Editor’s note: if you’re looking for a more trans-positive article then read the following post ( click on the image below) and do our ‘Transition Test’. If you’re looking for a more trans-skeptic article then keep on reading this page.
Step 1 of the Fusion Program: Accept that ‘transition’ is simply not realistic or desirable in your case
Disclaimer: There are different degrees of gender dysphoria. Some men experience gender dysphoria and a strong female identity, but they can continue living as men; however, some men experience gender dysphoria so intensely that living as a man is just not an option… they must transition.
This essay is absolutely not for the second type of sufferer who is deeply transsexual and must transition. In fact, I would urge you not to read this because it is directed towards men who, for one reason or another, cannot or don’t want to, transition, and therefore it is biased towards accepting a life without transition.
I want you to know that if you must transition then you have my 100% support and I wish you all the best.
Should I transition?
When it’s time to decide whether I should do something or not, I have a very simple criteria: will it make me happy?
It’s amazing how this simple rule cuts through all the bullshit which life presents at every turn. Ideology, cliché, dogma, convention – all the factors which normally influence our decision making are cancelled out in a second when you ask that one simple question: will it make me happy?
As you already know, the area of sexuality, gender and mental health is one of the prime hunting grounds for bullshit, and that’s why the happy rule is perfect for the tricky question of ‘should I transition?’. It’s the sort of question that people get immediately passionate about – but for all the wrong reasons. It’s a spring board they use to bombard us with their ideas about gender identity, but what they forget is that in the end it’s a question about a human life, human choice, and there should only be one way for the person to decide if they should transition or not: will it make them happy?
Now, of course, things are a little more complicated than that. There are three caveats that you have to attach to the happy rule.
- Is what makes me happy going to make other people unhappy?
- Although it will make me happy, is there a much easier way to achieve the same happiness?
- There are degrees of happiness. Something may make you happy, but how happy?
So, in the case of number 1… an extreme example is: it would make me happy to have sex with Shakira… however, when I jumped on top of her at a party – ready to gain my happiness, it might make her unhappy. In the case of number 2, something may make you happy but it may involve far too much energy to attain it or there may be a simpler way to attain the same thing. Number 3 is related to number 2, and useful when there are multiple options… we must choose the one which leads to the maximum happiness.
In the case of transitioning we can see that the three caveats are very important. Firstly, you are not an island… most of us have family and friends and you must think how your transition would affect their happiness; secondly, we must also bear in mind that although the final result might make us happy, there is a significant amount of time, money, effort and pain involved in arriving to the end point which may detract from that happiness. Finally, although it may make us happy we must ask… how happy? Very, slightly, extremely?
Okay, so, armed with the happy rule and its three caveats, I have thought for a very long time about transition, and I have arrived at this conclusion: if happiness is our criteria for deciding if you should transition or not, then a man with moderate gender dysphoria will not be happier if he transitions. Therefore, he should not transition.
Now I suppose you want to know why.
Well, before we examine the arguments for and against, I would first like to discount one seemingly important source of evidence: people who have already transitioned.
It seems entirely logical that if you want to know whether to do something or not… ask someone who’s already done it. However, in this case we cannot trust the source because it is tainted by the law of no return. You see, sometimes in life there are decisions which are irreversible or have consequences that are so huge, the person who took it will almost always tell themselves it was the right decision; they can’t change what they did and it would be potentially cataclysmic for their psyche to start telling themselves it was the wrong decision. For example, think of a transwoman who has gone all the way.
- Announced and presented herself as transgender to her family, friends and colleagues.
- Taken hormones which have created permanent changes in her body – most notably breasts.
- Had her penis and testicles removed.
Do you really think that after doing all that she’s going to suddenly say, “yeah, you know what… now I’ve had time to think about it… I don’t think it was the right thing to do.” Excuse, the double entendre, but it takes balls to be that honest and the human is just not that honest. Although there are a few cases of such extraordinary honesty – Thirdwaytrans, for example, this is far from the norm. Most people will tell themselves – even to the point of delusion if necessary – that it was the right thing to do, and I think it’s perfectly understandable why.
So, while there are clearly people who’ve transitioned and are much happier as a result, the simple fact is that we cannot rely on them to objectively report on whether it was the best path to take… they are just too emotionally invested.
Now that we’ve established that… I will explain some of the reasons why I believe that transition is not the best path in cases of moderate gender dysphoria.
- The science of sex change is simply not advanced enough, and it is unlikely you will look like a woman. You will end up looking like a transwoman, and not what you want to look like – a cis woman. Because most people are decent they will treat you like a woman, out of respect, but this will be due to their liberal sensibility overriding their instinct.
Now, of course, when I say this the first thing I get is a long list of beautiful, convincing transwomen. However, the exception does not prove the rule. If I was foolish enough to say that Colombian women were ugly… you would say… “No, they’re not… look at Shakira.” But Shakira is one woman…. The population of Colombian women is approximately twenty million. Similarly, a few beautiful, convincing transwomen does not mean that transition always creates beautiful, convincing transwomen.
What convinced me of the limitations of transition are the eyes. It’s a scientific fact that women’s eyes are larger in relation to the skull than men’s; also, the eyebrows tend to be elevated slightly and whereas in men there is a horizontal strip of bone above the eyebrows the same bone in women is often below the eyebrows and significantly less prominent. While a transsexual could have expensive and complicated surgery to do something with the bone above the brow (have it shaved down taking care not to collapse the cavity of the frontal sinus) and to raise the eyebrows, there is absolutely nothing that can be done about the size of the eyes. This is a nightmare for the MtF because not only is the size of the eyes in relation to the face an important indicator of femininity, it is also one of the most important dimensions of beauty. You can sometimes find men with big eyes but then their face tends to be very big and masculine as well. What distinguishes the woman is her cute face and smaller chin, and smaller everything, except for beautiful, big eyes. Start looking at men on the train and you will see how much smaller and beadier are their eyes and how the brow – especially as they get older – droops over the orbit of the eye. This striking difference between men and women cannot be changed and makes it more difficult for the male to female transsexual to pass, and be beautiful.
The eyes are just one example of the limits of transition. Here are other anatomical features that present serious difficulties.
Hair: almost all men are receding to some degree. Would you seriously wear a wig the rest of your life?
Chin: men tend to have square chins – women round and pointed.
Body shape: hormones can only redistribute some fat. The female body shape is skeletal and not just based on the position of fat. For example…
- Female ribcage is smaller and shallower.
- Pelvis – wider and lower.
- Thigh bone is proportionally longer in the female, creating a shorter upper body relative to total height.
- Shoulders of a woman tend to be in line with hips, a man’s extends well past
Hands: this brings to mind Ricky Gervais’s joke that he can always tell a transsexual in the supermarket. She looks all feminine and then she reaches for a loaf and can grab it with one hand. Men have bigger hands.
Feet: Longer and wider.
Voice and Adam’s apple: women don’t have a bulge in their throat and their voices are higher. Can you imagine the stress of trying to speak at a higher pitch… and the embarrassment when you get stressed or angry and the pitch drops?
The problem is that while some of these differences might seem minute, our facial recognition software is programmed to notice just these minute differences because they are how we identify one person from another. We do pick up on them.
Unfortunately, therefore, I am simply not convinced that most transwomen look like women. I have really tried hard to believe but I simply can’t, and for every one that pulls it off it seems there are ninety nine that don’t. Even the most beautiful transsexuals can soon, when they start aging, start to look more male, and when we see photos of them they are almost always heavily made up… I doubt they are so convincing first thing in the morning.
As a society based on both equality and compassion we should not focus on these details when dealing with transsexuals who need to transition, but when thinking about your future as a transsexual… you need to think about them… a lot. Generally, transsexuals with femephilia place a lot of emphasis on appearance and when they think of transition they create an ideal vision of how they will look: desirable, sexy, beautiful. They need to know that in most cases this vision is a distortion.
Therefore, my first argument against transition is that – at this point in time (maybe techniques will improve in the future) – it does not work well; if it was a product you’d probably take it back after a few days. The reason why so few do take it back is because either…
1) It is deeply necessary to their mental health they transition (an early onset or deep transsexual,) and they have no choice.
2) They have already come out and now they’re going to look stupid if they say it was a mistake.
3) They continue to believe that they are, or will be, beautiful. This is basically a delusion.
As I said at the beginning… this is all about happiness. If you are not bothered by the unsatisfactory results above, or you are fortunate enough to be in the small percentage of convincing transwomen, then go for it. However, you might want to consider my next transition sticking point: transition destroys your sex life because it is a form of chemical castration
If you have seen the film The Imitation Game then you will know that a court order forced Alan Turing to accept injections of oestrogen (as a means of curbing his homosexual behaviour.) The reason this was done, and is still done today to sex offenders in different parts of the world, is that it massively reduces or even extinguishes the libido. This treatment which they are forced to take is what you are voluntarily taking if you choose transition.
If you are a Calvinist Christian then you may welcome this loss of lust and physical satisfaction for you dwell in a world of the spiritual. If you are a normal person, though, you will surely mourn the loss of libido… but probably not consciously because, again, that would mean admitting that you may have made the wrong decision.
Long term, your libido should… and the key word here is ‘should’ return, but it will certainly be a different, dare I say ‘weaker’ type of libido. Transwomen compensate for this by saying that it’s more about emotions now that they are on the female side; well, of course it is, because it can’t be about much else if you don’t have a clitoris or solid penile stimulation. You see, you will have taken away the power of the male orgasm but without gaining the power of the female. I don’t want to overstate that because, by all accounts, you can have a reasonable sex life… but you will never experience the powerful climax a woman feels so, for me, it continues in the vein of a generally unsatisfactory experience. It’s ok – but far from ideal.
I think once more we arrive at the same point. If it really is vital for your mental health you transition – which is of course the case with some sufferers of gender dysphoria – then this trade-off is worth it. If you can manage to keep your gender dysphoria in check, though, it is harder to justify the trade-off. A surprising amount of our vital energy comes from the libido and to lose it is a significant loss.
Table of transition versus non transition
Obviously, I could spend many more words, pages and chapters going through each aspect of transition point by point, but I think I’ve said enough. Let’s conclude the debate more concisely with a table of transition versus non transition and ten questions you should ask yourself if you are considering transition. Please note that we always look at the worst case scenario in the transition table for reasons discussed in the disclaimer.
|No transition||Post transition worst case||Post transition best case|
|Sex life||Has a fully functioning, healthy sexual organ and a healthy sex drive. Admittedly, it’s the wrong organ but he finds better partners to exercise his deepest fantasies.||A shallow vagina and a low sex drive – with difficulty in achieving orgasm. Plus genito-urinary complications post-surgery.||Although she experiences a prolonged loss of libido, her sex drive does eventually return. She relearns sex and has an enjoyable sex life in the role she should always have had.|
|Money||The same as before. Can spend on fashion (including female fashion), holidays, therapy, house, whatever.||Professional prospects affected due to discrimination. Expensive surgeries in a bid to look more female plus a lot of medical attention, and expensive hormones required for the rest of her life.||Principle treatments are paid for by social security or insurance. She doesn’t have further surgeries and can easily afford hormones. Her professional prospects are not affected as her company has a strict anti-discrimination policy.|
|Attractiveness||A reasonably attractive man. If he lost weight, changed his wardrobe and had a little surgery, could be even more attractive. Women and gay/bisexual men his own age find him attractive therefore the chances of finding an understanding partner who accepts his female side in the bedroom, are high.||Possibility of not looking like a woman, but a transwoman. Her hands are large, her brow is pronounced, and her hair is thinning at temples. Feels bad to say it but there are few people – men or women – who will find her attractive. The laws of biology are simply not in her favour.||Can easily pass as a woman and is considered attractive.|
|Self-confidence||High. After therapy, he learns to accept that gender is all in the mind… he still wishes he could be female but realises that transition just won’t have sufficiently satisfactory results. He invests time in reinventing himself, finds new friends, new job, new means of creative expression.||Constant insecurity about ‘passing’ from the point of view of appearance and passing in terms of voice. All it takes is one incident where someone identifies her as a transsexual and she is deeply depressed.||Hormones and transition fill that void she had always felt as a man. She feels reborn and becomes more confident and engaged with the world. Occasionally someone identifies her as a transwoman but she does not care… life is too good to be bothered about that.|
|Friends and family and colleagues||No change.||Causes severe disruption with her children and spouse. Her parents are accepting in principle but ask her not to come dressed as a woman when she visits. Some colleagues are supportive but others are not and her boss is embarrassed to present her at meetings. While friends are supportive via e-mail, it is simply too hard for them to accept her as a woman, and they slowly lose touch. She ends up in a trans bubble with a small social network solely consisting of other transsexuals.||Friends, family and colleagues rally round and not only support her transition but actively help her and are constantly in contact. She loses one or two friends but they weren’t worth keeping anyway.|
|Relationship with feminine side||He presents as a woman (ie. Dresses as and behaves like) in the privacy of his home and with certain people. He explores new sexual avenues with a new sexual partner, which he enjoys immensely. But when he wants to he can simply return to his male self.||Sometimes wishes there could be some respite as – even when going to the local shop for bread – has to think about her appearance and either put makeup on and wig, or have everyone clearly see she is transsexual. But there is no respite because although she doesn’t look female she has modified her body enough not to look male anymore.||There is no respite from being female and why should she want it? She has adapted perfectly to her new life.|
Ten questions you might want to consider with respect to transition. No, sorry, change that to… questions that you must consider.Do you want to be a woman – day in day out, 365 days a year, the rest of your life? (And don’t forget that means one day you will be an old woman.)
- Would it be important for you to be beautiful and sexy if you were a woman? If you did not even look like a woman after transitioning – but like a transsexual in a dress – would you still transition?
- Have you ever taken steps to objectively evaluate how you would look as a woman? (ie. asked someone else who is not trans to look at photos of you as a woman and give their opinion, rather than look at yourself in the mirror, or ask a trans friend).
- Are you willing to present yourself as a transwoman to friends, neighbours, colleagues, parents, children, siblings and cousins?
- Are you willing to lose your sex drive?
- Are you willing to have your genitalia removed and converted into an artificial vagina?
- Are you willing to suffer possible discrimination, strange looks and the occasional titter or insult thrown by a stranger?
- Are you prepared to invest hundreds of hours in learning to speak, dress, make up, walk like a woman, plus hundreds of hours more with doctor, psychiatrists, counsellors and surgeons?
- Are there some days where your urge to be a woman lessens? Why does this happen on those days?
- If your life had worked out better as a man do you think you would still feel the same need to change gender?
- Are you willing to work on the way you think, live and feel, instead of on your body?
So, Step 1 is Accept that ‘transition’ is simply not realistic or desirable in your case. Now, move on to Step 2.