The time has finally arrived. It’s been six months since I started injecting testosterone.
I began life with two X-chromosomes and a perfectly anatomically complete and functioning female body, but have felt persistently for as long as I can remember having even a vague conception of my gender identity, that my body and the person I am inside are mis-matched. I have written before, rather extensively in as simplistic language as I can, on this very issue. I called it Genus because in the German language, of which I am a fan, gender as an abstract concept distinguished from sexual anatomy and secondary sex characteristics (called Geschlecht) is referred to as Genus. And I rather like that distinction — that your body is just a collection of phenotypic qualities, and your gender is something different. Something higher up in the order of taxonomy. An aspect of your individual identity that can be shared by a collective of people who don’t necessarily share your phenotypic qualities. That’s how I look at gender, anyway, and I like to think that this choice within the German language is a reflection of that manner of thinking, too.
So it’s been six months since I started to inject testosterone into my legs on a weekly basis, and I feel like this is a milestone for me, towards achieving my dream of becoming who I’ve always felt I should have been. A milestone of living more authentically. But before assumptions are made about what or who I have always dreamed of being, it is not a man. I do not identify as a transman, transguy, or with a binary gender identity in any manner at all. I am not injecting testosterone in order to erase the person I once was — in fact, my two X-chromosomes will determine to what extent weekly testosterone injections will or will not masculinize my body.
The person I’ve always dreamed of being is something in between man and woman, while being not-quite-either, and certainly not both simultaneously. Masculine, but not male-identifying or chauvinist about masculinity. Androgynous, or gender-fucking by virtue of possessing traits that vaguely betray my masculinity by revealing who I once was. Of course, at 7 years old, I didn’t have language like this, and neither did anyone else. I just had the distinct fear that something had been done to alter my body to make it look more like a female, but that ultimately everyone would figure it out when I failed to fulfill femininity. That was a terrifying ordeal, and those feelings persisted well into my adulthood. I would occasionally drop a gender-bomb in private, which was most frequently answered by “Well everyone goes through a phase where they wonder what it’s like to be born different.” Or uncomfortable silence. In either case, the effect was the same. I didn’t speak about it for at least a year at a time, and never again with the same person.
Suffice to say that it was emotionally overwhelming to finally hear about a low-barrier clinic for trans* patients who are seeking help to transition with hormones and/or surgery. Having heard years of horror stories about gate-keeping, I was terrified that I would have to keep being dishonest about who I am, just to access hormones. It was a great relief to hear that access requirements have eased up, and I don’t have to lie about my non-binary gender identity, even in the inevitable (also: dreaded) psych consult I will have to endure in order to access the surgical removal of my reproductive organs (which I have persistently felt, never should have been there in the first place, once I realized that they were, in fact, actually there).
I have never been so emotionally consistent and calm overall, in my entire life, as in the past six months. When I first started injecting, I experienced sexual dreams about the person I am becoming, rather than the person I have felt confined as, and these were the first sexual dreams I’ve ever had in my life that were not characterized by violence, blatant wide-eyed terror, paralysing anxiety, or intense sexual feelings about a sequence of events that makes my waking skin crawl. I simply felt a sense of inner peace as my hands explored a differently shaped body with new textures, folds, and fleshiness in my skin, from head to toe. And sure enough, some of those attributes are becoming a permanent reality.
A lot of my body hair has become coarser, and one at a time, all those slightly coarser hairs on my body are becoming darker. One of my trans guy friends referred to this as growing “hair pants” and a “hair shirt”. Cue instant rimshot: I said I think the word you’re looking for is “hirsuit”, or, “hairsuit” if you prefer. The first dark hair on my upper leg arrived rather mysteriously around two weeks ago, and the first dark hair on my arm seems to have appeared overnight about a week ago. I’ve also been growing the hair on my head since I started injecting testosterone, and unlike the last two times, it’s not growing in curly — I am grateful for the relatively straight hair, this time around. I also think I have a few more coarse hairs in my “hair down there”, which is not entirely unwelcome. And my facial hair is beginning to grow a little longer, a little darker, and little thicker, in phases and very slowly.
My voice has also become coarser and significantly deeper. I’m not well-educated in music theory, but I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the equivalent of an entire octave. At least. When I recently re-recorded my voicemail message, I was quite astounded at how differently I sound. It’s no wonder the people who ask for me by my birth name ask me two or three times. I have little doubt that to people who don’t know me face-to-face, I sound indistinguishable from who they imagine is my brother or my male flatmate playing some sort of a prank. That is, until I confirm virtually all identifying personal information for security purposes. This is starting to become kind of fun.
I am no longer experiencing a feminine cycle, which means that I am (hopefully) not going to be flattened any more by my ovarian cysts. All physical traces of it vanished within the first four weeks, when all the ways this part of my body cleans itself and maintains a sense of order waned until it just felt like occasional perspiration in the Bermuda Triangle. I can finally wear pants without underwear, without fear of whether this behaviour will be detectable to observers, or whether I will have to pre-soak my pants that night before washing them. I may actually finally purchase the first pair of white underwear I have owned since the age of 14. Possibly very soon.
My entire approach to sexuality has changed in the last six months as well. I no longer experience a plateau phase during self-gratification, for instance. When I experience climax now, it’s often extremely intense (it can quite literally take my breath away), and I very rapidly lose the ability to experience any gratification at all thereafter. I suddenly understand from first-hand (no pun intended when I started writing that) experience, why my male-bodied partners go into such a completely different head space after they climax. However, what I understand even less now, is why all they ever seemed to want was to get there as fast as possible.
In the first three or four months, I experienced such rapid tissue growth in my primary erogenous zone, that I became sexually inaccessible even to myself. I felt constant sexual sensation that translated into an unrelenting itch in the presence of as little as a few hours’ hair growth. It wasn’t until I compared pictures I took at one and three months into my injections, that it occurred to me just how rapidly the tissue was growing. I believe I have still nearly doubled in size again (if not actually doubled) in the past three months. My only remaining genital piercing certainly has — I put an 8 G captive bead ring in it a few weeks ago, and I never once thought I would be able to say that until it was in there.
Changes I Can Live With
I have a lot of eczema and acne breaking out on my skin. All the time. I can live with it. It’s just that when it shows up on my neck of all places (the fucking front of my neck), that’s when it gets painful to deal with.
More and more lately, when I am injecting, it’s quite painful until I either twist the needle around or take it out and try a different spot entirely. It’s absolutely incredible how much a needle that’s just a half a millimeter thick can hurt.
Just like two years ago, when I spend a lot of time walking, my muscles grow quite rapidly and it becomes a wardrobe problem. The legs on my otherwise-accommodating skinny-fit jeans just aren’t so accommodating any more.
The consistency of my breast tissue has changed, but they are still able to take up the same amount of space. This is especially disappointing because I was using an oral contraceptive for just shy of two years, approximately ten years ago, which caused me to literally double in volume at the time. Most female-bodied persons who use oral contraceptive experience this same change in their body shape, but they also experience a reversal when they stop using oral contraceptive. I gained breast mass and never lost it when I stopped taking that pill every day. I anticipated that injecting testosterone would reverse that change at last, and this has not been the case. I have not decided definitively if I will pursue surgical removal of my breasts, but if I do, it will be on the condition that they don’t graft my nipples back on. I don’t know if any surgeon would ever comply with such a request (which I expect is probably a bit unusual), and thus, I might be refused access for that reason.
That’s about all there is to remark about, in terms of my experience of testosterone injections up to this point. I expect that, given my history of ovarian cysts and just how serious the problem was for me, they will be removed when I access a hysterectomy; and as a result, I will be injecting testosterone for the rest of my life. Compared to how I felt before, this is also something I can live with. Almost gleefully, for that matter.