I had a really interesting conversation recently with an ex-lover of mine who has begun taking testosterone in very low doses, far below the average low dosage prescribed. I was struck by two things: first, the idea of controlling one’s intake of T so that it would feel less like a catapult through adolescence and into maleness and more like a slow, controlled masculinization; and second, the idea of taking T not in order to become male and to be read consistently as male, but simply to become more masculine. He said that he was currently being read as male 20% of the time and would like to be read as male closer to 60% of the time (I find the idea of breaking it down into figures fascinating).
This conversation made transition seem more desirable and more doable than ever before. I still don’t know if it is something I want. That will depend on a couple of things, namely the work environment of my new job and where I end up falling within the gender vocabularies of the new city. But I know that, while I’m not sure that I want to be fully a man, I also feel that both my constant striving to minimize the female and maximize the male in my appearance and my pleasure at being socially gendered as male would be served by continuing the masculinization process through low doses of T.
I suppose that I always felt that taking T had to be something of an all or nothing scenario. Either you took it to get male recognition and succeeded, or you were caught in the unlivable borderlands of sex. I had the notion that, although butch women might be disconcerting to some people, there was at least some kind of a social recognition of the existence of a category of masculine females. I thought, however, that someone presenting the characteristics of both sexes – a beard and breasts, for instance, or a male voice with a feminine face – would draw scrutiny and potential violence in a completely different way. I still think this is true, but perhaps not to the extent that I initially feared. For what it’s worth, those trans people who inhabit the borderlands of sex are some of the ones who I find the most attractive. Walking around New York City with some of them, it was clear that they were surviving, that they were not drawing undue scrutiny, and that, while people might get their pronouns wrong or become confused, they were not provoking hysterics.
One thing I have realized about myself is that I actually like being stared at. This is no doubt related to my particularly perverse way of being queer, or perhaps some childish rebellious streak and is certainly not a quality that I would want to generalize (most people acutely hate being stared at, particularly when their gender is in question), but for whatever reason, it makes me feel that I am doing something right; I am challenging people and presenting a transgressive masculinity. Lately, I have even been enjoying the startled reaction I get when people gender me as male, then “realize” that I am female. I am not positive that I would like being read so consistently as male that people no longer stared or acted startled (although my faggotry might draw far more attention if I were seen as male). So, who knows, I might actually enjoy living in the borderlands of sex, confusing people, and passing only part of the time.
It seems to me that the great thing about taking low dosages of T is that I could feel the gradual change in how people treat me and look at me; locate where it feels the most comfortable, and attempt to hold to that level.