I got some hate mail yesterday, and decided to respond.
Why the fuck are you doingvthis [sic] to yourself and causing other people to follow you. [sic]
The main reason I’m doing “this” to myself is because I value the quality of my life. I’m just going to have to venture a guess about what “this” is, based on the contents of this blog: taking testosterone, getting top surgery, changing my name and pronouns, being a janitor, being a writer, being out and open about being nonbinary… hmm, what else is this blog about? Going to therapy. Taking psychotropic medications. Being open about mental health struggles. Umm… wearing t-shirts. Talking about portrayals of trans people and characters in the media. Sometimes I’ve mentioned going on vacation or important things going on in my community.
If I were to narrow it down to the most controversial topics, it’d probably be taking testosterone, getting top surgery, and being open about those things. I do these things to myself because when I was not doing those things, my life was fairly hellish. And so I tried, very tentatively at first, a little bit of this. And things started to vastly improve, all around me, relatively quickly. So I was able to determine it was most likely a cause and effect relationship. So I tried a little bit more. And then more and more. But since I’m not a binary person, I also had to try less, and also stop and start and feel it out. But as far as being open and documenting the journey, I did not have to back off or stop – it was all forward momentum and connecting with others and learning from others and sharing with others, and the more I came out, in all areas of my life, the better the entire world got. And I’m not just talking about things like a promotion or going on a cruise or accruing more material possessions. I’m talking about a deep connection with who I actually am which radiates outward and fulfills so many of the ways I always thought I was falling short, missing out, and avoiding what could be. So, yea, I’d say that doing “this” to myself has been extremely worthwhile.
And to address the second part of your question, I’m not actually causing other people to follow me. Fortunately, I don’t hold that much power over others. Other people get to do whatever they will with their lives, and if that includes looking online for information or connection or to relate to others’ experiences, then that’s pretty cool. I’d have to categorize that as more of a symbiotic correlation as opposed to a causation.
And I also just want to note that when I say, “follow,” I just mean literally clicking “follow” on this blog so that they can stay up to date about when I next post. I don’t mean, “follow” in any cultish, fervent, collecting “followers” to do my bidding and do whatever I am doing or say they should be doing type of way. That would feel highly uncomfortable.
If you are interested in “following” other people who are out as nonbinary on the internet and who also like to address people who send them hate mail, my spouse recommends the following:
Last week, I got my hair cut by a professional for the first time in over 20 years. Why haven’t I done this sooner?! I was aware that I had acquired some stubborn habits around my hair, and I was planning to go to someone to intervene, but it still took me a long time to follow through and book an appointment.
Hair salons / barber shops are one of the most gendered spaces someone can enter. That is the biggest reason I’ve avoided them for so long. I have never been to a barber. Starting at age 8, I decided I needed my hair cut short, like a boy. My mom took me to Hairzoo, a unisex salon with 8 locations in Western, NY (and, strangely, one location in Santa Monica, CA). I just wanted a fucking bowl cut, but the stylists, every time, talked about a “feathered look,” tapered down to the neck, etc. I kind of hated going there as a kid, but I tolerated it because it was the best avenue toward the ultimate goal of keeping my hair short. As I got older, my mom met a friend who did hair, so we’d go to her kitchen and I’d get my hair kept short.
At age 18, a friend buzzed my head for the first time, and I immediately knew I needed to procure my own set of clippers.
I got my hair cut professionally one final time, at age 19, at a salon in my college town. It wasn’t a bad experience. Actually, it was probably one of the best hair styles I’ve ever had – I had bleached hair at the time which was growing out. Long natural brown roots. I asked the stylist to keep the tips of the blonde, and she actually followed my instructions, and I had a cool frosted effect (am aware this fashion trend is very much dated. But in 2001, it looked awesome!) The person I had a crush on, who didn’t talk to me much, complimented me on my hair shortly after this cut. It doesn’t get much better than that!
A few factors contributed to me never going back in there though: I hated the “culture” I had walked into when I went to that salon. Too many ladies and women talking too much and too emotively, basically. Plus there was the price factor. I didn’t have the spending money, as a college student, to keep doing that. So I pulled out my clippers and any pair of scissors I had laying around and hacked away at my hair every so often until I actually got pretty good at it. (Getting kinda good took a while. I definitely had some hair disasters. I usually went for either a mohawk or bowlish cut / undercut. One time, I shaved everything off completely, down to using a razor.)
The mohawk eventually morphed into a mullet-hawk and then just a full on mullet. I have been rocking a mullet for a solid 15 years. I stopped bleaching it about 15 years ago as well. It was ravaging my scalp. But I did pick up another bad habit around this time: a friend emphatically stated that he stopped using hair products. Only baking soda as shampoo and apple cider vinegar as conditioner. I followed suit because I didn’t know whether hair products were working for me and there are just way too many and I liked the idea of being stripped bare. And also getting rid of fragrances. I started the regimen but quickly discarded the vinegar – too smelly – in favor of a fragrance-free conditioner. But the baking soda stayed. It was a point of pride.
In retrospect, it was probably drying out my hair and scalp like nothing else! For so long!
I started testosterone in 2013, and it’s brought on two major changes to my hair: It suddenly made my hair very, very curly (it had always been wavy, but now we’re talking sausage curls inverting inward toward infinity) and a receding hairline. The receding hairline has been such a concern that it’s been the major reason I’ve gone on and off T, over the years. (I finally started taking Finasteride a month ago – it has yet to be determined whether it’ll help, long-term.)
Anyway, jump back in time to just a week ago. For months, I had been toying with the idea of at least consulting with a professional, if not actually letting them cut my hair. And I had someone in mind – someone who is an acquaintance, so at least I already know them, and they’re an expert on curly hair, and they curate their space to be non-gender specific, and they work alone. Pretty much, the perfect person. I booked the appointment. I kept the appointment.
And, I’m so super happy I followed through. We talked about habits I’d been doing for years, if not decades, that haven’t been working for me. She verified baking soda is no good regularly, but could be good as a cleanser, maybe monthly or so. She suggested some products that are known as “no-poo,” basically shampoos that don’t foam up, act more as conditioners, and maybe that’s all I’d need. And I told her about how I’ve barely cut my hair in a very long time, maybe just 1/8 of an inch to take care of split ends, but I’m aware that’s not nearly enough but I can’t get myself to cut more because I just want more of my hair in light of the receding hairline and I pull hairs from the back and sides forward in an effort for more coverage and it’s really not working for me, not to mention my split ends and knots. (Wow, OK, that was a run-on sentence!) She acknowledged that it made sense I was trying to do the things I was doing. Then she proceeded to start cutting (after I consented to that) and it was like AN INCH OFF! and I was a little freaking out. Until I realized it made almost no difference in actual hair coverage. It just looks smarter and cleaner. And, no one in my regular daily life has yet noticed I’ve gotten my hair cut at all, which to me, means it’s a resounding success. Because I didn’t want my hair to look much different. I just wanted to clean it up and learn some ways to take care of curly hair. I want healthy hair, now, and I think I can achieve that. Maybe I can actually coax it to grow longer, over time. That’s the dream! I tipped her 40%. I’m pretty happy overall.
This essay and accompanying collage were first published for Femme Salée’s zine issue Perverse Bodies, Winter 2021. More about this awesome collective of artists, writers, and curators can be found at Femme Salée.
On Halloween afternoon, 2009, I was running around doing last minute things like my head was cut off. Our inaugural variety show was kicking off that night, at the local community space that had just opened up. One of the many things I realized I’d overlooked was figuring out how to hook up a boombox to the PA system. I burst into a Radio Shack without the slightest idea of where to look, but also with a strong aversion to talking to anyone working there. I called my mom. My brother was around too – mom put the call on speakerphone.
“I need a jack or an adapter or something, to get my boombox plugged in to a PA.” My mom had always helped me rig up my stereo equipment amidst many moves, and my brother had played bass in a bunch of bands; I hoped the two of them together could figure this out for me.
“OK,” he cut in, “you’d need a 1/8 inch jack on the boombox end, and then a 1/4 inch to plug into the PA.”
“OK so, I’m seeing those. There are a bunch of kinds though.”
“Get one that’s male on both ends.”
“What do you mean?”
“Male. Like, it’s protruding out, right? Instead of female, which would get plugged into.”
“I don’t get that.”
“Uhhh, so, the male is what’s getting put in…”
“No, I get that! It’s just, I don’t get why it’s called ‘male’ and ‘female.’ Is that for real?!”
“Yes! Of course I’m not just making this up!” It was the first I’d heard of it.
“I just don’t get it!”
“Yea, that figures.”
As I poured over which product to get, a memory flashed into mind. My brother and I had been vintage Saturday Night Live fiends. We were sitting together, watching Dan Aykroyd as a sleezy late night public access TV host, and Laraine Newman as his guest / date / escort. They’re watching a video of some worms getting it on, making lewd comments.
“These little buggers have both male and female organs. They like to go both ways, AC/DC you know what I mean, heh heh,” Dan Aykroyd’s character jeered. I didn’t have the slightest clue what he meant. But it seemed obvious from all this imagery: Sex is electric. And from that, I deduced that I was doing it wrong.
I had had some electrifying moments, but they were few and far between, and around that time I had been feeling I’d been short circuited all together; from there I just shut down the whole operation. When things had continued to not work like I kept hearing they were supposed to, when nothing ever felt right, I stopped pretending they did and clammed up. Sex was touchy, both the act itself and the topic in general. If a group of friends were laughing about sensational sex stuff, I would get so uncomfortable that I’d just get up and leave, no explanation. I’d just be gone. I didn’t seek out anything that might be arousing because it didn’t seem worth the effort. I was not asexual. I was purposefully squelching my sexuality because things didn’t line up. And since none of it made sense, I didn’t know how to start trying to open back up, even if I had wanted to. Which, eventually, I did. Sometimes I would have wet dreams, and I was glad that at least I had that going on, that thing that is generally a male thing. It was my favorite part about my sexuality. Waking up because I was orgasming felt like the best gift in the world. It felt like a freebee. Because to climax in waking life was a lot of hard work.
Around the time I started to transition medically, a few years after that Radio Shack moment, with hormones and top surgery and other stuff, I felt an urgent need to finally and fully figure out my sexuality. Really force it—reading books, going to workshops, making my spouse come to workshops with me even though they didn’t want to, talking about it exhaustively in therapy (or rather, writing exhaustively and emailing that writing to my therapist), bringing it up a lot with my spouse even though it felt, well, forced. All these efforts helped a little but not much. What did get me there was patience, time, experimentation, thinking creatively, and just feeling out how to be present in my body in other ways.
Transitioning did help. What I can see and feel makes a lot more sense now. My chest contours in a way I can accept, although it’s not perfect. My voice is present and fully-formed, after seeming far off and lost for so long. Broader shoulders and more muscle definition have allowed me to carry myself differently. Getting confirmation that I’m seen as male, mostly, by others, has bolstered everything else (although I identify as non-binary and am not actually a man). It’s my junk though; although it has changed for the better, it’s not enough and I still get hung up on the junk.
And I do mean “junk,” a word with various meanings, one of which is “male genitalia.” I don’t technically have a dick, but in all ways other than the physical realm, I do, and in that discrepancy lies the crux of my transness. Or more specifically, my in-betweenness. Because although there is a strong correlation between genital-dissatisfaction and transness, the two do not always go together. Some cis people don’t like what they were born with either. And some trans people are fine with what they got going on. Others are not at all, and lower surgery is first and foremost; the ultimate transformation. I’m somewhere in between.
A few years ago, I was tasked with designing and creating my own “groinment” for a theatrical production of a tripped-out version of a play called, If Boys Wore the Skirts. In this genderfuck of a fever dream, my three “classmates” and I wore white button-down shirts, black ties, black socks, black shoes, and black skirts upon which we had designed fancy-free versions of our internal landscapes. I was thrilled by the opportunity and took it very literally; here was a chance to come up with something that reflected the way I feel about my junk. If you were to ask me, I don’t have a vagina, clitoris, and labia. Nor do I have a penis, scrotum, and prostate (unfortunately). What I got is junk, and it’s janky AF. But by reimagining it, I’ve started to learn to live with, maybe even love, what I got. In this version I dreamed up for the play, there’s a highly delicate water balloon configuration at the top of a water slide. Pointy party hats are there to protect it. And in my right hand I held a needle: I’m the only one who gets to “pop” it, which I did, during a fashion show scene in the play. The water did indeed gush down the slide and splatter fantastically on the upswing. My ultimate wet dream, cum true.
I like to make note of when I’m on and off testosterone, and this time, I’m way behind on mentioning it – I’ve been back on since July 20th. I hit it hard initially with a pretty high dose (100mg per week) and then lowered it to 60mg per week. So far, my menstrual cycle halted immediately (fingers crossed this continues to be the case – it’s been over 2 months so I’m thinking I might be in the clear!)
I haven’t gone to any medical professionals yet, but I do plan to make an appointment with Planned Parenthood very soon. This time around, I’m aiming to also ask for Finasteride for the first time (a drug that helps with hair loss / is a partial testosterone blocker). My hope is that I’ll still get the benefits of testosterone I’m seeking while not continuing to have a receding hairline. Really not sure – just going to try it and find out. If it does seem to be a good balance, I envision myself staying on T for much longer than ever before. We’ll see!
I feel like I’ve finally reached a point where being transgender feels normal. I’ve both hoped for this state of being and feared it, in equal parts. I don’t mean that I feel normal – I definitely don’t and probably never will! I just mean that doing yet another shot of testosterone is no longer an event. It’s rote; it’s routine. I don’t care whether I do it subcutaneously or intramuscular. I don’t have a preference for needle gauge. I’ll do whatever. All that matters is getting it into my body. There’s very little mental fanfare, no ritual surrounding it.
In addition, although I enjoy connecting with other trans-people and hearing others’ stories and journeys, I no longer need it. I don’t specifically seek it out. My journey is probably not even near complete, but I feel like I’ve done everything that I felt an urgency around, and the other aspects will either happen or not happen, at some point down the road. I’m not stressing or planning or strategizing anymore.
A part of me wondered if I’d ever get to this point I’m describing, since I’m nonbinary and still have not quite “settled” into my gender. There is no settling into the gender I feel I am. It’s always a balancing act. Being “settled” and being “satisfied” are two different states, I am realizing. I hope to remain satisfied, but to never settle. I”m sure I’ll be back on and off testosterone for many years to come.
A couple of things I want to note from my most recent time off testosterone (Dec. 2020 – July 2021):
– I regained even more sensation in my chest. This happened in a past timeframe off of testosterone, and I was thrilled it continued. I now feel like my chest has just about fully regained sensation, something I had given up on at one point in time.
– I felt more things, emotionally. Like being able to cry a little bit, stuff like that. Always important to me, to be able to revisit.
– I was less hot, sweaty, oily skin type stuff. It’s not a big deal, but it is preferable.
– I had my period. Blah.
– My sex drive was non-existent. Also blah.
– I did not experience fat redistribution reversal like I have in the past. Maybe that has to do with getting older, metabolism slowing down? Not sure.
– I stopped losing hair / some fine hairs did grow back in along my hairline.
That’s about it for now. I like making predictions about timelines when I make these on T / off T posts. My guess is that if things go well with adding in Finasteride, I’ll be on T for over a year and a half.
The last time I injected testosterone, for the time being, was December 8th. I like to keep tabs of when I go on and off it – I’m back around to off again. The first thing I noticed that was new / different happened today: my co-worker made microwave popcorn downstairs while I was upstairs, and even though she does this on occasion, I actually could smell it today. And as I sit here typing, I can smell my smelly feet, which is so weird! I forgot I’d been missing out an a whole other aspect to our world – things smell strongly, strangely, pleasantly, pungently, amazingly, and everything else amongst those adjectives. It’s pretty bizarre how much hormones affect our sense of smell!
Things I am not looking forward to, based on what has happened before:
– getting my period again
– feeling cold
– losing my happy trail
– diminished sex drive
Things I am looking forward to, also based on what’s happened before:
– less oily skin
– hair growing back
– some minor fat redistribution reversal
– I guess the sense of smell thing? Honestly, I’d forgotten all about that until I was hit with it today!
My prediction / guess is I’ll be back on it by July. Last time I was off it and then back on, I lasted from April 2019 till November 2019. So I’ve been back on for a whole year (my prediction had been 6 months). I went through most of my old, expired stockpile, until I realized why am I doing this when it could be less effective than getting new stuff, which I could easily do now through Planned Parenthood? So I called this past July and got an appointment within weeks (this was all through telemedicine, as many things are these days). I got my prescription the same day. I was on 60mL / week. I was injecting intramuscularly. My period didn’t fully go away until October – note to self: don’t mess around with expired stuff. There is not a scarcity / difficulty in getting more, as I have always feared!
Despite what I just said, I still do plan to do my next appointment with Planned Parenthood in about a month and get my prescription filled so that I have it on hand for the very moment when I want to go back on it. Once I’ve decided, I want to be able to inject that very moment, and not wait around to get more (even though, like I said, it is a quick turnaround.) I guess you could say I don’t want any middle people between me and T, once I’ve made up my mind… Just enough to get started, and then I’ll connect with Planned Parenthood again to get more…
I found out a few weeks ago that the anthology I contributed to, Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity, is a finalist in the “LGBTQ Anthology” category! Although there won’t be a “Lammy Awards Ceremony” because of COVID-19, the winners will still be announced in early June, for 24 categories, through a format TBD. The finalists were selected by a panel of over 60 literary professionals from roughly 1,000 book submissions from over 300 publishers. I didn’t even know this anthology had been submitted / it didn’t occur to me, so finding that out through social media from one of the editors was a fun surprise.
I’ve read a few of the other books from other categories this year; here are some mini book reviews:
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (LGBTQ Nonfiction) – The author captures a year (more or less) of her life in which she was consumed by an emotionally abusive relationship. She also weaves in myths, legends, and historic examples of lesbian abuse through the ages. It ended up being much harder to get through than I anticipated, but it was highly rewarding. I was particularly impressed by the way she kept her ex-girlfriend at an extreme distance from the readers and simultaneously submerged us in the chaos.
A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham (LGBTQ Nonfiction) – This also was the story of one year, but presented in a much different way. They do a particularly good job of examining the mental health struggles that can result from the uncertainty of gender dysphoria and what to either do or not do about it. From what I can gather, they come from affluence, and they don’t mention how this plays into their experience at all (it is HUGE), which bothered me, but that might not be quite a fair assessment.
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (Gay Memoir / Biography) – One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. In his blurb on the book jacket, his background is in poetry, and that makes perfect sense (although his language is not overly poetic). I was absorbed fully in his experiences, specifically the ways sexuality and sexual acts became dangerously subverted for him, over time. And why the culture at large contributed to that. He also handles family dynamics deftly, painting portraits of each family member fully, so we can see and understand why they are doing the things they do and being the way they be.
Death Threat by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Ness Lee (LGBTQ Comics) – I gotta admit I can’t remember much from reading this, and that was only 3 months ago. So I just now went to go find more about it, and here’s a quick synopsis from goodreads.com: “In the fall of 2017, the acclaimed writer and musician Vivek Shraya began receiving vivid and disturbing transphobic hate mail from a stranger. Using satire and surrealism, Death Threat is an unflinching portrayal of violent harassment from the perspective of both the perpetrator and the target, illustrating the dangers of online accessibility, and the ease with which vitriolic hatred can be spread digitally.” From what I remember, the story was disjointed and difficult to follow, but the alarming nature of the situation definitely did shine through.
Looking forward to June to find out the winners!
A few days ago, I got a message from a reader. They wrote:
Hi…thanks for taking the time to help others have the advantage of your experience to answer our own questions. I’m non-binary…I had top surgery 3 years ago, but I’m interested in remaining in the middle. I’m interested in a more masculine body structure (less curvy, more masculine fat distribution, stronger jaw line), but wanting to keep my feminine traits like smoothness of skin/not markedly increasing facial hair and not wanting to make the changes to my disposition that it seems can happen with a standard dose of testosterone. I’m interested in being able to build muscle (just definition) for both look and to be strong and healthy. I’ve hit 50, so not so easy with menopause underway. I’m also interested in how this could support my libido.
I’m thinking that microdosing may be a good way for me to do this, but interested in your thoughts. Also, to whom does one go to get this? I’m going to be living in NY/NJ area and it would be great if you could provide any medical professionals in that area. I’m finding that some MDs don’t know much about this and aren’t incredibly willing to discuss. Does one have to have a prescription for this? I’m assuming so. In any case, any info you could provide or point me to would be greatly appreciated.
We messaged back and forth a few times and decided this could be the good basis for a post. Here’s an attempt to answer their questions, and elaborate on some thoughts they put out there:
Thanks for reaching out! I started microdosing T so long ago that that word was not yet in use – at least not in this context, haha! We called it “going on a low-dose of T,” which is clunkier, and it’s cool there’s a more straightforward verb now, even if it brings to mind people taking small amounts of acid for therapeutic purposes, more than anything else at this point. I’m sure that’ll change over time.
I too, had (have) a list of things I do and do not want from testosterone. Most of those things have worked out for me, even in the long term, which is mostly based in genetics, but I still feel like I lucked out. (It can feel like a crap-shoot, especially when you want some, but not all, of the effects that testosterone may cause.) I haven’t sprouted that beard that I never wanted. I gained a more masculine body structure. I still have smooth skin. It’s helped my libido. Also my voice is lower, my disposition shifted for the better, it was a real game changer in many ways. It helped me grow into myself, for sure.
Testosterone is a controlled substance, which definitely means you need a prescription for it. My journey to actually getting the stuff was bumpy. Initially I went through a primary care physician who I found to be smarmy. I put up with him so I could keep getting my prescription until I decided I could do better. My next physician was hesitant and I really had to advocate for myself super hard. She conceded for a while but ultimately referred me to an endocrinologist. The endo wasn’t great either. I hoarded it as much as I could so that I was not beholden to medical professionals, and so I had the freedom to start and stop when I wanted to, as opposed to when I could get access. I still do this. It’s not recommended, but anyone who knows me probably wouldn’t be surprised.
Things have improved vastly in some regions of the US, but of course not everywhere. Many Planned Parenthoods now offer gender affirming care and hormone replacement therapy on an informed consent model. Generally it’s a matter of weeks, not months, to get in and get your prescription. I just did a cursory search, and, by region, here are just some of the places where this is possible: Southwest Florida, Southeast Pennsylvania, Washington and Northwest Idaho, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, all throughout Illinois, Western NY, Massachusetts, NYC, Reno Nevada, one tiny town in Arkansas. Some of these places are not surprising. Others are. What makes a specific Planned Parenthood offer HRT or not?!! One day, eventually, I think they all will.
If anyone has any specific information about providers or options in the NY / NJ area, please leave a comment. Hope this helps, and good luck!
I like to keep tabs on when I go on and off testosterone, and I’m pretty far behind this time around. About a month ago, I went back to my stash of Androgel 1.62%. I had stockpiled it years ago, and at this point, I had 2 bottles left, which had expired 2 years ago. I figured I might as well use them up (they still seem effective, just not sure if it’s less effective than they once were) rather than throw them out. I’m doing 2 pumps per day; at that rate, each bottle lasts one month. So when I run out at the end of January, I’ll probably just switch over to injections – I also have testosterone cypionate 200 mg/ml stockpiled. Probably enough to last me 6 months.
I’m doing this without going to an endocrinologist, physician, or through Planned Parenthood or some other type of clinic. I just don’t think that I need to. I think that I will be on testosterone short term, again, and by the time I’m back off it, seeing a medical professional would have barely been worth it. I kind of think I might cycle on T for 6 months / off T 6 months, back on, back off, for a while. And I’ll have to go back at some point to get more, so I can be monitored again at that point.
It seems to be a larger trend that as time goes on, the decisions are more in the patient’s hands anyway, and access is much improved. More and more Planned Parenthoods are offering HRT, for example, through an informed consent model, and you can get started the same day that you made your appointment. This is amazing! No more blood work, no lying about your gender identity to make sure you’re going to get your prescription, no waiting for months for the initial appointment and then weeks after that appointment for the prescription. Next time I need some, I’m just going to do this.
While I was off of testosterone, some stuff changed. The best thing that happened was that I gained a lot of nerve sensation back, in my chest. I am beyond thrilled by this! I assumed that at the point I was at (3 years since top surgery), healing had plateaued, and that was all I was gonna get. After a few months off T though, things started changing pretty drastically. Areas that were numb started to get back more feeling. Areas that were painful if I touched too roughly were no longer painful. I would even go as far as to say that erotic sensation has started to return, slightly. Things still aren’t the way they were, but it’s a huge improvement, especially since I had given up!
Oh also! My receding hairline had been worrisome – it was a big factor in my decision to go off T last spring. I imagined it would just halt the hair loss, but in fact, hairs started growing back in the area I assumed was now “bald”!! I’m talking about my temples – little hairs grew back in! I didn’t even know that could happen. Super psyched by that!
Even though these are huge pluses, things had gotten off balance again, and by going back on T, I feel more balanced (until I’m not, again… I know it’ll happen.) The weather was getting colder, and I just felt too cold. The joints in my hands and arms ached. Now that I’m a month in, pain, gone! The biggest reason for the shift, though, is just much more nebulous. Somehow I was being pegged as female by strangers again. I have no idea why: it’s not like my voice or face shape changed back! It must be an aura or a smell or like, pheromones or something. Or maybe a way of carrying myself? Whatever it was, it wasn’t sitting right. And I’m feeling good with that decision.
Will check back in when I’m not good with it, again. Probably within a few months, if the past is any indication of the future…
So I’ve been blogging for a while now, and I haven’t said a whole lot about my spouse, basically out of respect for their privacy. But they actually have a lot to say! Here’s just a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes:
Over the last 6 years that Kameron has been recording his gender transition journey, I have always appeared in his writing as the supportive spouse. That’s a role I have been happy to fill. Happy to be part of a couple t hat goes against the standard narrative of couples perceived as “same-sex” who split when one comes out as transmasculine/trans male. I never felt that Kameron’s transition challenged my sexual orientation—I am that rare non-binary unicorn who discovers their identity all at once, albeit belatedly. I never thought I was a lesbian, if anything other people read me as asexual. As I came into my own queer sexuality and genderqueer identity, I was falling for a pansexual gender non-conforming guy (I have no idea how he would define himself, this is how I experienced him). I embraced the po-mo complexity of my attraction to his particular queer blend of femininity and masculinity.
For me, being genderqueer gave me permission to play with my gender presentation. I had fun thrifting to build a wardrobe that reflected the spectrum of my gender expression—t-shirts from the boys section, day-glo green femme sweaters, bright blue doc marten boots, mini-skirts, baggy pants and flannel shirts. I felt more confident taking up space, and attracting the attention of other gender non-conforming queer people. But once I found myself romantically involved with someone (before Kameron), my partner assumed that I was “the more feminine one.” I felt pressured to present more femininely to heighten their tenuous, new expression of masculinity.
Now when I look back at the past 13 years of my life, I question whether I presented femininely because I internalized that pressure and carried it forward into my relationship with Kameron. Was this shift an unconscious assimilation to ease moving through the world? Or did I truly want to grow my hair out, wear skirts/dresses, and feel included in feminist spaces?! What a mindfuck! Being genderfluid makes life hella complicated. I have identified as a genderqueer femme, but that feels too limiting now. My gender expression has shifted again in the last 3 years toward a more masculine presentation. I feel more comfortable with how others see me now but I am sure that I am still perceived as a queer woman. The pendulum has simply swayed from femme to butch.
While Kameron’s transition didn’t threaten my sexual orientation, I did find myself at times feeling like I was getting left behind. I started to have strange pangs of jealousy—I had a much larger chest and have felt dysphoric about it since it first developed, but I wasn’t the one getting top surgery. I was the one sitting in a waiting room and I was the one keeping track of how much blood was accumulating in his drains, taking time off to help him with early recovery. Where were these ugly resentments coming from? I was so dissociated from my feelings and my body that it took years of watching Kameron’s transition unfold for me to start exploring my gender identity more.
It’s funny that we didn’t talk much about our gender identities with each other, I cocooned myself a bit and started parsing out what felt good and what didn’t. “She” was icky, so I asked Kameron, some close friends & family members, and co-workers to start using “they/them/theirs” for me. Ah, a sigh of relief. Then more discomfort would surface, I couldn’t wear bras anymore, not even sports bras. I threw them all away and got advice from Kameron
on various binder options. Another sigh of relief. Then a sudden surge of agitation when a friend starting dating someone with my given name. I had already been obsessively browsing Celtic baby name websites but now I felt an urgency to rename myself. Overall, I feel more comfortable with my gender now, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. I have started low-dose testosterone (shout out to Planned Parenthood for using an informed consent model) and am scheduling a top surgery consult soon. I am hoping that these steps will help alleviate my dysphoria, as it feels ever present now that I have stopped compartmentalizing it. These flooding feelings has been difficult to manage, and I’m currently battling a flare up of past restrictive eating habits.
For the longest time I couldn’t bear the attention of physically and socially transitioning. And I didn’t feel trans enough. I questioned why I had to do the emotional labor of explicitly coming out to be seen as non-binary. This has been an ongoing test of my tolerance for vulnerability. I need to be my authentic self for me, but the acknowledgement of others is overwhelming. I am a private person, I don’t have a blog, I keep a written journal. I guard my inner world with ferociousness and have a hard time trusting others. So far most people have been supportive and reached out to let me know so, but others have quietly noted signifiers (like changing my name on social media accounts) without comment. While the attention is exhausting (mostly due to my anxiety in these interactions), the silence of others is more painful. These silences have spurred me to have more in-depth conversations with those who do reach out, to push shame away and invite friends in.
It’s that time of year again! Yep, I know I’m way behind schedule with the pride festivities: I mention this every year, but yea, this really is when my mid-sized city celebrates pride, far behind the rest!
I ended up having a blast. Generally, during the days and weeks leading up to pride, I tend to think, dang, not again! What am I gonna wear? What am I gonna do? Maybe it’d be better all around if we were on vacation, and absent all together. So, yea, there’s some angst there. But as soon as I get into it, I’m IN IT!!
As far as the parade, we did something new and different – we marched with a group called “Positive Force,” which is a queer gym Caitlin (my spouse) has been training at. We didn’t know who would be there or what the group would be doing exactly, so we planned our outfits independently, on our own. I decided to go shirtless!
OK, so this is kinda a big deal. At the time I got top surgery, 3 years ago, I was known to say, “I’d never go shirtless in public though.” I’m sure if I looked through my archives, I could find multiple times where I wrote, specifically, that. BUT! Since then, I’ve changed my mind and gone shirtless a handful of times. Not right away. It took over a year; the first couple of times were when I was abroad,, visiting my brother in Turkey. I did it first in the Black Sea while my brother was preoccupied with getting a locksmith to help us with the waterlogged electronic key to the rental car, deciding that I was so far from home and the people I know so well and it’s exciting, and here I go! I did it again, on that trip, when my brother brought us to a Turkish bath, segregated by genders. I was nervous, but it all turned out fine.
I did it again a year later, at a state park all by myself with no one in sight. But also at another state park filled with people, and it was pretty thrilling. And then again this summer, at a hotel pool in Massachusetts.
Which is all to say that deciding to go without a shirt (although I did have suspenders on, to somewhat cover my nipples, because I’m not quite comfortable with them and still plan to get revisions eventually), seemed like a challenge I wanted to try. When we got down there, I was pleased to see 3 trans-masculine acquaintances already ready to go without shirts on. And a bunch of other acquaintances too; it seems like we picked the right group! It was us plus a yoga studio, and we handed out flyers and candy and chanted, on-and-off, “All bodies, hott bodies.”
Saw a bunch of people that we knew, including my mom and her best childhood friend. Another friend was camped out at the protesters’ corner, holding a sign that said, “My boyfriend is cute when he’s grumpy,” with an arrow pointing right at a protester. We got a good laugh out of that.
Then we just relaxed for the rest of the day. Watched Tales of the City (the new one, and now we’re making our way through the old one.)
The next day, Caitlin and I co-hosted an LGBTQIA+ themed electronic music show. That was a lot of fun. And then I stayed for another hour for the next radio show, in which the host and I read the piece I have published in an anthology, plus just goofed around.