I started taking testosterone on July 21, 2009. There are a lot of reasons why, and none of them have to do with weighing a pro and con list, questions like “Is it worth muscles if I’m going to get acne?” or “Is it worth a few centimeters of dick if I’m going to get ass hair?” There is no picking and choosing; it is all or nothing. Of course, I always have the option to stop, or to flip it into more positive terms, to make a conscious decision to continue every time I pick up the needle.
Sometimes I mull over this unrealistic scenario: If I were to approach a 14 year old boy and tell him he could remain as he is forever, never having to shave or smell raunchy or have zits, that girls would still swoon over him, and hot ones at that, that he would never have to worry about balding, what do you think he would do, freeze time? Am I the same? I don’t know. But I can tell you how I feel.
I feel stuck, not in the antsy, anxious, American fill-the-void kind of way that makes me take an extra handful of cereal when I’m full because I want something, anything more. And I don’t feel stuck like I do in a bad job or in a bad relationship where I just need out. It’s more like a brick wall is in front of me, maybe ten feet high, and I’m standing on my tippy toes, trying to see over, wondering not if “manhood” is on the other side, but adulthood, if there is a dog, or child, or family, something or someone to care for — a future.
Let’s scrap that one, just so there’s no confusion that this is about me trying to get somewhere — it isn’t. I want the feeling of transition, or puberty, or having testosterone, more specifically exogenous testosterone, inside my body to connect me to the experience of no one thing, but the totality of being a teenage boy, a mature man, and a transguy — a person who sticks himself every couple weeks and very slowly plunges a viscous fluid into his quad, a person who carries with that dull tingly sensation nearly thirty years of life in which he was recognized as a female.
I am a writer and so I find it ironic that the words I’ve arrived at seem empty to me — “instinct,” “the wisdom of the body,” “feeling like a man.” I cannot possibly tell you what it means to feel like a man, but occasionally you will hear me utter that phrase, then cringe because I am at a loss to explain or deepen. Maybe I am too logical for something that defies ration, and although I can let philosophy and theory wash over me, I can’t quite explore myself through those lenses.
I can always turn to narrative, even though the term is so dangerous and loaded in the transgender lexicon because of the historical pain it has caused so many people, myself included. Narrative is a construction, a way of connecting dots, of linking elements whose truth is as fleeting as a millisecond tick on a stopwatch. But as Joan Didion writes, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live”; I know I do. And the thing about these stories, about my own narrative constructions is that I’ve earned my words.
It is hard to look back at my time with breasts and call myself miserable, mostly because I didn’t feel that way at the time, or wasn’t aware that I did — we do what we do to survive. But over the three or so years that I struggled to arrive at the decision to remove them, I heard from a plethora of people a countless number of times, “Do not cut off your breasts.” I was foolish and human to listen, to keep beating down instinct with reason. By now, I’ve earned my faith in myself, to listen to the wisdom of my body even if I can’t explain where it comes from or what exactly it is.
As for “feeling like a man,” I still don’t know what that means, but I know that when people call me “he” or I hold my breath from the stench in the men’s restroom that I feel as I imagine other men might feel, and that when people call me “she,” I have no idea whom they are talking about and when I go into the women’s restroom, I feel not like a woman, nor a man, but an outsider, an invisible person. Does this mean that my entire construct of myself is based on pronouns and toilets? Please forgive me if I’m enforcing a binary that I don’t believe in, but I spend a large portion of every day using words and bathrooms.
When I first started exploring testosterone, it was for writing research almost three years ago. T was not something I was actively or even passively considering and I watched an acquaintance receive one of his first shots. I didn’t sleep for a couple weeks. It would be melodramatic or crying wolf to say I contemplated suicide, especially since people do actually kill themselves, more than are counted, for being transgender. I did, however, contemplate what my life would be like should I *have* to take the route of T. It was that fear, envisioning the insurmountable challenges, that had me wishing myself dead.
I’m rambling now, getting off a track I never saw in the first place, spinning around an infinite number of ways to explain how I got from there to here, even when I know it doesn’t really matter at all. I’ll probably come back to these ideas again, revising and refining or changing my story entirely. Until then, it’s the following words that I keep coming back to. They come from a teacher, and although I cannot make complete sense of them, I find them comforting…
The asana is in the transition.