I just read an interview with Chaz Bono in which he states that he has a lower tolerance for women after beginning hormone therapy. Why? Because they talk too much. “There is something in testosterone that makes talking and gossiping really grating. I’ve stopped talking as much. I’ve noticed that Jen can talk endlessly. I just kind of zone out.” He goes on to say that testosterone has made him more interested in gadgets. I’d like to call bullshit. Feeling more male, in part thanks to testosterone, is what made him more inclined to do things he understood as male with the context of white North American culture – such as tinkering with gadgets and not talking much. It also seems to have made him a misogynist, and no doubt, finding women annoying is a very reassuring feeling when one wants to convince oneself that one is a man.
As you have probably divined, I have no patience for the kinds of guys who assert that testosterone made them suddenly like and understand all culturally “male” traits and activities like science, fixing engines, and remaining stoically taciturn as if hormones were wholly determining of mental and emotional life. Sex hormones do not change one’s personality, likes, dislike, and intelligence. Transition, as a whole mental-physical-social process, on the other hand, can change these things, insofar as it involves a gradual discovery of what it means like to be seen as male, what people’s expectations are of someone perceived as male, what strategies one can engage in to keep feeling pleasurably male, and so on. Because for many, having a solidly male social identity brings both comfort and pleasure. There are pleasures to being seen as “really” male and to feeling “really” male that can prompt manifestations of “typically” male behavior in trans men who were not inclined to such behavior before they began transition. The rewards of gendered identity, I would argue, are, in fact, the primary reason for changes in personality and behavior during transition. People begin to treat us differently as their perception of our gender changes through our physical transition. We, in turn, consciously or unconsciously modify our behaviors in response to what we like and dislike about how we are being treated.
That said, I do believe that sex hormones affect sex drive (naturally enough) and, to some extent, emotions. Some guys say T makes them rage. I have not experienced this, but I’m willing to believe it. Some guys say T makes it all but impossible for them to cry. I have experienced a diminished ability to shed tears since starting T, though I have the same emotional range as before. (This might also vary from person, as I have and FTM transsexual friend who is a cry baby!) One thing T certainly does is cut out female hormonal cycles and, with them, any emotional side-effects of PMS (this I’ve certainly experienced). In addition, many trans men report feeling more emotionally stable, overcoming depression, and even feeling elated when they start taking T. These feelings are easily understandable as responses to taking positive steps to overcome gender dysphoria and to being seen how one wants to be seen.
I am sick, however, of trans men shoring up culturally specific sexist stereotypes about what constitutes “male” and “female” along with the notion (itself sexist) that sex hormones dictate every aspect of gendered behavior. Testosterone will only make you the man you already are. You do the rest.
I am, essentially, the same person I was when I started T. Just one year older and wiser, and all but free of gender dysphoria.