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.
8 thoughts on “Featured Voices: The Phases of Testosterone”
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I’ve been feeling the same way recently about possibly starting T in the near future, and seeing that I’m not alone in my confusion is reassuring.
You’re definitely not alone in your confusion. I’m thankful to hear this was reassuring to you – good luck on your journey 🙂
I just started T last week so I’m sort of in between Acceptance and (hopefully) Euphoria. This post is both relatable and reassuring to me. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing! I found that even though I moved into acceptance and felt euphoria, there are still times that I feel freaked out, upset, and confused, though they’re becoming more rare as time goes on. I hope it’s smooth sailing for you, good luck!
Thank you so much for writin this! I am also a nurse and worry about the hospital culture. I do have an androgynous look and want top surgery and consider low dose T because I do prefer a non-binary appearance. I often get misgendered at work and struggle with all of this in regards to pt care.
You’re welcome! I get that, in a big way – I am misgendered at work very regularly and it’s been a bit tricky to navigate in terms of pt/client care. I try to practice a lot of mindfulness and breathing through the experiences, if they feel upsetting. On the flip side, I’ve had some positive work experiences too, with people showing unexpected levels of respect and understanding. If you want to talk more about that stuff feel free to email me at delving [dot] thomas [at] gmail [dot] com.
Thank you for sharing your story and your feelings. I really want to start with hormone and surgery but I do not know what the first steps are. If you allow me, I would like to ask you questions. Do I need a letter from the psychiatrist to start the hormone? And also for surgery?
Thanks anonymous – sometimes you need a letter from a psychiatrist or hormone-assessor to start hormones but it depends where you’re living. I live in Canada, and for my hormones I saw my family doctor – he usually refers on to an endocrinologist for hormones. For surgery, I also saw my family doctor and he referred me to a psychiatrist who assesses surgery readiness, then once I was approved, she gave my doctor the ‘okay’ to refer me to a surgeon. Good luck with your journey!!