Dysphoria After Almost 2 Years on Testosterone

I haven’t updated in awhile, mostly because I haven’t had too much to say. Things are going really well. I’ve been very busy and my life has been filled with the normal stresses, mostly not transition related at all. I’ve gotten past the “getting to know you” stage with most of the people at school so I feel much more relaxed and comfortable. When it comes to gender, first impressions are crucial. People usually don’t look too deeply or question anything after that. I’m no longer as worried about being outed or fitting in. Making friends has gotten easier, and as I’ve gotten to know the people around me (particularly the guys) I’ve realized that they aren’t nearly as hyper-masculine and intimidating as I thought they were. The guy who likes fantasy football also plays the sims and the guy who loves sports is also a sensitive feminist. So, things are good.

The only real negative thing going on in my life is that my dysphoria has gotten worse over the past month. I think the increased anxiety from being really busy at school probably has something to do with it, since I think my dysphoria ebbs and flows with my moods. I’m mostly unhappy with the way my clothes fit me, and watch enviously as guys whose jeans fit them well walk by me every day with their narrow hips and small thighs. Despite being on testosterone for two years, my hips, butt, and thighs are still noticeably larger than the average cis guy. My partner took my measurements recently because I’m in the market for a suit and my butt is larger than hers (mine is 40″ around, while my hips are 32″ around, which I thought was interesting because I wear size 30 pants and those fit fine….). I’m just frustrated because I don’t know what to do about it. I’m not entirely sure if my issue is fat or something else. My lower body is very muscular and so I don’t really think that it’s something that working out could help. I don’t work out much at all, but I do lift weights occasionally and walk quite a bit.

Instead of working out, I mostly try to fix my dysphoria by finding clothes that fit me well and are flattering. That’s sort of been my tactic against dysphoria since I first started socially transitioning. Buying men’s clothes is still a little exciting for me, even though I’ve been wearing them for so long. It’s exciting, but also frustrating. I’ve spent a lot of money on clothes since I started to transition. First I had to build a wardrobe from scratch and then I had to replace a lot of my clothes when I started testosterone and my shoulders broadened and my body changed. I’m still left with a lot of clothes that fit me poorly, many of my shirts are either oversized are undersized. It doesn’t help that my body is unusually shaped. I’m short with average sized shoulders and an average sized midsection but larger hips and short arms. This makes finding button down shirts a nightmare, since the ones that fit the rest of me are usually too tight around my hips and the ones that fit my hips are way too long. Beyond all that, I waffle between wanting to put on baggy clothes that will hide my body and tighter clothes that won’t make my lower half look bigger than it is. Thus I’ve ended up with both more clothes than I need and hardly any clothes that are just right. I probably need to get things tailored, but I don’t even know where to start with that. I’m wondering if other trans* guys shop to combat dysphoria and how that works for them.

Anyway, this is turning into kind of a depressing post. I’m actually really happy with a lot of things about myself. I really love that I can grow facial hair and that my voice is deeper and the way my upper body looks. I’m definitely way happier than I was pre-T, there’s no question of that. Testosterone just isn’t a cure-all for dysphoria. The testosterone is still working it’s magic, though. I’m hopeful that I’ll continue to experience changes, particularly fat redistribution. I don’t expect to look like a male model, but I’d like to feel a little less self-conscious.

Who knows? Who doesn’t know?- Being Stealth is Sometimes Stressful

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I’m constantly paranoid that somehow people know I’m trans. I know, I know, my voice is deep, I have facial hair, and it probably wouldn’t even cross most people’s minds because they are totally oblivious to trans* people. Still, I wonder. Recently I was having dinner with some friends and somehow it came up that Warren Beatty and Annette Bening have a transgender son. I froze, nervous that it was coming up because the guy I was talking to was trying to subtly figure out if I was trans too. I need to stop overthinking things.

Part of my concern is that I assume that queer people’s gaydar must extend to transdar (is there even such a thing). I’m used to being a big queer billboard, so I feel like people can read on my face that I love Hedwig and the Angry Inch and that I’ve done drag and run a gay-straight-alliance. Of course, these things are no more apparent by looking at me than the fact that I took French in high school. It’s not written on me somewhere, it’s something I need to share with people for them to know. Another worry I have is that I’m concerned about my online presence. At first I was confident that no one would stalk me enough to connect the dots. I mean, if you do some serious digging you could probably find out my birth name, find my youtube, etc. It’s like like trans* stuff comes up when you google my name, but there’s stuff out there. Not only that, but I’m sure there’s something to tip someone off on my facebook. I’m finding that some of my new friends have a tendency to stalk professors and such online, so I can only assume they took a good look at what I’ve got out there. Thus the anxiety.

I guess it’s not a big deal if people know, though. If anyone does know, they haven’t given me trouble about it or passed it around. The reasons I’m stealth are for my personal safety and because I was tired of being the token trans* person and being treated differently all the time. Right now, it’s serving both of those purposes, so I shouldn’t be concerned.  I sat through a lecture on gender the other day without everyone turning around and looking at me or calling on me to educate them by answering personal questions about my body or my life story. Again and again I’m glad that I’m stealth. It is abundantly clear that a lot of the people around me are very ignorant about LGBTQ issues (not my friends or professors, but people living in town and a lot of the undergrads), and I really wouldn’t feel safe living here as an out trans person. It frustrates me to not be educating people sometimes, but I also realize that it would just be a drop in a bucket. Besides, being born transgender does not mean it has to always be my job to educate people, and I’ve already done plenty of that in my life.

Things are getting better on the friendship front, in any case. I’ve made a couple of solid friends, and yes, some of them are guys.

Masculinity and Male Bonding

Recently I went out  to the bars with some of the people from school. My idea of a good time is more like hanging out over ice cream, but I did the best I could with a beer. Anyway, it was a pretty fun experience. I’m really liking the other people in my classes, even though we don’t have a whole lot in common. That became more and more clear when one of the guys enthusiastically asked me if I do (play?) fantasy football. I told him no, which I think disappointed him a little bit, so he switched gears and asked me if I play video games. I told him that I do, but primarily Super Mario Bros (I didn’t mention that I am more than a little obsessed with the Sims 3). He meant something more along the lines of Call of Duty or Halo. I wouldn’t mind those games, but for some reason first person games with 3-D graphics give me motion sickness. He gave up after that.

I’m well aware that I’m a nerd, this wasn’t some sort of wake up call for me. I was in band in high school. I collected Star Wars action figures. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not into sports and I don’t know anything about cars, but I still found myself questioning my masculinity a little bit after I went home. These guys weren’t traditionally masculine, a lot of them were nerdy too (I mean, we’re in grad school). Still, there was a more masculine edge to their nerdy pursuits. They like simulation games where you shoot people, I like simulation games where you make people houses. It’s not really a bad thing, I’m glad that I’m not into violence. I just felt a little left out, on the outside looking in.

This is how I feel about male bonding a lot. Apparently this isn’t unusual. A lot of guys feel that they aren’t masculine enough or that they have trouble connecting with other men. I still feel weird about it and blame it on being trans. I don’t know if that’s why I am the way I am, though. Sure, I missed out on a lot of male socialization, but it isn’t as if my dad is (or has ever been) a bro. I’m a socially awkward, anxious, non-athletically inclined, liberal intellectual. I’m pretty sure I was born this way. I don’t like fantasy football, and that’s totally okay. I just wonder if I would even be thinking about this if I was cis.

Past and Present

I went home for the labor day break and had the interesting experience of going through my old clothes. I found the feminine stuff that my ex-girlfriend pressured me to buy in late high school because she wanted me to look more like a fashionably androgynous lesbian and less like a 12 year old boy. I tried one of my old polos on to amuse my partner and mom, demonstrating with my broad shoulders and abundant chest hair that more than just my gender expression has changed since I last wore that shirt. I have to say it was a bit odd to pass some of those clothes on to my female partner, particularly since she never knew me as someone who would’ve worn anything even remotely similar to the stuff we unpacked. How many women can say the nice new clothes they got over break were hand-me-downs from their boyfriend? It’s just a little bizarre, even though at this point I should be used to reconciling my past with my present.

I’m only really realizing how much my past influences my current perspectives, primarily because my transgender status isn’t something that is taken for granted (or even known) among the people I’m in contact with day to day now. Just as it’s strange for me to look back at myself as having once worn feminine clothing, it’s strange to interact with the world without that being common knowledge. I’m in a class where we are expected to write about our unique perspectives and unpack how our personal experiences impact the way we view the world. This makes being stealth difficult, because I feel like it is inauthentic not to share how being trans has influenced me because it is one of the number one things that defines my perspective (directly and indirectly). I look at gender, sexuality, privilege, oppression, and a million other things differently because of my life experiences being raised a woman, out as a lesbian for most of my teenage/young adult life, transitioning, and now living as male. I can’t even begin to write anything without touching that. I’m queer, but I’m not living a visibly queer life. I don’t even know how to share that with others and still remain stealth and honest. In many ways, my perspective is being erased, even though I’m stealth of my own free will (mostly). I considered taking my professor aside and explaining to her my situation in regard to the class, but I just don’t know her well enough to feel comfortable doing that. Besides, it isn’t terribly pressing and I know I can get by.

Someone online recently asked me if I think that transition ends or if we are constantly transitioning our entire lives. I really think I’ve hit a point in my transition where I have most of the body stuff sorted out, although I still have dysphoria and things aren’t perfect. I don’t really track my changes much and taking testosterone has become a chore. I’m in this stage, though, where I really feel like I’m emotionally transitioning. I’m exploring and sorting out my place in the world and generally just dealing with the aftermath of physical transition. Things move so quickly and single-mindedly with testosterone and top surgery and everything else that its now time for me to just slowly reintroduce myself into the world. Suddenly, noticing new facial hair and researching how to change my legal documents doesn’t dominate my life, so now what? I think this, even more than when I was pre-T and figuring out my gender identity, is the time for me to step back and really think about who I am as a person and sort out where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

Making friends

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m in school. I just started here and am meeting a lot of new people. This is my first time meeting people in an environment where I can feasibly be stealth, so it’s created some interesting situations for me. I expect that things will get far more interesting as time progresses, but I’ve already noticed some stuff that I think is worth blogging about. First off, the program that I am in is small and predominately female. There are a couple of other guys, but they’ve been far more reserved than the women and so I haven’t really gotten to know them yet. I usually gravitate toward people who make socializing easy because I have social anxiety, and oftentimes those people happen to be female. So, historically I’ve had a lot of female friends. I have no problem with this, but I’m realizing that it’s a little awkward now to be a straight guy and close friends with women. I’ve never really learned how to navigate that situation, and I find myself constantly on alert trying not to seem like a creeper. I’m not attracted to any of the women that I’ve met, and I’m in a relationship, but I don’t know how to make it clear that I’m not trying to creep and that I’m just looking for friends (I’m doing it semi-successfully, but that doesn’t keep me from feeling a little awkward). All of this makes me realize that on some levels socially I’m still a teenage boy who is just starting to learn about the world and figure stuff like this out.

I also find it difficult trying to befriend guys. I’m not sure if this is related to being trans or not, but I’m always anxious that guys are trying to gauge my masculinity or trying to see how I measure up against them. That plays out, I guess, with me tending to feel more comfortable around guys my own height or guys who are a bit more feminine. I’m pretty sure all of this is ridiculous, but I can’t say for sure. As I mentioned, I haven’t really lived as male long enough to have all of this totally figured out (and does anyone ever really figure out all of the social rules?) In any case, I find myself stumbling a bit. That’s one of the reasons I’m really pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to actively seek out male friends. I feel like having that experience might teach me a lot and help me feel more socially competent. I know it seems like I’m overthinking things, and maybe I am, but it can be really difficult to have missed out on some critical socialization. It seems like overthinking because these things are so ingrained in us that it appears as though they come naturally, but they don’t. Luckily, these things seem to get easier as time goes on.

On Identity

Recently on Tumblr there have been a lot of people arguing about whether or not being transgender is a medical condition or an identity, and whether or not it is legitimate for people to identify as “FtM” or “MtF” instead of as simply “male” or “female.” This sort of conversation is fascinating to me, partially because it’s so new in the Tumblr and Youtube trans* communities. I don’t know what prompted this change in the way we discuss identity, but the FtM tag on Tumblr is crowded with these sorts of arguments and it has been driving a huge rift in the community. I think this is unfortunate for obvious reasons, because infighting generally sucks, but also because I think both groups have a lot to learn from each other but refuse to do so because of ideological differences. The identity policing going on, however, is ridiculous (at least in my opinion). Anyway, I thought I’d add my two cents to the conversation and write about what I think about gender identity.

A lot of people who view being transgender as a birth defect or medical condition wonder why other people with their same condition don’t view it the same way. The way I see it, this isn’t an usual situation at all. There are people who view deafness and Autism as parts of their identities instead of or in addition to medical conditions or birth defects and those who do not. People define their situations and identities differently, and that’s perfectly fair and doesn’t need to invalidate other people’s world views. With trans* people, though, I think an added layer of complexity comes from the fact that the vast majority of people have limited exposure to information about gender identity and so there is a fight to make sure that the information that does reach the masses represents all of us appropriately. Of course, that’s virtually impossible. In fact, I would go so far as to say it isn’t really worth worrying about except in regards to how the media portrays us. A couple of kids on Tumblr playing around with their gender isn’t really going to change the way society perceives trans* people (although it may affect the way a couple of individuals view us), nor will the gender and identity policing of a couple of blogs affect things in a major way. People aren’t basing their opinions on transgender people from these people, they’re basing it on what they see on TV. So, I think the people who are concerned about “transtrenders” are really putting their energy into something kind of pointless. Of course it can be frustrating if you have wanted to physically transition since you were very young and experience intense dysphoria but are unable to transition or are having difficulty with it and see people who are less sure about their gender identity or who claim not to experience dysphoria appear to have easier access to testosterone or top surgery. However, there are probably greater fights to be had than trying to shoot these individuals down (for instance, fighting the system that makes it difficult for people who need to transition from accessing affordable means to do so).

Anyway, a lot of these individuals ask, “how can someone identify as trans or FtM instead of just male?” This question, as I’ve seen it, has always been directed toward trans* guys instead of trans* women for some reason. Gender variance aside, there are a lot of reasons why someone would identify this way. For me, it all boils down to personal history and experience. As someone who is moving toward living stealth, I certainly don’t think it is disingenuous to tell someone that I am male without any sort of qualifiers. In fact, that is how I normally live my life now. Identifying as FtM or trans*, as far as I see it, doesn’t disqualify me from also identifying or living as “just male.” The FtM part comes partially from my identification with the community and my acknowledgement of my history. Although I don’t see my gender identity as necessarily a medical condition (although I do think that it has physical components that may qualify it as such), I also don’t see how identifying as both FtM/trans* and male contradict that worldview. After all, aren’t there breast cancer survivors who get extremely involved in the survivor community and adopt their physical/medical condition as a part of their conceptions of themselves? Identifying as a breast cancer survivor doesn’t invalidate the fact that breast cancer is a real, physical condition. Similarly, I think acknowledging that fact that I came into my male body in a unique way doesn’t necessarily need to be a statement on the cause of transsexuality, GID, or whatever you want to call trans*ness. Even if you view being transgender as a disability, there are plenty of people out there with disabilities who celebrate and embrace their conditions (and, of course, those who don’t). Seeing being transgender as a part of one’s identity or trying to find something positive in it isn’t mutually exclusive with seeing it as a medical condition or something with a physical or genetic basis. I really can’t say that enough.

There’s infighting in almost any group of people, particularly groups of people whose shared identification is built on something as diverse as gender identity. I certainly don’t expect everyone to ever all just get along. It is frustrating, though, that from what I’ve observed on Tumblr the groups that are infighting never foster any kind of meaningful dialog. As much as I am a huge believer in the power of language, I think that Tumblr sometimes gets too caught up on call-outs and ends up alienating certain groups of people (often people who lack exposure to social justice terminology and communities because of location, lack of education, or other forces outside of their control). Although these call-outs seem effective in the short-term, I think they create animosity and division while also not really educating the people who made the mistake in the first place. I understand the argument that intention doesn’t matter, only the damage that was done, and that it isn’t always someone’s place to educate others on their privilege. However, I think that we are losing a real opportunity when we attack otherwise well-intentioned individuals (and I think there’s a difference between calling someone out in a constructive way and trying to tear them down). On the other hand, I think that those out there who are bent on identity policing and name calling are also tearing down potential lines of communication. Like I said, this is really unfortunate. I understand a lot of the pain, confusion, and anger coming from both sides. In many ways, I feel I straddle the divide. I’m trying to live an ordinary life as male, but I’m also very in touch with the trans* community and accepting of people who don’t want to live a life within the gender binary. I’ve also been someone who could’ve been labeled as a “transtrender,” back when I was figuring out my gender identity, but obviously it wasn’t a trend for me because here I am.

Why “Posttransitionguy” and Going Stealth

New blog, new first post. Although some of you may be reading this from the link from my old blog, soon to be made private, I figure I’ll introduce myself anyway. I’m a trans guy, and while I have quite a lot of stuff going on in my life other than that, that’ll be primarily what I’ll be blogging about. I’m almost 2 years on testosterone and over a year post top surgery. Post-transition is a bit of a misnomer, I believe that we’re never really fully done transitioning. Just like growing up, we continue to change throughout our lifespans. However, I’m done with the bulk of my obvious changes and feel like I’ve entered a new stage in my transition, one that focuses on more the social and emotional issues than the physical ones. Unlike a lot of trans* blogs, this one will not be about getting on testosterone, changing documentation, or funding surgeries. Instead it will primarily focus on how I navigate the world as a man who missed out on a lot of male socialization, how I deal with going stealth, and my reflections on what being trans means to me at this point in my transition. My username, posttransitionguy, is meant to reflect this, even though I don’t necessarily accept the division of trans* people into pre- and post-transition categories.

So yeah. Other than that I’m in my twenties, in graduate school, and in a long-term relationship with a woman. If that seems really vague that’s because it’s meant to. Although I’m used to my life being a completely open book, I recently moved and made the decision to try living stealth. That meant my old blog, which had a lot of pictures of me and identifying information, had to go. Although my face and name are still out there on the internet for someone who wanted to find out, I want to feel safe posting about my inner thoughts on this blog without worrying about new people I meet finding it and connecting it to me. So, no real identifying information other than stuff related to my transition.

We’ll see how this goes.