So I’m going to take testosterone in the next step of my journey. My soul knows that this is the right thing – it feels like a puzzle piece finally fitting into place, so I am not writing this post to justify this to anyone, ask permission or to demand your acceptance or support. I am writing this so that it’s out there and I can begin to live my truth. I’m frankly exhausted at having to come out to everyone over the last three weeks and just want to get on with actually just living my truth instead of having to explain it… I am also writing this for those of you who are vested in my journey as close friends who have questions, for those of you who are interested, but mostly for those of you who are on similar journeys. Because there is so very desperately little out there on non-binary transition, and I want there to be resources for you that I myself struggled to find. So questions are welcome, because it helps to translate what is non-verbal, which makes my experience more valuable because I can verbalise it for those who can’t yet.
For my friends and those interested, the short of it is, and the best way I can describe it without going into all the detail, is, that this will be me rectifying a hormone imbalance. It’s less about gender and more about my outward self reflecting the self I know. And that alignment enabling the quieting of the dis-ease I feel in my body and in the space I take up in the world and in the emotional and spiritual world of my own mind, my relationship with self and my relationship with everything around me.
What does this mean practically for those of you in my life? I’m not a man, nor do I want to be a man. I’m still genderqueer and I’ll just be able to be more of my genderqueer, non-binary, gender non-conforming self in a masculine body. I’m just becoming more me. I will not be changing my name nor my pronouns. You can refer to me, as you always have, by pronouns that you feel comfortable with in relation to me – she, he or they. For those of you who still have questions or are interested, read on.
This is nothing new, this thinking about testosterone (T). I’ve been thinking about it since I came out as genderqueer in 2011. Well, some part of me has been processing it, but my conscious self has been avoiding it. But I can’t avoid it anymore.
The frustration at not being able to think about it has become this constant anger; this anger that underlies everything. And while I’m in a good space and happier in most aspects of my life than I’ve ever been, I’m still in limbo. And angry.
I’ve been avoiding thinking about taking testosterone, and actually actively telling myself that I don’t want to take it, because of my fear of losing my partner, my misconceptions about hormones and my own uncertainty about what it would mean for my non-binary identity – my knowledge that while I’m not a woman, I’m certainly not a man either.
But like some crazed teenager most of my Instagram feed is taken up with transmen or masculine of centre people and their journey with their new, testosterone-fuelled bodies. I follow the progress of my two non-binary friends who have just started testosterone more closely than they do. And when one of these friends pointed out that my support of their journey is based on a wishing it were mine… Lump in throat.
Yes, damnit! I wish it were mine. I wish that the body I saw in my head was the body that others see. When I told my partner that we need to put T on the table so that I can consider all of my options, I burst into tears. Because of the relief of all that pent up frustration, of all of that not being able to. And apart from the relief there is also fear.
Because now I needed to face up to what I’ve been avoiding and make an important decision. And I wish it was rational. I wish I could verbalise why I feel that taking testosterone is right for me. I wish I could say, I was born a boy and I just want my body to reflect that. But I’ve never felt that. I wish I knew what the end product of a genderqueer transition is. But I don’t. No one does. So, it’s scary, and unknown, and a path of complete and literal self-creation. I can’t lie to myself anymore. I can’t write my Instagram feed or my interest in testosterone-injecting bodies off as curiosity or support or as staying up to date with the community for my work as a trans* activist. And I can’t allow my fear of losing my partner to allow me to lose my self, the potential of who I can be.
My first response to thinking about T seriously was: how does being 100% masculinised impact my genderqueer identity? and this is my completely heartfelt response: This is not just going to be a physical transition; this is a spiritual, emotional decision. The physical just enables the emotional and spiritual.
I know this because I know that the integral relationship between the emotions, the spirit and the body cannot be ignored. Ignoring it leads to dis-ease. Unhappiness. The low-grade depression that has seen me, while happier than ever, unable to will myself to get out of bed before 9am for the last year.
When I was at my unhappiest, I was completely out of touch with and actively destroying my body; the more in touch with and caring I am with my body, the happier I am. So I just know that my best self is a completely embodied self – a self where I am as present in my body and as nurturing of my body as I can be. Through my relationship with my body over the years in relation to weight issues, self-mutilation, bulimia and body modification in the form of tattoos, piercings, weight loss and bodybuilding, I’ve come to realise that there is a profound connection between spiritual, emotional and physical, and they play out on each other. The misalignment between my spirit and my body has an affect on my emotions, so this is so much more than a physical transition. Everyone I’ve spoken to and read about says that T has had physical effects, yes, but the emotional and spiritual effects are exponentially more noticeable, for the better.
As for ‘the better’, I truly believe that my purpose on earth is to be the best me I can be, which then allows me to help others – something I know I’m called to do. A phrase from my motivational audio clips that I play while I train sticks out for me and chills me every time I hear it: “If you are not making someone else’s life better, you are wasting your time.” T is not going to make me a better person.
I KNOW, in that knowing that comes only from a wordless, gut place, that this is right for me. It hurts and is scary and I fucking wish I could be ok with limbo and average, but I can’t. Whatever the loss, I need to be my most authentic and best self. And I know that this is beyond gender: this is for me.
By living more into my masculinity I’ll be more comfortable expressing my femininity. By embodying more of myself I’ll be able to express more of myself, regardless of the genderedness of that expression. In other words, going on T is not a masculinising, it is something that will enable me to embody myself and express myself most authentically. T will enable me to embody my genderqueerness more, because instead of my feminine aspects now being something I avoid because it aids in the excruciating misunderstanding of me as the woman that I am not and never have been, T will allow me to express the feminine sides of me because they will only further serve to express the contradiction and fluidity of masculine, feminine, non-genderedness that I am.
In terms of emotional changes, a number of people I’ve spoken to describe these as the most important and overwhelming, and immediate: they describe T as having an anti-depressant effect – they’re calmer, more centred, more assertive; it’s as if the hormones create a much-needed balance, a readjustment of things that were out of kilter and off-key.
A lot of people on testosterone speak about how these emotional changes even outweigh the physical dysphoria, the misalignment between the body in their heads and the body other people see: yes, T will bring these bodies into alignment, but more than that, T brings into alignment the misalignment of working so hard and doing everything possible to be authentic, one’s best self and happy, and just not getting there, it not being enough, and being in an excruciating, wordless limbo instead.
So what physical changes can be expected? The changes are documented in Hudson’s Guide: FTM Testosterone, a great resource for FTM (female to male, female to masculine people), but they include the following that you’ll be able to see:
- Voice – My voice will gradually deepen from about 6 weeks on.
- Hair loss – This includes balding, which thankfully does not run in my family, but my hairline will recede to a more masculine hairline.
- Hair growth – Body hair becomes thicker and more prevalent. Noticeable facial hair is one of the last changes to take place and only generally happens after a year. But, because I’m not a guy, I can choose to respond to my hairiness in whichever way I choose: I can shave/Veet that shit or I can rock the hipster beard I’ve been craving.
- Muscle growth and fat redistribution – The change I’m the most excited about. While I lift weights 5-6 days a week, people on T will develop muscle without exercising at all, simply due to the T itself and the resultant fat redistribution. While women have subcutaneous fat all over their bodies, men’s fat is situated around the midsection. So my muscles will become more pronounced, I’ll build muscle easier, I’ll lose my hips and develop a pot-belly until I deal with that. While on the topic of muscle and gym, I’ll also be able to lift heavier weights (people speak about being able to lift three times heavier within a few days of their first shot) and I’ll have more stamina and energy.
Other than that, I’ll undergo a second puberty, along with everything that puberty entails. So yes, I’ll basically be a thirteen year old boy for a while… I’ve decided that as I did not have a first puberty (I dissociated from my body enough to be completely absent outside of complete loathing), I’m going to enjoy this one fully and embrace my inner horny, pimply, giggly tween.
And while I embrace my inner Justin Bieber, the adult me will keep a close eye on how I respond to the way in which society will start to react differently to me, making sure that the only reaction I have to suddenly knowing the secret handshake of the patriarchy will be recording in this blog those reactions, that secret handshake and the world it opens up for me, without leaving behind the world I inhabit now; while I will be afforded (more) male privilege and experience less sexism, I promise to myself and to you to use that insight to become a better feminist, not a worse human being. Keep me to that promise. A friend has already assured me that should I become an asshole she’ll kick me in the T-enlarged clit.
I have an appointment with the Dr for the 6th October, and I can’t wait. I fucking refuse to be anything less than I can be.
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