kid” < I just didn’t like dolls and dresses. “Vehemently hated my breasts and everything about my figure that made me feminine” < Body dysmorphia from ED (eating disorder) and hatred of my body due to the sexual harrassment/trauma I received when going through an early puberty at age 11-12.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting to wonder whether they are transgender, or starting to wonder whether they should transition?

Seek non-affirming therapy before gender therapy. Flesh out any and all childhood trauma and just trauma in general. Address and treat any and all other mental health issues (ESPECIALLY EATING DISORDERS). Try to imagine yourself in the future as the opposite sex- can you even picture it? Do you see yourself as the opposite sex naturally or is it something you “wish” for or force? Do you genuinely believe yourself and have always believed yourself to be this gender, or do you just WISH you were?

 

Therapy Before and During Transition

Did you work with a therapist while considering transition, or during your transition? What are some things the therapist said or did that was helpful, and what was unhelpful? Do you think there is something that a therapist could have said or done that would have led to a better outcome for you?

Saw therapists for other mental health issues and was immediately referred to a gender therapist the second I stated I was considering transition. Continued to see ED (eating disorder) therapist, who treated me but never addressed transition. Gender therapist didn’t say much. Just gave me a bunch of “evaluation” excercises. I think if she had challenged me more or genuinely said she didn’t believe I was trans (she admitted when I detransed that she had a feeling I wasn’t), I would have thought it through more.

Did you receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and what was that process like? What beliefs did you have about what your diagnosis meant, and what did your therapist communicate to you about the diagnosis?

I was very truscum. The diagnosis was just a means to an end to get my testosterone, and eventually top surgery. All the evaluations I received that led to my diagnosis, I was coached by other trans friends to answer “correctly” on. I would oftentimes draw from their words/words I’d read online in my responses.

What advice would you give to someone with gender dysphoria who is working with a therapist?

Your therapist should challenge you- any therapist should, no matter what they’re addressing. It’s what helps you grow. If all your therapist is doing is affirming you and giving platitudes like “oh that sucks” and “lets try these calming excercises” they’re not a good therapist.

What advice would you give to a therapist who is working with a patient with gender dysphoria?

Encourage the patient to get to the root of what is causing their gender dysphoria. If their feelings of being another gender started only as a teenager/after the idea got planted in their head, that is a huge red flag, and they are almost definitely not trans. The people I know who have had the most success with transition have felt as if they were the opposite sex practically all their lives, even as a small child. If the thoughts are only relatively recent, they came from something else.

 

Detransitioning

When did you first start to question your trans identity or consider detransitioning? What factors do you think led you to no longer identify as trans?

April 2020, when i was 20 years old, almost exactly one year after i started testosterone. I had just broken up with my trans boyfriend, who I’d been with and “transitioned” with for the past 4-5 years in October of 2019. Drifted apart from my friend group after graduating in 2018. With both his influence and the influence of my trans friend group gone, and me now alone in the “real” adult world, the identity I constructed for myself as a coping mechanism and a way to fit in started to unravel.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting to wonder whether they should detransition?

if you’re considering detransition, stop your HRT (hormone replacement therapy) now. You can always pick it back up again if you change your mind, but every dose you take is another step forward that you can’t undo. …but also, if you’re considering it, you probably should. You wouldn’t be considering it at all if you were secure in your identity.

What are some challenges you faced as part of detransitioning, and how did you support yourself in overcoming those challenges? Did you have support from others?

I became incredibly depressed and completely broke down. I was suicidal. I relapsed into anorexia, bulimia, and self harm. I couldn’t cope with what i’d done to my body and the changes I could never reverse. I was almost admitted to a psych ward. I stopped seeing my gender therapist and sought out a new therapist. She helped me through the worst of detransition and continues to help me today.

What advice would you give to someone who is detransitioning?

it only gets better with time. Seek out therapy and try to focus on the inner you.

Is there anything especially challenging or rewarding about life as a detransitioned person? How do you support yourself through those challenges, and how do you take advantage of the rewarding aspects, if any?

I now experience… real dysphoria about my voice and the small bit of facial hair i grow. I feel completely panicked leaving the house without makeup or earrings because I like my hair short and I’m terrified of being mistaken for a man. I have body dysmorphia that i look too manly, top heavy with wide shoulders and neck. I try not to think about it or dwell on it. I don’t know if it’s at all rewarding. I have a better understanding of myself and who I am?

What advice would you give to someone who is working on building a good life after detransitioning?

I don’t know. Still working on that myself.

 

Therapy Before, During, and After Detransition

Did you work with a therapist while considering detransition, or during your detransition? What are some things the therapist said or did that was helpful, and what was unhelpful? Do you think there is something that a therapist could have said or done that would have led to a better outcome for you?

Yes, she encouraged me to seek out clothing, hobbies, activities that helped me express myself and basically find my… true identity?

What advice would you give to someone who is detransitioning, or considering detransitioning, who is working with a therapist?

not sure

What advice would you give to a therapist who is working with a patient who is detransitioning, or considering detransitioning?

not sure