Can hormones change my sexual orientation?Posted: October 1, 2014 Filed under: Testosterone | Tags: demisexual, gay, gender, gender identity, genderqueer, lesbian, lgbt, lgbtqia, queer, relationships, sexual orientation, testosterone, trans, transgender 13 Comments
This was a huge reservation for me, before I started testosterone. I had read enough personal accounts and spoken to enough friends that I had this somewhat common narrative in my mind: someone who is FTM was primarily attracted to women before starting hormones. Orientation then opened up / shifted, and this person now is attracted to both / all genders, or is now more attracted to men, or even exclusively attracted to men. One common idea surrounding this is that the person always was attracted to men (if even just on a subconscious level), but could not fathom being intimate with a man, while being seen as a woman. Another related idea is that the person identifies so strongly with being queer, that once he is finally perceived as a man, a new type of queer identity is now possible – one that may have been appealing all along.
OK – I’m done with the generalizing! It’s super uncomfortable for me to paint broad strokes and write about a hypothetical person in such a detached manner. I just wanted to get some initial thoughts down, some type of framework in which to plug my own narrative into. Whether these ideas are all that accurate or common is largely beside the point. The important part is that they were looming large for me. I had some serious fears about it.
While I was coming out (sort of?) as a lesbian (sort of?) in my late-teens, I was mostly just befuddled. I didn’t really understand physical and sexual attraction. I thought I was probably just a late bloomer. Now I understand that I’m probably a demisexual. Although this (somewhat recent) revelation is fascinating, I don’t feel a strong attachment to this label or a strong need to figure out my sexual orientation in all ways, shapes, and forms. It never caused me to feel much of a disconnect from others. I mean, I generally felt a lot of disconnect from others, but I didn’t look to my sexuality as a way to figure out why that was. It’s kinda, meh, for me… Fascination, and not a whole lot more. (Which is interesting because I usually love love love picking things apart! Haha.)
I’m gonna jump over a whole bunch of years and land somewhere in my late 20s. I’d been with my partner (she is a cisgender female, for the most part) for about 4 years at this point, and we were experiencing a long-term lull. We weren’t connecting. Everything felt dulled, foggy, I think for both of us (for different reasons). I was feeling more and more drawn to guys, all around me, and could not sort out whether that was because I needed to be a guy, or if it was a sexual orientation thing (again, the lack of the physical attraction part was confusing. It was more of a cerebral thing.)
I kind of decided that it was both. I fantasized about a totally different life, where I was a guy, and I was with a hypothetical guy. However, I did not want to break up with my partner. I strongly felt that the tough place we were in was circumstantial and situational, and that we could work our way through it. I wanted to work our way through it. I wondered if a big key to working our way through it was: for me to transition. I felt this heavy burden of a circuitous fear: I need to transition in order to get out of this place and improve our relationship; if I start transitioning, my gut is telling me that I will be even more drawn to guys, and I will want to end our relationship in order to pursue that.
I vividly recall, at one point, completely breaking down and telling her, while crying, that I was attracted to masculinity. She didn’t seem surprised, or threatened; she didn’t shut down. She stayed there with me, in that moment, and replied, “one of the many pitfalls of being in a queer relationship.” I appreciated that reply so much, in the moment. It felt like relief. Sometimes, I make things overly-fraught; she brings it back down to earth.
She has since elaborated that she did indeed feel the heaviness of the situation. Although we weren’t talking about all of this directly at the time, she recently told me that she knew. And that she was going to support me in transitioning (whatever that looked like to me) unconditionally, at the risk of losing me along the way. Wow.
While trying to sort that out, some life changes occurred that vastly improved things. My partner got a new job, we shifted our approach to friendships, I went back to therapy. Our relationship improved by leaps and bounds.
It was about two more years before I really found myself at that crossroads of needing to try testosterone (although I no longer planned to transition in that common-narrative way). That fear was still there. Although it felt like we had a solid foundation to work from, I worried, would things shift between my partner and me? Would I start to be drawn exclusively to men? Where would that lead us? I started testosterone anyway.
Testosterone has changed things for me, but not in those ways I feared. I’m attracted to my partner and also I’m attracted to men. Sometimes I’m attracted to women; mostly, I’m attracted to androgyny and effemininity (effeminate men). I don’t know what that all adds up to; I just call it “queer.” The nature of attraction feels a little less cerebral, and a little more physiological than before. I like that. I think I still fall under the category of demisexual, for sure, but it does feel different. My partner and I talk about all of it. None of it is threatening to her. None of it feels worrisome to me. It’s all just puzzle pieces, that, although not straightforward or common, make more sense to me than my sexuality has ever made sense before.
I’ve also wondered how taking low dose testosterone would affect my sexual drive/orientation/response. When I came out the three common choices were gay, straight, or bisexual; terms which make less and less sense to me as I go along. I’ve always been low libido, but I attributed it to depression, rather than that I might be asexual and/or agender. I feel like there is too much tumult in my life right now to throw another variable in the mix (labels or hormones), but I do wonder what it would be like to feel the vroom-vroom of testosterone.
Yeah, it might be something to consider for the future… it certainly could change things up (different things too – moods, other sensations, etc.), even a low-dose. I totally understand though: one thing at a time!
Every coming out forces you to be more honest with yourself, so while you may not fit the gender mold and have some attraction to women, it might be satisfying for a little while to identify as lesbian. And then over time you might realize that this label isn’t entirely accurate, and so you start re-assessing and introspecting.
I am jealous of those who have only one coming-out; introspection and self-assessment are draining and tiresome. But they pay off over time, I hope.
Imagine those people who have zero coming-outs! What would it be like to not even question sexuality or gender at all? I cannot fathom. In a lot of ways, even though some times have been super difficult, I wouldn’t trade it in – interesting perspectives to consider.
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I sort of had zero coming-outs until I was 24… I just went along with what people told me. Questioning the norm is a good thing, it challenges us to think critically about the things we are supposed to just take for granted.
If I can ask a totally invasive question (which you can totally just ignore if you don’t want to answer)… Do you feel the hormones affect your desire for sex, or just who you feel an attraction toward? I know you said you identify somewhat with the demisexual label… do you feel more sexual now than before, or does that label still stand for you? (I ask because I’ve been questioning this myself recently – whether hormones could indeed knock me a little ways out of asexuality and into.. whatever else.)
You can definitely ask an invasive question, haha. I think testosterone has had an impact on my sex drive also (even though it’s just a low-dose. I imagine a “normal” dose would change it quite a bit further). I think in comparison to the larger population, I’d still fall into the demisexual category, but I’ve shifted quite a bit within that label. I am glad for those changes.
Hormones could potentially have that effect for you; it’d probably depend on many things. There are people who are on testosterone and still identify as asexual, as well. Pretty sure Micah at neutrois.me is someone who would have a lot to say about it!
I enjoy your insights so much! Have you written a post on demisexuality and what it means to you? I’d be really keen to read more about this as it’s a new identity label I’m considering for myself at the moment.
thank you! actually I haven’t – this is the first time I’ve mentioned it. A few other bloggers have written quite a bit about it. here’s one in particular: Brannen is non-binary, has taken steps to transition, and identifies as a demisexual, I believe. http://esgibthope.wordpress.com/category/asexuality/
I imagine I’ll write more on it in the future as well!
It is pretty great that you overcame the lull phase, and made it through this thing together. I think that you have a keeper!
I think so too! 🙂
My partner was positive about the possibility of me transitioning initially but then suddenly backtracked and is now very negative about the possibility, which means I basically can’t talk to her about any kind of possibility of changing. She doesn’t like the idea of me even coming out as genderqueer and changing my name, even if I keep my pronouns and she has stated she doesn’t want me to have any kind of hormones or surgery. I am coming more to the conclusion that although I feel jealous when I watch transition videos, I don’t think a full transition is necessarily what I want, but I would like to be a bit more vague in my gender, and if I had a different career, friends and family I might pick gender-neutral pronouns for a try and maybe some of them would use them (although I doubt this) and change my name to something more androgynous. But alas, I feel these are not options in my current life, so I just feel rather frustrated. Like there is a hipster me out there who is living my life and due to my inability to say to anyone a definitive answer of ‘i want to be a man’, because I don’t think I do, but do identify with the term ‘gender failure’, this leaves me in a stagnant hole with my own self-confidence issues.
I meant to reply much earlier – better late than never though right? Sounds like a really tough spot that you’re in. I hope that your partner comes back around with time. Maybe once she sees how important it is to you…
And I like the term ‘gender failure” too – did you read that book?!! Great book. I like thinking about it in terms of being a “gender drop-out,” sorta like I’m not actually a failure; I chose to drop out!