I Might Go Off T

Something strange is happening. I’ve been so happy with my transition, my body, my appearance, how I move through the social world. In fact, I have not really been thinking much about my transition much at all lately. And then, bam, it hits me. I might want to go off testosterone or greatly lessen my dose.

Looking back, I can see that this may have been building for a while now. Really, it’s a matter of learning more about my identification as I have transitioned. And in fact, it’s something like a return to my original plan: transition until my voice drops and my face becomes more masculine, then go off T or reduce my dose. I never felt like I needed a typically male body, and I was never certain that I wanted to look like a cis man my age; I went on T because it was intolerable to be seen as female.

I know that I wrote recently about feeling unequivocally male, but now that I’ve had some time to get accustomed to being seen as a cis man, I’m wondering if I really feel simply “male.” What I’m realizing is that while it’s very comfortable for me to pass and to interact with people as a man, I feel that being seen as a cis man only allows people to know part of the story. Increasingly this part of the story feels false. I don’t have any regrets, because it would be more false to be seen as a female, but I’m starting to wonder once again whether there might be a third option for me.

I mentioned that a couple things have been leading to this realization. One is that I am increasingly disenchanted with gay male culture. I am disappointed with how apolitical, consumerist, classist, misogynistic, and racist mainstream gay male culture is. I identified strongly with gay male effeminacy, abjection, and faggotry, but these forms of queer maleness are precisely what one does not see much of in mainstream gay male culture, which idolizes hard muscles, hard penises, and masculinity. I am behind the times, yearning for the fairies of the 1920s. Contemporary gay male culture is not my cup of tea. Mainstream lesbian culture, of course, is not exactly my cup of tea either. But I think most lesbian coming-out stories at least involve some element of critiquing or rejecting female gender roles and rebelling against sexism, particularly as it plays itself out in heterosexual culture or in lesbophobia. It is difficult to be a lesbian without developing some basic critique of sexism and some rudimentary feminist consciousness; and often, this is tied, in lesbian culture, to a an orientation toward social justice, accessible events and spaces, celebrating diverse bodies and critiquing the culture of youth and beauty, and attempting to live in a more environmentally sound manner. Of course, such tendencies can produce an annoying and in its own way, apolitical “granola” culture, but at least they manifest some rudimentary form of social consciousness.

Being away from lesbianism and lesbian culture for a time has allowed me to appreciate certain things about it, and to realize that, to a certain extent, it has shaped who I am now. This must be why I have never, in my adult life, felt truly intimate with a cis male. The ones who have become my closest friends, the ones I’ve fallen deeply in love with have been female-assigned or female. Now I’m not saying that there’s no escaping gender socialization. Certain trans men I would never feel close to either, perhaps because they really are more cis identified and have taken little or nothing from lesbian culture. Certain trans women, I am sure, I could also feel close to. But experience intense intimacy with a cis man – I’m not sure that I ever will.

I went on an Ok Cupid date last weekend with a gay cis man. We were sitting over dinner having getting-to-know you conversation, and he ended up recounting to me his late-blooming “gay adolescence,” which consisted of him going to clubs and bathouses, getting really drunk, and spending lots of money trying to get male strippers to take off their g-strings. After this brief blow-out, he settled into an absolutely normal gay adulthood. This didn’t resemble my coming out in the slightest, and it isn’t just because I was trans and he wasn’t. There I was, someone who he presumed was a cis male as well and who he probably expected to have had a very similar period of gay adolescence. I really had nothing to tell him. This was the moment when it really clicked for me, that I was not really that similar to gay cis men – but it took me being accepted as one of them before I could have this revelation.

Now that I know more about gay male culture, I am starting to feel that my outer appearance really doesn’t tell an important part of my story. By knowing I am a gay man, people really don’t know all that much about me (I thought that would actually let them know a lot about me). As part of my disillusionment with gay male culture, I am starting to feel less satisfied with appearing to be simply a gay male.

I have a crush on a butch academic right now and have been having long political and personal conversations with my butch Pops as well. The concurrence of these two intimacies is making me think more about my connection to butch as something that I would like to render visible. Really, I feel extremely close to certain butches. They are my people, although we obviously have important and significant differences of gender expression, identification, and sexuality. For me, in spite of these significant differences, the experience of female-assigned gender strangeness, and the kind of feminist critique and fighting spirit that engenders, is enough to make us comrades.

Before I transitioned, I was plagued by the desire to prove the ways in which I was different from lesbians and from butches; now I want to emphasize our similarities. I’m not being wishy-washy here. I think I’m just moving farther along the path of attempting to communicate who I am – what my gender is and what my affiliations are – through my body. Before, when I looked like a butch, it was important to disidentify with butches and to emphasize the ways in which I was really a gay man. Now that I look like a gay man, it is becoming important to me once again to affiliate with female-assigned queers, ideally via my body.

And the fact is, I don’t think that I particularly need the biological markers of maleness – rougher skin, hair on my stomach, veiny arms, a thicker neck, an aggressive sex drive. I don’t need to look and feel as dudely as I do, and in fact, I might feel more like me if I didn’t. What I do need is to look in away that broadly evokes non-femaleness. All I really ever wanted was to be read as a trans man, not a cis man, and not a lesbian. And I think that if I went off T now, that’s what would happen. My body would become slimmer and smoother and my features more delicate, but my new male jawline and deep voice would remain, and I would clearly be a trans man. This, I think, is the most accurate and most truthful option for me. A visible third gender – clearly not female, but not conventionally male either. Someone who you would refer to as “he,” but that is nevertheless different from cis men. An elvin genderqueer boy perhaps.

Of course, the actual process of going off T is scary. How will I feel as my muscles melt away, as my face changes, as my body loses its hair, as my hips grow more pronounced? Will my gender dysphoria return? How will I manage getting periods again and suffering from PMS? Will I begin to feel more emotionally like a woman? Will I sometimes not pass? Will people look at me strangely? Will I confuse people once again?

These are all scary thoughts. I may not, in fact, succeed at going off T. I think that I might start with simply lowering my dose for a several months and then decide where to go from there. But I hope that being on T and passing as cis has given me a certain insight that will prove permanent, and that, in the future, I will not need the crutch of testosterone in order to feel male. Now, after all, I know that, in certain ways, I am not male. Perhaps, in the future, I will be able to embrace confusing people, not being treated as a cis male, and being visibly gender strange because actually, that’s exactly who I am.

I hope that, after I detransition, I will be transformed enough to not look female, to not look like a butch, and to not look like a lesbian. But I want butches and lesbian to be able to see that I am trans and not cis. I just want a slight separation from butches, so that our similarities across difference will be visible without me appearing to be a butch. Likewise, I still want to look like a beautiful gay boy. Just not the same type of gay boy as cis men. A recognizably different and unique version of gay masculinity, with a different gender history. This, I think, would be perfect for me. To be visibly neither one nor the other, sharing similarities with both and able to relate to both across a tiny, but significant visible gap of difference.

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13 Responses to I Might Go Off T

  1. jasmine1152 says:

    Hey! Jasmine stopping by again. I find this blog entry very very compelling in terms of my own experience. I think you have again, hit the nail right on the head.

    I am in a very similar spot to you mentally with my MtF transition now. I had always been a “pretty man” prior to transition. It was in fact, it was the last series masculinizing secondary changes of the late 20’s that provoked my dysphoria to the point where acknowledging my nature was no longer optional in the first place. While I could never have articulated this prior to transition, I realize now that I was somewhat comfortable as a self-perceived “boy” but that becoming a Man was just too much to handle.

    Acknowledging a lifetime of negative feelings and gender dysphoria was so liberating that a new, more authentic personality started to emerge immediately. I had wrestled so hard with my sense of self before that I really had no idea who I was, what was important to me, or why I valued the things that I did.

    As I have become more feminine, both through the destruction of my false alpha male personality and the use of estrogen, I have come to realize that I am pretty comfortable as a really effeminate male, a realization which would never have struck me when I was busy emulating masculine normalcy and being miserable.

    Sometimes, the additional feminization of my face makes me feel uncomfortable when gazing in the mirror. I’m still living and working as a man, so hard to hide changes are not always welcome and I thought perhaps that was the whole reason. But when I really thought about it, I started to realize why the additional feminization of the face was so ego dystonic: I actually like that androgynous boy in the mirror. I think he’s cute. I think he’s smart, and for the first time I’m actually happy to be what I am, even if it is transitional in nature. The fact that I like myself for the first time made me question for a moment if perhaps I should stop taking estrogen. Ultimately though, a significant part of my happiness is the newfound emotional response and wellbeing I’ve experienced as a direct result of HRT. Like many women, I do not aspire to every aspect of the feminine stereotype, just those parts which are comfortable for me.

    Eventually, that androgynous boy will be gone, replaced with a woman’s face and I will be at peace with that, because in my heart I am a woman, even if I enjoy the assertive, masculine aspects of my personality too.

    Transition is an amazing voyage of self discovery that occurs on so many levels. While I had thought that physical and mental change were separate issues, I too am finding bodily change to be a vital component of transgender self discovery.

    For me, liking the boy in the mirror was a significant milestone: whatever else has happened, I have learned to love and accept myself. This alone was worth it.

    Jasmine

  2. Faggot Boi says:

    Wow, thanks Jasmine, what an interesting comment. So many similarities between our transitions in opposite directions! What you wrote is making me realize that I think some of my desire to detransition is because I don’t entirely identify with the most recent facial changes. I am turning into a handsome boy rather than a pretty boy, and I think I identify more, and find more pleasing, the pretty boy. You said that your newfound emotional responsiveness was one of the major reasons why you might rather continue transitioning toward female, even though you feel comfortable with the androgynous boy in the mirror, rather than going off estrogen. To be honest, I worry that my fear of the extreme PMS that I used to have, and the menstrual cycle more generally, might be the number one thing that keeps me on T. I am considering merely halving my dose for a few months in the hopes that this will lead to a more androgynous appearance with lighter periods and less severe PMS than if I went off T entirely. It is scary, but also somewhat exciting, to contemplate becoming more gender ambiguous after having gotten used to passing.

  3. jasmine1152 says:

    I too am fearful to stop taking hormones. I simply can’t contemplate the prospect of going back to the gray and barren mental landscape of my prior self. I think that even though I want to transition all the way to female, self acceptance has been so rare that I am loath to give up the boyish androgyne in the mirror. As the estrogen continues to soften my features, my boy mode presentation continues to become more and more awkward and I am realizing that it will very soon be time to say goodbye, likely forever. One of my favorite MtF writers, Melanie Ann wrote that in order for Melanie to live, (Dave) had to die and I feel like this is the start of that dying for Jake (my male name) and it does involve some sorrow even though it is a positive step.

    I’ve realized as part and parcel of all this that I love to bend gender lines. For whatever reason, I really love presenting androgynously. Perhaps there really is something to this gender queer thing…

    Jasmine

  4. anon says:

    About stopping T. I have a friend who after about 4 years on T and fully passing, stopped T with the guidance of a gynecologist. There seems to be no problem with that, he’s off it for about a year now, and seems happy. I have to check in with him again. He told me a while ago that he had some PMS and issues from period that he didn’t have before T, so there seem to be changes. Physically he is still passing, but closer to butch than before. His body is more rounded but his face remains male, and the voice will always let him pass.
    What you write about intimacy with butches and trans men is interesting, it makes me realize that I have always only felt intimacy with cis men, never with women, butches or many faab trans people. For me, the most important thing was always to be able to hang out with men as one of them. I don’t function well with faab people. I’m not conventionally cis male indentified, I’m more on the fey side of male myself, and have many such gay friends. I know gay mainstream culture can be a pain, but there are lots of non-masculine and politically conscious gay men in the world, though they are the minority. I resent the picture that you paint of gay men a bit. But probably it’s a question of where you live and what people you meet, and probably I would agree with you if I’d hang out in your area.
    I also like the way you separate pretty from handsome. For me it was always handsome, if I had to choose. My self image is also young looking, 30ish man and not boy (though I’m not quite sure what you mean by “boy”). I get what both you and Jasmine wrote about being in the middle somehow. I’m that way too, though more to the male side.

  5. Beit says:

    thank you for posting this- this type of transition (from “female” to third gender) is exactly what I have dreamed of and just Googled to see if anyone else has this desire and here you are, doing it! Please keep us posted on how it goes, regardless of how the path winds

  6. Faggot Boi says:

    @Anon, thanks for writing in. I understand your resentment about my characterization of gay cis men. I think part of it is that I’ve now moved to a location with a large mainstream gay population from a place with a much more small town feel, where there wasn’t a large gay mainstream and there was a small academic / activist community of politically aware, feminist gay men. So I think part of my post here is conveying a sense of disappointment at discovering the gay mainstream, whereas previously I had known the margins more. Not that there aren’t queer, activist, and intellectual gay men here – it’s just so much more apparent that they’re in the minority. In addition, I’ve started hooking up with guys via manhunt, which has made me realize that there’s a substantial body of gay men who really look and act no different from their straight counterparts. Once I absorb this, perhaps I can appreciate other aspects of gay male culture more. There are certainly wonderful people in both cultures, but I do think that the lesbian mainstream is more politically aware than the gay mainstream.

  7. Faggot Boi says:

    @Beit, sure thing!

  8. anon says:

    @ Faggot Boi: I have been living in a large gay male community even before coming out as trans, so I knew that it was actually a number of diverse smaller communities with only little connection. I hooked up with the activist, outrageous, queen friendly part from the start, so I was fine.
    It is certainly different from the lesbian community, the way things are done is different. I had problems when I tried to work together with activists from the lesbian communities, as the social codes are so vastly different. And it’s really hard to adjust to a foreign code.

    As I always was friends with gay and straight men, I never doubted that gay men are “like straight men”, in that they are men. That’s why I like them ^^ And straight men are very diverse too.

    I have tried gay online dating, and I found that the majority online seems to be of the straight-gay variety. I prefer meeting people directly through activism, groups and such. Or first meet some activists in real life and then hook up with their friends via the friend systems online.

    I was wondering if the feeling of alienation that you described was more due to the fact that cis men are “different”, or that being stealth can lead to a feeling of alienation. I have been discussing this with a straight trans friend of mine, who has similar feelings of alienation when he hangs out with cis men.
    (When I think about it, he used to be lesbian identified and had only female friends before transitioning. Maybe that’s a bigger hurdle than it seems?)

    I hope you find a way to organize your social circle so that it suits you!

  9. Faggot Boi says:

    @Anon, yes, I think that being stealth in certain situations can lead to a sense of alienation for me, especially because I my connection to queer women communities sometimes feels important to me. I also think that really, my disappointment is with mainstream gay male culture and the types of straight-acting men who seem to flock to gay male hookup sites. Maybe I should just be clear with myself and others and admit that I don’t like gay men, I like queer faggot perverts (of which, yes, there are plenty here)!!

  10. anon says:

    lol
    Obviously, nobody likes all gay men. Gay men don’t like many gay men. But I understand what you mean, and I often felt that many trans men who are between the lesbian and gay communities don’t really *like* gay men, or men in general. That was the most important point where I felt I was different and where conflicts arose. I didn’t feel comfortable with their distance to men and their assumption that I share it because of my trans status.
    I’m not saying that men shouldn’t be criticized. I do it all the time. Many men suck. It’s more about the general feeling of belonging and not belonging, and I just don’t feel I belong to women. It’s always been that way since I can remember. I have women friends though and love my female relatives.
    As always I’m glad that you are so honest as it helps me to sort out myself and others better. Often, such dialogs are fogged by “political” or subcultural correctness, and it becomes really difficult to understand what’s going on.
    Again, wishing you the best for your hunt for the queer gay species!

  11. owanderer says:

    I would be devastated if I lost my connection to queer women! Almost all of my friends, online and offline, are queer women.
    Alright, affections aside, I wanted to comment on your blog post! I just started T six days ago (!!) so your post made me a little nervous. But I have also known for awhile that there is a pretty strong genderqueer side in me that likes fucking with gender norms. I’m pretty sure I want to do this from a fey-male perspective, but you never know, I guess. One of the reasons I identified as genderqueer before identifying as trans is because I do enjoy gender fluidity–presenting as a mild-mannered punk activist one day and an earnest bookish dandy the next.
    I also feel pretty alienated from a lot of gay male culture. I find I connect better to the older gay men in my life than anyone my age (which is, y’know, relatively young). Sometimes I think this is because I am miles ahead of a lot of folks around me in terms of emotional self-acceptance and comfort. Oh well.
    Good luck with your T explorations!

  12. Solid says:

    I’m a closeted hetero trans man and some of you FTMs piss me off with how effeminate/ female you act. I couldn’t even read this post because it was full of the kind of ‘batshit’ only a confused girl would write (or a really kooky male). Jesus Christ.
    How ironic that I’m not on T yet some of these twanz-men on T still have those stupid feminine mannerisms that I was never able to master growing up. Don’t they realize how ridiculous they look? There’s a difference between a cis gay acting effeminate and a “twanz man” (yeah, I call the fake ones ‘twanz”) looking very awkward by moving their head and hands like a woman while talking fast with a lilt. I seriously want to PUNCH them in the face. Especially when they start ironically bawwing about how “emasculated” they feel. There’s no crying in baseball! Man up or GTFO!

  13. Faggot Boi says:

    Solid,

    I approved your comment so that everybody can see that a straight, homophobic, effeminate-phobic gender policing trans man is really no better than your average straight, homophobic, effeminate-phobic cis man, right down to the feelings of phobia and disgust, insults, and threats of violence. It’s sad that someone like yourself who has had to struggle to have the gender you identify with would then police, denigrate, and delegitimize the gender of others. I’ve got news for you: neither you nor the straight cis bro dudes have the monopoly on maleness. Like them, you find other ways of being male profoundly threatening. Does it make you nervous that there may be more genders than masculine/male and feminine/female? Does it feel like your way of understanding the world is about to collapse? Or is it that you fear that transphobic people who see feminine FTMs as manifesting a core femaleness will then “confuse” you with them, thinking that you too might be less than totally male?

    I will also have you know that I’m actually extremely attractive to women and gay men alike, and not awkward or ridiculous looking at all, and I’m not a single bit phased by your panicky, phobic rant.

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