The Break Up
Back in early June, I was giving up on T for good – or at least, “indefinitely” – because it wasn’t working out. The day-to-day mental torture was unnecessary; it was ultimately not worth it. And if I was ever going back on T, it had to be on different terms: I had to want something different.
But therein lies the catch. You can’t convince yourself to want something. You have to really, truly want it. Otherwise you’re just wanting to want it, a game of pretending where you’re only fooling yourself, or trying to and failing at it. For the desire to come from within it must be genuine.
This was not the case for me when I started T, but it is certainly true now. It’s hard to explain exactly what it felt like, or perhaps even what enabled it, but there was a distinct internal shift which completely changed my take on hormones.
First, I had to completely accept all the changes that would come; the good AND the bad. I’m not talking about being ok with them, or tolerating them, or even growing accustomed to them – I mean completely at peace with whatever testosterone would do to my body.
Next, I had to clarify what I wanted out of T. In my previous Testosterone updates, I continually mention an internal conflict over the “bad” changes counteracted by this inexplicable pull that mysteriously kept me going forward. But to truly keep going forward and keep my sanity, I needed to clearly understand what I was looking for exactly. An “inexplicable pull” was no longer going to cut it.
This is where I realized that I needed to reframe my concept of self: to align what my future self would turn into with what my present self truly wanted.
Even though I don’t consider myself a trans man, taking testosterone would definitely bring me closer to that. Therefore, I had to be comfortable seeing myself as such, or at least be comfortable with the possibility of what I could become. An art professor once told me that to progress, you have to go way outside of your comfort zone, so that when you naturally move back you’ll be a step forward than where you were before. While I don’t see myself as male, I had to see myself as something completely masculine in order to embrace the masculine side that exists in me.
How did I do this, exactly? Browsing pictures of transguys. Intrigued by the changes on T, I slowly began to notice that over the course of a year, their faces went from ambiguously girly-boy to something distinctly masculine. That’s what I wanted to achieve: this unmistakeable “shift” in gender (cue lightbulb).
Ideally, I want people to perceive me ambiguously. I want people to be confused about my gender, to stop and hesitate, to question themselves. Ideally people would see me as just me. But ultimately, when they (or I) have to make a choice, I’ve made my preference clear. My gender may be neither, but when it comes to the binary, I am uambiguously and distinctly repelled by one side. I just had to finish embracing the other.
I found my motivation behind T: to tilt the scales, completely. I’ll still be the same me, both inside and out, but people will see me differently, treat me differently – closer to what I feel comfortable as.
Coming to terms with the rest of the stuff? That came on its own, though having a clear reason behind my actions lifted much of the unecessary anxiety. It’s not that I’m thrilled about my stomach getting fuzzier every day, or the possibility of chest hair, or my increasing smelliness, but it no longer spirals me into a crisis. It has become a non-issue, faded into the background. It’s something I don’t get upset over, but simply notice and acknowledge, along with the rest of the changes. Some of which have been quite welcome!
20 thoughts on “Testosterone: Our Rocky Relationship”
Even though I no longer identify as genderqueer much (pretty comfortable in the transman box) a lot of this describes my experience too. A lot of the “bad” parts of T that I was worried about feel so different now. It’s different now that I’ve had some time to adapt and re-think myself in ways I just couldn’t pre-T. I had to push my own boundaries a little in order to know how ok with it I really was. I’m actually really happy T worked slowly, I needed it to.
Yeah, it seems a lot of people go through this. We overestimate how quickly hormones will work, and underestimate our power to adapt to our changing bodies.
It was very hard to articulate the experience, hopefully it made sense.
Reading this somehow makes my own thinking on testorone a little clearer. I’ve been trying to figure out whether I am a trans man or genderqueer for a while, and at this point I am pretty sure I am a trans man (or close enough to make little difference). I am starting T soon, though, so now the little doubts I have that maybe I am actually genderqueer are popping up again. I don’t think there are any changes with T that I will specifically dislike, but what if I’m wrong?
The thing is, though, that regardless of whether I am male or genderqueer, even if I would be happiest if I could be perceived as neither male nor female, people are going to either see me as male or as female, and if it has to be one of the two, I’m quite sure which one I’d prefer over the other. The one thing I am certain of is that I am not female, and that I don’t want to be perceived as such. So, that shift in the way my gender is perceived is pretty much the same thing I want out of T.
“My gender may be neither, but when it comes to the binary, I am uambiguously and distinctly repelled by one side.”
This is pretty much the way I feel, except that I can’t figure out whether I actually belong on the other side, or if I’m just, well, less far away from the other side.
I feel the same way! That’s what’s surprised me the most since getting on T — the huge non-issue it’s all become.
It’s pretty awesome that you are able to find, deep-down, what it is you really want. I’m still at a place where I’m scared of health consequences. I know that I want to be perceived as more masculine, but I worry about messing with hormones (people close to me with hormone disorders such as PCOS have rather low quality of life) since I don’t want to be on T all my life. I want just enough to get where I want to be, but I don’t want to end up with PCOS or other endocrine problems. Are there any statistics out there on the probability of developing health problems while on T? I can’t seem to find anything definitive…or even close to that. Everything I do find is very vague and does nothing to sway me one way or the other.
Unfortunately doctors don’t always know the answer either. In this case, there is nothing conclusive at PCOS. From what I’ve heard, taking T might put you at a slightly higher risk, but it’s possible it’s only if you’re already at risk, or not.
Anyway, I would not let that scare you into not doing what you want. There are thousands upon thousands of trans people who have taken Testosterone HRT and most of them are fine and healthy.
The main point is to self-monitor and be aware of changes, get regular check ups and if possible, get a trans-friendly physician to support you. There is always a risk – be it physical or emotional – for doing or not doing something, and that’s where you have to decide what’s best for you.
This may sound weird, but while I really want to look into going on T the one thing that puts me off is blood tests. Even thinking too much about them makes me feel queasy, and I get the impression there are a lot involved but can’t find any proper information on it. I know this article is years old but could you tell me if blood tests are a big part of being on T?
I never got my T levels tested. However for health reasons it is recommended to check you liver and blood cell count, among other things, at least once a year and before starting.
sometimes i feel like what we think is our comfort zone turns out to be no more than internalized societal expectations. i know that’s how it was with me. i tried to convince myself i’d rid myself of all that gender-norm baggage, but honestly i think putting some distance between myself and a female identity was one of the main things that helped me feel ok about the possibility of body hair (or, heck, even growing out my leg hair!).
Could not agree more. Indeed, one of the things that helped me accept the impending hairiness was not shaving for a while. I’d never had much leg hair to begin with, so when it got thicker I started freaking out. Before I decided to go back on T I let it grow out for a few weeks, and realized “Hey, it’s not the end of the world. I can do this!”
My gender may be neither, but when it comes to the binary, I am uambiguously and distinctly repelled by one side. I just had to finish embracing the other.
This is the most interesting part of this post to me. Because I am distinctly NOT repelled by either. But living as I have been is untenable to me. I cannot and will not embrace EITHER. But staying in my binary body WOULD be embracing one of them. So do I need to let go of what I am now and embrace the other in order to even begin a transition? That does not make sense to me. The only reason I did not pursue transition 18 years ago is that back in the 90s I thought transition was only for binary people and I knew for sure I was not that. Only in the past couple of years have I realized non-binary people CAN transition so I WANT it. But from what you are saying it sounds like transition means being repelled by one’s original gender and embracing the other? That actually sounds pretty… binary. I don’t mean this to be critical at all, I’m really trying to understand what this means for me, as someone who is not repelled by my birth gender but can’t embrace it either and needs SOMETHING to change.
“it sounds like transition means being repelled by one’s original gender and embracing the other?”
This is a part of what MY transition has meant for ME. You get to define your own transition on your own terms.
Wow. This sounds EXACTLY like me, only coming at it from the FAAB side.
Every facet of this post, the WHY behind the hormones, the conclusions that are being reached about identity… it’s like a complete gender-mirror of my experience. Wow.
Thanks for writing this article!