Shrinking to survive: A former trans man reports on life inside queer youth culture

Max Robinson is a 20-year-old lesbian who recently detransitioned after 4 years of hormone replacement therapy. She underwent a double mastectomy at age 17, performed by plastic surgeon Curtis Crane in San Francisco. Max reports that her gender therapist wrote letters verifying the immediate medical necessity of these treatments.

Max currently works to provide direct support to developmentally disabled adults living in group homes; she detransitioned on the job in December 2015. Her novel Laika, which tells the story of the little stray dog who was sent outside Earth’s atmosphere in a Soviet satellite, is available digitally or in print here. In addition, Max and her partner collaborate on many graphic art and creative writing projects.

 Max, like many young lesbians of her generation, was led down the path to FTM “transition” as a teen, effectively short circuiting her chance to fully integrate her orientation as a same-sex attracted female.  As detailed in her account, the difficulties many young trans men face in queer communities are not widely known; and the less-than- rosy experiences of FTM teens are certainly not discussed in the many mainstream media stories which unquestioningly celebrate testosterone and surgery as welcome treatments for dysphoric girls—many of whom are same-sex attracted.

Max’s story will also appear in an upcoming anthology to be published within the year.

In the meantime, Max is available to respond to your questions and discussion in the comments section below this post.

All of us at 4thWaveNow are very grateful to Max for her courage in writing this post.

by Max Robinson

When I was 5, I led a girl rebellion. We put on capes and chased some boys in capes around. Whatever they said we couldn’t do, we did. It was mostly push-ups or holding bugs. I could hold any bug. My dad still has a picture in his office of me at a science fair, hands full of hissing cockroaches.

I hated to be told there was something I couldn’t do. In first grade, I’d go home from school all in a huff because the girls’ bathroom pass had pictures of bows on it, while the boys’ had soccer balls. My teacher wouldn’t let me choose which pass I wanted. I played soccer!

When I was in third grade, I drafted letters to the author of a children’s book series. I was bothered by the constant underlying sexism in her books about a family rescuing animals. The mom and the daughter were always secondary, sweeping or cooking in the background, while the father and son saw all the action. What troubled me most of all was that these books were written by a woman. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t create a single interesting female character.

Around the same time, my mom finally let me buy a pair of boys’ shoes. They were red and black, and I didn’t have to tie them. I wore them all the time, so often that the plastic frame of them tore through the fabric. It cut into my feet, but I didn’t tell my parents. I thought I wouldn’t get another pair. They didn’t find out until they saw the back of my ankles, torn and bleeding. When I told them why I hadn’t said anything, they got me another pair. This is my first memory of hurting myself on purpose so that I would feel better about my appearance. Later, there was tweezing, high heels, waxing, shaving, running, and trying to starve myself. In all of those, at one time or another, I was encouraged, but they really weren’t for me. I wanted to choose to hurt myself in my own way.

When I was 16, I talked my older sister into ordering me a binder, and I wore it as often I could. It hurt like hell. I insisted it didn’t. The pain made it easier to think less, which was nice, especially at school. Class was boring and I couldn’t focus, so I would always spend the whole day winding myself up with some thought obsession or another to keep busy. I would ask the teacher for bathroom breaks, and then used them to cut myself, just because I was under-stimulated and unhappy.

After school, I read Autostraddle articles and dozens of pages into the archive of FTM blogs. I was glad to see some women who looked kind of like me, saying that they had futures now. I wanted what they had, and I hated what I had. I think I was 15 or just barely 16 when I started checking this stuff out.

The longer I thought about it, the more sure I was that it was true. At first, I thought I might be genderqueer. Then, I wanted to go on testosterone for a while, but keep my breasts. Next I was sure that I wanted them gone. I would confess these changing thoughts anxiously to other trans-identifying friends online. They would reassure me that this happened to a lot of people, and that the dominant transgender narrative was oppressive.  Then I began reassuring others of this, too. We all agreed that being trans was very special and difficult.  Before, I had never felt special or that my pain mattered.

Some part of me knew I was talking myself into it. I ignored that part.

For the first time, I had a community that paid attention to me, at least online. We talked about our feelings and we listened to each other. This was my first real experience with Internet culture. I loved having friends. It wasn’t like school, where I was irritable and weird, floating between tables at lunch. People actually liked me on Tumblr. Almost all my friends were female and trans-identifying.

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I didn’t know anything. It was just so comforting to think that I was born wrong. If my body was the problem, it could be solved. Transition had clearly defined steps. Everybody chose from a set list, and when it was over, they were properly assembled.

When I renounced my connection to womanhood and what I shared with my sisters, I sealed away important parts of myself. I thought I was turning away from the hurt that came from being seen as a woman by men, but it was too late for that. That hurt has been inside my bones for years. After transition, I kept quieter than ever before. Always afraid, always afraid. Brought back into line.

Transition was supposed to fix things. That’s what I believed and that’s what doctors told my parents. I was 16 when I started hormone blockers, then testosterone. I was 17 when I had a double mastectomy.

If I didn’t look like a dyke and act like a crazy teenage girl, there would have been nothing to fix.

To fund my surgery, I started a blog where I posted print-to-order clothing and gifts, pandering to the interests of the people I saw on there. It worked pretty well. I got a bunch of money, but not quite enough. My parents used some of theirs, and my grandma helped, too. After all, this was a medically validated condition. I had been to appointments with professional after professional, all of whom agreed this was the way to go.

But it turned out to be cold comfort, removing hated body parts. Breasts marked me as a woman dressed funny. I wasn’t afraid to be anesthetized or cut open. The day of my surgery, after the doctor drew the lines of the incisions on my skin in Sharpie, I asked him where the tissue would go. He told me it would be incinerated as medical waste. I cackled. When they led me back to the operating room, I was confused. I thought there would be a silver table that I had to lie down on. I told my doctor this. He told me it wasn’t an autopsy, and laughed.

My first post-op memories don’t start until a day or two later. The pain wasn’t bad, and emptying my drains reminded me of using a menstrual cup, just with a lot more yellow stuff. It felt better than trying to live as a man with breasts. I couldn’t lift my arms to wash my own hair for a couple weeks, but seeing a flat chest was a breath of fresh air. It felt like it made sense after I had been watching my old face disappear, cheeks narrowing, beard coming in, because of testosterone. I didn’t want to be seen as a woman–as a lesbian–and I didn’t want to ask why.

Or maybe I just didn’t know who to ask. I did try. Before I started medical transition, I asked my gender therapist, a trans man, about internalized misogyny. The question was dismissed. I didn’t even really know what internalized misogyny was, but  I wanted to understand. Instead, I was assured that it probably wasn’t that. I got a letter for hormone replacement therapy, and later, for the top surgery. I was grateful.

It took years of testosterone for me to finally realize it was okay to live in my own body without it, that making this peace with myself was possible, and that I deserved that chance. I didn’t know it was okay to be a dysphoric lesbian, that I could survive this way. I was almost 20 when I stopped hormones. I had been 20 for a little while when I stopped understanding myself as a trans man.

Things changed. My mind changed.

There’s a species of rotifer (microscopic zooplankton) called Bdelloidea. A male bdelloid has never been observed. They’re all female, reproducing exclusively through parthenogenesis for millions of years. How did they survive quickly evolving parasites and rapidly changing environments without the adaptability afforded by sexual reproduction? Bdelloids shrivel up under stress. In anhydrobiosis, they’re easily carried away by the wind. For up to nine years, they’ll stay alive like this–barely living, but alive. Shrinking yourself to survive is a legitimate strategy, and sometimes it works.

After I detransitioned, I started a new job where I was known as a butch lesbian. At first, people treated me worse than when I was “passing” as male. Nobody trained me. They tried not to look at me at all. They didn’t relax until I started talking, talking like I had in high school. I made jokes and people laughed. I told them about my childhood when they told me about theirs. I did more than listen, finally. People actually liked me here, the same people who looked at me funny when I first started the job.

It had been so long since I had said anything outside my home without worrying about whether I “sounded male.” I hadn’t realized how much I had been holding back since I decided to transition. I hadn’t made new friends, except online, in years. In a couple weeks at this job, I got rides home and wedding invitations. I thought I was incapable of connecting to anyone in person, but I was just incapable of connecting to anyone as a man — because I’m not a man. I can’t pretend to be one without hiding an essential part of my nature.

I thought “woman” was wrong for me, because of how I dressed, how I related to my body, how I resented the expectations society had for me as a woman. I didn’t realize that my horror at my body could be caused by the horror of living in a world that wants to control all women.

If “being a woman” really was nothing but an identity, if I had been raised in a world where it really did just mean calling myself a woman, I never would have transitioned.  I would never have attempted to surgically and hormonally erase my femaleness. My drive to be anything but a woman was rooted in the material reality of being a woman, a material reality that cannot be identified out of. Trying to live in a fantasy where everything women have suffered for being female is null and void, even as misogyny continues to shape our lives, was valuable only in that I finally learned how incredibly valuable it was to name myself as a woman.

There is power in naming. It’s how we find each other, how we connect to our histories, how we connect to our futures. Driving us apart from each other is the easiest way to keep us from learning to recognize attempts to redefine our realities.

I didn’t know this then. I subscribed to an incredibly misogynistic set of beliefs for years. “DFAB privilege” was a common phrase in our community – “designated female at birth privilege.” It was accepted fact that being born female gave you a lifelong advantage over a male who transitioned. This included men who used transition only to mean using different pronouns on Tumblr and having an anime girl as their avatar. We believed that, as “dfabs,” we needed to shut up about our petty problems. We could never have it as hard as any “dmab women or non-binary people.” Everyone in the trans community agreed that it was our responsibility to uplift “dmab voices.” None of this seemed outrageous or strange to me; it felt pretty intuitive. Growing up under male domination is a grooming process that leaves many girls and women extremely vulnerable to manipulation.

The first experience that did make me start to feel suspicious of male transition was when I was 18 and a genderqueer-identifying man who had never pursued any kind of transition raped my best friend, a woman unacquainted with insular trans community politics. I had indirectly introduced her to this guy via mutual friends. After the rape, she told me what he did; I had been in the next room the whole night, awake, talking to someone I didn’t even like. I had no idea it was happening. When she let our mutual friends know, we both assumed they would have her back; after all, they referred to their apartment as a safe space for rape survivors. But instead, her rapist changed his pronouns on Tumblr, claimed to have schizophrenia, and then said that he couldn’t possibly have raped her, because of the power dynamics between a “cis” woman and a transwoman. He moved back to LA a few months later, without ever taking any steps towards transition. When he got there, he told his old friends he wasn’t schizophrenic or trans anymore.

Years before that, two different transwomen I knew had pressured me into sending nude photos of my breasts to them. I messaged them first, as a 16 year old, after seeing them repeatedly posting about being horny and suicidal, and how only nudes would make them feel any better. They didn’t even know who I was. To one of them, I submitted the nudes anonymously. I didn’t want to talk, I just wanted him to feel better. I thought it was my responsibility. It might still be posted somewhere, I have no idea.  Both of the transwomen who sexted with me identified as lesbians at the time and knew I was a transman. They didn’t care, as long as we were talking one-on-one.

I didn’t fully see the value in differentiating male from female until a traumatized and disabled lesbian I knew well, K, finally admitted to me that her transwoman partner M was beating her regularly.

For three years, she lived with steadily escalating physical & sexual violence, the details of which were originally included in this article but have now been removed for privacy reasons. Suffice it to say – it was an intimate portrait of what radical feminists understand as male violence.

It’s been two years since she moved in with me, away from him, and she’s still recovering from what he did to her. She had two decades of trauma before that, but nothing ever broke her like this did. Calling that relationship “lesbianism” left her stranded from the framework she desperately needed in order to contextualize her experiences as a survivor of captivity. It destroyed her ability to call herself a lesbian or a woman for a long time: if lesbians like to sleep with transwomen and were repulsed by the supposed maleness of transmen, how could she be a lesbian herself? If women are what her ex-partner M was, then she, K, must be something else entirely. The language of transition lends itself readily to abusive gaslighting that disguises and distorts women’s ability to name what is happening. What was done to her was extreme cruelty of a distinctly male variety, cruelty she was especially vulnerable to because of her lifelong history of trauma at men’s hands.

The more I started to understand that M could not have been female, the more I understood why I was. One’s actual sex matters. Running from its significance prevents you from doing anything but continuing its cycles of destruction. As soon as a transwoman said, “No, I’M not a man,” we instantly lost our ability to protect ourselves from him. Women who never transitioned in these trans circles believed their “cis privilege” rendered them man-like in their power. For those of us females (mainly lesbians) who did seek transition, we were often told that, as transmen, we were exactly as bad as any other men.

Loading the language was an incredibly powerful tool. I was a lesbian trying to save my friend from domestic violence at the hands of a man she had partnered with out of intense desperation, facing immediate homelessness as a severely mentally ill woman with limited mobility. Understanding this could have connected us to our foremothers who struggled through similar battles to protect each other from abusive men. Instead, we felt completely adrift. Other women dealing with abuse perpetrated by transwomen have described a similar sense of being in entirely uncharted territory, terrified to speak first, unable to find anyone else sharing experiences; they’re all too scared of being labeled an untouchable “trans-misogynist.”

In the 21st century, intelligent and capable adult women are having to relearn what “man” means, with fear at their backs every step of the way. We were among them, exploring radical and lesbian feminist ideology online and marveling at how decades-old works precisely described circumstances we had thought of as occurring only recently. Janice Raymond’s discussion of transexually-constructed lesbian feminists in The Transsexual Empire was startlingly relevant. She saw this coming. As lesbians, we have a rich history of theory that had been completely denied to women who came of age when K and I did. All either of us knew about Janice Raymond, until last year, was that she was evil to the core; a horrible transphobe. We believed this because we didn’t know any better.

Deprogramming took almost a year. Both of us were terrified just to read dissenting opinions. K, me, and another lesbian exited from the radical queer scene began moderating an online support group for anyone dysphoric and born female, including many who still identified as trans. When that group started, I was still one of the transmen. All of us were so incredibly relieved not to be alone. We disagreed on a lot of stuff, but we were all tired of what we saw happening to females.

When our remaining friends from the transgender community found out that we considered transwomen capable of male violence, and that we were concerned about transition’s effect on young adults, almost all of them deserted us immediately. Female trans-identifying friends who knew K’s history of homelessness and our currently rocky financial situation started talking publicly to each other about how we literally deserved to starve to death.

Losing these friends hurt enough on its own. Being cut off from them just when we had begun to see the severity of the situation within these groups was so much worse. I have a list of 20 intercommunity predators, mainly transwomen who prey on females — women or transmen. Eleven of them are one or two degrees of separation from us. So many women in our community had themselves been pressured to share nude photos, coerced into unwanted sex, or outright violently assaulted by males describing themselves as transwomen, but they still didn’t feel able to challenge the narrative they were being fed. These women, our friends, had been there with us. They saw transwoman predator after transwoman predator being named by their terrified female victims. The “call-outs” (a word used for anything from hurting someone’s feelings slightly to brutal rape) usually only happened once several victims of the same predator found each other and made sure they had friends on their side. When victims couldn’t be sure they would be supported, they didn’t come forward. The political climate made it doubly difficult to “call out” a transwoman. We were constantly being reminded that transwomen are harmed by the horrible stereotype that they’re all rapists or perverts, and we were taught that we needed to be constantly policing ourselves to avoid perpetuating this idea.

The silent victims of transwomen had good reason to keep quiet. We all saw transwomen using the language of “cissexism” and “transmisogyny” against anyone who named their behavior as harmful. Even transwomen dating other transwomen experienced abuse at their hands. In the resulting fallout, it was never clear who the true aggressor was; both of them would immediately begin using identity politics and “privilege dynamics” (i.e., someone poor can never hurt someone rich, under any circumstances, etc.) in a way that was very effective at obfuscating the truth. Our friends had been right beside us for all of this, and they still damned us for beginning to name what had enabled this wide-scale intercommunity violence.

Young lesbians in the “queer community” are known by many names: if you want to avoid scrutiny for not hooking up with transwomen, you’ve got to get creative. Some of us call ourselves queer, bisexual, or pansexual, because there’s no word for only being attracted to females, and you can’t be a lesbian if you date transmen or avoid dating transwomen. A lot of us, having been told that we can opt out of womanhood by choice, decided that we never want to be called “she” again. Young women who cling to the word “lesbian” find themselves increasingly pressured to sleep with transwomen, because—according to trans dogma–they are supposedly more vulnerable and oppressed than any “cis” lesbian.

Many transwomen seem to view dating a “cisbian” as a uniquely valuable source of gender validation. After all, lesbians only date women. There is no acknowledgement that, under some circumstances, some lesbians can be coerced into relationships that they are incapable of experiencing as anything except traumatic. I have never seen a transwoman from these circles ever express the possibility that this might be true. By all appearances, they have never considered it. Running from unpleasant truths is something that a lot of folks who transition (me included) tend to get very good at.

The insistence that lesbianism is not a strictly female experience runs so deep that transwomen, even those who only date other transwomen, often refer to themselves as “transdykes.” This includes those who are not transitioning–men who can literally only be differentiated from any other man when you ask his preferred pronouns. Many women believe that these “transdykes,” even those who have never been identifiable as anything but straight men to the outside world in any way, are more oppressed than any “cis” woman, specifically on the axis of gender. The level of gaslighting taking place here is difficult to overstate.

From the outside, now, I can finally see how ridiculous it is. Realizing this took months and months. It took us a year of exploring the feminist theory that had been forbidden to us before me or K could even call any transwoman a man without having a panic attack.

At first, when I started learning more about opposing viewpoints, I identified as a “gender-critical transman.” I knew that the transgender cause had been used in a lot of disgusting ways, but I still believed transition was the only way I could survive, and I was trying to reconcile seeing myself as transgender with believing that the vast majority of trans activism was harmful to women. During this time, I really looked up to gender-critical transwomen–transitioning males who were usually at least marginally more sympathetic and thoughtful than most men. I tried to reconcile our respective identities and our needs, as we understood them, with the needs of women as a class.

I failed. At the end of the day, I just don’t want anyone male in the bathroom with me. I don’t want them on a women’s volleyball team. I don’t want them at Curves. I don’t want them in a lesbian book club. The experience of being male is fundamentally different from the experience of being female — even if a man passes, even if a man has surgery to more closely resemble his idea of a woman. I don’t say this out of a hatred for transwomen. I say this out of love and respect for women. What we are cannot be conceived nor replicated in a man’s imagination, and it absolutely cannot be formed out of male tissue on an operating table.

The sympathy I feel for men harmed by gender, to the extent that it means I encourage male-to-female transsexualism, is in direct competition with the sympathy I feel for women harmed by gender. Everyone is entitled to make their own choices about their bodies. Everyone is also entitled to have opinions about the choices that others make about their bodies. I feel that transition is a treatment with far-reaching harmful side effects — not only for the individual receiving treatment, but for those around them.

Lesbians who see their sisters disappearing are more likely to try to erase themselves. Lesbians who are forced to welcome men into their spaces will never be able to see or understand the value of female-only space, having never actually experienced it. Transition does not cure the irreconcilability of our selves with our environments. Gendered identity crises are very real to the individuals experiencing them, myself included, but this energetic drive towards change is not best spent reforming ourselves into someone who can assimilate into the world men have built. We need to use this energy to work towards restoring balance to a sick world.

Many young lesbians (and some older lesbians caught up in a youth-oriented trans/queer culture) hold political views diametrically opposed to our collective interests. We genuinely believe some off-the-wall garbage, like that it’s wrong and evil not to be attracted to penises because of “internalized cissexism.” We have been successfully brainwashed to serve males at the expense of our own health and sanity.

I have so much empathy for other women who believed transition was their best choice. I lived that. The fact is, loving a woman does not automatically mean agreeing with her. I believe that all of us deserve better. We deserve to experience autonomous female space. We deserve the opportunity to experience our bodies as a part of nature worthy of celebration, not objects to be “reconstructed.” The energy we spend trying to run from our own bodies is better spent working to support each other.

Those of us who make it out of communities like the ones I was in often only manage to do so because of strong female (in my experience, lesbian) support networks that help us relearn how to think for ourselves without getting angry when we make mistakes in the process. I hear political opponents of the transgender movement calling it extremely cult-like and in the same breath damning the women, usually lesbians, who fall into the trap. This reinforces the learned hatred of anyone who disagrees without creating any opportunity for victims of this ideology to ask questions and explore viewpoints that—while the victims have not yet extricated themselves–genuinely feel like some kind of blasphemy to them. The pace of progress needs to be determined by the individual. Frustration with the behavior of young people in the transgender community is very understandable, but even the most righteous anger is unlikely to change minds when it’s directed at someone who has been manipulated into believing that dissenting women are literally equivalent to murderers.

The beliefs they have internalized are harmful to all women. No one is obligated to subject herself to being triggered or re-traumatized by the virulent misogyny that trans activists tend to espouse, even in the name of reaching out to a sister in crisis. Taking care of yourself has to come first. I try to stay available for conversations with questioning trans-identifying females, but I can’t always be there. I need rest, too.

As I move away from viewing myself and my body as an object to improve, I’m realizing more and more how much of my energy has been devoted to appeasing men in some way. By and large, that was a waste of time. I’m working on using my emotional energy for the benefit of myself first, and then for the benefit of other women.

While I was transitioning, I was terrified of eventually regretting it. I sure as hell didn’t let on much about my doubts, for fear of losing access to medical treatment, but I was consumed all the time with obsessive thoughts about it. I didn’t understand how I could go on living as a woman with no breasts. What man would want to fuck me? Never mind that I didn’t want to be fucked by any man; that didn’t feel like a good enough answer.

I am so incredibly grateful that I learned that there was more to being a woman. Transition was absolutely not the easiest way to learn this, but it was how I learned it. It was how I learned that I could survive without men viewing me as a piece of meat. I never shaved my legs or armpits again. I stopped tittering at their stupid jokes. I dress practically. I’m grateful that I learned it was okay to exist as I am.

For me, transition was a processing of distancing my true self from my body and my environment. Detransition has been the opposite: learning to participate earnestly in the world again. For me, this isn’t about undoing my transition. I’m not seeking any further changes like electrolysis or breast reconstruction. I am a woman, even if my body is recognizable as the body of a woman who once thought transition was the best choice available to me. My body has known tragedies, but my body is not a tragedy. When I catch myself slipping into deeply misogynistic internal tirades about the aspects of my appearance that changed during transition, I practice thought replacement. I am not a waste of a woman.

I’m so grateful for all of the incredible women I’ve connected with who are on the other side of transgender identities now. Some of them are women I met years ago, when both of us were still pursuing transition. Transition doesn’t have to be forever. If transition makes you sick inside, you don’t have to live and die with that sickness. There is community. There is processing. There is genuine healing. More and more of us are waking up, each with her own story. We question and disagree, with our enemies and with each other. We learn. Together, we are moving forward.

89 thoughts on “Shrinking to survive: A former trans man reports on life inside queer youth culture

  1. Thank you for your bravery, honesty, and compassion Max. And thank you for your ex-RQ virtual space, and cute animal pics, and for loving K and your fellow sisters so well. You honor us with your efforts every day.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. Harrowing, and so thoughtfully, beautifully expressed. I am so happy for you that you are beginning to make peace with who you are, and especially that you can find value and meaning in the choices you have made in your journey.

    Liked by 10 people

  3. As a feminist, I hold men and women to the same standard of behavior and responsibility for their actions. You’re saying that there are inherent differences between them but I’m not sure that I agree. Biological differences have been overall shown to be insignificant, and I don’t expect anything different of my son than I would a daughter. I understand women are pretty awfully mistreated in society. Are you saying that’s the distinction?
    Thanks for the intriguing read.


    • I think biological differences might be insignificant if we saw and treated them as such. Women are absolutely mistreated in society, like you said. A lot of this is predicated on biology. Society’s treatment of women contributes largely to any noticeable mental/emotional issues. These (in my eyes, anyway) are not inherent, but rather formed by a variety of factors—no less important to recognize and acknowledge. The world sees men and women as different–our aim as feminists is not to ignore that but to acknowledge it and do our job to break that down.

      Liked by 10 people

      • Absolutely our job is to change society. Not just treat men and women around us ‘the same’. As for biology the far more powerful factor is the way we treat men (the low standards we hold them to), and more importantly let them get away with treating other people. Including other men.The negative behaviour of men is what should always be the focus in these things, i.e. men abusing women. Men do that because they enjoy it and why not when there are no consequences.

        I don’t recall anything about biology determining anything in this post. That transwomen are biological males pretending to be women was certainly mentioned. Because they are. That doesn’t mean their bad behaviour comes from their male biology. It comes from social values they are socialized into. Women are less. Men are feudal lords, etc.

        Liked by 5 people

    • I think if you read this carefully, you would see that she experienced awful treatment in the male transgender community because it has the same predatory rape *culture* that other pro-male subcultures have. Nowhere did she claim that this is an inherent result of male biology, but that, instead, the male transgender community has fostered a predatory *culture* that they bolster and excuse with a *narrative* of their own victimization. This is common among isolated and/or outsider pro-male communities (think: Catholic church and priests who rape children, as one example of a very pro-male and isolated community that has not been open to outside scrutiny and which developed a rape culture). Cultural, not biological.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Honestly, I’m not especially invested in whether the differences biologically or socially created. When you’re trying to put out a fire, the first question is not “how did it start”, it’s “how do we stop it”. The diagnostics come later. We have not put out this fire.

      Men ARE the ones in control, though, and misogyny is almost always part of what they’ve chosen to do with that control, so I’m a little suspicious about whether or not that’s actually a coincidence. Sexually dimorphic behavior trends (outliers are always possible) exist in many, many species. We’re not as different as we like to think; I’m open to the possibility that this is another thing that humans have in common with other animals.

      Many women, probably even the vast majority of women, raise their sons with the best of intentions. To say that good mothers can produce sons who aren’t misogynists is to strongly imply that misogyny is the fault of inadequate mothering. Whatever the cause is, I definitely don’t think that the behavior I have seen from men is the fault of their mothers.


      Liked by 4 people

      • Max, thank you SO much for telling your story. I’m glad that you survived and came out on the other side to tell us what a mess the whole trans cult is. I agree that misogyny is not the fault of mothers, but of the whole society.


    • The inherent differences we have are all connected to our sex, to the bits of us used for making or nurturing babies. It feels different being a woman than it does being a man, *physically*, with your neurological wiring throughout your body and the parts you have and everything.

      Those aren’t insignificant differences but they’re also not significant *enough* to justify treating females and males as being of two different species.


  4. As a mother of a daughter who is now in the grips of this cult, I am stunned by your story. I can’t imagine the how difficult this has all been for you. You are such a strong woman to get out I could only hope the same for everyone who is currently swept up in this craze. You and K deserve the best. I wish you both peace and happiness.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Max, I can hardly take all this in. By the time I had finished reading I was holding my breath and my heart was racing. To have gone through all that you have by the age of 20, and then to have processed your own feelings about yourself and to deal with how others have treated you, in such a mature way, is incredible.
    You led a girl rebellion when you were 5; in sharing your story and supporting your friends you are leading another. You write without bitterness and your strength and compassion shows. I wish you and your friends continued healing. I am humbled.

    Liked by 16 people

  6. Oh, Max. I almost never comment publically on anything, but I had to respond to this. You have an incredible gift for writing and crafting a narrative. I hope you realize how talented you are and that you’ll continue to use this ability and skill to share your truths with the world (on everything, not just gender politics!).

    As to your story, all I can say is that from one sister to another, I’m sending you so much love. You are incredibly insightful and thoughtful, and I’m so sorry that it was so hard-earned. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your voice matters.

    Liked by 12 people

  7. Thank you, Max. I hate what you and K have gone through. Unbelievable. Your comment re M and porn made me think, once again, about the effect that widespread use of on-line porn is having on the trans “movement,” both in terms of what natal males who identify as trans expect from their sympathizers, and in terms of what natal females (trans-identified or not) are being pressured to do and to be.

    It’s either turn yourself into a porn object (this article on a trend in elective labiaplasty for minors is chilling — or turn yourself into a non-woman in order to get away from the whole nasty scene.

    The deconstruction of language, so that the basic concepts of male and female no longer mean anything concrete, also is detrimental to mental health, IMO. The oppression Olympics, ditto. And it’s always natal women who are expected to “help” these “poor men.”

    It is a sick, sick world we are living in, and your story has reaffirmed my determination to keep my kid as far away as possible from the queer subculture you describe. I don’t know how long I can do that, but I’m damned sure going to try. There are healthier places than this. I hope my kid can find them. It is incredibly ironic that the places where I would have once suggest she look for people like her — LGBTetc groups — are places that are now likely to be incredibly toxic to people like her. Here there be dragons.

    Thanks again. Be well. We’re all rooting for you.

    Liked by 12 people

  8. I hope that your story will be read by people in education and the therapeutic community who can possibly help other young women so that they do not have to travel your difficult path.

    The best to you and your family.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Pingback: Shrinking to survive: A former trans man reports on life inside queer youth culture – Critiquing Transgender Doctrine & Gender Identity Politics

  10. You are so insightful, Max – you’re speaking to experiences that so many, many young women, myself included, have gone through/are going through as a consequence of toxic “queer” culture. Please keep it up. Your voice is important.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you, Max. From the compassionate, thoughtful tone of this piece I can tell that you put a great deal of effort into telling your story without any bitterness or malice, and that’s a testament to how much you have clearly matured as a person as a result of your challenges and self-discovery. It serves as a warning (one I’ve ignored so many times in my life but no more) that anyone who coerces us, makes us feel uncomfortable, or ignores our questions and concerns does not respect us as equals. There’s so much gaslighting of women going on right now regardless of how we identify and feel about gender that this call for unity based on our shared experiences as females is critical. Every time we push through that fear of being punished for speaking our minds, we open up a bit of space for others who desperately need it. This was a breath of fresh air.

    Liked by 9 people

  12. Pingback: Woman Isn’t | theperfectbirth

  13. Hey, Max! Welcome home! I so much understand what you went through when you were young, but in a way I’m lucky because no one ever mentioned trans, even though I was totally butch and hated women’s clothes and all the other things we were assigned to. I’ve never considered myself male, but just the kind of woman I am. If you’re interested, I started this group It hurt so much to see how much pressure butch women I knew were under – so many became FTM just because they didn’t fit the idea of femininity. Honestly, it broke my heart! Anyway, I’m glad you’re back. Please know there are a lot of women who know how you felt. Feel free to connect – send me a friend request if you like! Even though I’ve never been male-identified I get called “sir” all the time, or even BRO! LOL – Mel Stapper

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Max,

    First off let me say that you should be incredibly proud of yourself. The fact that you were able to witness and endure so much at such a young age without letting it harden you is truly humbling.

    I’m 29 years old . I was able to come out at a time when lesbians, especially butch lesbians, were pressured to look like Shane from the L word. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be pressured to change something so fundamental about yourself. Seeing more and more butch lesbians succumbing to the current trans trend is beyond heartbreaking.

    It’s women like you that give me hope for the next generation of gay women. Stay strong sister. You’re not alone.

    Liked by 5 people

  15. Thank you for sharing your story, Max. It was heartbreaking to read and actually made me so angry at moments — that this is being done to young lesbians. I’m not lesbian nor do I have a child going through this, but this trans thing is so blatantly misogynist and horrible and I feel for my fellow females, whether lesbian or heterosexual or otherwise; we are sex: female, and we are ALL mistreated by patriarchal culture. I’m glad you made it through and got out of that world.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Max, just chiming in to add my appreciation too. Thank you for telling your story.

    I’m glad that you and K are on on the road to healing. Wishing you both all of the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for posting this. So little has been written by females directly involved in the community. It is so revealing to see that these males have developed just another rape culture that grooms its victims from a young age, and justifies its behavior by continually crowing about their own victimhood. This is the most important piece of writing I have read in a long time.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. My wife and I had considered transitioning, but my wife especially has received such awful treatment from the FTM community because we cannot medically transition due to major health concerns that we have drawn back from that community and now identify as lesbians. I actually made it to the point of being prescribed testosterone, but then my other doctor strongly advised against it because of my health concerns. However, the mistreatment of my wife when she attempted to join an online FTM board convinced me that staying lesbian is the best idea. The fact that you are EXPECTED to take hormones and undergo at least top surgery before they will accept you is a BIG red light.

    Another thing that is a major turn-off is MTF militants who feel ENTITLED to invade woman-only space regardless of whether or not they have had reconstructive surgery on their genitals. If you stand up for woman/lesbian-only space you are told you are a TERF or “cis scum” and deserve to die. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this sort of thing and read the comments. Just the other day, I protested trans in woman-only space and got told that lesbians can just stay home because if an MTF cannot invade lesbian space, the lesbians can just stay home… If this isn’t male aggression at the fact that someone might DARE to suggest that someone who still has a penis has no business in woman born woman space, I don’t know what is.

    I used to enjoy going to LGBT events and lesbian venues, but if I have to put up with MTF militant nonsense, I’d prefer to stay at home or go to friends’ homes. We go out to a little gay bar in the larger town near us, but how long until the trans militants ruin that for lesbians and those gay men who want their own space?

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I forgot to say, Max, that your posting is excellent. I hope that this will get out there because there are a lot of butch young lesbians who could learn from your traumatic experience. Lesbians have to know that it is OK to be butch, as butch as they feel they are without having to transition to something their genes say that they are not.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. I read this post several days ago and am finally getting around to commenting. Max, thank you so much for being courageous enough to share your experience. You are a brilliant writer. I wish you and K nothing but health and happiness for years to come.

    I appreciate you bringing up the experiences you and others have had with some transgender women. This is something that is extremely hard to talk about. I had my own abusive experience with a MTF when I was around age 20. I vividly recall raising concerns to a friend. The friend felt it was her job, as a trans ally, to encourage me to keep seeing this person she had never even met. If I had called this person a man, and not mentioned they were transgender, I seriously doubt she would have encouraged me to keep spending time with them. Actually, if they had just been female, even, I seriously doubt she would have encouraged me to keep spending time with this person. But somehow, their being trans trumped everything else.

    I was seeing a therapist at the time, and even though I sometimes preferred to call this person “he,” the therapist would insist of always referring to the MTF as “she.” In retrospect, it seems like since *I* was the person she was there to support, not this much older transsexual, the therapist maybe should have used the language I was most comfortable with.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I am so sorry you had to deal with these awful gaslighters. I had an experience of an attempted rape by a man pretending to be a woman and I’ve only told a few people about it because of the general bad way you’re treated when it comes to rape and because of the “you must respect the pronouns” bs. And of course, he’s just an exception to the rule and I just had “one bad experience”. The reality is that he is a man, no matter how much estrogen his parents are paying for him to have and just like any other man he has a high probability of being a rapist. Which he is!

      These men definitely build a predatory community where they guilt and coerce vulnerable young women into sexual activities with them, which is rape. Max is completely right about that.

      Anyway, virtual cookies for you and Max and everyone else here, and thank you for sharing your story Max.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just read your entry and that therapist is ABSOLUTELY wrong. If YOU did not feel comfortable using female pronouns for this transsexual, then the therapist should have been supporting you, no matter what his personal opinion on transsexualism.


  21. Though it’s often depressing, I was more impressed by this lengthy contribution than by anything else I’ve read on the blog. It paints a picture of a social environment I didn’t know existed. I am however mystified by certain details or omissions. The characters seem to be mostly high school- and college-age youngsters, yet they’re apparently not in school and they don’t seem to have substantive employment either. Max does not really succeed in explaining the weird allure of taking testosterone and making a partial transition. Surely the female body didn’t strike her as altogether unattractive or repellent. Is there perhaps an adolescent yearning for self-obliteration?

    Also perplexing is this new trend of pseudo-trans males who do not have surgery (remain physically male) yet wish to be accepted as not only women but lesbians. Having female anatomy is a modest enough requirement, it would seem, if one wishes to enter into lesbian relationships. Yet it appears that this expectation is unconsidered bigoted, un-PC, in some circles. Tolerance and political correctness have gone way too far when we now permit an anatomical male (who likely can’t even pass as a female) to announce that he is one and to require us to regard him as one. Priorities of the “trans” culture have become destructive and self-defeating when its spokespeople repeat the preposterous claim that “not all trans people can or do take hormones and surgeries”—a mind-numbing non-definition that reduces a medical condition to vague whims and feelings about self-identification. Now we’ve got cross-dressers, transvestite comedians, baby butches, and utterly conventional-looking men and women all claiming to be “trans” for no conceivable reason. We really need to tighten up the lexicon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I truly do not understand a man who partially transitions and then is upset because he or she isn’t accepted as a lesbian. I am a lesbian and I can truthfully say that a male anatomy, with or without breasts, is a major turn-off. A lot of lesbians I know feel the same way.

      As a former transman, I can understand the frustration that one cannot take hormones or undergo surgeries–that is my problem and that of my wife. But the fact that they cannot do so will not change the internal wiring. We have pretty much given up and are just identifying as lesbian (she, like me, is a bio-female [I hate the term “cis”]). We simply present as butch lesbians. However, I suspect that is not a solution for everyone and they must do as they see fit.

      If one is an adult, they have the right to try to solve this problem as best they can.


      • What I wanted to say is that as an adult is that they have the right to do as they wish (and in all honesty I understand not having the surgery part since the genital reconstruction runs in excess of $50,000.00). Where I have a BIG problem is when children are subjected to things like puberty blockers, etc. I don’t even think we fully know what those do to a child. I think they should not be given therapy until they are 18 or over.


    • As I mentioned in my other post to you, many transgender cannot afford the surgery, given that it is in excess of $50,000.00. But this whole genderqueer and genderfluid nonsense is just that–nonsense. I do think the terminology needs to be tightened up and the ease of having gender reassignment made more rigorous. You would find that the number of true trans would plummet.


    • This was written for an anthology with a specific direction, and it’s been posted here on a blog with a specific mission, too. The educational lives/careers of me and the others involved didn’t play much of a role in any of the stuff that was relevant to the story I’m telling. It feels like you’re implying that we had a level of class privilege that we absolutely did not; this just isn’t a story about that.

      If you’re curious: I was in community college, doing internships, and living off design work commissions for a couple years. After I moved, I had a psychotic breakdown doing a paper route and living in a horrible shack with a black mold problem (K’s eardrum burst from it and we lost a $1200 deposit despite improving the property by any measure).

      For the last 18ish months, I’ve been working in group homes. My goal is to become an adult foster care provider. K did three years at a Christian college but was kicked out for being a lesbian (she chose leaving over undergoing mandated conversion therapy). She is now disabled as a result of physical and emotional trauma, and has made money in a lot of different ways.

      My best friend has worked a few positions at a couple different grocery stores and is still going to the same community college I used to go to, for a business degree. At the time I think she was planning on being a flight attendant; I’m not sure if that’s still her goal.

      Unless something has changed since K was last in contact with him (which is unlikely), M is supported financially by his awful father and relies on daily domestic/emotional labor from his mother. The man who assaulted my best friend wasn’t in school at the time. I think he worked at a sandwich place or something for a while before he went back to LA. No idea what he’s doing now.

      The allure is pretty hard to explain, yes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am flattered you wrote a reply to my comment, Max. Sorry about asking about extraneous details. I should have realized your essay was being repurposed here. As I originally mentioned, your piece gave people a vista onto a social world that I and most people are not familiar with. I know people who many years ago ‘transitioned’ (not a word then in vogue) in their teens, but I only knew them as their adult selves, and they were young in a time when there wasn’t a lot of social/political chatter on the subject. A common trope on this blog is that social media in general have distorted people’s thinking and expectations, and I suspect that may be the case.


  22. Thank you for this piece. It’s a true portrait of the messy, painful process of real psychological birth. You have such a beautiful mind and through it all you protected it and struggled do that it could survive and thrive in this crazy world. Your fierceness will protect you – and so many others less able to lead rebellions.
    Are your parents around for you? It sounds like they are somewhat supportive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this comment ❤ They are! They were not initially supportive of my transition (fair enough) and only came around when the importance of HRT and top surgery was validated by medical professionals; we've talked a lot about this and none of us blame each other for how it all happened. They respect my journey and we're on good terms.

      Liked by 3 people

  23. Some of these trans women on YouTube are straight up MRAs. One of them is wonderwhaz797, a “lesbian” transwoman, who has made videos explaining why women get raped (mainly het women bringing it on themselves); and how is not her fault she’s attracted to “hot bitches”. I found her channel because she did a review of the new Star Wars movie. So I saw another video where she complains about ‘dating dog’s, and she’s not exactly ‘hot’ herself and except for the enormous fake boobs, she is very unattractive in attitude towards women. Her anger is so fierce in fact, it’s more Rage. She blames so much on when and it seems really weird to me that a transwoman who also claims to be a lesbian could talk about women in the most extremely vulgar and mysoginiatic ways! I know of no lesbian who would actively support MRAs, be buddies with them, and spread their propaganda like whoever this wonderwhaz person is. I know it’s not popular, but I really feel like anyone who wants to transition should have to have any other mental illnesses screened for first and treated, if they have them. I don’t want men in my locker rooms, or bathrooms, or private clubs only allowing ” biolesbians”. If Freemasons have the right to form private clubs that don’t allow women, then Women should now than be allowed to do the same. But everyone says after no good at keeping secrets and that’s why we’ve never had one. At this point, Id be happy to try!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I had a running battle online a couple of weeks ago with a woman (not transgender) who did nothing but vilify feminism and carry on about how wonderful the MRA organizations are. The hatred of women just vibrated from every reply she made to me.

      I find the way transwomen who are supposedly also lesbian talk about lesbians to be totally hateful and misogynistic. Hatred just oozes from their posts and YouTube offerings.

      You know, getting to transition used to be a lot harder than it is today. I had considered FTM transition at one point and at the time, you had to go to a counselor and really make your case and then a psychiatrist to be screened to make sure you didn’t have other serious mental things going on, and finally a doctor to address other medical issues, if any (this was about 10-12 years ago). Now, it seems as if you identify as “trans”, you can find doctors who will administer hormones and eventually connect you with surgeons.

      The thing that REALLY bugs me is this whole thing with labeling young children as “trans”. I accept that adults are free agents and can make their own choices, but children cannot legally consent and I feel their parents or guardians are being irresponsible in labeling kids that may merely be butch lesbians or femme gays, or alternatively just non-gender-conforming heterosexuals. I suspect that in some cases, the parents would simply prefer to consider the child as “trans” rather than gay/lesbian or non-gender-conforming heterosexual.

      Just a question: how do you feel about post-op transwomen in bathrooms? I know I would prefer that pre-op transwomen be provided with other options. Post-op seems a little more grey.


  24. Just want to say thank you so much to all of the women who have left supportive comments. If I didn’t have carpel tunnel I would reply individually lol! It feels really overwhelming to be heard about this stuff. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to post here and tell my story.


  25. Pingback: Good old-time religion | Clouds moving in

  26. Pingback: A young woman speaks of her experience coming to terms with being a woman. – identitypoliticsblog

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  28. Gadzooks what a psychic maelstrom you have been through! The old teenage angst of my era, early 60s, was nothing in comparison. Buddha said something like the ‘mind is the problem, mind is the solution.’ Perhaps it was also your soul or spirit, but it pulled you through! I wonder if the youth of today are more insular than back then? That plus social media seems to really breed deep trouble – and quickly.


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