Before I begin, I just want to put a huge caveat out there that this post describes my experience in transition and is not meant to be a statement that applies to all trans guys who are taking testosterone. I’m sure there are other people who have experienced this same feeling, but I am not in any way implying that my problem here is universal among trans guys.
I can’t cry any more. I used to cry. I wasn’t the type of person who cried easily, but when I needed to cry, I never failed to do so. Coming from a very stoic Norwegian family, I always felt like the “sensitive one” because I would cry when I was sad about things. But I can’t cry any more.
It’s not that I don’t feel sadness– I definitely do. But where feelings of sadness used to cause tears to form, thus providing a release of sorts, they no longer come. I think that taking testosterone has actually blocked the physiological response of crying. It’s really, really strange. I have had some very sad things happen to me since starting testosterone that normally would have made me cry: the tragic death of a foster dog, the loss of a loved one’s mother, stress at work, physical pain, the end of a relationship. But nothing. Nada. Seriously, I really wish I could cry.
This experience has given me some insight into what is perhaps one of the great stereotypical social divides between “men” and “women” in our culture. Women cry, men don’t, right? More than that, men often perpetuate this idea that women who cry are “hysterical” or “emotional” or a slew of other not-flattering and loaded terms. While this is definitely the patriarchy at work, my experience of late has given me some understanding as to why men might actually believe those things are true.
Before I transitioned, years ago, I lost a book on an airplane. It was Mockingjay (Hunger Games Part III) and it had just come out that day. I was about 1/2 into it when we had a layover and I left it on the plane. When I realized it was gone, I cried a little. Now, I understand (as any of you Hunger Games fans would) why I was upset– I had been so looking forward to reading it, I was really into it, and then out of carelessness, I lost it.
However, had I always been raised male, always had testosterone in my system– basically if I had the same inability to cry then that I do now– I would have looked at myself and thought “Okay, that person is crazy. Seriously? Crying over a book?”
In my mind now, I think I would probably cry if something really devastating happened. But it would have to be really, really upsetting. But for most of your everyday this-would-have-made-me-cry-a-year-ago events, it’s just not going to happen. If that had ALWAYS been my experience, and I had never felt what it was like for tears to form under less-than-tragic circumstances, I think I can see why I would look at “women” who cry and think “gosh, that’s a bit much, isn’t it?”
Is it possible that the “women are hysterical” myth exists simply because cisgender men have never lived in a body that reacted to non-catastrophes with tears? How much better would this world be if testosterone didn’t block that response? Would we be more empathetic? Less judgmental?
I guess there’s two lessons here:
1. to those who don’t cry: don’t judge those who do. They cannot control what their bodies do under stress/emotional circumstances any more than you can.
2. to whose that do cry: I know it sucks when those who don’t cry judge you for crying. But in addition to what you’re weeping for, add to the list the fact that those who don’t cry either physically can’t, or socially do not allow themselves to do so. Both of those things suck, too.
As Bill and Ted say: Be most excellent to each other.