T DIARY: 2 Months on testosterone

2 Months on T has gone simultaneously quickly and slowly… I haven’t updated for a while as I had a nasty cold for two weeks. And as usual when my body is not well, I can’t tell how I’m doing emotionally as it’s difficult to differentiate between being physically and emotionally unwell when I’m sick. It also doesn’t help that I couldn’t gym… And I’m yet to learn that eating comfort food when emotionally or physically unwell is not self-care, it’s self-destruction. But I’ll get there. My learning curve keeps getting higher and my periods of not taking care of myself are getting shorter. Been back at gym and eating well for a week now and feeling great.

Speaking of gym and eating, let me tell you about the physical changes, which have been exponential this month after a rather slow first month.

Voice: I was sir’red on the phone for the first time.

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This has been an area I’ve always been dysphoric about as the voice in my head is a deep, non-female voice and I was constantly surprised that I was Ma’amd on the phone and at drive-thrus. Excitement does not cover what I felt when they called me sir. It’s something that drives this transition, and the decision, as a non-binary person, to go on T: I felt seen, visible. Because was seen, not other people’s perception of me. And the voice continues to drop. Literally. I can feel it emanating from lower down in my throat, more into my chest, whereas pre-T it came from my mouth, upper throat. Here is my two-month voice log.

Body: I’m still on 1ml per 100ml of Depo T per week. I saw my Dr for the first blood tests since being on T on the 13th of November, 5-6 weeks into HRT. My testosterone levels increased from 26 to 844 (a cisgender male’s testosterone is between 200–800). Because my T level was above a normal range, it had started aromatising (converting back) to oestrogen, so my oestrogen level increased from 99 to 195, so I am now on hormone blockers (oestrogen blockers) twice a week. I was also put onto Oratane (Roaccutane) because my skin broke out in acne. Since taking that my skin has improved considerably.

In other skin news, my moustache has gone from two black hairs on either side of my top lip to quite a crop of black hairs on my whole upper lip just in the last two weeks. This is quite impressive as the norm is for the hair to begin in the corners of the mouth, and some guys don’t even get a moustache for a year or so. I’m coping ok with the ‘stache, but waxed it a few days ago as a compromise with my partner as the body hair is the biggest issue for her. The waxing didn’t work and all I managed to do was pull out some of the hair and most of the upper layer of my skin… I’m not feeling emotionally ready to shave yet (really wasn’t expecting facial hair at this point already), so I’ll get some depilatory cream. Other than that, I have very fine blonde hair all over my face and in other areas of my body (upper arms, for example) which I’ve never had before. Here is a comparison shot of my facial hair pre-T and from just the other day (I’d already waxed the moustache): Pre-T on left, 2 months on T on right –

Pre-T vs. 2 months facial hair

When I did the 1-month photolog of bodily changes compared to pre-T, I didn’t expect changes as, well, 1 month, but also because I did no training apart from a couple of laps in the pool. But the changes were very visible in some areas. Fat redistributed from arms and legs and hips to upper stomach. And my chest and lats! I picked up 4cm of muscle and they were the most visible changes:  Pre-T on left, 1 month on T on right –

IMG_7343Other than that, I’ve noticed slightly more definition in my arms and legs, but not much else, but what was amazing, and very new to me, was the feeling of being present in my body. Dysphoria and depression has always taken me out of my body where I can focus on cerebral things and pretend that my body is just some clunky, extraneous, but necessary housing for my brain. Apart from sport, gym, eating, sex and self-mutilation, I was an artificial intelligence, like a character out of The Matrix (which is why it’s one of my favourite films). But just before T and now on T I find that I am hyper-aware of my body, and if I could place myself under a microscope and track daily changes, I would. And that is huge. Inhabiting my body alone, without any more changes, is worth the price of admission to Transgender World. But it’s not even just an inhabiting, it’s a less critical and uncomfortable space for me. I don’t think I could capture in language the discomfort I felt dragging my body around with me for the last 37 years. But my body is no longer a weight suspended from my neck which I have to struggle against to allow me to resurface just to breathe.

What’s in-credible (literally un-believable), is that I’m not only inhabiting my body, but enjoying it! Since coming out and starting T I have felt freer being topless, walking around the house in underpants and swimming in my own pool in the nude. And I feel more comfortable naked. I caught myself doing a silly dance naked in front of my girlfriend and realised I’ve never done that; not in three years of our relationship. Before the T I also spent as little time naked as possible, jumping out of the shower and getting dressed as quickly as possible, even when on my own. Now I just feel more free with my body because I know it won’t look like this much longer. It really is incredibly liberating. After 35 years of being completely severed from my body, after overfeeding it to disconnect from it more, after punishing it through cutting and burning it, after years and years of eating disorders, starvations, overeatings and bulimia, I am finally learning to have a relationship with my body. I am watching it closely, seeing how it responds to what I put into it, moulding it into the best body it can be. In-credible.

IMG_7440Fat loss and muscle gain is great, but they’re completely outweighed (excuse the pun) by being able to use your body functionally for the first time in a LONG time – whereas I normally get out of the pool using the stairs I just boosted myself out of the deep end with no problems! Jumped in and did it again just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Best. Feeling. Ever.

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On  Africa Trans Day of Visibility and 3 days away from 2 months on T, I celebrated my shoulders overtaking my hips in width!

My facial structure is also changing. A friend of mine said that my profile is changing; that when she sees me out of the corner of her eye she has to look at me to recognise me as Germaine. I’m also noticing changes to my jawline, and my partner has said that my features are noticeably ‘harder’.

IMG_740710985492_10152741554971128_844841320097433000_n   Pre-T on right (bottom), 2 months on T on left (top).

Other miscellaneous body things: My appetite hasn’t increased. I have gone from one bowel movement a day to two. My clit has grown from 1cm to 4cms. It isn’t uncomfortable in any way, luckily, as a lot of guys and peeps on T have issues with discomfort for the first few months. My libido is still manageable due to being on psych meds that dampen it, and it doesn’t drive me in any way. My orgasms are much more intense. I’m thirsty. All. The. Time. I have WAY more stamina at the gym and can lift incrementally heavier for longer. It’s actually gotten to the point where I’m going to need to hold back, because I’m lifting too heavy for my body. I had a shoulder session where I was able to lift more than I ever have quite comfortably, but was so weak the next day I couldn’t pour myself a cup of coffee. And after an intense session last week I felt physically ill for four days afterwards due to the lactic acid buildup. But I’m good with decreasing the weight; it will allow me to focus more on cardio, weight loss and muscle definition. I’m also taking up boxing with a coach, which I’m excited by. The added cardio and discipline will be great for my weight loss.

IMG_7376Sweat, the amniotic fluid of rebirth.

My friend had top surgery yesterday. It was very emotional. Firstly, to see him being re-born into the body he’s always had; to be part of such a momentous occasion for him.

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Secondly, it was emotional because I now know beyond a doubt that I want top surgery too. It’s been a long, long road with the room-mates that are my breasts, but now that I’m moulding myself more closely to the me in my head, I know that that me has a chest, not breasts. My plan is to get down to my goal body weight and then to begin assessing my options.

I’m very tentatively celebrating the fact that my period might be a thing of the past…!!! My last period was on the 30th of October, during my first month on T. I’m aware that the hormones might just have delayed it, but I’m really hoping it’s gone for good. Menstruation was always this painful, uncomfortable, infuriating and depressing reminder that my body was something I had to put up with, rather than enjoy; something that was uncontrollably female, even if I’m not.

Instead of blood, I have sweat. Lots of sweat. Buckets of it. Whereas pre-T it would take a hot day and a vigorous workout to have me sweating from each pore in my body, I now sweat like that just lying in bed at night next to my partner shivering under the duvet. And I constantly feel like I’m menopausal, asking people whether it’s hot or whether it’s just me.

Celebrations are important for me. Without them, how do I know how far I’ve come? How do I remain grateful for what I’ve achieved without allowing how far I still have to go to weigh me down? So I commemorated my journey so far with a tattoo – a ritual that’s always important to me in that it’s about the process as much as it is about the final product. Tattooing has also always been a form of body modification for me, a way for me to own my body instead of being a victim of it.

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This piece, reading ‘Form’ (the piece to go along with it will read ‘Trans’), was designed by one of Joburg’s best bias graffiti artists. I’ve always wanted a graffiti piece. Graffiti, similar to tattoos, are an expression of individuality, a way to reclaim something that has been given meaning by others. A lot of my photography centres around graffiti, for this reason.IMG_7454

Because very little means anything without being conscious of it and celebrating it in some way. ‘Transform’ #graf #graffiti piece in progress. Celebrating transformations. Design: @bias/Bias Grafitti. Tattoo artist: Koenrad at Durandt’s Ink.

After recording two videos, I’ve realised that it’s better for me to vlog rather than blog – I’m too practised as a writer to write unedited. So I’ll speak about the emotional changes in a video over the next few days. I’ll speak about how my partner has been dealing with this whole transition issue and how I’ve been dealing with her response.

Physically, however, I’m feeling incredible and this is making me happier than I’ve been in quite a while. I feel like my body is this blow-up doll which I’ve abused and ruined in the past, but now that I’m blowing into it with the right energy, the shape that I’ve always seen in my head is developing quickly, and the muscles I’ve wanted since I was a teenager are already beginning to reveal themselves. I’m looking forward to month 3 as I continue to shape myself and continue the alignment between my body and head I’m beginning to feel more and more of.

For those who don’t watch my videos, I’d just like to end off with this update on my emotions: I really am increasingly happier and happier as this journey continues. As I’ve said before, I know that this journey as a non-binary transgender person is confusing, and a lot of my cisgender and transgender friends don’t understand it. For some transgender people, some of whom are well known in the community as activists, my identity does not fit into their worldview of gender as male and female only. I don’t understand this, as their identity as a transman or transwoman is not valid in the cisgender world, and they’ve had to fight for recognition, so their invalidation of my identity hurts. But, just because you don’t believe in my identity doesn’t mean I don’t exist. And I will continue to be a visible non-binary trans* person as I truly believe we have so much to bring to the transgender movement. For my cisgender friends who are still struggling to understand my identity and why I as a non-binary person am choosing testosterone and a masculine appearance: so much of this is beyond reason and understanding, as is most really human experience. Please just know that I’m happy, that my decision comes from a place of deep reflection and resonance on a soul level, and I’m not hurting myself or anyone else. And surely that is all that matters?

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