When ‘America’s First Nonbinary Person’ Detransitioned, a Nonbinary Perspective

To preface, I want to state that in no way is this intended to invalidate those who choose to de-transition. There are multitudes of reasons that folks choose to do so, from bridging the gap between body and mind to the point they want, to being unable to transition due to financial or medical issues. This also does not damn those who are non-binary who choose to not transition at all. All trans is valid, loved, and seen.

In 2016 I split with my husband, a conservative leaning Christian with not so leaning conservative Christian parents. I hid a lot in that period of my life: repressed sexuality and ideas on how I would want to present if heteronormative pressures had not been indoctrinated in my head. The reason for the split were unrelated to this subject…nevertheless, a gradual shift to masculine naturally occurred and I was free to explore the spectrum of non-binary that had been in the back of my mind for some time. “I don’t need to be trans to want to present masculine,” I thought, and that is still correct, just not for me. I eventually worked past the imposter syndrome I felt, with questions to friends just starting HRT and friends who had been doing HRT for years, research into hormone replacement therapy of my own footwork, and came out as transgender.  

Just over ten months ago I went to Central Wellness Outreach for an STI screening [sexual health is sexy!]. I choked back fear and asked about the process of getting on HRT. The tech doing my blood work simply said, “Let me get someone for you to talk to,” and from there I went. Sitting in that room, I felt valid for the first time. We went over my history of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and the subsequent Zoloft I was on because of it, how I recognized my body, even if I wasn’t comfortable in my body as mine, and that same day I got my labs drawn. Two weeks later, I got my first IM injection of testosterone. May 7, 2018 seems like a lifetime ago and a day ago simultaneously, but I’ll easily regard that day as the best day of my life.

A lot has changed in the ten months I’ve been transitioning medically. My relationship to my body and food has changed. I’m comfortable in my skin, nay, confident. I’m on my way to getting a total laparoscopic hysterectomy with removal of ovaries and tubes, a surgery I have wanted since I was a teen, even if I didn’t know all the reasons past the fact that I didn’t want kids. I am choosing against top surgery, and present however the f*** I want to on that given day. This doesn’t mean I don’t succumb to a generic uniform when at work-–pick your battles, as they say.

A few days ago, my partner came across an article by Jamie Shupe in an alt-right online newspaper “I Was America’s First ‘Nonbinary’ Person. It was All a Sham.” This article was plastered on the front page news on the Smart News app that every android phone has available. In it is Jamie’s story of transition to being legally named the first nonbinary person in the US, to de-transitioning and denouncing the existence of nonbinary people and trans people everywhere. The article’s offensive tropes included but are not limited to the all-too-used argument that traumatic events in childhood and sexual abuse are direct links to reasons behind transition. This isn’t the first time someone de-transitioning while regretting getting HRT in the first place has used this argument. Jamie goes on to detail how after three years on estrogen and Spironolactone, he didn’t look anything like a female, “Despite having taken or been injected with every hormone and antiandrogen concoction in the VA’s medical arsenal, I didn’t look anything like a female. People on the street agreed. Their harsh stares reflected the reality behind my fraudulent existence as a woman. Biological sex is immutable.” To end the “fantasy of being a woman,” Shupe asked doctors to to be “bailed out” and identify as nonbinary. He is the first recorded person to have an X marked on their birth certificate legally, but he has since gone back to he/him pronouns and is living as the man he was “always meant to be”. The article and Jamie’s story is being used by conservatives to legitimize the process of transition and decrease support for transgender rights.

I’m happy for Jamie, that he worked through his trauma and found that the way he was trying to combat it was not actually helpful for him. However, the condemnation of a community, because he didn’t fit in or didn’t find what he needed within it, is a danger to those in the community who need it to survive. Not all trans people are awarded hormones on the spot. I consider myself lucky in my transition because even with a postponement of surgery because my health insurance has massive red tape, I’ve been validated in who I am with all the doctors I go to. But even WITH informed consent and backing from doctors, insurance requires specific language in letters for me to go for any gender confirmation surgery. Often times it is requisite for the surgery to be paid for.

Leo Bake, a transmasculine person in Pittsburgh notes on the article, “The important thing to note here is that Jamie is an adult and made his own choices about his body. He admitted IN THE ARTICLE that if his therapist did not prescribe him HRT, he would find his hormones online anyway. He fought for his own rights and desires to become a woman and was aided in his efforts along the way. Not all trans people are afforded the same help he was, hence our ‘aggressive transgender activism’. Even with the informed consent model, some have to go through dozens of therapists and doctors to get HRT prescribed and surgeries authorized.”

Notably, the nonbinary and trans activism ‘agenda’ that they so lovingly call it has only in recent years adopted the notion that people can be on either the binary or nonbinary spectrum of gender and within the trans umbrella. Some still disagree, even within the trans community, about the validity of those who choose to present in the way they like, even if that means they are not read as the gender or gender expression they desire. Societal standards on what a trans person ‘should’ look like, underlying inner transphobia, misogyny, and toxic masculinity and beyond all feed into the issue, as are both trans and cis gender people trying to claim that gender is not a social construct. As far as we’ve come, nonbinary people are still in a fight for recognition.

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.