Films like Regretters may have some trans people concerned about “airing our dirty laundry” to the public. After all, if some people “regret” transitioning, then non-trans people might see it as a mistake that should be avoided, and anti-trans factions could use the information against us — to try to make getting hormones and/or surgery more difficult by arguing that transition does more harm than good and obviously doesn’t work out.
But the public has dirty laundry, too (I’ve seen it — I used to go once a week to the laundromat). There is probably nothing in life that has not been regretted by a few who have done it.
I know people who have converted to Christianity, then changed their mind and gone back to their original religion or have denounced organized religion entirely. Does this mean that we should do away with Christianity because, well, it obviously doesn’t work out?
I know people who have left the Democratic party to become Republicans and then switched their allegiance back to the Democrats again. Does this mean that we should do away with the Republican party because, well, it obviously doesn’t work out?
I know liberals who have become conservative and then moved toward liberalism again. Should we do away with conservative ideology because of it? I know people who voted for George W. Bush and then almost instantly regretted it. I know people who have changed doctors, hair stylists, neighborhoods, even states, and then regretted it. Should we do away with California because some people regretted moving there and have moved away again?
You can see where this is going. A handful of people who regret something they’ve done is not grounds to eliminate that entire something, whatever it is (although I’d like a vote on the Republican party, conservative ideology, and George W. Bush).
Sometimes transition does not work out, although it’s rare. The vast majority of those who have transitioned will say that it was their only option, and most regrets expressed involve not doing it sooner. But regret is definitely out there.
Transition is made more difficult by the rigid and unrelenting gender expectations that the culture holds up as ideal, making it problematic for those who simply cannot meet those ideals. And the discrimination that trans people face in society — the difficulty finding employment, the verbal harassment, living in fear of mistreatment or even assault — all those things can add up. And, yes, they can sometimes cause regret.
I think it’s important that we do present this side of transition. It’s important that we not struggle to hide the negatives — because, for some people, there are negatives.
To deny this is to present an unrealistic picture that few will believe. To acknowledge it is to say, “Here are some problems that could occur. And here are some things that could be done to mitigate those problems — like relaxing gender roles and expectations. Like giving us our rights. Like trying to understand us. Like accepting us as human beings.”
To acknowledge it is to say, “We’re not perfect. Neither is the society into which we are born. How can we make things better for everybody?”