A shared frame of reference should be a necessity

I exchanged a rather grating series of messages on one of my private Facebook groups about transition regret. With such a politically loaded trope I said early on in the conversation that we should pick a specific story–bearing in mind it would be anecdotal unless it was accompanied by data–so that we have a shared frame of reference.

They said they would refuse to divulge the personal disclosures from their friends. I never actually asked for those, nor would I. I literally said pick a story. Pick just one. Her response was to flippantly tell me to Google it.

That badly missed the point. We need a shared point of reference because otherwise we’ll keep trading in hypotheticals and get nowhere. I’m well aware that stories of transition regret exist and I’m also aware that of the minority who regret their transition that the cited reason is most often poor surgical outcome and not a mistake about their identity. But that particular observation lacks political traction and doesn’t propagate as quickly as “TEH TRANS ARR RECROOTING TEH CHILDREN!”

I’ll go–but what about the fantastic mental health outcomes of youth who are supported in their transition?

They’ll go–but what about those who regret it?

And nothing will be actually achieved, because without specifics we can’t identify whether there was a failure in the service provided or if the service provider was competent or if the actual cause of their regret is discrimination or surgical outcome rather than having made a mistake about their identity and on and on and on it goes.

This is one reason–there are many–but one reason why I moderate my comments extensively. You could say the guiding principle is “stay on target.” People making references to “those damned children!” without actually providing some kind of shared frame of reference by which we can participate are usually filtered precisely because the sort of circle jerking that ensues annoys me deeply.

It reminds me of one of the most important lessons I learned in my time at university. Open-ended questions were often posed in essay projects and the only way a student can stop floundering in such prospects is to select a reference to which the professor (or more likely the professor’s teaching assistant) can compare your argument. Students who neglected to pick a specific topic found themselves failing because their essay ended up being a bunch of fluff.

Needless to say, a chorus of insults followed when I bowed out of the conversation by saying that without a shared frame of reference, I would not participate. I was accused of trying to cover up the “dark side” of transition.

Patently ridiculous considering my job is doing exactly that.

Was providing that link so difficult?




  1. says

    I propose we adopt that stance whenever somebody tells you about getting married or a godsdamn tattoo.
    Then we demand they abstain from the activity. For fun, try it with TERFs on marriage equality: Since 50% of married couples get a divorce and lives have been seriously ruined gay people need to be protected from making that mistake.