It makes sense that people pushed back against a set of venture-backed apps that aim to solve trans people’s complex problems, Murib says. Turning to venture capital is contrary to many trans people’s desire to escape profit-based systems that have kept them marginalized by deeming them unprofitable for companies and therefore worthless. Any product that pitches itself as a guidebook for transition, no matter how nuanced and flexible, can be perceived as a call to assimilate, both into cisnormative society and the capitalist system that comes with it. “I’m not surprised that there was this big Twitter response by people saying, on one hand, not only do they not want to assimilate,” says Murib, “but also from a lot of people saying, ‘what if I can’t assimilate?’”
Solace is clear that its listed goals are not the be-all, end-all of transition, that everyone’s transition will be different and there’s no single correct way to be trans. But it still echoes white, middle class, and cisnormative ideals of what transness looks like, says Chris Barcelos, assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Solace is also hindered by the word count of its entries; picking and choosing which complexities are worth mentioning in its introductory summaries of topics that could (and do) fill books.
Solace to identify and learn about your goals, and use Bliss to help achieve them. But transition is rarely one continuous path. Many people are out in some spaces and not others, have to stop their hormones for long stretches of time, or put off gender-affirming procedures. Some trans people have no plans to ever medically transition, or see transness as a space for experimentation with no end goal.
Beyond the substance of the app itself, many of Euphoria’s critics took issue with the overall framing that a guide to transition is a novel idea. Trans people have been seeking and sharing information among their communities for ages. Zines like Lou Sullivan’s Information for the female-to-male crossdresser and transsexual circulated in queer social networks in the ‘80s. There were online message boards in the ‘90s. Nowadays, people turn to Discord groups, subreddits, Facebook groups, and other online forums to seek advice and find affirmation. One of the frequent calls in response to the Euphoria tweet was “if you have questions about transition, don’t download an app, DM me.”
Taking hormones without the guidance of a doctor can be dangerous, but trans people have a long history of sharing hormones because so few have access to gender-affirming care. There are often self-taught experts within communities who guide other trans people through hormone regimens. Euphoria’s discouragement is well-intentioned, and a smart choice to avoid liability, but the framing of its advice is aggravating for many trans people who have struggled to navigate a health care system that is so often hostile, even harmful, to them.
“If you don’t trust medical providers, you should strongly reconsider your position even if only as a matter of personal health and preservation,” says the Solace entry about the grey market. This call to action doesn’t acknowledge why many trans people are distrustful of established medical systems, assuming they can access them at all.
Faced with a history of medicine that has pathologized and traumatized them, trans people find medical advice in surprising places. “I’ve seen a bunch of posts from the same person [on Lex, a queer dating app] that are just like, ‘Oh, thanks for all the help with top surgery shit’,” says Bigfrog. “You could literally just log on to Lex and be like, ‘I want to get top surgery’ and you’ll get a bunch of gay people in your DMs telling you where to go and what to do.”