The Phases of Testosterone:
Rejection to Acceptance and Everything In-Between
Only a handful of people know that I’m on testosterone – that every Friday, I load up a 1cc syringe with 35mg of Testosterone Cypionate, inject it into my stomach fat, and feel calm, grounded, and a sense of restoring my own bodily integrity.
My relationship to testosterone has been one of:
- Rejection (“I don’t need it. It’s not for me. It probably wouldn’t be helpful at all. I don’t even want to think about it”),
- Angst (“I don’t want it! I don’t want to rely on it. Why would I need it? Why might I need it? Why do I need it?” *sobs*)
- Curiosity (“But what if it could help me? What if T is therapeutic? I could try it out, slowly. I could see what happens to my body, my being”)
- Acceptance (“I need to try it. I will always wonder if I didn’t try it. It’s okay that testosterone may be vital to my transition”)
- Euphoria (“I had no idea I would feel this way. My body feels more like my own; it actually feels safer to embody myself now”)
- Grief (“If I had only known 10 years ago that this was a possibility, my teenage self would have been so much less tormented inside, betrayed by my own biology. What did I miss out on?”)
I started unraveling my gender consciously just a few years ago. It began with my name change – choosing a name that I could wear comfortably, one I perceived to be gender neutral – and then a pronoun change from she/her to they/them. I learned about top surgery and realized that ever since I had developed breasts, they had been distressing tentacles, intensely dysphoric.
Understanding that top surgery was a real and valid option as a genderqueer human catapulted me into comprehending my trans identity.
As fast as I could, I did all the steps to get on the waitlist for a bilateral mastectomy with free nipple grafts. While waiting for top surgery, my mind wandered into the realm of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I haven’t identified as a binary man, so I didn’t think about HRT earlier because the majority of the narratives I was exposed to was that of binary FTM transition. It took me several months to get to the place of angst and curiosity about testosterone, but once I moved into curiosity, I quickly realized that I needed to try T and see how I would respond. All in all the process from rejection to acceptance to grief was 6 months, a confusing and jam-packed period of time.
I am now 4.5 months post-top surgery and 4 months on a lower dose of testosterone.
Top surgery drastically changed my life.
My anxiety level decreased in such a way that my current job as a nurse is not only incredibly less stressful but also more meaningful, and my day-to-day life outside work has a buoyancy I have hungered for. My embodiment feels not only less traumatic, but joyous.
With testosterone, my response to the effects are more subtle.
I am stronger, my energy has increased palpably, and my face (as it slowly changes shape in the mirror) is becoming more recognizable to me. And, it turns out I’m really into wet shaving; the ritual of it (though I only need to do it twice a week) is something I look forward to, an addition to my self-care routine of pink clay soap, hemp face cream, and cedarwood aftershave. My voice is slowly changing and, though it freaks me out a bit sometimes (because change = scary), it is a strange homecoming to a different part of me I am getting to know.
I was fearful that if I found T therapeutic, I would suddenly morph into identifying as a man, and that my experience would change in a big way. Right now, that hasn’t happened. If anything, I feel more like a boy, but mostly a human whose gender is neither here nor there, irrelevant until I bump up against forms and bathrooms and people asking for a response of the binary male/man or female/woman.
In the changes that T is bringing me, I am freer to be myself, to be in my body, to move through this world. It is a constant discovery, an opportunity of unraveling, of strengthening, and of healing.
About S. Audley Thomas
Audley Thomas is a trans, queer, white settler living on unceded Coast Salish territory; they are a nurse, a journal writer, and a sometimes-stay-at-home cat parent.
Featured Voices always welcomes new drafts or ideas. Current theme: Hormones.