A Year in Review: My First Year on Testosterone

Today marks one year that I have been on testosterone.  I have identified as trans for over a decade (at least to myself) and had been thinking about it for years, but it was one year ago today that I got my testosterone prescription.

I remember walking out of the endocrinologist’s office with my prescription for AndroGel, a topical testosterone, and thinking “This is it.  Now I get to see what happens next.”  I used AndroGel for the first 5 months, and then switched to injections.  The changes were gradual at first, so much that I barely notice a difference in photos and voice recordings over the first few months.

And then suddenly– BOOM!  I got way stronger, I grew a beard, and my voice has changed significantly.

I have documented my emotional changes here and here.  I have discussed my physical changes here as well.

I’m still learning how to fit in, where my place is in the world.  I’m still learning how to fit into the queer community, how to navigate male culture. I still have a long way to go.  But looking at these photos, I see how far I have already come.  I am happy and I am ready for what comes next!

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50 Shades of Black and White

One of the most interesting things about my transition has been my emotional change.  I still haven’t turned into a raging Hulk or a crazed monster, which was honestly my biggest fear, so that’s good.

But, I have noticed a huge change in the way that I feel and process emotion. I had always heard that testosterone can turn a trans guy into kind of a dick.  As in, perhaps, insensitive, short-fused, or brutally honest, I suppose.  We will use “dick” as shorthand for all that.  It’s just faster to say.

So I was afraid T would turn me into a dick.  Although I would not consider myself an overly-emotional person pre-transition (thanks Scandinavian family!), I did  consider my “big heart” one of my best attributes. So, yeah, I didn’t want to lose that part of me.

Turns out, T doesn’t make you a dick.  It does, however, enhance some attributes which, if used the wrong way, I suppose could lead to dick behavior. So, like Ani DiFranco says, every tool is a weapon if you hold it just right.  In this case, every transguy can be a dick on T if he’s naturally-inclined to be so.

Anyway. I have noticed two really big emotional changes.  One I have written about already— I feel like my range and expression have drastically narrowed.

The other is that I have noticed a change in my ability to block emotion.  Otherwise phrased, my brain now can completely turn my emotions off, if it wants to.  Even if I didn’t say so.

Other trans friends of mine have described this as the thought process of a trans guy suddenly becoming more “black and white.” I either like something or I don’t. And I decide pretty quickly which is which. And it also turns out that once I make up my mind, I can’t really change it.

In my previous brain, there would be a conflict.  I would feel something, say a positive, loving emotion, toward something that my brain recognized was not a smart place to spend that emotional energy.  And there would be a conversation back and forth between emotions and brain.  And if brain relented, emotions could return as they had been.

Now, it’s totally different.  If I like something, and then there’s an event that changes things, suddenly I don’t like it any more. Not only is the change pretty drastic, pretty quickly, but I also can’t access those old feelings. I remember that they existed, but I can’t go back to feeling them.

SO WEIRD.  It’s like a safety mechanism, or something, but it feels very quick and dramatic for someone who is new at this.  Everything is an adjustment, and I’m still very much learning.

It’s been almost exactly a year on T.

Revisionist History: Talking About Life Pre-Transition

imageHow do you talk about your life before transition honestly?

For me, this is a hard question that could have real potential negative ramifications.

If I refer to myself in the past as a “little boy,” and then people find out later that I am trans, I run the risk of looking like an outright liar at worst, and perhaps disingenuous at best. I would hate for folks to think that I am purposely recasting myself in a way that might make me seem untrustworthy or, even worse, fake. I pride myself on being authentic in my life and I don’t want people to think my transition and my trans identity is not authentic.

There is also the concern for safety. If I refer to my past “when I was a little girl,” I out myself in a way that opens me up to attack, whether physical or otherwise.

This also would feel perhaps disingenuous. Truthfully, I never made a very good “little girl,” as defined by our culture. I never got that mold. And I am not just talking about wearing dresses or playing with dolls (nope to both). I never really identified with other girls, either. I tried to learn how to talk like a girl, care about girl things, get along with other girls, and I never did a good job. I never felt like I fit in, never really understood what the big fuss was ever about.

And this is not just about social gender roles and stereotyping. Even when I hung out with very non-normative women and girls, progressive women and girls, radical women and girls– I still felt like an other. I have learned to love women, and I have many women in my life that I love, but I was never one of them.

When I refer to my pre-transition life, especially my life as a child, I usually call myself a “kid.” You know, “When I was a kid, I loved to play four square with my friends…”
That sentence loses nothing by saying kid instead of girl. I was a kid. My gender assigned at birth changes nothing about the significance that four square played in my life.

But there are other situations that kid is insufficient for. When I talk about my 13th birthday party, when I invited over my “best girl friends” for a 1970s-themed slumber party, where we made tie dye t-shirts and watched “Now and Then,” that story might lose something if I say I had a bunch of other kids staying the night. There is something about that experience that I think cannot be explained by taking the “girl” element away, despite all my feelings about not really ever fitting in.

There’s also the aspect of my female socialization that, although perhaps ill-fitting at times, has been an unshakeable part of my personality that will never be undone. Being raised and socialized female taught me a compassion for other people that I doubt I would have otherwise. It taught me how to listen when others talk, how to help those in need, how to put other people’s needs above my own, and other things I probably won’t uncover for years.

I may not have fit in with my female past identity, but the lessons that socialization taught me will remain with me forever. I am still trying to figure out how to honor my past and the gifts it gave me, while taking time to de-emphasize gender in those moments when gender is irrelevant to what I am trying to convey. It’s an art, I suppose, and I am learning as I go.

If you are a friend or family member of a trans person, do try to be sensitive to talking about someone’s past. Try using gender neutral statements like “when you were little,” “when you were a child,” etc. Let the person define how they will discuss their childhood– and don’t be offended if they say they would prefer not to talk about it. Childhood can be very traumatic for trans people and if they haven’t yet figured out how to talk about it, they might just want to skip it altogether.

Remember, be most excellent to each other.