Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thoughts on De-transition and Suicide

Recently, I was reading a very detailed story about the life of Christine Daniels here and I was surprised to read that she had taken the same suicide method I had tried almost a year ago.

I believe there is no lack of correlation between Christine's de-transition back to 'Mike Penner' and her suicide. I can relate to a lot of what she went through (as can many who go through transition). She received a lot of support, especially at first but where there is support, there will always be criticism too.

The article talks about many cases where Christine was referred to as 'a man in a dress', something all of us fear to be recognized as. Her divorce was also talked about and how painful that was for her. She also was apparently set to have a photo shoot for Vanity Fair but from what the article says, it seems it might be plausible that the photographer was intent on portraying Christine as the dreaded "man in a dress". She realized this during the shoot and had to really fight to make sure Vanity Fair didn't publish it. On another note, apparently Christine kept a blog and she talked a lot about makeup and hair and clothes. The article talks about how she was severely criticized for this because other trans women thought she should be talking more about how it felt so much better to be real.

I'm not sure why I am choosing to write about Christine. I think it's because I have had similar experiences. I have missed my wife and my family, I've been referred to as a 'man in a dress' by many and many more think it and will continue to think that even after I've had surgery. I've also been criticized by people from within the trans community for the speed of my transition. I realize I'm not a celebrity and that if I was, I would probably get much more hate mail.

One thing I have come to realize because of this is that we really need concentrate less on criticizing others and more on supporting them. It's a good rule to live by in general but in the trans community, I think it's even more important. Anyway, I won't get on a soapbox here, I just wanted to mention that shortly.

One thing I will say about Christine: I think it's very clear that she didn't commit suicide or even de-transition because being Christine wasn't the right thing to do which many people might write it off as, if they haven't read the story closely at all. Instead, various circumstances that many of us go through, such as divorce, criticism, and general non-acceptance were the cause.

Recently, a transgender friend of mine that I knew online, posted a video crying saying she was going to de-transition. This was within weeks of her surgery too. None of us know why, it's really a huge shock to all of us. I cried when I watched the video because she was in so much pain.

I can directly relate to that pain as I have had fleeting thoughts of de-transitioning just to feel my family's love again, no other reason. Of course thoughts like that, of being a boy again, are much too painful to even try to entertain, as they tended to point me to back to suicide again. It's helped continue to push me along my path because I really do know who I am now and any other option is death.

To conclude, I just wanted to say two things:
#1 - Christine, I will always remember you as the beautiful woman that tried to be herself.
#2 - Sara, I hope you are not headed down a similar route but I will support any decision you make, including de-transition. Feel free to contact me always!


Trinity Annabelle said...

People actually criticize you for the speed of your transition? That's... wow. I actually had some of the opposite feelings - I was a little jealous that you were courageous enough and secure enough with yourself that you could blast through everything so quickly! I was able to gain a lot of encouragement from you, too, to get myself out there, and quit waffling around, and DO IT. And from all I can see, from your vlogs and your writings, it seems like you've made a pretty successful transition, and you seem very happy in your new role. So you know what? Rock on, Debra! Yaay for you! The heck with those nay-sayers!

But, each person's path his hir own, and no two are required to be the same, no matter what anybody says. I think those who say "you're doing it wrong" need to work on their own insecurity. We don't do this to make someone else happy, we do this only to make ourselves happy. The journeys we make are not for the faint of heart, nor are they for someone who is unwilling to closely examine hir own life and hir own needs. As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. Well, I should hope that the entirety of us have spent a LOT of time doing just that. But perhaps I'm wrong.

Some people find great happiness on the other side of their transition, and it seems that some find only more pain. I don't think any of us know for sure what it will be like when we get to the end of our path, and for some, it's not so much better than when we started. Many of us lose so much, and it is up to each of us to weigh what we have lost against what we have gained with the lives we seek to lead.

Jenn said...

I read the same article and came to the same conclusion as you did, becoming Christine did not cause her suicide. In fact, from what I gathered in the article, she seemed most content when she was living life as Christine. I think she ran into the same problem that many of us who contemplate transition experience at one point or another. We cannot be happy remaining in our original gender, but we feel we cannot be happy with our loved ones in our lives. This was the exact dilemma I faced several years ago. I knew that I had to transition in order to find personal happiness. However, if my transition drove my wife away, could I be truly happy? I love more than I can ever describe and I put off discussion of transition for a few years because I thought even the conversation would be too much. In the end, I decided I wasn't being the partner she deserved if I wasn't being true to myself and giving her all of me. If she couldn't handle it and had to leave, I would accept that and wish her all the happiness she deserves. Luckily for me, she thought long and hard about her feelings toward me starting transition and ultimately decided she would rather have a female me than no me at all.
But I can see how Christine found herself in such a bad place. You have to weigh your own happiness against what you think your loved ones want. It's not an easy decision, and unfortunately, it doesn't always turn out a positive as it has for me.

Eli J├╝rgen said...

That was really good to read. Thank you for that.

Lucy Melford said...

We are lifelong prisoners until we dare to transition, then many around us will claim to be the victims of our 'selfishness'. They will put pressure on us to stay as we always were, because that's how they are most comfortable, and yet that ignores our own feelings. So for us a see-saw of guilt and appeasement begins, as we alternate between 'feeling good' because we are preserving the old life and the old stability, and 'feeling guilty' because we are doing what we simply have to do to be our true selves. Either position places great strain on our mental health, and suicide then becomes a risk. Perhaps we should actually be surprised that there are not more cases of suicide. Anyone at all can have a day on which several unrelated bad things come together to bring them dowm so low that it all seems a complete mess and utterly hopeless.

Attitudes to trans people are strangely ambivalent. We can be regarded as 'strong' and 'brave' and 'principled' for going through what we do. That's a misunderstanding: we are simply yielding to our own internal pressure, doing what we have to do, like a soldier who is forced to attack under fire and then gets decorated for extreme bravery when all he or she did was her duty. Nevertheless even that's still a positive perception. Oddly, trans people are also often accused of being as 'weak' or 'wrong-headed' or 'deluded' and therefore not worth respect or ordinary consideration.

Which is where media exploitation comes in. Every time I see a TV programme listed that deals with trans matters I think 'I'll watch this, but I'm sure it will be slanted in some way, and that the person whose life is being dissected will be salaciously held up as a strange and unusual animal'. Sometimes the programme makers do seem to achieve a balance, but I always feel that the person depicted has in some way been isolated from the rest of the human race as a sort of specimen, something to be studied and theorised about, and not with love. You can easily imagine the follow-up programme in five years time and then every five years thereafter, as if your 'journey' were an ongoing soap ('How is Kirk the former steelworker getting on as he' - not she - 'faces a new life as Natalie-Jayne?'). It's difficult to see what benefit participants get from such exposure. It certainly doesn't seem to be the best way to improve public perception. And were you or I to take part in this kind of thing, it seems pretty certain that somewhere down the line we might be overcome with horror at the consequences.


Caroline said...

Lucy said it.

Caroline xxx

Violet.X8 said...

I love your solider analogy Lucy. Surviving the day to day battles (depression, bigotry,family, etc) is the norm, what else can you do other than trying to be a positive person about it all?


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