Can hormones change my sexual orientation?Posted: October 1, 2014
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.