Notes from My Twitter Break
vignettes from the life of a detrans twitter addict
Song of the Lark by Jules Breton
I’ve been on a twitter break, since my best friend gave me a little bit of a “come to Jesus” intervention style talk. I’ll be back after Christmas. My life has taken on a very different texture being out of the loop. I used twitter to fill in a lot of gaps in my time. But the reason I got off of it was I had begun to see myself falling into my old Skinner box internet addiction habits with it.
Twitter has been a kind of mute button for my emotions. (Well, any social media site. But it’s Twitter for me right now.) Has anyone been in this situation: you feel bad, wretched even. There’s a miserable feeling, a knot in your stomach. You know you need to cry.
But you don’t want to go into it, and you don’t even know how. So instead you hit the dopamine button. Tweet, or instagram, or whatever else. It’s like the rat hitting the heroin lever.
It’s like you have a wound on your flank festering, but you don’t know what to do with it. But you do have a giant pile of lollipops. And you really don’t like to look at the wound. It’s gross and horrifying and might be getting gangrenous. You really hope it’s not, and honestly you’re scared to look. So you just keep crunching on the lollipops, each tiny burst of flavor providing a momentary distraction. And the wound, it just keeps rankling, the sour and undeniable undercurrent that will have to be faced eventually.
So, no Twitter. Maybe because of this, or maybe because of some events in my personal life, or because I have media appearances coming up, I’ve been feeling extra tender over transition regret lately. On twitter, I have a social reality built up to process the emotions of detransition. I feel something, I post it, it’s a little exorcism. Now, I’m mostly alone with the thoughts.
I’m moving along in my life in a lot of ways. I have big milestones coming up. The lengthy part of my life spent with my identity wrapped up in trans/queer subculture is fading away. I’m feeling more confident, more grown up. The proverbial green hair has long been grown out, I’m eating better, I can walk to the coffee shop and buy myself a latte with no financial anxiety. It’s the little things in life.
But of course, the scars remain.
I can feel myself growing stronger and moving past many of my old insecurities. But this will never be over. When I made that decision, I put myself in a rarified class. I will never not be detransitioned. Maybe I won’t think about it as much, but these scars will never go away.
But, in another very real sense, regret is boring.
I wake up every day and one of my first sensations is “oh yeah. No boobs.” My stomach twists. The feeling of the scars aches, pressed against the mattress. It’s been about 4 years now, and the sensation in my chest are:
B. something unpleasant.
I look in the mirror and I feel disappointment when I see my skinny, asymmetrically-scarred chest, the surgeon’s mockery of a male chest.
But the ache of regret is part of the background of my life. It used to be a knife twisting in me, driving me mad. I used to think there was no way I could survive it. Every night, I would be ripped by sobs, clutching my chest, my boyfriend holding me as I once again broke down under the heavy weight of the cruelty I had inflicted on my innocent flesh. It was like being possessed with madness, the pain was so intense and undeniable.
I felt like the Job of the Gender God, wretched and forsaken.
That’s all long in the past.
Most days, I don’t vividly remember the drama and hope of transition, or the ripping pain of detransition, when I feel these things. I remember that I used to have a whole and unaltered body. Not that I really appreciated it at the time. I was always worrying at myself anyways. Chewing my fingernails til they bled, piercing my ears over and over again, and now this. Cut off your breasts. Sure, why not, dumbass.
I regret it every day. But it’s not the killing knife-stab of regret, at least not most of the time. It’s an old, tattered regret. I am a different person now. The Grace who might have gone down a different path - I don’t know her as well anymore. Back when I was first detransitioning, it felt so recent that I should be able to unspool a few years of time and claw back through time and save myself. Now I’m grimly settled in, having reached acceptance.
When people read my story and react with extreme horror and pain, it gives me an uncanny feeling. Oh yeah, I guess it was pretty bad, huh? It was. It was bad.
So, of course it gets better. But some things don’t go away. A ledger of pain and regret will build up for each and every one of us as we grow. This is part of mine. Womp womp womp.
There’s something else looming. I sense that the worst of my big regret is, in some ways, still to come. If I have a baby, I will have to reckon with my youthful follies affecting the next generation. I am not sure what that will be like. I am scared of how bad I am going to feel, how much shame I might feel at affecting my offspring. However, as Sufjan Stevens said - the past is still the past, the bridge to nowhere.
Something else I’ve been thinking about is - I don’t really want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be exposed as a loser freak who makes mistakes. I don’t want to expose that to the world because it’s too raw, too personal. I’ve been off twitter and I’m glad. I don’t want to be contacted. I don’t want to do it. It’s too much.
I’m actually a really sensitive and agreeable person. I don’t really like to fight. Whenever I have a conflict with someone, I feel sick about it for weeks. Not just because of their anger, but because of some churning guilt I feel at having entered a conflict. No, really, physically sick. I have one of those classic female pathologies where I will swallow anger for ages rather than speak harshly. The wrong tone sets me on edge.
So, when I started talking about detransition, I was really anxious. I knew that it would not be popular. I had previously been just the sort of person who would loudly denounce someone for being a bigot. (There’s an element to this experience that feels like karma. I was an annoying proto-woke Tumblr girl, and now I am counted among the most reviled of its ranks)
Lately, I’ve had a couple more personal conflicts related to my detransition that shook me a lot and affected people that I care about, not just me. I don’t want to go into them more, but it’s much worse to experience personal rejection from people you knew and got along with before.
The first time I went on TV, I was sick to my stomach with anxiety for days. But it had the feeling of unreality. It was the feeling of: This is something that will change my life, and I will be scared, but all I have to do is just live with that feeling and the thing will happen and then I’ll deal with what happens as it happens.
And I didn’t really know what that would be like.
Now I do.
It looks like new friends, it looks like hearing some of the most horrifying stories of medical malpractice possible, it looks like meeting brilliant and amazing people, it looks like childhood heroes knowing your name, it looks like a lot of people hearing you speak candidly about the worse moment of your life and being like “god, this woman fucking sucks.”
It looks like strength. It looks like maturity.