tl;dr I’ve been at least genderqueer, if not outright a trans man, for my entire life and I thought I’d drifted more over toward the chick side in recent years but that’s starting to look more like just another of my many periods of denial/repression.
The other day everything came crashing down on me and now I’m kind of desperately wanting to at least try going on a low dose of testosterone to see how that feels. Which is exactly what I need right now when I’m living with (and financially dependent on) a straight man and about to embark on a very public career where I showcase my physical form on video, right?
The Dandy is tentatively supportive of this, which is to say that he’s worried about losing his attraction to me if I go on T, but he’s willing to stick around and see.
I know a transmasculine person who was an art model and I reached out to them via Facebook to ask what it was like for them. They confirmed that a lot of places went cold and hostile and stopped hiring them. As a woman they were a lot closer to magazine-quality hotness than I am, though, and I wonder how much of the hostility came from “I was attracted to you and now it turns out you might not be a woman and I feel conflicted and gross about that. I will now project those feelings onto you.” Maybe I’m naive but I don’t think my popularity as a model came from me being attractive, particularly. It came from me being willing to look like an idiot.
Also my goal is to make most of my money via Patreon in future and not do in-person gigs anymore (or at least not nearly as much) so maybe I won’t feel the hostility so much, that way. Like people will join, or not. People will cancel, or not. But I won’t be interacting with them, so I won’t be hearing their hostile tone or seeing their hostile body language. And, I mean, plenty of artists fall under the trans umbrella! Maybe some people will shun my Patreon if I start looking kinda masc but others will join specifically because I’m gender nonconforming and they see themselves reflected in me?
And I’d only want to go on a microdose (at least at first) so maybe changes would be subtle enough that I’d just seem a bit more muscular and that’s about it?
I don’t know. I don’t know. This is terrifying. But I’ve thought about transitioning ever since I realized that was a thing a person could do (which was age 12, when a classmate talked about someone having a “sex change” and I was like “THAT’S NOT A THING. …Holy shit, is that a thing?”). And everything I’ve ever wanted to do for years but was too afraid to (getting tattooed, for instance, or being poly or shaving my head) turned out to be a “holy shit this is awesome, I wish I’d done it earlier” thing. I can’t remember ever wanting a thing really really badly for a really really long time and then getting it and realizing “nope, this is wrong for me, I should not have done this.”
But yeah I was reading an article about indirect symptoms of dysphoria the other day. This particular paragraph stood out:
When you don’t know what this is, or that it’s even an actual condition, it’s easy to mistake it for who you naturally are. You might think it’s part f your innate personality and disposition, and something you just have to learn to cope with. This can delay recognizing that you’re trans or that transitioning is an appropriate choice for you. Because I viewed my lifelong unease in this way, I initially believed that I didn’t even experience dysphoria, and that I was already okay. I didn’t know there was anything wrong with me.
Basically, for some people, they’re anxious and awkward and never feel like they fit in and they assume that’s their inherent personality but then they transition and everything gets better.
I’m anxious and awkward and never feel like I fit in. And the fact that this might be because gender shit is kind of blowing my mind. I’m not wanting to go on T just because of a paragraph in an article on dysphoria – I understand I might just be fuckin’ awkard, in a way that can’t be fixed – but I have a lot of other gender-based conflict going on too and I do wonder if my general feelings of unease are just another symptom.
But yeah, between seeing myself on video and realizing I couldn’t relate to the body I was looking at, and reading this article on dysphoria, a bunch of shit suddenly clicked for me:
- I’ve never liked or related to my name, either. I don’t think it’s an inherently ugly name. I’ll answer to it because I know I’m supposed to. But it always feels like people are talking about someone else. I thought all of this was an issue with how my brain processes words (because I do seem to have a weird relationship with language tbh). But duh and/or hello – my name is a woman’s name. That would be why it doesn’t feel like mine.
- When I told someone about my feelings of dissociation when I saw my body on video (maybe my therapist? I honestly can’t remember), they said “It’s normal to have things you don’t like your body. I mean, women get bombarded with so many messages about how they’re supposed to look…” I blurted out “I didn’t say I didn’t like the body. It’s a perfectly fine body. I said it didn’t feel like me.” Which seems pretty telling.
- I”ve been bummed out lately by how much weight I’ve gained over the past bunch of years (I’ve put on a bit extra lately, possibly because I’ve been so sedentary during lockdown, so I’m fatter than I’ve ever been). I’d been assuming that I was bummed because my body was further away from what’s considered conventionally attractive in a woman. But looking back, I’ve complained several times to people that I’m no longer thin enough to pass as a man*. I’ve used phrases like “I’m trapped in this woman-looking meat-suit and the proportions keep getting more and more cartoonish” on numerous occasions. What I’m bummed about, then, isn’t that I’m getting further away from being a hot woman, it’s that I’m getting further away from androgynous. The Dandy observed it best: “The easiest way to look androgynous is basically to be skinny. As soon as you put on some weight, your fat patterns are gonna look distinctly masculine or feminine.”
- When I was talking to my therapist about being bummed over my weight/shape (before I put together that it was a gender issue for me), she advised me to look at body-positive media – to check out pictures of awesome fat chicks rocking their body types so I have an example of how it’s possible to look good at every size. I already do that, and have for years. I think lots of fat femmes look amazing. But – as I said to my therapist – it’s okay for them to look like that, but not for me. At the time we both chalked this statement up to simple hypocrisy but it seems obvious now that what I really meant was “it’s okay for them to be all curvy and squishy and breasty and hippy because they’re women. I’m not.”
- For my entire adult life (and before, honestly; my mom explained feminism and feminist issues to me when I was pretty young) I’ve felt like being a woman is bullshit and why would anyone want to be one? And I chalked this up to living in a patriarchy. Like why would anyone want to be a woman in this society whenmen clearly have more freedom, more respect, yadda yadda yadda? Upon reflection, though, I don’t really see cis women reacting to patriarchy that way. They tend more to be on the side of “I’m a woman and it’s great, but our society/culture is bullshit and I wished I was treated better.” So ummmm…. 😛
And I got to wondering whether my anxiety and lack of energy and a bunch of other shit I deal with might actually be manifestations of dysphoria and would go away if I took steps to change my body. And I got to wondering if my sexual issues (lowered drive, can’t get boners**) also stem from feeling wrong in my body. Even if that’s not the case, testosterone boosts sex drive and makes the clitoris grow a bit and sometimes be more sensitive, so it might solve things for me anyway.
All of these realizations hit me hard, the same way realizing I’m on the autism spectrum hit me hard – like, looking back and seeing that basically I’ve been feeling discomfort for years and just glossed over it because I thought that’s just the way things were. I summoned The Dandy and told him all of this and cried on his shoulder. To his credit, he treated my gender shit as a legitimate issue instead of dismissing it as a bunch of overthinking about an abstract concept (which even I think it kind of is – but it genuinely hurts, so it’s not really abstract. The ramifications are tangible and real). And I asked if he could maybe handle me going on microdoses of T and he’s willing to try.
The next day I called my friend V – a trans woman with a ton of trans friends of all genders, who also has experience as a counsellor – and we hashed out a whole bunch of stuff. My reasons for doubting whether I was genderqueer or man enough to go ahead and make changes were along the lines of “but I’m used to being perceived as female and I’ve finally learned how to woman more-or-less correctly” to which V pointed out that I was talking about womanhood like it was cosplay and not my identity. She pointed out that “I guess I’m okay with this” is not the same as “everything is great.” And she said that for whatever it’s worth, every trans person that she’s ever known at the beginning of their transition said all the same shit that I was saying, and all of them ended up feeling happier once they started transitioning.
The fact remains that I feel as though people have told me I’m womaning incorrectly for most of my life and I’ve finally carved out a niche for myself that sorta works and people don’t tell me I’m doing it wrong. It’s terrifying to think of losing that – to go on T and probably lose my “woman” status while also not passing as a man. Part of me loves the idea of being gender-ambiguous and part of me is scared of people giving me a “what the fuck are you?” reaction everywhere I go forever. And of having a higher sex drive but nobody wanting to fuck me because I’m a weird gender mishmash that nobody could be attracted to. Or of people only wanting to fuck me because they fetishize me.
Let’s back it up a bit. What I want to do is go on microdoses of testosterone. What testosterone will do to my body, to some degree or another, is:
- raise my sex drive
- make my clit bigger (and possibly more sensitive)
- make it easier to gain muscle (or, like…I’ll put on some upper body strength without having to even do anything because testosterone is fucking magic, but if I actually work out I’ll make way better gains than is possible for me as an estrogen-based person)
- thicken existing body hair and possibly add hair in new places, like my chest/back, depending on my genetics
- possibly make the hair on my head go thin or have male-pattern baldness, depending on my genetics
- add facial hair
- redistribute fat – my hips and tits won’t go away, but they’ll probably get smaller. I might get more of a gut, instead. I’m just praying I can offset this by using my newfound higher metabolism and muscle-building power to get in better shape
- lowered voice
- changes in bone structure/density
Unfortunately, the thing I want most out of T – higher metabolism/higher energy/greater ability to build muscle – goes away if you stop taking it. So does the increased sex drive, which was also high on my list of perks. Fat redistribution also goes back to “female” when you go off T, which is comforting to me, actually – on the very narrow chance that being masculinized isn’t for me, after all, I can put my figure back to where it was. But any hair loss or hair gain is permanent. So this is a big decision with major trade-offs. If my voice changes, that would be permanent, too. TBH most trans men I know get voices that are in a lower register but are still fairly androgynous, so I thiiiiink that’s a thing I could live with. Being bald on top or having chest hair (or, worse, back hair that I can’t reach to remove myself!) and deciding to go back to fully female – that wouldn’t be great.
I still, at the moment, want to retain plausible deniability – I wanna pass as a woman while I decide wtf I’m gonna do. So I hope that if I take a way smaller dose of testosterone than a person would who’s fully transitioning, I’d end up with (at most) a voice that’s lower but still female-passing, a clit that’s bigger but not “wtf is going on” levels of big, slightly smaller hips and breasts, more muscle, and hopefully very little change as far as hair goes but if I have to shave/wax/pluck some shit I will. But unfortunately I can’t pick and choose which effects come first or how strongly they show up, really.
What I really want is the ability to build muscle. The Dandy noticed how much I talked about that part, and told me earlier today that it sorta sounds more like I wanna use T as a shortcut to getting thinner and in better shape – I wanna go on steroids, basically. He’s…not entirely wrong? But what he’s missing (and what I explained to him) is that I’ve always been dysphoric about my upper body strength. Always. It’s not “I just wanna be a hot, in-shape woman, and it’s too harrrrrd, so gimme the juice.” It’s a gender thing, for me. When I was in my early 20s and going to goth clubs, I kept trying on skinny jeans and tight t-shirts in stores and being mad because they didn’t look the way I wanted them to on me. I stupidly attributed this to the cut/style of the clothes, and kept determinedly shopping. I never consciously realized that the clothes didn’t look right on me because the image in my head that I was trying to conform to was a guy – a wiry guy with broad shoulders and slim hips and a flat chest. No t-shirt is ever gonna have that stretching-across-my-mighty-shoulders look that I craved, because my shoulders are not mighty.
In my late 20s I started weight training on a regular basis. I got stronger, but – sadly – not really bigger per se. Even by woman standards, my body doesn’t put on much muscle – I got stronger and kind of denser but in clothes I don’t think you’d’ve noticed any real difference in my body between being thin but a sack of crap vs thin and in the best shape of my life. And I was acutely aware that my very body was plotting against me, in that estrogen prevents a person from making a lot of muscle gains – at least compared to testosterone. It started to feel like “why even work at this? My shitty body is biologically destined to be soft and squishy and in trying to put on muscle I’m just fighting destiny.” It was distressing that I was trying so hard to get defined deltoid muscles and big biceps and it just wasn’t happening at all, no matter what I did.
So yeah, the main thing I want testosterone to do for me is make it so I can finally have kickass shoulders and arms, and maybe get closer to that V-shaped torso I’ve always wanted, because those are the things I’m the most dysphoric about. I guess testosterone is a “shortcut” to muscle, in that I’d make gains faster. But also I’d be able to go beyond what I could accomplish now, in an estrogen-based body. And I wouldn’t feel like I was trapped in a body that by its very nature wants to be a squishy incompetent sack of crap. Working out on testosterone would be going with my nature instead of struggling futiley against it like I am now. And maybe then if I saw my body on video I’d have a sense of “yep, that’s me, that body is mine.”
Also…I’m wanting to start on a low dose of T because launching into big changes all at once is too scary, but…honestly it feels pretty plausible that being on T will feel good and right, and that if I start seeing any chance of being able to pass for a cis man, I’ll be like “fuck YEAAAAH, up my dose, book me for top surgery, WE ARE DOING THIIIIIS” and happily leave behind any semblance of being a chick. Like…right now the thought of developing facial hair scares me a bit because I might just look like a chick with stubble – I might look yet again like I’m womaning incorrectly. But if it came along with a sharp jawline and some incipient handsomeness…I think I might start feeling kind of thrilled about needing to shave.***
I hadn’t said any of that to The Dandy because I didn’t want to scare him. But when he brought up the idea that I was only wanting HRT to get in better shape, I told him all of it. I think he understands better, now.
It does feel kind of stupid to start hormones just as I embark on a very public career that specifically involves people scrutinizing my face and body. Plus, I mean, it might be hard to actually get on hormones. My doctor seems pretty laissez-faire but I’ve never ever told her about any of my gender shit so if I go in there gung ho for testosterone it might seem like it’s coming out of left field and she’ll be suspicious.
For the past few years I’ve tried to have a tradition of making a big life change for New Year’s. So maybe I can set a goal of January 2021 being The Year I Venture Into Transitioning At Least A Little Bit.
*A few years ago I attempted to go out dressed as a dude a few times, and I believe I was successful. I’m a fairly curvy person, but baggy clothes and a tight sports bra were enough to camouflage that reasonably well. Since then my tits have gone from a C-cup to at least DD and my hips went from 44″ to 50″. Even if I could find men’s pants that were baggy on me or a men’s t-shirt that didn’t end up skintight around my hips, no cis-dude this wide in the hips would have such comparatively scrawny arms and wrists. My proportions are off.
**The clitoris is basically a small penis (or, more properly, a dick is a giant clit). They’re the same structure. The clitoris gets erect when its owner is aroused. Except…mine doesn’t anymore, for the last ten years or so.
***My jawline is fucking glorious, actually. It’s just currenly buried under middle-aged, womanly fat. I recently saw a pic of me when I was younger and thinner though and goddamn…between my square jaw and epic cheekbones I could have pulled off being Archer for Hallowe’en. Albeit a slightly softened, feminized version.