I’m nearing my third year on testosterone, and although I could say “three years have gone by so fast!”, it wouldn’t be true. I feel like I’ve lived a whole lifetime since starting T — not necessarily because of transition-related reasons, but because I’m 21 years old and still growing at a really intense pace.
But I’d like to summarize –real quick– what’s been going on with my body. My first year on T was the Year of Most Changes: my voice dropped, most of my body fat redistributed, my face got more angular, and so on. The second year was the Year of the Beard; at that point I had stopped paying attention to physical changes until I suddenly realized that I could grow a decent beard (and I never shaved again).
And this third year, apparently, is the Year of MOAR HAIR. I already had hair everywhere –even pre-T– but now it seems to be thickening in odd places (like my wrists) and spreading even further across my stomach. And, to my great joy, my beard seems to continue to fill in, although I did accept it in its previous sparse, patchy glory. All of this is actually too slow to observe; I only noticed because I gradually had to increase the frequency of my beard-trimming to once a week instead of once a month.
It’s true what they say, then — testosterone continues to change your body even a few years after starting. I’m not sure, though, if my changes are still specifically transition-related or if it’s all part of growing older in a testosterone-fueled body (cisgender men continue to get hairier way beyond puberty). Whichever it is, I’m really enjoying growing into my body and love it more every day =)
This weekend, for the first time, I went on a date with a guy who didn’t know I was trans. We met on facebook –where we had several trans and trans-friendly friends in common– and he was super cool about trans issues, but I wanted to meet in person before telling him. In previous flirting situations I had disclosed my trans status early on and it ended up being a conversation-stopper, so I was curious about this new strategy. (Besides, I wasn’t sure yet if I was super interested.)
We had dinner and then talked for hours. In person I wasn’t really attracted to him, but I decided to disclose anyway to see how he’d react. I said, “I didn’t always live as male”, which was kind of ambiguous, so then I clarified “I’m a trans man like so-and-so”. He didn’t seem too shocked, although he did stare harder at me for the rest of the conversation. I went on to say, “I thought I should tell you because I know it changes things.” He answered, “It doesn’t change anything for me,” and after a pause, “You’re really cute.”
It was a super positive experience, and it’s too bad I’m not into this guy. I was doubtful about this disclosure-after-meeting strategy because I thought men might feel disappointed: they might still find me attractive after finding out –they might me despite being trans– but I wouldn’t be what they’d expected. I reckoned that if guys knew about my trans status early on and they still wanted to meet me, I’d be sure that they liked the whole package (which is nicer than being liked despite this or that).
But this guy really took it in stride; if anything, he seemed more interested afterwards. I know that not everyone will react this way (some people have a hard time with unexpected surprises of any kind) but it was a huge confidence boost. I feel like more and more doors are opening for me in the dating world; or rather, they were always unlocked but I had never dared to try them.
I’m really impressed with this PSA. It’s about a trans man who hooks up with a cis (non-trans) man and is pressured into having unprotected sex: the cis dude hints that he wouldn’t be able to “keep it up” with a condom because he’s not used to trans bodies. Actually, the PSA title translates to “I won’t wear one for you”. (It’s in French, but you can choose English or French captioning.)
Thankfully, I’ve never been in this situation, but I really empathize with the main character’s decisions. The cis guy makes him feel inadequate because of his body –making it seem like he’s doing him a favor by sleeping with him– and the trans guy allows him to drop the condom as a way of “making it up” to him. It’s super tragic, really: the cis man makes the trans man feel lesser-than, undesirable and unworthy of respect. But it doesn’t seem uncommon; there’s actually a medical study about this same subject called “There’s No Pamphlet for the Kind of Sex I Have: HIV-Related Risk Factors and Protective Behaviors Among Transgender Men Who Have Sex with Non-Transgender Men”.
I’ve been watching this video over and over because it’s so rare to see my own issues represented in any kind of media. Like I’ve said, I’ve never been in this scenario, but I do constantly navigate cis/trans power dynamics and I really feel the need for more stories about gay or queer trans men which reflect these kind of problems. I’m fascinated by how strongly I relate to the main character in this PSA; also, I love how his body is celebrated in the surreal dream/dance scene.
If anyone knows about any media (videos, short stories, poems) about gay trans men, please share in the comments! I recommend the German movie Romeos, which is a love story between two men, one trans and one cis.
One of my favorite webcomics is “What’s Normal Anyway?“, by Morgan Boecher, about a really sweet trans dude. The latest one is really appropriate for this point in my life:
In my last posts I’ve mentioned this guy, H., who I’m sort of dating. He’s absolutely amazing and I can’t believe he’s interested in me. He’s beautiful and kind; a brilliant scholar and a human rights activist. This should be a good thing, but he’s so great that, often, I can’t fathom why he’d want to spend time with me. My self-esteem is usually okay, but it keeps faltering when I think about him, and I think part of it is internalized transphobia.
My self-doubts aren’t only about being trans, of course. I can’t help comparing myself to him and I obviously don’t measure up: he has already changed the world through his work –this is not an exaggeration– while my biggest accomplishments are getting good grades and staying alive. Oh, and impromptu singing/dancing performances in public spaces.
But a large part of my insecurity does stem from being trans. Surprisingly, it isn’t only about my body: somehow, I’ve discovered entirely new things to be insecure about! (My body is part of it, though. It doesn’t make sense because I like my body, and so does H, but I can’t help feeling that I’m letting him down.)
I’ve always been proud about my past and felt glad that it led me towards feminism, the trans community and friendships with lesbians. I still am, but it’s glaringly obvious that my place in the world is very different from cis gays like H. We belong to the same community, but we experience it in diverging ways. I don’t know if I’ll ever be accepted as “one of the fags” –people might always see me as just trans– and my solidarity is strongest towards dykes and trans folks. And even beyond the community, in our everyday lives, being trans makes me different: I inevitably have endo or gyno appointments, endless name-change paperwork, trans guy meetings…
And that’s okay, but sometimes it feels like I fall short, you know? I can’t help thinking: here’s this guy who could choose from a large selection of men, so why would he settle for an anonymous trans dude? If he could pick someone similar to him, why did he go for someone different? I know this reasoning is deeply transphobic and difference-phobic; I know we the trans people are not lesser than anyone, and that any relationship involves overcoming differences. So I’m working hard to remind myself. And I’m trying to relax and enjoy being with H, because –whatever my worries– he does seem to like me.
I’m not proud that the Vatican chose an Argentinean Pope. Besides being complicit with the last military government, Jorge Bergoglio –Francis I– is particularly homophobic.
That’s precisely why I laughed so hard when my lover, H., reminded me about something. H lives right by a Catholic church, and one Sunday morning I awoke in his house to the sound of church bells and a loudspeaker making an announcement. I tried to go back to sleep but the loudspeaker kept repeating its message every ten minutes, so eventually I gave up and paid attention to what it was saying: as it turned out, Bergoglio was visiting the church to say some special kind of Mass. Bergoglio is infamous in Argentina among anyone who supports gay rights, or women’s rights, or any kind of human rights, so H and I joked about attending Mass to get his blessing.
It’s a silly story, but I find it amusing that my closest encounter with the new Pope happened while I was in bed with a gay man, under a huge rainbow flag pinned to the wall, in an all-homo household.
I recently met this man through mutual friends –let’s call him H– and we’ve already seen each other a couple of times. I still have no idea where this is going to lead, but I like him and he makes me feel really good. Part of it, of course, is that he makes me feel desirable, attractive and respected, but partly it’s because he makes me feel like a gay man.
This is confusing for me because it’s been a while since I’ve needed any sort of affirmation of my gender. Actually, I’ve always gotten uncomfortable when someone goes out of their way to prove they see me as a man; I’ve never even identified completely with the idea of manhood. And I used to scoff at phrases like “he/she makes me feel like a man/woman” –when pronounced by anyone, trans or not– because I thought a person’s gender shouldn’t depend on anyone but themself.
I felt this kind of validation for the first time when I went to a rather seedy gay establishment with several queer trans guys. Lots of men checked us out and even approached some of us, and it felt amazing because (in the words of a friend) “we stopped being seen as trans and began to be seen as hunks”. I didn’t engage with anyone there, but I left feeling super empowered, like I finally belonged. Later on, I made out with a friend and I was completely floored by the way our beards and leg hair rubbed together, and by the way he ran his fingernails across my body, which was so different from the light touch I had experienced with girls.
Spending time with H has been especially incredible because he’s always known I was trans, but it hasn’t been an issue. We’ve both talked about our pasts, including my transition, and he has seen me naked, but he’s never made me feel different. Partly it’s because he’s amazing, but I think my attitude helps, too: I’ve managed to embrace my body and history so my comfort kind of rubs off on others.
I finally feel like a gay man not only in theory, but in practice. I don’t really care about being A Man or not, but being a Gay Man –and being with gay men– feels just right. I love the way H caresses my beard and body hair, the way he holds onto my hand or shoulder on the street despite the occasional insult hurled against us, and the weight of his large hand on my back as we drift into sleep. I am thrilled by the idea of being someone’s gay lover, although I don’t want to get my hopes up because he’s too perfect to be true.
But I’m also scared by how good he makes me feel because it could end at any moment. I guess love is always like that, though, and I just have the extra fear of feeling excluded from the gay world once again (which is silly because there will always be more men who are into me, like I wrote last week). I suppose cis gays feel this too, especially if they don’t resemble the “ideal” gay man, although they mostly don’t have a history of gender denial to throw into the mix.
I know I’m not alone in my feelings because they’re echoed in an article called “There’s No Pamphlet for the Kind of Sex I Have: HIV-Related Risk Factors and Protective Behaviors Among Transgender Men Who Have Sex with Non-Transgender Men”:
“All of the participants reflected on the sense of validation that having sex with a non-trans man could provide. Many suggested that this was particularly powerful for trans men in their early years of transition and that being sexual with a gay non-trans man could feel like the “ultimate affirmation” of one’s manhood. This led many participants to ponder the risks that they, and other trans men, were willing to take to receive this sense of affirmation.”
The risk-taking doesn’t resonate with me because I’m not willing to have unsafe sex (or even have safe sex with people I’m not attracted to), but many of the participants’ quotes are spot-on. It’s a very good read and it’s gotten me interested in sexual health among queer trans men (possibly something to work on this year?).
I wish us all a great 2013, with love, strength and energy to tackle our dreams.