Transition Stock-Taking

After reading and commenting on SCB’s recent post, I thought it was time for an update. I haven’t been writing that much, because I’m pretty satisfied with things, and decisions about whether to stay on T and if so at what dose or whether to get chest surgery or not are therefore leisurely and not urgent. But reading SCB reminded me of how important it is to have the voices of non-binary identified trans folk who have transitioned to some degree and are happy with their choice out there, when the dominant transsexual narrative continues to block people whose narratives don’t exactly conform from feeling like they have the right to transition. FYI, I believe that there are many people who do fit the dominant transsexual narrative, and that their comfort, safety, and access to medical care and appropriate legal documents should absolutely be a priority. However, I am becoming increasingly aware of the inadvertent harm it does to have their narrative be the only publicly legitimate, and often the only accessible narrative out there.

So on to my update. I have not gone off T, as I thought I might, mainly because I really like my body and sex drive on T, I don’t want to get full on PMS and periods, and I don’t really want to stop passing as male, even sometimes. I wouldn’t mind a more androgynous face, but I also am getting increasingly used to and comfortable with the face I have. So I’ve gone on what for me is about a half dose – an amount which I believe will allow me to stabilize at where I am while slowing or (ideally) stopping further changes. Sometimes, I think the changes just happen so rapidly that it’s good to pause and just get used to how one looks and functions in the world.

During my last post, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable with being read as a cis man in most spaces. I am not out to my students as trans this semester, and at times (when talking about trans issues, for instance, or about female masculinity) this felt dishonest or strange. But now, I have grown more comfortable with it, and I feel that my personal life is none of my students’ business. This is partly just me getting used to teaching – I no longer even find it necessary to let my students know that I am gay or queer identified, though I think they’d have to be pretty stupid to not pick it up from the way I look or how I discuss things is class. If they choose to see me as a straight cis man, though, that’s their decision.

Sometimes, of course, in super cisgender and heteronormative spaces, I feel uncomfortable being read as cis, but then again, I would be uncomfortable regardless of my presentation in such spaces. It is strange to be witness to transphobia and to sexism (because I’m assumed to be a cis man) in a way that was less likely to happen when I appeared to be a gender nonconforming female. I get righteously pissed off on these occasions just as I would before, but feel as if I’m not permitted to speak from a place of personal injury. This is difficult sometimes, but there’s a way in which intervening on transphobia or sexism as someone presumed to be a cis male can, sadly, be more effective than it would be for someone who is either female or is known to be trans. I am aware now, that when I call out or explain transphobia or sexism to someone, I am not seen as just “an angry feminist (woman)” or “a man-hating lesbian” or “an angry transsexual,” but as a judicious, clear-headed, remarkably empathetic (cis) man. On the one hand, this has positive effects, as I can make my critiques heard more easily than I could before, and I can get people who might have otherwise dismissed me to swallow what I am saying. On the other hand, I am benefiting from the belief that (cis) men are disinterested, objective, and logical when they express feminist positions, whereas feminist women are irrational, hateful, and resentful when I do this. It is uncomfortable, but in every case, I have felt that it would be MORE uncomfortable were they to know that I was trans, since generally, I see such people as the enemy and would not want to make myself vulnerable to them.

At these moments, it is very clear to me that, though I do identify as male, I identify as trans male, not cis male, and I do not feel like I am “just one of” the (cis) guys. Sometimes, this worries me and makes me wonder if I really had the “right” to transition in the first place. But in any case, I don’t feel any more comfortable with or a part of groups of cis women. I really am, I suppose, a third gender, and I feel most at ease with genderqueers, butches, and other trans people.

Increasingly, though, I am comfortable with my position as someone who appears to be a gay cis male but who identifies as trans (with friends) and (somewhat secretly) as third gender. For me, I suppose, every social position would be a compromise position, there is no way to to appear 100% of the time as what I identify as, and even if there were one, it would often feel uncomfortable and dangerous to occupy this position (which, again, is why I find trans men who never go on T to be brave and alluring). Nor am I even one of those trans men who regularly outs himself with groups of sympathetic cis people. Even with cis friends who know that I’m trans, I prefer for my transness to subtend things without ever really being brought to the surface. Of course, with my inner circle, I speak openly about being trans.

One thing that amazes me when I think about it is how much T changes people’s perceptions of you and thus, your perceptions of yourself. I suppose that I’m one of the lucky ones in that I began passing consistently very soon after starting T, in spite of the fact that I was androgynous rather than butch beforehand. I know people far more masculine than I who still don’t pass consistently as male 2 years or more after starting T. Which goes to show that passing is not a matter of how masculine you are but simply of body and facial shape. Interestingly, my body did not really change that much. I just “filled out” a bit in the torso to look the way I feel I was “supposed” to look. It was more a natural maturation than anything else. My face changed subtly as well, but in the face, subtle changes make a huge difference. It is the facial changes that took me from androgynous to male in the eyes of others and of myself. Lastly, it is a great relief now to hear a resonant, warm bass when I speak. It sounds authoritative and mature (gender stereotyping again), and increasingly, I feel authoritative and mature. The best part is that I no longer feel disconnected from the sounds I make during sex, as they are the sounds of an aroused man rather than a woman. Interestingly, I think that my vocal changes have healed my relationship to sex as much or even more than my bodily changes.

The result of these changes is that people see, without the slightest degree of doubt, a man when they look at me, and I see a man as well. Whereas before, I constantly worried about whether this or that faggy gesture, way of sitting or standing, or vocal intonation came across as female (and sometimes a gesture or vocal intonation would make my feel dysphorically female), leading me to police my gestures, now I comfortably engage in the faggiest of gestures whenever I feel so inclined. It makes me feel hot, not female, and moreover feels like the appropriate way for me to interact with women – showing them that they can have certain interactions with me that they couldn’t with a straight man – with men – showing them that I am a potential sexual object for them – and with butches – flirting with them and letting them know that I bow before their greater masculinity. Whereas these gestures and vocal intonations used to be a subtle bane on my existence, now they fit me like a fine linen suit. This, more than anything, is how I know that transitioning was the right decision for me.

The other odd effect is that being on T makes me feel like I am maturing and growing up, since the masculinity my body portrays now looks and sounds older than the one it portrayed before. Again, it seems oppressive that certain physical characteristics should read as more mature, or that one can feel more mature due to being on T, but that is my experience. It’s true that part of why I transitioned is because, as a professor in my 30s, I was beginning to feel really age-dissonant (more so even than gender-dissonant). I love that the space of non-transitioning trans-boihood exists, and I enjoyed that space and found it enabling for a while, but now, this body better fits where I’m at in my life. On the other hand, I’m afraid of aging too rapidly. I’m not ready to (and may never be ready to) look like a 32-year old cis man. Appearing much younger than my age has become a way of expressing my identification as third gender, not cis, of being visible as trans to queer people in the know, and of expressing my disidentification with cis men. I think that what it also shows is my goal was never to have a cis male body. Like SCB, I wanted to transition in order to look like a trans man, not a cis man. I have gone on a lower dose of T to preserve the youthful transness that I have now.

The final effect of being on T and passing as cis is that I feel perfectly happy with my body as it is. Whereas before, I would have looked at this body and wanted to get chest surgery and to eliminate the still visible (when naked) curve of my hips, now I look at it and feel perfectly happy. Clothed and lightly bound, it looks like a cis body. Naked, it looks like a trans body, a bit surprising, but still hot, and I like that. I really have zero body dysphoria now (though I think it would be great to have a cis penis for sex). I don’t even want to get chest surgery anymore, because my chest expresses my trans maleness (though I would never go unbound, as some trans men do to out themselves as trans). It’s funny, I glanced at the image at the top of my blog today and noticed how much I really do look like it now. I have arrived.

You know, it’s odd. Sometimes I wonder if I could have continued without going on T and think that this would have been possible. The problem was not that I had such intense gender dysphoria. It was that living as a male pronouned person in the body I had before was really uncomfortable to me. Being mis-pronouned, having to “prove” my maleness, and wondering whether others found my maleness believable was not my cup of tea. And living as a female, even a butch female, really did not fit the way I felt anymore, since the butches I know accept being Ma’amed and interpellated as women and even “ladies.” I think it’s cool that certain butches (like my Pops) really do occupy this in-between space and really are sometimes Ma’am and sometimes Sir, sometimes mom and sometimes pops, sometimes she and sometimes he, but I knew that I wanted to be only one of those.

So that’s that. I transitioned for atypical reasons, perhaps, but I now live in the world with a far greater comfort and ease. I have a debonair, pretty, and cultured masculinity. I like fine whiskeys and exquisite colognes, and am looking for an ascot. I am an angry feminist, an angry trans person, and an angry queer. I don’t identify as cis or feel totally at ease with cis people, male and female. I am a traitor to the male sex. I have sex with gay cis men (mostly) and don’t feel that they should have a problem with my body. I am more comfortable being assumed to be cis than not in public. Yet I do not come across as a typical man. I call my butch lesbian mentor Pops and sir and he, and I recognize and get both her masculinity and her comfort functioning in the world as a woman. T has allowed me to experience and to claim my right to be a man and to explore exactly the type of non-normative man that I want to be. Sometimes, just sitting around or lying down or standing up, I take a moment to feel to immense sense of comfort and confidence I have in my body. I don’t have to worry about whether it’s male or female, whether it is coming across as male or female in that moment, whether I need to do something different to make it look or feel more male. It just is. And it is a man’s body.

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17 Responses to Transition Stock-Taking

  1. Oscar says:

    I think I might end up where you are. I’m 29, no-ho/ non-op. I am read as male 100% of the time, in every possible type of situation, due to my height and body shape. Because I already pass comfortably, I wouldn’t even care to go on testosterone, except I’m getting tired of being perceived as a 16 year old boy.
    I went to get a library card and the lady asked, skeptically, “Are you 18?”. Lol, and other situations like that. Not cool.

  2. anon says:

    Hey, it’s the friendly anon again.
    I’m glad to hear that you found a way through the “crisis”. I have been thinking of a friend who hadn’t been conventionally trans himself. When he started hormones the changes were so fast that he felt really uncomfortable and he paused for about a year or so. Then started again using gel instead of injections and later Nebido. The transition slowed down considerably and he is very happy now, passing 100% but with an androgynous body. He told me that injections are much more aggressive than gel. I know that they create hormone peaks that are way beyond the highest male level. While gel causes a constant level that is more or less the same as for cis men, and Nebido makes only very small peaks within the male range. Maybe you should check that out.

  3. anon says:

    “Which goes to show that passing is not a matter of how masculine you are but simply of body and facial shape. ”
    I wish people would understand that, especially those involved in gender studies.

    A question: How do cis guys react to your chest?

    “Whereas these gestures and vocal intonations used to be a subtle bane on my existence, now they fit me like a fine linen suit. ”
    Hear hear. This is a wonderful sentence.

  4. Faggot Boi says:

    Hi friendly Anon,

    Thanks for your comments! That’s really interesting about the gel. Maybe I’ll ask my doctor about it next time I go in for a checkup. I didn’t realize that the peaks, with injections, were beyond “normal” cis range levels, but that makes sense. It would be great if the valleys were also less deep with the gel. I’ve been mitigating peaks and valleys somewhat by injecting once a week. I can’t imaging what it would feel like if I injected twice ask much every two weeks!

    It’s encouraging to hear that your friend is now happy on the gel with a passing, but androgynous appearance. That sounds ideal to me as well. I’m somewhat interested in details – if you know them or want to have your friend write me at faggtboi@gmail.com. Did his transition slow, stop, or go backward on the lower level gel? Approximately what percentage of his “full” T dose did he switch to?

  5. Faggot Boi says:

    In terms of cis guys and my chest: that’s part of the reason why I don’t feel the need for chest surgery right now. I was very self-conscious about it at first, but none of the cis guys I’ve been with have seemed bothered by it. Most of them, in fact, have spontaneously moved to take my binder off when we were hooking up. On my online sex profile, I include a torso pic in my private pictures, so I suppose that those who would be scared off by my chest don’t go on to hookup with me. But the 5 cis guys who I met in real life and then hooked up with were also not concerned.

    In truth, I think my chest is not very female-looking. It was always small, the fat deposits shrunk on T, and the pecs grew, so now it almost looks as if I just have rather pronounced pecs (if I use my imagination). And I bind so well that quite a few of my new trans guy friends had assumed that I already had chest surgery. I am truly lucky.

  6. Faggot Boi says:

    Oscar,

    I totally get you, man. I think a lot of guys who are gifted with androgynous or masculine bodies can exist in the space of “trans boyhood” pretty comfortably for a while without T. For some of us, at least, it’s age dissonance more than gender dissonance that eventually fuels transition. Late 20s and 30s are definitely a time when this might happen, but I’ve also talked to folks who medically transition even later when their bodies begin to age in a female manner.

  7. genderkid says:

    There are so many things about this post that I agree with (or feel curious about)!

    It seems the age thing can be really important in deciding about T (both for people who want to look older and those who don’t). Like Oscar, I had passing privilege before injecting anything, so I knew one of the main social consequences of T would be looking my age. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted that. Sure, I didn’t want people to ogle at me in college, or harass me for money in the street, but looking boyish did free me from some expectations (of being strong, of knowing everything, of being fully fluent in male interactions…). It’s terrifying to move suddenly into an adult male social role, but the decision to start T was part of my reluctant decision to grow up.

    I had the advantage, though, of transitioning young (I started T before turning 19), so I didn’t have to age so quickly (physically or mentally). I’m actually not so far behind my peers, even socially — it seems we’re all dealing with the weight of becoming adults, regardless of gender.

    About age and “looking trans” — I did mourn the loss of the youthful/androgynous qualities which I felt were part of my embodiment of transness; but now I’m thrilled to find pictures of trans men who take T and look physically masculine yet identify specifically as trans (or as non-binary). It reminds me that there’s no one way to look trans, and that I *do* still look trans if I want to. (Not to say that your desire to look a certain way is invalid; I’m just trying to come to terms with my own changes. Also, it’s true that certain ways are more recognizable as trans than others, at least in some circles.)

  8. Faggot Boi says:

    This is really interesting, genderkid. Of course, you’re right: one can “be” and “look” trans at whatever transition “age.” I was just thinking today that as I get more comfortable with being, and functioning in the world as a man, I may choose to go back on a higher dose of T. It may just be a matter of giving my psychological age a second to catch up with my rapid physical “maturation.” Already now, I feel totally comfortable with the aspects of physical maleness that made me consider going off T a couple months ago. So I really don’t know what the future holds for me – I suppose I could transition, attempt to maintain (the current plan), or detransition. But it’s very very interesting that the gendered positions that FtMs can choose to occupy have as much to do with apparent age as with passing.

    Right now, the frequent, sometimes embarrassing or annoying instances of being treated as if I’m much younger than I am are my reminder that I function in the world not just as a man, but as a trans man, and so I like to hold onto them. It can also be fun to pass as a teenager, or as a boy genius, or to confuse people about my age, or to still have the option of being “cute.”

  9. Avery says:

    I totally get the ascots. I’m 57, started taking testosterone a couple of months ago, and am a writer, tailor, and artist (and fey as fuck.) I was looking for a way to document and commemorate the upcoming changes, so I made myself a slew of ascots, and am photographing myself wearing them over the course of the next year. And yes, I do actually wear them to work!

    Let me know if you want an ascot, and I’ll help you out; they’re easy to make, and a fabulously foppish fashion accessory.

  10. stlm says:

    Hey i just found your blog and really connected with this post. i’ve been on a super low dose of gel for over a year and then switched to injections because the gel was expensive and hardly doing anything. my goal has always been to go slowly and find the lowest satisfactory dose because i don’t feel like i necessarily need to be within the “normal male” range. i just wanted to find the level that met my needs. It is interesting what you mentioned about growing up, since imagining myself as an adult in my what feels like a pre-pubescent boy body (with some female features) has been difficult and I feel like at 29, it’s about time i grow up! I have experienced so many of the things you mentioned especially the slight drop in my voice during sex already makes a big difference.

  11. anon says:

    Hormones:
    I believe he took the normal amount of gel that is prescribed here- it varies depending on person, but I think it’s about 25-50 a day. It comes in small satchets and you can experiment with the dosage. The only thing that you might want to control with gel is how it affects the menstrual cycle. For a minority of people who don’t have hysto/ovarectomy, gel might not be strong enough to completely “kill” the cycle. Nebido is better for that. But it really depends on person.
    Gel is not really a weaker dosage, you have the same avarage level, but it’s spread out evenly, while with injections, you get these huge highs and lows. For him, he lost some of his really extreme musles growth, the veins on his head and neck vanished, he looks less “pumped up”, but still masculine, in an androgynous way. Also his mood became very stable I think, but I’m not sure if this was the gel or the Nebido.

    Chest:
    I have dated at least three cis guys in my life who had small feminine looking breasts. One of them was gay and rather proud of them. He also had very sensitive nipples. I think the gay community is more positive about male breasts and nipples which is a very good thing for trans guys with small sizes.

  12. Faggot Boi says:

    Avery, what a fabulous and foppish way to document your transition!

  13. Faggot Boi says:

    stlm, cool! I’m glad that so much of this resonated. Best of luck transitioning at your own pace!

  14. “I am aware now, that when I call out or explain transphobia or sexism to someone, I am not seen as just “an angry feminist (woman)” or “a man-hating lesbian” or “an angry transsexual,” but as a judicious, clear-headed, remarkably empathetic (cis) man.”

    This part amazes me. How oblivious do people have to be to hear a presumably cis man going off about how unfair transphobia is, and never think, not for a second, “Hey, maybe this guy is trans…?” You know what I mean? With sexism, I guess that’s a little more understandable. Most cis people probably wouldn’t guess that a man who is arguing against sexism used to be a woman or “used to be a woman” – but that transphobia specifically can enter the conversation, and they never guess, shows just how “over there” cis people generally think trans people must be. Not having a conversation with them, certainly.

    Interesting stuff about vocal dysphoria (and the alleviation of it.) Certainly one of the effects of T I am looking forward to…

    Age stuff, too. Chronologically, I know I am a grown man, but I don’t feel good calling myself a grown man. Feel like a boy because I am not on T.

    Loved it all. Meant to comment here for weeks but you know how it iz…..

  15. Faggot Boi says:

    Thanks for this comment. I agree with you about how weird it is to teach my students about transphobia and various issues that trans people face and know that it still does not occur to most of them that I might be trans. Totally true about how “over there” trans people are – one couldn’t possibly be present in the room during a conversation about trans issues. Even though I tell them at the beginning of the semester to assume that there is a trans person in the room and that you can’t always tell by looking. I often wonder if, before class, students are whispering about whether or not I could be trans, but I really have no idea. Increasingly, I feel comfortable with the idea of being the subject of rumors, or of a few students who are “in the know” guessing, whilst the more ignorant students continue to assume that I’m cis.

    On the age dysphoria – before I started T it was impossible to think of myself as a man, even though I was 30. I just felt like a fraud, since I might look like a boy, but I didn’t look in any way like a man. It wasn’t a maturity thing, and now that I’ve transitioned, I feel (and look) like a young man, and would only refer to myself or think of myself as a boy with my Pops.

  16. It would be interesting to know, as trans people, how others make sense of us – or don’t. Of course, it’s rare we find out, because people don’t tell.

    Reading this comment made me go and register “southcarolinaman.wordpress.com” under my account, just in case I want to blog from there….someday. Since “boy” might not always fit.

  17. mymindofaman says:

    great post!

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