Q&A: My Trans Girlfriend Wants to Wait for Surgery

Dear Jamie,

My trans girlfriend recently put bottom surgery on hold, and I’m supporting her. She is questioning her identity and wants to wait. I stand with her no matter what and don’t want her to rush into painful surgery if she isn’t ready.

But some of our friends—trans women too, but mostly cis folks who are allies or trans activists—insist that she has been “brainwashed by hate.” There have been some high-profile stories in the news about transgender regret and some stuff about transgenderism being mass hysteria or a fashionable bandwagon.

My girlfriend says it’s obvious that gender dysphoria MIGHT mean uncertainty of self, and that some trans are not sure or there wouldn’t be any need for nonbinary categories at all.

She also says that people pushing others towards “cutting it off” is pathological—that even if a person is “in the wrong body” she can choose surgery later, and trans people should be encouraged to exhaust other options for happiness before mutilating their bodies.

I love her as she is, and they should too. I read activist accounts as well as this “hate” stuff from ex-trans people, and I don’t think we know enough to be pushing an agenda—many sides seem to be at war, even those on the same team! The most important person for me to listen to is Janine, and she wants to wait. What do you think of all this? – Alex

Because transgender women have fought so hard for rights and recognition, it can be very threatening to some TS folks and their allies to have conflicting ideas and experiences. None of us know much of anything so far! Historically, there have been many different ways of explaining or experiencing being trans. Many cultures made allowance for “third genders”—whether tolerating, or revering as special and sacred—but didn’t recognize trans people as “real women.” Were these pioneers haters?

It’s wrong to belittle people who regret their transitions, to coax people into an identity prematurely, and to deny rights to a person who has chosen to live as the opposite gender from their birth assignment. We ALL need to learn to love each other and listen to the whole story, including those we don’t agree with.

You’re probably referring to Walter Heyer’s story in USA Today. He has been advocating against transitioning for years and is dismissed because he is religious, but he feels he was coerced by religious fervor to reject his birth gender.

Jamie Shupe is another story. He was the first legally nonbinary person in the USA. He feels doctors and media preyed on him and pushed him into something when his issue was something else he didn’t want to accept, a fixation on wearing women’s clothes (transvestitism is a common kink for cis straight men.)

BTW, resisting surgery or other treatment isn’t just people denying transgenderism—it’s also trans people who want the right to live without those risks, who say having surgery forced on them for nonconforming bodies is just as much erasure as living as their wrong, assigned-at-birth gender.

I don’t know all the answers. NO ONE DOES. We are figuring it out right now. I’m really tired of all the infighting and intolerance. Cis and trans women, transgender and gay folks, drag queens versus transgender people, cis versus trans people—we are in trouble, and passing off the hate as someone else’s problem.

All of us need to remember how to agree to disagree, and listen to each other carefully if only for insight into how the other people are wrong. They might not be, but if they are, we can still listen for where to find common ground and how to navigate the facts from the fiction from the not yet known.

The important thing is that we stand by our lovers and loved ones, no matter what we know or don’t know. We’re not all against each other—we’re in this together.

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