I actually wrote this some time ago. Then my life caught fire and then… This stayed a very nearly complete draft for some weeks. Well, here it is! A brief account of FTM transitioning.
Bedi suggested, why don’t I write a post about being trans? It’s been a little over a year since I began masculinising hormone therapy, and it can be quite difficult for people to find information about the particular realities of being trans masculine.
Gender, including gender transition, encompasses shifting, multifarious social and medical aspects which both act in tandem, and influence each other. Many people from the “outside looking in”, when it comes to trans matters, focus solely on the “medical” aspect in total isolation—“So when are you gonna have the surgery?” More often than not, they see transition as simply a lever that goes from “male” to “female”, and all one has to do is pull it.
This is a very sad and limited view of any facet of human experience. Think about growing up. Was that simply a lever from infant to octogenarian? How about relationships? Single to partnered? Happiness, joy, sorrow, fitness, disability, grief, everything you’ve ever experienced—were they black and white still images, or were they a series of varicoloured photographs, each unique and particular to that point of time, yet each connected to each other in complicated, living sequences that weren’t just A to B?
Finding a name is difficult. I don’t know how most parents in contemporary societies come up with baby names. Historically, in Mediaeval Christian Europe, children were named some days or weeks after birth, and in some instances by the godparents. The Ancient Romans had three names, which included the personal name chosen by the child’s parents eight or nine days after birth (of which there were few and were thus all very common), a clan surname that indicated lineage (which was a problem as many people in an area would be ultimately descended from a common ancestor, so dozens of “Marcus Fabiuses” would be running around in the the same locality), and an additional personal name bestowed later in life for notable events or characteristics.
The Ainu, the native people of Japan, first give their children repugnant names to dissuade malevolent spirits from touching the child, then give them actual meaningful names after some years, which can reflect natural surroundings, personal qualities of the child, or the parents’ own hopes.
In Czechia today, given names that are not in the official list of approved names (there is a book: What Is Your Child Going to Be Called?) must be approved by a special office in Prague that charges a service fee. If you transition in Czechia, it is mandatory to assume one of a handful of approved gender neutral names for a year, so if that gender neutral name is not the one who actually want people to call you, you will have to undertake yet another name change process after that year. (And that is just the names—Czechia forces people to also sterilise themselves and divorce from their partners if they wish to change their legal gender markers.)
Let’s say you’ve finally found yourself become a man. Everyone around you expects “manly” things of you, whatever that means, and you probably have your own expectations as well. You are also responsible for choosing your name, and the people around you probably also expect a “proper”, manly name. What will you be called from now on? Do you simply add an O to the end of your old name to masculinise it? Do you name yourself after a figure you admire? A beast that embodies qualities you admire, perhaps? Have you accomplished something notable—or is there something great you seek to accomplish? Is there a tradition you wish to follow, or will you choose a name completely atypical to your culture?
“Hi, my name is Jeff.”
What many people don’t realise is that hormone therapy itself is a key diagnostic tool. After your first subefficacious dose, you will know immediately, “Yes, this is right,” or “No, this doesn’t do anything for me.” Nothing will have changed—you will not instantly sprout a beard, nor experience any long-term effects. Your body will have remained the same. But your brain will be swimming in those hormones, necessary hormones, and you’ll feel like a goddamn super saiyan with tiddies when you pass by the mirror, and flex your scrawny man(!) muscles, instead of seeing some god-awful chimera monster thing that should be set alight for its utter deformity.
For once in your life you’ll feel the heavy torpor that’s accompanied you since pubescence lift, a chronic sense of shittiness that you didn’t know was even there, and you’ll wonder to yourself if cisgender people feel clear-headed and happy all the time. (They don’t—what the hell is wrong with them?) You’ll think faster, move faster, look faster, speak faster—all from this one dose. Automatically, unconsciously, you’ll speak in a lower pitch, even though your vocal chords have not changed at all. Even your ovaries will feel manly. “Cosmetic” changes? Far from! It’s like oil for a machine, you will function better, and for once in your life you won’t feel like bloody killing yourself.
Testosterone treatment comes in a variety of forms. Topical gels are an option, but must be applied daily and your applied area must not touch other people, children and women in particular. Injections are the most common and convenient treatment, and a subcutaneous injection is just as effective (and less painful) than an intramuscular injection. Different formulas release testosterone at different rates: testosterone undecanoate can be injected once every three months, whilst testosterone cypionate is injected two or more times a month. Either way, you start with lower doses, so as to not shock your body with a massive influx of testosterone, then you gradually increase to reach the levels of the typical adult male.
You decide your dosage and scheduling yourself. Some people function on weekly injections of 50 mg, and others need lower doses more frequently, such as every four or five days, to prevent lows as the end of the week approaches. If you are non-binary you will probably need microdoses instead of the higher standard doses, and/or administer them less frequently. Some non-binary people opt to bring their hormone therapy to a close if they’ve feel they’ve reached the necessary masculinisation for their body.
Shout-out to “Rosario” for being that one weird Spanish name that ends in an O and is for girls
I had cut out processed sugars from my diet for a couple of years prior to hormone therapy. In the first few weeks of testosterone? I ate more white chocolate in ten days than I do in an entire year.
Anyone who seriously exercises is familiar with the aching hunger for protein in their muscles, should they deprive themselves of adequate nutrition. As you begin male puberty, your body will be scrambling to build testosterone receptors everywhere, especially in your brain. You’ll feel in your brain a sugar craving the first few months of hormone therapy, especially as you increase your dosage.
You’ll sleep quite a bit, and your voice will begin to crack. If you’re like me, your menstruation will cease immediately. I have several pairs of heavy absorbent shorts from Thinx as I bleed like the Niagara Falls, and on the first (subefficaceous!) dose my body responded with, “Right so we’re not doing that anymore.” Others will not be so lucky. It will take longer for your menstruation to cease, or for some, it will never cease.
Everyone knows how randy teenage boys are, but my god, it’s a living hell, it’s like being chained to a sex-crazed lunatic, it’s wanting to shield your eyes from anything vaguely suggestive lest you rush home to masturbate furiously to a curvy table lamp three or four times. It’s looking at porn morning and night, and wanting to fuck everything in sight. It’s going to the gym and listening to your lust-addled brain pleading for every sweat-sleeked stud on the gym floor to pin you to the floor, pumping furiously into you. It’s
Though they may be underestimated, everyone expects the libido changes. Something less discussed is the potential changes in attraction. Not just sexual attraction—all attraction. Romantic, platonic, aesthetic, and sexual. On the whole, I used to be more attracted to femininity, in all four spheres. Now my attraction to femininity is solely sexual and aesthetic, I have no interest in dating or even befriending women. Some have had the awkward experience of being partnered with a woman as a lesbian, then finding themselves a gay man. On the other side, my attraction to masculinity has increased greatly in all four spheres, though interestingly, I still find myself more easily sexually aroused by the sight of bimbos than himbos.
Your clitoris will gradually and noticeably enlarge in both girth and length. Some report by up to 10 cm! An increase in 3 cm is the average. And perhaps more than anyone, you’ll come to truly appreciate the function of the foreskin, and high-quality underwear. As your clitoris extends past its hood it will become very easy to irritate it with scratchy clothing. It’ll be time to shell out on the Garçon Models, or if you’re really gay, (and kind of bourgie,) the Versaces. You’ll also begin to wake up with painful morning wood. Fun.
It’s common to experience regular uterine cramping in conjunction with your testosterone doses, often the day following. Engaging in regular uterine stretches (yes, you can stretch your uterus) will decrease and even immediately relieve this pain. I just recline and try to undulate my womb: pull it in, raise it, push it out, bring it low, and pull it in again, repeating. I’ve gotten good enough to do this standing, and for me doing these stretches provides immediate and sometimes complete pain relief. A few people are not as fortunate, and must have a hysterectomy to treat the pain.
I blew two hundred dollars on International Jock after my clit started enlarging. I won’t hide it. I will never have to buy underwear again, unless the testosterone turns my dick into a massive horse cock.
One last thing: if you wish to have vaginal sex, then it’ll be very important for you to keep engaging in vaginal penetration. On testosterone, the pH of your vagina will change to more acidic, and it will produce less lubrication throughout the day, so if neglected, your tissues will dry out and atrophy, making it painful and risky to engage in vaginal penetration. Masturbation throughout the week will keep your body producing adequate amounts of lubricant throughout the day. Pharmaceutical treatments include intravaginal insertion of prasterone and topical local oestrogen, neither of which will impede your masculinisation. Actually, thanks to the increased muscle mass brought on by testosterone, you’ll be able to clamp down tighter than ever before. I am serious! Boy pussy can strangle. Just ask my partners.
Did you know men can’t feel their hands? The difference in skin thickness is amazing, you’ll feel your cheeks and palms roughen without having changed anything about your physical routine, and you’ll understand that men probably do need their own skincare treatments, though most of what’s sold is trash. Also, did you know men have naturally darker skin? I work overnight. I don’t see the sun. I don’t even know what the sun looks like anymore. In a month of HRT, I gained one tanning level’s worth in Animal Crossing.
And did you know men grow hair in strange places? They have hairy thighs, and for some reason hairy butts, and things called sideburns in addition to the beard that you may or may not grow, depending on whether you’ve won the genetic lottery. You’ll find hair above and below your navel, and if you’re unfortunate, back hair before your chest hair—assuming you get any of the latter.
Ansel: Look. You’re going to look like your dad, OK? Your dad, your uncle, your brother, whatever.
Tolly: Ansel, get out of here…
Ansel: The gender euphoria will level off as you realize, “I’m becoming my father—”
Tolly: Get out of here you devil!
Ansel: “But at least I’m a hot version of my father—”
…The first year of puberty is always the oiliest, and like with many teenagers, you may unfortunately find prescription treatment of acne to be necessary. Topical tretinoin and the stronger isotretinoin are the gold standards for acne treatment. My endocrinologist finds that their patients only need one course of treatment, usually a year, of these medications; they do not have to take them over the rest of their lifetime.
Ansel: …He’s like a medieval torture device—
Nova: Yes, true.
Trans femmes notice the opposite after they begin spironolactone and oestrogen therapy: lighter, thinner skin that is more sensitive to tactile and temperature stimuli. The decreased melanin may even be expressed as changes in eye colour.
The male metabolism and muscle growth? Enjoy it. You’ll find it significantly easier to cut fat and build muscle than before testosterone therapy, even with no other changes to nutrition, exercise, and routine! It feels like cheating, and it’ll make you wonder how it’s possible for a man to get fat in the first place. In all honesty, what are you guys doing? I’m losing fat without trying. Haah! Queerly, this might make it more difficult to inject your testosterone. If you’ve lost all the chub around your navel area—Ansel, stop weeping—, try injecting around your thigh. Pinch an inch of skin if necessary, then insert the needle.
Oh, yes. Emotions. Teenagers are known for being tempestuous in that regard, yes? And teenage boys are embarrassingly loud, and you’ll find yourself the same way and then shrinking in embarrassment thereafter—“Why did I say that? And why did I say that so loudly? How come I don’t think before I speak anymore? Am I obnoxious—” No, it’s not just you being horribly awkward. It’s the male puberty. Enjoy embarrassing yourself in ways that you’re not used to. And as for the emotions—most trans mascs report feeling more hot-tempered and quick to anger when they start testosterone therapy, but I’ve found myself to be more prone to weeping à la Polnareff. Just all-around sobbing. In joy, anger, sympathy, passion, doting adoration, confusion, accomplishment—just all the time. You can ask Ansel.
Ansel: [deep sigh]
Many suggest the outer thighs as an alternative injection site if you don’t have the “love handles”. I never understood that. Do people have fatty outer thighs? I don’t understand. The fatty part of my thighs is on the inside, outside I have boulder-hard Chun-Li muscles—no really! What kinds of legs do people have?! Don’t ask me to look at my friends! None of us ever skip leg day, I don’t understand—
Be whoever you need to be to live. Much has been made of “fragile masculinity”—of men so insecure of their own value, strength, and agency, that they disavow anything that even hints of the “feminine” or “weak”.
Since I started testosterone therapy, I have worn feminine clothes more frequently than ever in my life. I am a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure character. I’m campy and insufferable—in a campy way. I’m wearing crop tops and skirts and dresses and I can slay far more savagely than most straight cis women. My eyeliner game is on point and I know how to make colour my bitch. I started testosterone, I have masculinised, and I look good in and out of drag. Maybe all those men who don’t want to be seen anywhere near the colour pink should take some testosterone injections themselves?
Perhaps you are non-binary and begin testosterone therapy with the intention of microdosing, then find out that you need 40 mg of testosterone every five days, instead of 15 mg every eight days to feel like yourself. Maybe now you feel like an “impostor”, for finding out that you are more masculine than you realised. Do not. You are not an impostor.
You’re a bad bitch, hunty. You are a trans masc non-binary beast and you are not going to skip leg day like all those straight cis men because eww why none of them have asses calves or thighs?! What on earth is wrong with the cis hets? Why are they keeping their gender euphoria to themselves and not exercising their lower halves?! [weeps]