‘Former detransitioner’ Ky Schevers on rebuilding her life after falling for ‘cult-like’ TERFs

Three silhouettes in the colours of the trans flag

Ky Schevers was confused about her gender, and detransitioned after being “sucked in” by “gender-critical feminism”. Now, she’s rebuilding her life.

Schevers, who is transmasculine, genderqueer and uses she/ her pronouns, began medical transition by taking testosterone when she was 20, after coming out as a trans man.

But Schevers soon realised that her gender wasn’t binary.

“I had tried living as a more binary trans guy but that didn’t really work out, and I felt more genderqueer,” she tells PinkNews. “Then I thought I felt more like a butch dyke, and I kind of wanted to explore that part of myself.”

Looking for support, she turned to online forums.

“I was expressing these doubts and in a psychologically vulnerable place.”

She was approached by a woman who Schevers describes as “fairly TERFy” (TERF stands for trans exclusionary radical feminist) and had, like her, been reading some content online about detransition.

“I feel like we both got sucked in towards transphobic or gender-critical feminism because, firstly, those are the people who were trying to latch on to stories [like ours],” Schevers explains.

“It kind of made sense to me, like I wasn’t sure how to reclaim the female or butch parts of myself without drawing on some of the stories I’d already heard – that there’s pressure on butch lesbians to transition, or they’re transitioning because of internalised misogyny.”

Over the next few years, Schevers descended down an anti-trans rabbit hole. She found a community in circles of detransitioned radical “feminists”, and was held up as an example of transness being a result of internalised misogyny, homophobia and trauma.

She recalls holding a workshop at the trans-exclusionary Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, known as Michfest.

“It was very well-attended a whole lot of TERFy lesbians who showed up to hear about the poor lesbians who got sucked in… they just ate that up. Now looking back, I can see I got love-bombed, there was lots of positive attention.”

Schevers describes this sense of community and support as “intoxicating”, and adds: “It felt like we were doing this important work, and helping people. A lot of us had gone through this sort of intense conversion experience, converting to this particular interpretation of radical feminism, lesbian feminism.

“But I feel like most of us were in some kind of real distress and believing in this stuff felt good. We did find connection with each other, we were just connecting over transphobic beliefs and also, I would say, self-harm.”

It was very cult-like, it was very controlling.

Schevers is clear that there is nothing wrong with detransition, and that everyone’s journey of gender discovery is different. The problem is that when those people search for support, they are more often than not finding radicalised, anti-trans communities to lean on.

“This is one of the reasons I feel like there needs to be more talk about these issues outside of transphobic groups, if they’re the only people talking about it, it’s easier for people to get sucked in and radicalised and end up believing a bunch of transphobic crap.”

The process of extricating herself from the group she found herself embedded in was gradual, Schevers says: “It was very cult-like, it was very controlling. It’s one of those things where it’s easy to join the group, harder to leave.”

Once, before she even admitted to herself that she wanted to get out, she happened to attend a book reading by a gay man who had been through conversion therapy.

“The way he described his experiences resonated with me,” she says.

“A light bulb went off, but I was also like, ‘Oh, s**t.’ You don’t necessarily want to believe you accidentally created an ex-trans community, that you’ve been doing conversion therapy on yourself.”

Ky Schevers realised links between TERFs and the far-right

Later, in 2018, some of Schevers’ writing would be featured without consent in the anti-trans book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, written by conservative, religious scholar Ryan T Anderson.

It wasn’t the first time right-wing Christians has “misused” her writing, she says.

“But at the time has book came out, I was already saying: ‘My transition didn’t really hurt me.’ I was trying to make peace with being genderqueer and trans. I couldn’t say that yet, because I would have gotten too much backlash from other detransitioned women.”

The book helped her to realise the ties between trans-exclusionary radical feminism and the far-right, as she saw that Anderson was parroting “a lot of the same arguments that these supposed feminists were making”.

“I was horrified because I thought the point of radical feminism was to fight the patriarchy and dismantle it, not like ally [with the right] to go after trans people.

“But when you’re siding with the Christian right just to go after trans people, you’re just a transphobe. You do not care about fighting the patriarchy, sexism, or homophobia, you just want to go after trans people.”

Anderson’s use of her writing made Schevers think.

“If telling my story is supposed to help uproot the patriarchy, and the patriarchy is using it, well there’s a problem here.”

As time went on, Schevers began to feel more at peace with herself and her transition, and consequently began feeling much happier.

I kind of realised that a lot of these like supposed feminists are just using me.

But what surprised her was that the anti-trans radical feminists around her were “threatened” by her happiness.

“It was actually a disturbing experience, because I’m feeling happier, but they didn’t really care. Obviously, I knew conservative Christians never had my best interests at heart, and I kind of realised that a lot of these like supposed feminists are just using me, and then I realised these other detransitioned women in my own community just want to use me.”

Getting out meant cutting off most of the people around her, Schevers says, and it took her a long time to speak out publicly about her experience.

“I felt comfortable actually sharing my story and speaking out and talking about this stuff because I don’t want people to suffer like I did,” Schevers says.

“I don’t want people to fall prey to toxic communities.”

And to those people who may be thinking about going through detransition, Schevers remarks: “People should be asking, ‘What do you need? What do you need to be well?’ We need to help people figure out if it’s transition that’s the problem, or if it’s living in a society wants everyone to see transitioning as harmful.”