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A year on testosterone

It’s been a year, a whole year. I can hardly believe it’s been that long. It doesn’t feel that long.

Lots of things have changed over the course of that year. It’s been a bad year for trans people, in some ways, and a good year in others. We have the mess that is North Carolina’s HB2, which bars transgender people from using the bathroom that makes them feel safest. There have also been a lot of other similar bills that have popped up over the past few months. Some have been struck down, but the fight isn’t over. We are on course for exceeding last year’s depressing numbers for trans people being murdered.

But we also have unprecedented visibility in media and in the world. The people who had been known as the Wachowski Brothers have now become the Wachowski Sisters (after Lilly Wachowski publically came out to join her sister Lana). Numerous TV shows have trans characters, “genderqueer” became part of the dictionary (and lots of shade was thrown by Merriam-Webster over it), and I started my own transition.

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What started out as a tentative step – a super low dose of testosterone and no plans to change my gender marker or name – has become a full journey into being trans masculine. In days I will be having my top surgery. Days, no longer months. I have plans to change my name, though I’m waiting until after surgery to tackle that hurdle.

So what else has changed?

Not as much as I had hoped. I’m fairly certain it was because when I started on testosterone I was on a low dose and was still taking birth control pills. My dose was increased shortly after the sixth month mark, and I stopped taking the pills four months ago. Now things are starting to change, but still slowly, despite my testosterone levels being right on the nose for an average cis male.

My voice has definitely dropped, but no one would mistake me for a man over the phone yet. It’s more like it’s rougher than deeper, though the pitch has changed.

And, oh, the hair growth! It’s everywhere but where I want it: on my face. I also chopped off a lot of the hair on my head, but I still have long hair (because long-haired dudes are hot, right?).

I have gained weight, and I almost weigh what I did when I was at the height of my depression before I really started belly dancing professionally (which is disheartening). But I still fit into my jeans, so I’m pretty sure it’s all muscle weight (which only makes me feel slightly better). There has been some fat redistribution, as my thighs and butt are not as big but my belly seems bigger. I’m hoping that will be relatively easy to burn off fairly soon. I eat like a starving horse, and though I eat a ton of protein, I haven’t gained a lot of muscle definition yet. Of course, I’ve always had a difficult time putting on muscle, but I was hoping the T would improve that a little more than it has.

My mood has definitely improved. I’m happier. This winter wasn’t a horrible mess of crying myself to sleep at night and feeling totally worthless and discouraged. But I can tell I get frustrated more easily, and I feel emotions much more intensely. They also go away more quickly. Quick to anger, quick to let it go (most of the time).

As I look back, I know that starting testosterone was the right thing, even as I’m frustrated with the lack of changes. With my surgery ahead, I know there are a lot more changes that will come.

I have had some internal struggle with identity that has come up more recently. I still hesitate to call myself a trans man. That doesn’t feel right. Even though I intend to change my name and my gender marker on my license, I’m still not sure I feel like a man. But that raised a lot more questions…what does it feel like to be a man? Is there only one right way to feel like a man?

For now, I’m still most comfortable with the label of genderqueer. I’m not a man or a woman. I’m not comfortable with either label. But I am also trans masculine. When I get down to it, I would rather be mistaken for a man than a woman. I want to present more masculine, though with options to once and awhile get into a dress I like (yes, that does occasionally happen).

A year isn’t a lot of time, relatively speaking. It hasn’t felt like a lot of time, but change has happened. Slowly, but surely, I’ll get there.
Featured image by Cari-Rez-Lobo

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