Being on testosterone is like having a V-8 engine in a V-6 frame. I feel like I’m revving at higher speeds, which, being as it boosts metabolism, I guess I am. This has the unfortunate effect of boosting my already jacked-up levels of stress and anxiety. Here’s the dramatic backstory:
In January 2008 I decide to clamber into the diving bell and drop deep into my wakening consciousness. Reports from the depths indicated that this human might actually be male. I decide to investigate these reports with characteristic zeal and curiosity. These traits almost always impel me into waters I will have heretofore found murky, impenetrable, even terrifying.
I dive into this “I think I might be a man-thing.” Meantime, I’d made the decision, as an older lady, to go to college. I mean 47 aint even MILF-land anymore. It’s post-MILF. (Hey, I could’ve been a mother! Fine, I wasn’t even near that country; you get my picture, smartass.) I’m old and in
I’m starting full-time college, when the woman I’m pretty sure I want to spend the rest of my days with leaves me. Now, in her defense* her departure probably had nothing to do with my decision to go all trans-nova and such. But when one has committed to profound life changes with the implicit trust that one is supported by one’s partner…well shit. We’ve all been there – made the decision to go ftm and had our loved one dump us.
Anyhoo, so that’s happening. I’m literally waking up every morning thinking I’m going to have a heart attack and crying – nay, sobbing – at every mealtime, and this is before I start injecting the T. Fortunately, I’ve begun to connect with other transguys, and cling to them in what have become extremely choppy waters. I don’t know that I’ve met one guy who was in a relationship that wasn’t dumped when they decided to be themselves. I know that’s not unilaterally true – it’s just that the Universe put men in my life that I could relate to and draw strength from. The Universe is cool like that.
I begin gender therapy. It’s required: you must do 12 sessions of therapy in order to get your man papers** so you can get your hormones. In April my closest friend dies. In May my other dear friend gets gravely ill and I travel to be at what might be his death bed. I am fuckity fuck fucked UP.***
Buried beneath these successive heartbreaks, I’m also freaking out about becoming a man. I’m not sure I want to do this thing. Two months after being on T, I’m waking up going “what the fuck am I DOING!? I WANT TO BE A WOMAN!” This is unsettling.
In this place, I am completely alone. I meet people who are sympathetic, but no one is put in my path who has had this experience. I am praying for guidance, for clear signage, a billboard maybe with David Beckham and his enormous package on it (although how would I interpret that – I want to be him, or I want to do him?). “Please God, I’ll do whatever the fuck you want, you know I will – just fucking tell me if you want me to be a man or a woman!” That, by the way, is a typical and fairly effective prayer, should you need it.
I’m confused. I’m grieving the loss of my (me) woman, but it’s complicated by all these other transitions, passages. I think I might just die myself. I think I might just wake up dead one morning.
My therapist tells me that for me, being a woman is like staying in a bad relationship. You have a couple good days and you fall prey to the comforting delusion that it aint so bad, after all.
Going somewhere else, liberation, is too frightening. I’m clinging to the rock I know, even as it’s become increasingly slippery with seaweeds and goopy creatures, which as a guy you think I’d find interesting and indeed I do, but it’s time to loosen the grip. The water is actually fine now.
Jesus I’m scared. She tells me I should say these affirmations, that I am “a strong and courageous man.” She tells me to say them in first, second and third person. I wince; my personality balks at well, this kind of crap. But I do it. It’s a testament to just how miserable I was that I will say what I now call my Manfirmations. And by golly, something shifts. Within days of repeating my Man-tra, it occurs to me to create a checklist for when I’m doubting my transition, which looks like this:
Do you feel as though you have man stuff hanging twixt your fleshy thighs? Strangely, yes!
In your mind’s eye what does your body look like? Kind of…manly, actually!
Did you or did you not say that being a woman is “something you finally figured out how to do” like it’s a shtick? Aye, that I did!
Do you think real women have these thoughts, about their intrinsic gender, their body image? Nay, it’s unlikely Laddie, unlikely!
And there you have it, in a nut sack.
*and I did defend, sometimes! There’s this interesting phenomenon: when you’re heartbroken and devastated, sensitive people intuit that it’s ripe time to tell you how they really feel about your ex. I'm quite sure she received her share of "well meaning consolation." Bless us.
**this is a letter from your counselor saying that you meet the qualifications of “gender identity disorder,” that you’re – beyond being a big ol’ trannyman – of sound man-mind if girl-body. I was calling my letter my “man visa” in the hopes I could get it stamped at titty bars and NASCAR.
***Those friends that DIDN'T DIE are the best friends ever. Without Jessica, Judith, Kevin, Hadley; sans Betty, Jerilynn, Aakara, Keith and Eric I surely would've upended upon that rock. R.I.P. David Clay, the sagest, "zoomiest" most genius guy role model I've ever had the privilege to be in love with.