Becoming More Butch (in a Gay Sense)

So when I first started to imagine taking testosterone to physically transition, I imagined that I would become a smooth, hairless, lean effeminate fag. This was how I came across before T (to those who knew how to read me correctly), and so this is who I hoped to become after beginning T, but to the whole world. The other possibility (I imagined) was horrifying – becoming a straight man!! Although I had been really into topping before starting T, I assumed that once I made my debut into the gay male world, I would be a bottom, because the effeminate one tends to be perceived as a bottom, and because, if I was dating cis men, I figured that it would simplify matters, especially since I did like to get fucked. Overall, I decided that enacting my identity as a gay man by having sex with gay men was more important than my identity as a top.

One year after starting T, where am I?

I have pretty much exactly the type of body I envisioned. Lean, muscular, small, and mostly smooth. I ended up growing longer hair than I anticipated on my legs, and growing a light happy trail. While, initially, I was not particularly pleased with these developments, over time, I grew to love them. Seeing as how my lower body was already pretty lean and muscular before starting T, the hair is the major visible change – but somehow, it signifies totally as male. I love looking down and seeing my “male” (i.e. slightly hairier) lower body now.

Otherwise, I have a perfect gay boy body. I feel really lucky. I love it. It’s really only slightly different than how it was before, since I didn’t have much fat to shift around to begin with and the muscle mass that I did put on was lean rather than bulky.

But I move it differently than I expected. I think, partly, because my changing muscles have affected my phenomenological experience of my body. I can feel the strength and the mass of my pecs, shoulders, and upper-body, for instance. I enjoy it, and this makes me move in a way that emphasizes their mass, strength, and stability. I have ended up not being one of those flexible waisted, butt out, back arched gay boys, and this is not because I’m trying to hide my chest. Overall, my enjoyment of my sense of my new muscles leads me to project strength and stability in my posture, along with the potential for lightning-fast movement. For me to take on the flexible-waisted, butt out, back arched posture, I would have to let go of my muscles’ desire to experience their strength, and so I haven’t been able to do it.

The result is that I don’t think anyone who knows me would call me effeminate. In fact, my femmy genderqueer trans friend said the other day that he considered me butch! BUTCH!!! I was completely astounded. A few days later, I went to queer choir practice and was told that I was a bass! A BASS!!! A BUTCH BASS! Will wonders never cease?

In all seriousness, I honestly didn’t believe him at first. That is, I thought that he must have woefully loose standards for what a butch was if he thought that I was one! It just didn’t make sense. I knew that I was nothing like a real butch such as my Pops. We have completely different gender styles, embodiments, ways of moving, ways of relating to women. I was not butch. I was also nothing like the many butch straight trans men I know – again, totally different gender styles, embodiments, ways of moving, and ways of relating to women. (I realized recently that, though I think of myself as someone who has many good trans male friends, actually, I don’t tend to relate so well to straight trans men. My intimate friendships are all with trans men who are or have been primarily into other men). Only such an extraordinarily femmy friend could believe that I, of all people, was butch.

But it’s true that with this friend, I behave as the butch. This friend, along with other feminine people I know, also make me realize that there are certain ways in which I’m quite a bit “butcher” than many others around me. I am a realist. I shoot down ideas that don’t seem feasible, and I don’t know how to do it in a sweet way. I am direct. I don’t play games, I am not coy, and I am as incapable of feigning interest, niceness, and enthusiasm as I am of expressing my strong opinions in more polite and inoffensive language. I believe that life is hard, and that people ought to be tough to survive. When my more sensitive or idealistic friends tell me about their problems and disappointments, my instinct is to tell them that that’s life and to advise them to toughen up, to assert themselves, and to take a more cynical or adversarial view of how the world works. When something really awful happens to me, I turn inward. I don’t seek out friends or try to express the hurt immediately until I am a little more in control, a little less broken, a little less vulnerable. I err, in general, toward appearing more confident than I actually am, because I don’t fully trust many people, and even when I do, I don’t usually like to show them my vulnerabilities. It just feels unseemly to me. Finally, I tend to express myself in more economical language than many more feminine people. There are all masculine, one might even say butch traits.

But these character traits were all present before I started T as well. Somehow, though, with the body and sweet face I had then, they really didn’t register as butch or even as very masculine. Rather, they were cute. A sweet, slender, pixyish young genderqueer pretending to be a grumpy old granddad – that must have been the effect. Now, the effect is butch but definitely very very gay. A butch gay man, in other words. Among straight trans men and butch women, I stand out as GAY, but not, for that matter, as effeminate.

I was surprised and disheartened at first. Partly because I imagined that I would still be extremely visibly genderqueer (as in flaming fairy) once I transitioned.  This is not how I am at all. In part, I have realized that it feels more dangerous and more vulnerable to be a flaming gay man in public than it did to be a butch genderqueer, and I feel more frightened now being publicly intimate with a (male) lover than I did then. I feel more comfortable not drawing excessive amounts of attention to myself. But it is also because I actually do prefer expressing masculinity to expressing effeminacy or femininity, and the satisfactions of this far outweigh my earlier fears of coming across as a regular guy.

And I get publicly cruised and even asked out by really cute queer men enough that I know for a fact that, to the even slightly trained eye, I do not come across as a heterosexual. So I decided, recently, not to worry about not having become the effeminate faggot that I envisioned. It is interesting how little one can know oneself, and how much one’s body can influence one’s (and other’s) perception of oneself.

Finally, something rather stupendous has happened. I have started dating an absolutely gorgeous gay black cis man who is himself an effeminate bottom and who sees me as his big strong (potential) top. This is something of a feat of the imagination considering the height difference between us, and the fact that I am not only smaller, but also skinnier than him. But it works. I have not been so turned on by someone in a very long time. It is partly him, his beauty, and so on, but it is mostly the dynamic – the fact that he makes himself my lady, that during our first kiss, I was the one putting my tongue into his mouth and not the other way around, that when I put my arm around him, he sinks into me as if I am so much bigger and stronger than him, that he really reacts when I dominate him while making out, and that he lays his head on my shoulder in a way that makes me feel totally strong and totally protective of him. He has commented on how strong I look, how it looks like I work out, how I seem a lot taller than I am, and how I have a certain swagger about me. In other words, he makes me feel like a gay butch top, and I love it. More than that, he makes me feel like a Daddy; and I’m afraid, that if this gets going, I will find myself in another Daddy/Boy relationship (he referred to himself as my “babyboy” in his text tonight), but only afraid because they’re so intense and emotionally vulnerable for me.

This is making me realize the extent to which I am actually a top. The sex that I’ve been having – either in a double top situation with other tops, or as a pretend “bottom” with a service top – has been satisfying, but not outrageously hot, because actually, what turns me on are effeminate male bottoms (this one talks about his “bosom” and doesn’t even like to have his dick sucked – I think he’s somewhat genderqueer without using that word). However, my assumption that these kinds of fags would only want a “real man,” and would not want to be topped, even if they were attracted to me, by someone without a cis penis, that I didn’t even really consider it a possibility. Until I came across someone so beautiful that I just couldn’t help myself. And now I can acknowledge that, the truth is, I really enjoy being the penetrator with someone who is significantly more feminine than me (and this is actually not that easy to find, with the contemporary gay male primacy on masculinity). And I want him to give me really long, really great blow jobs, but I don’t particularly care about being penetrated by him. This seemed, however, like too much to wish for, so I didn’t.

I guess, overall, this post is about how one can not really know one’s gender as well as one thinks, because the gender we think we have is often based on the chance appearance of our body as well as fantastical ideas in our head. Our body is the part of us that knows the real story. Secondly, it is about how one can know one’s sexuality but deliberately obfuscate this knowledge because parts of it seem unfeasible.

I am clearly not butch in the same way that butch women and certain straight men are butch. But perhaps I’m moving toward becoming a somewhat butch gay top, and I should just embrace it. It certainly feels good in my body and in my sexuality.

Afterword: Because of certain incompatibilities having nothing to do with gender, topping, or transness, it looks like this relationship with the gay bottom may go nowhere, but it was worth it for the revelations it helped me have.

Posted in butch, Sex, Transfaggotry, transgender | 14 Comments

A Note on Disclosure

This post began as a response to a comment from Genderkid. I decided that the issue of disclosure for trans people deserves it’s own post. Disclosure is usually considered narrowly in terms of trans status – do I disclose my trans status or choose to go stealth (or to continue passing as my assigned gender), and if I do disclose, when, how, and to whom? For trans people, however, trans status is just the tip of the iceberg of things we have to decide whether or not to disclose. Do we tell our mothers, our lovers, our friends, or our colleagues what gender we were (or felt ourselves to be) as children, our precise gender identification now, what medical alterations (if any) our bodies have undergone, and what alterations (if any) they might undergo in the future? I consider such information extremely private, and cis people who, because they know I’m trans and are “getting to know” me, presume the right to any of the information above are the bane of my existence. I think that the media’s attitude of fascination toward trans people, and the fact that any time one sees a trans person in the media, they are busy telling their entire life story in a plea for understanding, feeds cis people’s belief that trans people exist only to tell them our strange and exotic trans stories.

The fact of the matter is that as trans people, we are lightyears ahead of most cis people in our understandings of gender. In many cases, disclosing the full truth of our gender histories and identifications would only serve to confuse cis people and lead to inappropriate interactions with us (in which their impulse to see FTMs as girls in disguise would be given full reign, for instance). Sometimes we have to acknowledge cis people’s limited gender experience (and our own limited energy for teaching them about gender) by circumscribing what we disclose. We are not being dishonest; we are just being realistic about people’s capacities.

Also, cis people need to be checked on their desire to know everything about trans people. They often try to make it sound as if understanding our stories is going to help them come to terms with our transness, help them understand us better, and help them learn to treat us properly. But actually, the only things they need to know in order to interact properly with me is that I am male and I identify as male. Learning how I got to this point is not going to help them treat me any better, but it might lead to them treating me worse. Cis people need to understand that any time a trans person tells their (trans) story, we are at once trying to establish legitimacy for our existence as our gender and seeking acceptance, whether we want it to be this way or not. Under such high-stakes and asymmetrical circumstances, sometimes it is best for trans people not to tell our stories and for cis people to learn to bite their tongues instead of asking inappropriate questions.

For trans people, this means coming to terms with not being fully understood by many people in our lives.

The right to privacy is a trans right just as fundamental and just as endangered as our right to be treated as our genders of choice, our right to change our IDs, and our right to access caring and sensitive medical care.

Posted in Coming Out, transgender | 3 Comments

On Queer Shame as Constructing Gender and Fracturing the Past

The post that follows is a rigorously honest effort to understand how both my feelings about my gender (shame, pride, elation, comfort) and my gender identification have changed over time, before and after starting transition. In this post, I write my way towards a few interesting theses about queer shame as formative of my gender and of gender as a way of mediating and working through queer shame that I think represent real breakthroughs. I also attempt to understand how the result of my incoherent and changing gender history is a certain discretion around my female-identified past that might look strangely like denial or dishonesty. I attempt to explain how living in my reality now requires not publicly acknowledging certain aspects of my past. Shame is the thread that ties these meditations together. I understand shame as a generative force that can never simply be done away with, and am proud of the uses to which I’ve put it.

Approximately one year after starting testosterone it is hard, and indeed, astonishing for me to remember how not obvious it was to me that I might be trans, how using male pronouns did not initially feel natural to me, how I did not grow up thinking of myself consciously as a boy or hating feminine things, and even how, for I time, I saw the butch women I was with as the masculine ones in the relationship and thought that I had to appear androgynous because I was with them. (Some of these women, incidentally, are my facebook friends and probably think that either I or they are crazy now that they can see that I’ve transitioned). It surprises me that when I was in my late teens, in my “bi” years before I was in my first relationship with a butch woman, being “mistaken” for a boy made me feel traumatizingly embarrassed and ashamed – it felt far worse than being seen as queer or as a lesbian. When I was mistaken for a boy, I felt like I had crossed over some line into strictly forbidden, unthinkable territory. I was a freak. It wasn’t until after my first relationship with a butch woman when I moved to a (small) city with a lively queer women’s culture and its own drag king shows that I realized that masculinity could be a source of pride, something sexy, a gendered style that it could be safe and exciting to play and experiment with. At this time, I began to feel brave and thrilled and happy when I could look in the mirror and see something like a boy reflected in it and when I could defiantly project that to the world. I remember initially feeling self-conscious and a little afraid whenever I entered what I assumed to be a normative, straight space. I thought that people would challenge me or treat me differently – and certainly, I drew my share of stare, suspicious and hostile reactions, and the occasional verbal gay-bash – but the walls did not crumble around me and the world didn’t end. I had simply gotten over my fear and my shame. And, in a rather circular way, what helped me get over my shame at my masculine gender expression was precisely the masculinity I was discovering. The more uncomfortable I felt, the tougher and more confidently I tried to walk, the bigger I sat, the more of a defiant of a boy I became. Some of these behaviors have become ingrained in me now. Who knows to what degree the masculinity and eventually the maleness that I came into was some core part of my gendered being and to what degree it was the gendered form that my defiance of queer shame took. This association of masculinity, rebellion, shame-pride, and empowerment has certainly fundamentally shaped how I feel about my gender, and I think that, to some extent, it also explains why I identify partially with butch women and butch history. Cis-men, gay or straight, do not have quite the same associations and feelings around their masculinity as what I described above (they have others). But when a butch swaggers, looks unapproachable, or walks big, I get it, and I respect it.

What makes me different from butches (I think) is that, in some strange way, femininity is now what has become a problematic, thrilling, and shame-ridden experience. Femininity feels forbidden and dangerous and shameful to me for one obvious reason – because I’m trans. When it comes to my own gender, the possibility of femininity – female femininity – fills me with distaste and horror. There is, however, one group of men that also has to deal with complicated feelings around femininity – gay men. For them also, feminine expression has an aura of danger and shame… which might, with a certain unpredictable volatility, turn into camp pride. I can’t do it as a general way of being, but every now and then, I can let out a convincing camp flourish. In this way, I am exactly like many non-effeminate gay men, whose controlled release of drama queen moments is considered humorous and reaffirms their belonging within a gay community without permeating their behavior overall (they are not constantly feminine or effeminate, just for the occasional flourish or dramatic word). I think that, for me, there’s a kind of unstable transference between my horror and distaste for any expression of femininity on my body as a trans man, my identification with gay male feelings of shame around feminine expression and attempts to hide and to control it, and my attraction to gay male strategies of reclaiming feminine expression (my emulation of these strategies, on occasion, but more significantly, their erotic charge for me). My feelings toward femininity and strategies for dealing with it are thus a strange combination of butch and gay male, but cannot be fully understood as either one or the other.

Interestingly, both aspects of my gender – my maleness and my gay femininity – ultimately have a lot to do with queerness, shame, and pride. I don’t remember being ashamed of my femininity before I became masculine. But once I did become masculine, even as I was dealing with shame at my masculinity by transmuting it into pride and, therefore, into a more masculine masculinity, I began to feel ashamed of my femininity. I am not suggesting that I should have, instead, gone to therapy in order to find self-acceptance rather than work out my feelings of queer shame through my gender. Gender is a viable and valuable way of working out and expressing all sorts of things – childhood conflicts, relations to the world, relations to social norms, strong feelings around queer and trans stigma, desires to project empowerment, toughness, strength, self-sufficiency, and fearlessness, as well as whatever their feminine corollaries might be (the fact that I can’t think of them at the moment shows to what extent I am wedded to the values culturally associated with masculine expression). One thing to point out is that my feelings of shame in my masculinity, and later, my femininity led me to go further into that gender, to throw myself into my shame, rather than totally closing it off or moving away from it. I don’t, however, see myself going fully into feminine shame-pride as I have into the masculine. Perhaps I have simply found the combination that suits me.

Another thing to underline is that I did not, as many lesbians seem to fear, transition because I couldn’t handle the shame and stigma of being visibly gender deviant. To the contrary, I learned to enjoy being gender deviant. It gave me a powerful charge and became an important part of my self-conception and my attitude toward the world. No. It was something else that carried me into transition. It was a gender identity as effeminate fag coalescing out of shame-pride in masculinity and shame in femininity as well as some other things, notably sexuality. Could it be that an identification powerful enough to give me gender dysphoria and make me transition could have emerged, in part, out of my ways of understanding and working through complicated feelings around gender transgression? Could my gender be one of queer shame’s flowers? Certainly, if I focus in on the feelings I have around gender and how they have changed throughout my life, it seems quite possible.

These feeling have intensified now that I have transitioned. Masculinity is obviously no longer a cause of shame but rather of a very rare and special pride. My masculinity is beloved to me. I treasure it. This explains why I feel so delighted when I look in the mirror and see how masculine and male I look. I still feel transgressive and defiant in expressing masculinity, as if I am mischievously poaching on the domain of others.  But I identify as male, so masculinity is my domain, not that of others, and masculine expression, on me, now ratifies, rather than seeming to contradict my sex. And I do, in fact, feel proud of how well my gender expression accords with my body (that I may come across as butch and/or gay, but never female).  I delight, almost constantly, in feeling myself to be masculine and male in my body and in seeing this confirmed in relations with others as well as in the mirror. This feeling of almost constant gender elation is what I normally call “feeling very comfortable in my body.” It also explains, in part, why I have not ended up being as effeminate as I thought I would be when I first started transitioning. I am not (yet?) ready to give up my delight in the feeling of masculinity to be effeminate.

Also, the feeling of shame associated with femininity has intensified. Now I don’t mean “femininity” in any monolithic sense. I can be gentle and sensitive and sympathetic and kind and all that business, as long as it reads as “sensitive man” or “sensitive gay man” or is balanced out by butch characteristics. In other words, as long as I don’t think it reads as “woman” or “girl” or “man who was once a girl.” Much of the shame is specifically around femininity as it is associated with femaleness, but there is also some fear of drawing attention to myself, of becoming the object of attack or hostility, or simply of not being taken seriously as a flaming faggot. I hadn’t realize how intensely I try to force people to respect me until I transitioned. I also haven’t found a way to be defiant, fabulous, and strong in femininity the way that camp queens and femmes are. This is why I admire them so much more than ordinary women and men.

Finally, I have now become ashamed of my female past. First of all, I find it unseemly to talk about it. I would be scandalized, for instance, if someone I knew made reference to the fact that I was once female and identified as a girl. I believe that, unless they know the person prefers otherwise, people should have the common decency to discuss a trans person’s past as if they had always been their preferred gender. (This is different than acknowledging that a physical and social transition has taken place, which is fine by me in private settings). I don’t really talk to my friends about how my internal sense of gender itself has transitioned.

But why not, if it’s true? For me, it’s very much related to my sense of dignity and authenticity as a trans person and a male. Even though it is true that how I came to be this trans person and male is a complicated story, I don’t want others to know or acknowledge they know exactly how complicated this story was. Let them perpetuate the fiction that I was always a little boy, even when everyone thought I was female. Because I fear that if they knew that I ever identified as female or as a girl, they might not treat me correctly – that they would treat me as a genderqueer or a butch or just female rather than as a trans man, for instance. My authenticity as a man or as a trans man might be questioned, and my sense of dignity would be undermined. This isn’t a hard and fast rule; I have told at least one person of my female-identified past, and I could tell others if I felt the situation was right. Otherwise, I feel that everyone should have the common decency of assuming, unless informed otherwise, either that a trans person never identified as another gender and that, even if they did, they likely don’t want this identification acknowledged.

But it’s also true that I have become ashamed of this history. I find it confusing and absurd now to think of myself as ever having been a girl. I just can’t identify with it. It feels like another person’s childhood, another person’s youth. I can’t believe that those images were me, and I didn’t have a problem with it, not really. What’s even stranger is that I am fully capable of looking at images from the past or having memories from the past and feeling genuinely sorry for that poor little boy receiving female socialization or wearing girl’s clothing or thinking he was a dyke, even though I know that I didn’t identify as a boy at the time. On the other hand, the pictures of me pre-physical transition at the time that I identified as a fag which used to distress me because I thought I looked hopelessly unlike a boy now appear totally congruent to me. I can clearly see the trans fag in them, and they don’t inspire any shame in me (though they did before). What’s happened is that I now feel so clearly male, and so comfortable and elated in being, looking, and feeling male that I literally can’t believe I was ever anything else and can’t really remember what it felt like to be another gender. I know that it isn’t true, that I didn’t feel like a boy in my youth, and that I wasn’t a poor little boy who didn’t know he was a boy yet. But my past as a girl is so utterly incongruent with how I feel now that it really is much easier and more comfortable to imagine myself (and see myself, in pictures) as a little boy trying to be a girl. Even though I know the story of how this happened (because it is my story and I have written it down here), it is very difficult for me to hold the two parts of the story together in my consciousness in anything I can experience as a non-contradictory way.

I am also no longer really Third Gender identified. For the most part, I feel totally, unequivocally male, and this feels like a fantastic relief. I am a male with a complicated history, of course, and I don’t deny my identification with butch women, for instance, but I certainly don’t feel like some mixture of male and female or like some gender in between the two (even though, objectively, that’s what my body is). I do, however, feel like I am a different type of male than most cis men. I can sense that, though we may both be male, we have different histories and different relations to our genders. That is not to say I feel totally comfortable with all trans men, since trans men express widely variant types of masculinities, have a series of different histories, and have different emotions around their gender as well. We may not be the same type of male either, but we are at least in the same general category (though I may in fact, be and feel closer in my gender to certain gay cis men than to many straight trans men). So why do I no longer feel Third Gender? I think that taking testosterone and seeing my maleness reflected in the mirror and in the way people treat me has tremendously ratified my sense of being male. It has given me permission to feel unproblematically male, without fear, or guilt, or a sense of untruth. It’s too bad that I couldn’t feel this way without testosterone, but it’s also understandable.

Unlike with my history of female-identification, I don’t mind others knowing about my trans identity, and I don’t feel that it undermines my maleness or my dignity (though I know that for some people, it actually does – when they know I’m trans they see me as a freak or a female in disguise or a passing butch). Regardless of what they think , it gives me pleasure to show them what a good man I am – how handsome and good at being male – pleasure in making people respect my gender identity and call me “he.” It’s none other than my previous sense of masculine defiance carried into my physical transition. It makes me very angry, however, when cis people talk to me about my trans history or when trans people refer to it in the presence of cis people (angry, not ashamed). This, I feel strongly, is an enormous breach of privacy. I want complete and total control over if, when, how, and to what extent my transness is discussed. In my ideal world, then, everyone I interacted with regularly would know I was trans, but no one would talk about it unless I brought it up first. Other people, trans and not, unfortunately don’t have the same standards of behavior.

That’s why I articulate these thoughts in an anonymous blog. I don’t tell any of my friends about them, and certainly not my Pops (who I am trying to get to understand me more as a transsexual and less as a butch). I would never allow myself to be interviewed by those sympathetic researchers or journalists who want to tell a trans person’s story. Because I don’t want my trans story out in public, attached to my name. This is very sensitive information, and, in most cases, I would rather forgo sharing with a friend who may have had a similar experience that I once thought I was a girl.

I don’t think this is dishonest. It is the most honest way to get across the way I feel now about my gender. Because if I can’t even fully comprehend how my girl-identified past fits with my male-identified present, I certainly don’t think I can expect others to. Unless I treat them to a long verbal dissertation, which I would prefer not to do.

Posted in lesbian, Third Gender, transgender | 10 Comments

On Testosterone and Mental/Emotional Changes

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.

Posted in transgender | 17 Comments

Considering Top Surgery (Soliciting Advice)

Now that it’s summer and I’m nearly a year into my physical transition, I’m starting to think about whether or not I want to get top surgery. Let’s be clear here: for me, top surgery would be an elective rather than a necessary procedure. I totally understand that for most trans guys it is not an elective procedure, and if I had anything resembling full-grown breasts on my chest, I’m sure that it would be necessary for me as well, but I have the extreme fortune of having very little up top. My extra fat mounds don’t get in the way, don’t bounce when I run, and just look like nice pecs when lightly bound (which is every day). With muscle growth from T, I think that my chest looks pretty male to me even when it’s bare. Of course, I know it may not look that way to every one. With the exception of swimwear and sex, I would never allow myself to be seen by anyone without a binder on. The very thought fills me with horror. But with a binder on, I feel just fine. And, when I can see that my lovers see me as male and are not fixated on my chest, I feel fine as well, and am even comfortable having my nipples played with and chest slapped. (Again, it’s easy to tell the difference between gay male chest play and the kind of squeezing, caressing play that people tend to use with female breasts). For swimwear, I just wear a mesh tank top with a solid bar across the chest and my swim trunks. The top shows off my shoulder muscles and, more importantly, allows breeze, water, and sunlight to caress my torso. My teats are somewhat visible, but I think that I’m able to pass in it most of the time anyhow. In fact, at the beach house, I was wearing it for about 30 minutes in front of a trans guy friend. When I said I didn’t have to put on sunblock because of it, he asked with surprise if I was going to wear it the whole time at the beach. I said “yes,” and he immediately realized why, but this is exactly what I was going for – the ability, even from friends who are trans and know I’m trans, to forget that I haven’t had top surgery even while I’m in my mesh top. Of course, if I have to go into town in the mesh top, I do feel uncomfortable, but not in a totally nightmarish way.

Given that top surgery is not a necessity for me, here are some of the ways in which not having it is an inconvenience:

I do bind every day. This isn’t painful or uncomfortable, but it is a bit constricting, and hot in the summer. It’s bearable, because I don’t bind when I’m home alone. But then, I have to rush for the binder if a friend is dropping by or if a delivery person knocks on the door. Things that would be totally fun – like hosting an out-of-town visitor or sharing a vacation house with friends – become less fun when I have to bind every minute (except when I’m sleeping). Also, it restricts my clothing options. I’m very exacting. I don’t like it when any bit of binder can be seen under a pale or white t-shirt. I don’t like to wear shirts that are too tight or sheer, because I think that binder lines are visible or that my torso doesn’t look male enough. I can’t wear v-necks, tank tops, or summer T’s with wide armholes, because my binder would show. I get hot at dance parties and can’t strip to an underlayer. I hate sweating, because there’s nothing worse than a tight, soaking binder. And I can’t walk around shirtless showing off my cute torso. I’m a fag, and if I had top surgery, I would be extremely scantily clad most of the summer, not looking all butch in high-coverage, not tight muscle T’s.

I am ok having sex with guys who get my gender, but if I’m picking up a cis guy from the internet or a dance party, there is always that moment of discomfort if and when he takes my binder off, a discomfort that he can make worse or better (and I’ve experienced both). Sometimes I think a certain gay guy is cute, but flash to me taking off my shirt in front of him and refrain from doing anything further. Lately, I’ve been letting cis guys pursue me. I would feel more comfortable pursuing them if I had a chest that I was sure wouldn’t traumatize either of us.

I feel comfortable going to the beach with my friends, but what about with my family (who live, after all, in Puerto Rico)? What about in a foreign country (such as X, where I might go with my Pops)?

I feel comfortable looking at my chest in the mirror now, but let there be no doubt: I’m sure I would love to look at it if it were a male chest.

I feel male now, but I think that there would be a relief and certainty attached to not having breasts. Breasts are such a potent symbol of femaleness. It’s one thing to have a male-looking chest in spite of them, or to resignify them in your head so that they don’t mean femaleness; it’s quite another thing to not have them at all.

I can’t go to gay saunas or walk around a men’s locker room with a towel around my waist.

Those are all the negatives about not having top surgery that come to mind. Sometimes I think that, in the present, restricting certain aspects of my life because I have breasts is fine. I can handle it. It isn’t a big deal. It doesn’t cause me physical pain or major gender dysphoria. But when I think about doing this for an entire lifetime, I feel less sanguine. Who would want that? Why would I choose that when I have the option of having a male chest? It just doesn’t make much sense.

So here are some possible reasons not to have top surgery:

Cost. Of course it’s a lot, and it isn’t covered by my insurance. But on the other hand, I’m a professor now, and I don’t have to provide for a family. I could easily have more than the cost of the surgery saved up by the end of the year without even making an effort to save. In this I’m extremely privileged. So while the initial price tag seems large, I can definitely afford it.

Ties to a history of third-gender compromise. I have to admit, a part of me kind of likes binding and kind of likes having a not typically male chest. That is, I value how binding ties me to a certain historical experience – of passing women, of butch pain, of trans men before the era of physical transition, of third genders around the world who have dealt with less than ideally male chests. I value the historically rich art of resignifying and remapping bodies in which my lovers and I must become adept. I value having breasts that don’t mean “breasts.” I value binding before I go out as a daily practice of self-making. I value unbinding when I come home as an acknowledgement of my own comfort in being a man with the chest that I have. That said, I don’t think this is an experience that I need to have forever. I appreciate having had them, but if I had top surgery tomorrow, I don’t think I would need to “mourn” the loss of the historical experiences above (but I could be wrong).

Guilt in participating in an elective surgery. For a while, my lack of pain and dysphoria regarding my chest held me back from considering top surgery. I know so many people who experience or have experienced major pain and dysphoria regarding their chests. It seemed both frivolous and disrespectful to their experiences to traipse off and get top surgery without having to go through hell first. Surprisingly, talking to my Pops helped me get over this. She’s female-identified and quite large up top (horrifyingly large, actually). She is not trans, does not try to pass, does not bind, and understands her body as female, however, she told me that she was hoping to get a breast reduction. Part of her decision has to do with mild gender dysphoria, part of it is aesthetic, part of it has to do with back pain, and part of it has to do with minor inconveniences – having to rush for a bra when someone knocks at the door, having restrictions from certain types of exercise, and so on. When I told her that I felt ambivalent about getting top surgery because it seemed almost frivolous given the size of my chest, she said, “Well, it rides the line between cosmetic surgery and something else. But if you’re really committed to this [to trans-male identity]… (trails off). I mean, men who have that disorder [gynecomastia] get surgery. If you want to get it done in X, I could go with you.” A totally surprising conversation! Who’d have thought that my transphobic Pops would be encouraging me to get top surgery, much less offering to go with me? I was immeasurably touched. But her breakdown of top surgery for me as an elective surgery that isn’t purely cosmetic because it also effects both gender identity and lifestyle possibilities makes it finally feel within reach for me.

Loss of sensitivity. This, for me, is the the major concern. It is also what I have the least knowledge about. Until I started researching surgeries this summer, for instance, I had no idea the extent to which it was common for those who get the double incision procedure to have little or even no sensation in their nipples, little sensation in their chests, and no erotic sensation. I, however, would get the less common periareolar procedure done. Periareolar surgery is an option for people who have small chests and good skin elasticity (another reason to do it sooner rather than later). Its major advantages are that the scars, which are right around the nipple, are not easily visible and that, since the nipple itself isn’t removed and regrafted, there is little chance that the nipple will fall off and a good chance of maintaining sensation. Sensation in the nipples, however, might be weaker than before and less erotic, and sensation in the chest could still be patchy. At least, this is what I’ve gathered. I really don’t like the idea of numbness or patchy sensation in my chest. After all, one of the points of top surgery would be to allow me to feel reconnected to my chest and enjoy sensory experiences like not binding, feeling the sun and breeze on my chest on the beach, and baring my chest without discomfort to a lovers’ touch. I can’t imagine the disconnection of not having sensation in my chest. And maintaining sensation but losing erotic sensation in my nipples is definitely something to think about. I guess I would have to be prepared to lose a whole erogenous zone! It isn’t a necessary erogenous zone – I rarely touch my nipples when I jerk off, and I certainly don’t need nipple play to get turned on. I also think that, in spite of my being “comfortable” with nipple play, I’m also a bit uncomfortable with it and unconsciously try to move past it to other things. In sum, having the same degree of erotic sensation on a male chest would be ideal; losing an erogenous zone entirely gives me pause, but may not be all that significant to my sexual practice, considering my slight discomfort with certain types of nipple play; losing sensitivity entirely is something I’m not sure I can get past. If any of you have gotten periareolar and keyhole surgery and want to share your how you feel about sensitivity or lack thereof in the chest and nipples afterward, I’d really appreciate it. You can respond in the “comments” section of this post or email me privately at Actually, I’d appreciate hearing from anyone on any of the issues I raised in this post.

In sum, I have more research and thinking to do, but a part of me is beginning to think that it’s only a matter of time before I decide to get top surgery.

Posted in butch, Sex, Third Gender, top surgery, transgender | 8 Comments

Fag Front Hole Sex

*This is not a sex blog, but this is a sex post that marks, for me a major milestone: front hole sex with a gay cis guy.

I did it! I made out with a guy at a queer dance party – a big, sweet black man – who wanted to go home with me immediately. It was hot: we locked eyes in a narrow corridor by the bathrooms. I had noticed him staring at me at a dance party once before. We said a few words and, magnetically drawn together, began making out. I could feel that his dick was immediately hard against me. He was a good kisser, and we only stopped when his hand went for my crotch and I swiftly moved to dodge it (when will I learn that I have to wear my packer to anything gay that involves dancing?). I gave him my number and made my exit a bit later, ignoring his seductive offer to come home with me right then. When I got home I texted him that I was transgender, female-to-male, and asked if he still wanted to get a drink next week. He texted back that he wanted to come over immediately. I made him wait, but was pleased by his response.

We had a date later, in which I was charmed by his sweetness, flirtation, and wit. I also liked that he was huge and muscular, but also obviously faggy. We didn’t mention me being trans again, except one more time, just before heading for my place, when I asked if he understood and whether he’d ever dated a trans man. The answers were yes and no, respectively, but he didn’t seem concerned, so we headed to my place. At my place, we made out again. He was just as good a kisser and, once again, his dick got immediately hard. He took off my clothes, binder, and boxer briefs himself, and had no problem with what was underneath, sucking on my nipples, jerking me off, and even giving me a blow job without any prompting on my part. I gave him a blow job too, and he kept on saying how good it was. When we were both pretty turned on, I asked him if he wanted to fuck me. He said yes, of course, and I asked “in my front hole or my back hole?” He asked me which I preferred, and I said “front,” so that’s what we did. (I sometimes like being fucked in the ass, but it doesn’t get me off like being fucked in the front hole, and when I’m turned on – which is all the time now – I want to get off bad. Still, I figured that a gay guy could be nervous about this, and had resolved to go with ass sex, get a guy hooked, then try front hole sex with him. It was great, though, that I didn’t even have to do this). It felt awesome for both of us, and I now have this guy at my beck and call.

One of the great things T has done for me is allowed me to feel fully male, even when I’m stark naked being fucked in my front hole by a cis gay guy. This is something I never would have tried before, and I’m grateful that I can experience it now with a minimum of dysphoria. I’m just a gay boy who likes to be fucked, and this is the hole I prefer. I’m still boyish, thin, and androgynous, but I think a lot of the big gay tops prefer this, especially on an Asian guy. Overall, though, T has just subtly shaped and filled out my muscle, so that I can look at myself fully naked and see a man. The voice also helps a ton, as I can now issue orders and groan during sex and hear a male grunt, not a much-feared female scream. In addition, T has made me enjoy front hole sex even more than before, which I hadn’t necessarily anticipated. I think now that, if I wanted to, I could feel comfortable having anonymous front hole sex with a gay guy from Manhunt or some other such site.

I like that this particular gay guy is more of a service top than an actual top. He’s very into pleasing me, I’m on top for most of the show, and I’m able to dictate position, rhythms, and so on. This helps me feel male (I know, it’s fucked up, associating maleness with sexual agency), and it’s also more my sexual style. The best thing about him, though, is that he hasn’t himself said anything about me being trans, the ways in which my body is different than other guys’ bodies, or anything else of the sort. Which is how things should be.

Posted in Asian, Sex, Transfaggotry, transgender | 2 Comments

Apologies for Lack of Posts

Hello readers, I just wanted to chime in to apologize for my lack of posts lately, a trend which I think will likely continue. There’s plenty going on to talk about – considering top surgery, getting ready to come out to my Puerto Rican family, making progress on trans stuff with my butch Pops, trying to figure out conflicting feelings about whether I want to be perceived as a trans or a cis male and what degree of privacy I prefer, having recurring dreams about having long hair, being called  “she,” or being referred to by my given name, dating a cis gay guy who had never dated a trans man before but who has no issue with my body, and even considering the possibility of going off testosterone at some point, for the health of my internal female organs. Nevertheless, writing out all my thoughts and feelings doesn’t have the same degree of urgency now as it did in early transition, when I felt that I was writing to live. For the most part, I feel pretty good about my body, my gender, and how I’m treated in the social world, and I now have the leisure to mull long-term decisions about the future of my body and contemplate some of the psychic aftereffects of transition without the edge of immediate crisis to push me. I have also been working on my book (which has nothing to do with trans issues), which means that I spend long hours each day writing at the computer. The last thing I want to do in my leisure time now is write at my computer. So I’m afraid you’ll have to get used to a slower rhythm of posting from here on out, though I promise to let you know if anything major happens. Or I may let go of writing philosophical exposes for a time and try to briefly relay new events along with some of the issues they bring up for me in my posts.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment