I wrote this letter almost 6 months ago, but it gathered dust in my drafts folder. Yesterday I sent my dad an unpublished story on my blog, and inadvertently this led him to read my whole blog. Which is fine, except for the fact that he had no idea I was on testosterone. This little detail escaped me at the time, and I clearly I didn’t give my dad’s curiosity enough credit either. Since I never really did get around to telling him (I was going to stop soon anyway, right?), I’m sending him this now in efforts to answer some of his questions.
Dear Dad and Little Brother,
I am writing to let you know of a big change in my life. It’s actually not big right this very second – it’s a big change that will happen over the course of many months. I have decided to take testosterone – the masculinizing hormone – as part of my gender transition. For now, I will be taking a low dose, and monitoring the changes closely. I do plan on stopping eventually, as I don’t think I would like to take it long term, but how soon that eventually comes is as of yet unknown. My guess is that it’s a few months.
Now, I know you are not going to freak out about this. Well, you Dad, might, a little, but I know you respect me and my decisions and you have been a great supporter. So I know that if you are a little worried, it’s only out of concern for me, and because this is something which you are completely unfamiliar with. It may also seem to have come suddenly out of the blue, as if I were making a brash decision. Let me assure you that I have thought through this quite a bit.
I may not have mentioned this already, but I’ve been seeing a therapist with whom I could talk to about this very idea. Even the doctor at the clinic who prescribed this to me was surprised that it took me so long to ask her about it. Please know that I am in good hands, medically – with a therapist and doctor, and an entire clinic behind her, who both have lots of experience with transgender people like myself.
Now you may be wondering why I’m doing this. Actually I’m certain you are thinking “why is this necessary at all?” Here comes the complicated part. (There is a reason I have been “thinking” about this for almost a year, without actually doing it.) In part, I am quite sure of who I am, and I’m quite sure you know and see me as just me. If it were just for that, I wouldn’t change a thing. But unfortunately the world doesn’t see me as ME, and each day it becomes more frustrating as people assume I’m something I’m not, and worse than that, treat me as such. They lump me into a category in which I don’t belong, and it is an annoyance I have to deal in every interaction, that continues to grows more and more bothersome as time passes.
I’ve explored what it means to be ME, and, more importantly, what I want people to see ME AS. While I’ve realized that most people will never see me as JUST ME, I also concluded that what other people see me as IS STILL important. I can alleviate some of the mounting frustrations by getting people to see a closer approximation of ME. Right now, in my current state, they don’t. So to do that, I opted to go on hormones at a low dose, for a short while, so that my body can experience a slight masculinization, which in turn will get me to a better “middle ground” in terms of people perceiving my gender in a way I’d prefer. (If this went over your head, don’t worry, it’s kinda difficult to understand if you haven’t been steeped in this for a while.)
You probably have some more questions. What exactly will happen to me, and what exactly do I want?
What I want is actually kinda fuzzy. I know what I don’t want, and I’ll take it from there. As soon as I see a change that I don’t want, I will stop. It’s very clear to me that there are some things I won’t compromise about my body, despite what effect or not it will have on people’s perceptions of me.
What will happen to me is also kinda fuzzy, because hormones are unpredictable. I can tell you roughly that I expect my voice to drop and become a little deeper, a little less high pitched; that I’ll probably get a little hairier, and even though I’d rather avoid this I can live with it; that I might get some acne like a normal teenager would get; that I might start to get facial hair, which is something I definitely don’t want, so I’d stop before that would happen; my jaw might get a little more squareish, though I bet the change will be barely noticeable; that I might get more muscular, which will go away as soon as I stop taking testosterone; and a bunch of other small changes which vary greatly from person to person, such as mood and libido and energy and metabolism, most of which are not permanent and fade out when you stop taking it.
As to what will really happen to me – will I be happier? will people see me differently? will I be a different person? – who knows. I’ll still be me, but my hope is that other people will see that too.
There is a lot more to say, so if you want to hear it, just ask. I love you both very much, and you have been true sources of amazing support.
27 thoughts on “A Letter to My Family”
Have you heard back from your family yet? How did your dad react to your blog?
Yo my dad is AWESOME. (I would paste his emails but he has terrible punctuation, spelling, and general coherency.) He was super impressed and excited about everything I’m doing (a bit surprised at me taking T, because I hadn’t gotten around to telling him…). He said it was all very authentic and that my essence definitely shines through.
Talking to him tonight, we’ll see. Maybe I can get him to comment?
I started T for this exact reason myself, actually, with the difference that I wasn’t as sure about whether I’d like to remain on it for good or not (and I’m still not 100% sure, but I like it for the time being). I’m definitely not interested in filling the “typical” male role, but compared to the constant misgendering into a role I definitely did not want to be in at all, being read as male is a lot better. Been on it for almost a year; first change was definitely voice, which I was happy with. The shape of my face has barely changed, which frustrates me a bit (especially since facial hair took barely three months to start appearing, so it’s not like there’s NOTHING going on with the face). Funnily enough, I might still get misgendered sometimes, though it’s dropped very significantly. With this much of an experience behind me so far, I wholeheartedly second that it’s a complicated and not wholly controllable process. I could do without more body hair while I wish my hairline would budge, for instance.
Re: dosage, I started and stayed on what’s considered one of the “standard” starting doses. The effects were still quite slow to kick in, so my guess would be you’ll have time. Though, again, it’s all individual.
Best of luck with your family.
Thanks for your story Alex. It’s relieving to hear that someone feels similar to me on having to “choose” a gender – or rather, not-misgender. The effects of T are very powerful and visible, so I am surprised you are still misgendered after a year. Surely it depends on context, or if you still look/present very androgynously?
I am really struggling with the body hair right now. Also, I discovered mine wasn’t such a low dose after all, but more on that later. A T-update is due on this blog very very soon…
Yeah, I think I look quite androgynous particularly in the face (not so much body shape, aside from the fact that I’ve always been skinny and thus a bit “androgynous” in relation to either of the idealized body types). Strangers and people I’ve only met after going on T are pretty much never going to misgender me anymore, friends didn’t do it to begin with, but there’s that small but persistent group of people who think they “knew” me before and who cannot get over the associations they have with me as the wrong gender. Some of them caught on by themselves after a while but not all of them, and frankly I hate explaining this on demand when it should already be self-evident that calling me [oldname] is ridiculous, so I’ve been sort of ignoring or implicitly correcting their blunders in conversation. A lot of people cling so pathetically to their notions of others, unable to admit they were WRONG about something.
It weirds me out that so many seem to default to “she” when they see someone androgynous, too. Especially in my earlier days of T (and sometimes even before T), I used to feel like I already looked fine in the mirror, until I walked out of the house and had everyone still opting for the wrong gender, even though there was nothing “visibly” female about me (anymore). I guess it might be this culture’s very narrow standard for “masculinity” at play. Well, too bad for them my first role models were glam and visual rockers anyway.
Agh, my sympathies about body hair! I’m lucky in that it’s still confined to the “usual suspect” zones for me, but it’s definitely amplified and it annoys me on the backs of thighs so damn much. Also, I ramble and only realized after posting the previous comment that you already were on T. Life would be easier with attention span… xD
I’d be curious to read more of your T experiences, in any case.
Ah, you touched on so many excellent points. a) having to correct people who cling stubbornly to the past. b) the hair on my thighs – it itches so much when I shave! c) no signs of “feminine” yet it is still the default for androgyny.
Haha, glad you find my ranting commentary relevant. I don’t bother with shaving much aside from my face (yet? who knows), partly because yes, it would feel so irritating. The rest, well, that’s irritating too…
I must comment on this. Short story: yesterday we were on Dolores Park enjoying a gorgeous San Fran sunny day hanging out with some friends of a friend. Maddox was shirtless (as most people in the park) and obviously boobless, even with that OBVIOUS cue, one of the guys when saying goodbye he said something around the lines of “See ya girls,” after that his non-sense comment hit him and corrected himself “I mean guys, I mean whatever”
HOW? HOW? HOW?
seriously… i love that you have chosen to give me the opportunity to travel with you on your ‘journey.’ honored. flattered.
i have so many things i would like to write… but of course, like your father, i am having trouble with coherency and general relevance…
just thanks and LOVE!
Thank you. In a way, you are all my family!
I’m really happy for you that you can share all this with your family 🙂 It’s really great that you have that support, especially with something so big going on. This post also makes me think that maybe at some point I should write about why I don’t want to take T, maybe. Hmm. But best of luck getting the results out of it you want!
Hopefully my case will make it easier for you to weigh out the pro’s and con’s and firmly decide why you should or should not go on T.
(- from Alex, above)
THIS! PEOPLE… THIS! This is the reason I am taking T, this is the reason I am so frustrated right now.
High five for awesome supportive parents!
I so admire your courage and the beauty of how you put it into words.
Thank you. (Sometimes I don’t know if I even make sense… so it’s good to hear from others)
Big (virtual) hug. I came out to my folks last Christmas with similar anxieties like you had and got the same types of loving support!
My dad has been nothing but 110% behind me all the way, but regardless, I still hesitate whenever there is a new development to tell. My mother is a different story…
That’s awesome that your dad is so supportive!
I have a question, if you don’t mind: Do you know if there is a low dose of T that will make a difference but not be a high enough dose to influence body hair growth? I feel much like you do about body hair, and that is the main thing that is stopping me (I could not handle facial hair at all).
Hormone changes are unpredictable, regardless of dose. Taking a low dose doesn’t mean you will get only some of the effects and not others; it means you will get all of the effects, just a lot slower. Check out some of my other posts tagged testosterone for more research.
It boils down to a very personal decision of what do you want, what you can compromise on, and what you absolutely do not want.
Congratulations! I can’t imagine being at this point, but I hope to get there. It would be nice to have my parents support. I actually might borrow some of your letter to start compiling my own. I have this idea of compiling a bunch of good explanations/quotes to help inspire/build my own letter to my parents. At this point I’m leaning towards writing them a letter to come out as they seem to be very bad at asking questions to try and understand me. At least with a letter I can spell it ALL out for them instead of awkwardly rambling on and on to them as they stare at me blankly.
Well, I don’t think I really got “there” because I never actually delivered this letter until after the fact! For me, coming out has been the hardest part of transitioning, so much so that I haven’t done it very much at all.
Even though I’m not very good at it myself, I think I give good advice though – I even wrote a coming out plan and some words of caution for coming out when you expect a bad situation. I’ve learned a lot more along the way, so maybe I’ll get a chance to write about it. And eventually, I might even get some first hand experience!
Keeping a support system is the most important part of all. And you know you can include me in that 🙂