There are as many ways of being trans and nonbinary as there are people who take on those identities. Each are splendid, resilient, and worthy of validation and welcome here at FORGE in our work with trans/genderqueer survivors and the people who support us. That welcome, we believe, should be steadfastly extended into the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, this goal is far from actualized. Our struggle towards healing justice for all trans and nonbinary survivors of violence continues.
Oftentimes, especially in the pandemic, trans and nonbinary survivors turn to online communities to find information, support, and relief. While we at FORGE have taken this crisis as a moment to dream even deeper inclusion practices that better center disability justice and body neutrality through online trainings, gatherings, and groups, other corners of the Internet have retracted in their definitions for what it means to be a “real” trans or nonbinary person. These narrowed concepts predominantly rely on white, thin, financially and housing secure people pursuing very specific medical regimens to prove their trans-ness, even though most of us have been exposed to the reality that medical transitioning is not the only, superior way to identify as trans and nonbinary in the world. At FORGE, we’re dedicated to educating people about medical transition options if they’re interested, but we in no way uphold any coming out or transition journey as more authentically trans or nonbinary as others. We will continue to stand by our community members who decide not to, or who are not able to, medically transition with dignity and respect for their bodily autonomy and goodness as survivors.
The internet can also complicate developing a self-affirming gender identity when contrary messages to our bodies’ wisdoms go viral.
Yesterday (3/13/2021) on Twitter, I took note that the hashtag #DetransAwarenessDay was trending in the United States. It immediately piqued my curiosity. I’m passionate about creating and maintaining space for survivors whose gender identities and/or presentations change as they heal from violence. As someone who took years of trauma work to shed the binary and come forward publicly as the only agender person I know, I still feel wounded by comments about how I had led people on while identifying as a trans man. I also still feel immense joy every time I’m able to expand farther into my own truths, which is part of every trans and nonbinary survivors’ birthrights. We take these joyful processes very seriously here at FORGE; the places where we find softer truths in ourselves is where our resilience lies.
As I scrolled through the #DetransAwarenessDay tag on Twitter, I was dismayed by the narratives it perpetuated. My coworkers felt similarly as we dug deeper into stories that perpetuate the myths that trauma survivors can’t be trusted to know our own desires and truths; one is either medically transitioning or detransitioning along binary lines, there are no squiggles and spirals to delight in; identities are meant to be static and changing as we learn and grow means we made a grave and naive mistake about ourselves; detransitioning is an expected result of healing so trans and nonbinary survivors should only be trusted to come out and transition medically and/or socially once we’ve reached a certain, nebulous point in therapy; young people should not get to make these decisions; and, detransitioning or transitioning to a new identity is inherently retraumatizing, as is the grief for “lost years.” Many of these messages were accompanied by “Before and After” pictures that predominantly featured white, thin people again. The hashtag felt deflating to me as a survivor who has fought through all those myths to boldly embrace my agender identity and get to focus on working with other disabled, trans and nonbinary, young adults healing from sexual and intimate partner violence at FORGE.
I am proud to say with full confidence that FORGE denounces all of these myths and trending narratives that alienate vulnerable trans and nonbinary people and confuse those who love us. As a survivor-centered organization, we hold brave space for all trans and nonbinary identities, including detransitioning or retransitioning journeys. I know from experience that it’s easier to think of being trans as a linear, medically directed binary, and now I’m thankful to make more space for nonbinary, non-medicalized, evolving identities that can grow, shift, and be entirely renamed or reimagined as we heal. I’m honored to work for an organization that upholds these values and challenges normative discussions so all survivors can access hope, healing, and community in this pandemic. It is my sincere hope you can find what you need at FORGE- if not, let us know. We’re evolving too.
In the event that the trending #DetransAwarenessDay tag triggered uncomfortable or unsafe urges or sensations, I compiled this growing thread of resources for you and those who support your healing. Feel encouraged to comment with your own resources and skills! https://twitter.com/collagenthief/status/1370440896978821127?s=21
Disability and Youth Trauma Specialist
Tristen Taggart is an agender antiviolence activist pursuing their Bachelor’s Degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University. Tristen joined FORGE as a Policy and Programming Intern in 2018 and now works as the Disability and Youth Trauma Specialist. Tristen is a queer survivor, community activist, scholar, and direct-support volunteer with an evolving focus on the intersections and divergences of queer survivorship, disability justice, and abolition in the lives of young people. They are thrilled to bring their passion and curiosity to FORGE from their hometown in Richmond, Virginia.