November 27, 2011
In which I begin testosterone
Since everybody always asks: it's a gel, that I apply to my shoulders. It comes in little packets. I take it every day.
Since nobody asks: it reeks of alcohol in a way that makes the whole process feel clinical and maybe a little alienating. I have to wash my hands afterwards and be careful not to touch my female friends.
Maybe I'm unusual in feeling this way, but I don't feel like I've crossed a milestone. I don't think transitioning has any milestones, not really. Well, there are milestones -- markers that show you where you are on your path -- but there are no thresholds. It's not a journey with a grand arrival, where you walk through a door and declare, "Today I am a man, whereas yesterday I was not."
I don't think it's even a journey at all, not really. I don't feel like I'm going anywhere. I've been here the whole time. I'm just putting my affairs in order. I can see alteration within myself, but no change from one clear category to another; it all just blends together into the process of growing up, the inevitable effect of time on a person's character. Starting testosterone is like declaring my major - a formalization of a longstanding internal shift.
And yet, it seems like testosterone has become a symbol for my entire transition in others' minds. There's a clear before and after in people's reactions. People comment on perceived changes all the time; to a certain extent, it's painful to have to say "no, you're imagining it, I don't have facial hair yet," or "no, my voice hasn't started changing," or "no, I haven't put on muscle" -- I really want to say yes to all of these things, and it's frustrating to be put in the position of denying them. Or, in some cases, I feel like I have somehow changed categories in the other person's mind, and they now think of me as being a transman 'for real'; people have started taking my transition seriously in a way that only reveals that they weren't taking it seriously before.
I don't want the tone of this post to be misleading -- in their own way, these are both positive things. It's great to hear that my friends perceive me as more masculine, even if their perception is based more on my changing attitude than a physical alteration. And it's great for people to realise that I am serious about my transition.
Moreover, I'm thrilled to be on testosterone. When I applied my first dose, I was so happy I literally cried. I was euphoric for a solid day. And now I can think about the future and feel excited about it. My 'dysphoria fits' do still happen, but they are always bearable, in a way they never used to be before. Even the decision itself helped me, independent of the testosterone; since I decided not to wait for my parents' approval for this choice, I've become a lot more independent in general. My relationship with my parents is more of a relationship between adults.
I just don't think that starting testosterone changed me.
This Thanksgiving, I went home to my family. Everyone knew I was trans, but no one knew I was taking testosterone. We didn't talk about it. And I had a blast, because I still love my family, and I still love spending time with my brothers. I was really nervous about my brothers in particular, because I was worried things would become awkward between us; the most valuable part of my relationship with them has always been how comfortable things always are between us. But we made each other laugh just as much as ever.
I hope my parents noticed how much fun this weekend was. If they do, I hope it helps them understand that my goal isn't to completely destroy my former life and to become a stranger -- my goal is just to grow up and become myself. Just like anyone else.