I was on reddit yesterday, and someone posted this question:
“Is the ‘woman stuck in a man’s body’ or ‘man stuck in a woman’s body’ a narrative invented by cis people or [do] trans people have that kind of experience?”
It was a “holy shit” moment. This “trapped in the wrong body” narrative is what I had heard from childhood as the very definition of being trans. Yet it has never once been a phrase I would use to describe myself. I was never more trapped in my body than anyone else is. My body never quite described me, or looked like me, but it wasn’t a cage I wanted to escape.
But what makes it a holy shit moment is that the wrongness of the phrase is part of what made it take so damned long for me to realize that the word transgender applied to me. That it described the condition of my life. Or that I had a case of trans-ness “bad enough” to merit treating. I’d never felt “trapped in the wrong body” after all, so I could probably just ignore it.
I frequently reflect on how public descriptions of being trans miss the mark, and how isolated that has made me feel through the years. The internet is a beautiful thing because it can bring us together so that we can tell our true stories in our own words. It was also through reddit, after all, that I described my feelings and heard from trans people around the world who experienced feelings just like them.
There is no single trans narrative. And I assume there are trans people who do feel trapped in the body of the wrong sex. But sometimes I wonder if these narratives also come about in trying to justify ourselves to people who can’t imagine what it feels like to be us. I am grateful that such justification is no longer necessary to simply live a decent life. And I am grateful that even if a strong belief in a false narrative may have delayed me from finding my truth, it did not preclude it.
I am here, in my strange trans body, and I am free.
It’s been a minute, but I’m back! August 12 marked 1 year and 6 months of testosterone. I did another facial hair experiment of growing out my beard for 4 weeks, and managed to get an adolescent Amish-style beard. By February, maybe I’ll have a few mustache hairs! (Pics after jump.)
I’ve been working out regularly for about six weeks now. I have struggled with body shame so much in the past that it has made it very hard to commit to getting in shape–working out has made me pay attention to my body and to dwell on my inadequacies. Prior to testosterone I worked out to lose weight, because my attempts at gaining muscle fell short and resulted in dysphoria. (At one point I was taking creatine on the mistaken belief that I would bulk up. It just made me fat and bloated. But I think it was a pre-T form of self medication.)
Being on testosterone and having top surgery has changed my whole attitude around working out. First of all, now I actually have some gains. I can improve day-to-day and actually see little muscles popping out of my arms and legs. So instead of being a cycle of frustration, it’s finally been affirming. Second of all, I can stand to look at myself in the mirror to examine my results. I can see myself coming to take the shape I’ve always wanted. Instead of a dysphoria inducer, it’s a dysphoria killer.
I don’t have much to show for it yet–but I’m posting here in part for accountability and in part to acknowledge how much my relationship to my own body has evolved. I would love to be able to post a picture of my physique by June that I am proud to show off. The one above is a work in progress.
Hard to believe that one year ago today I was getting my first T shot. Since then, so much more has happened. I’ve come out, lived as a man, had top surgery, and failed at growing a beard. This month I was taken as a man wherever I went. There were no “ma’ams” and the “sirs” were profuse and confident.
This month has been this little blue circle of happiness:
But check out how that’s progressed over the last year:
Pretty steady to where I am now.
The combination of the changes from the testosterone and the top surgery have been incredibly satisfying. I had the experience of seeing my face in a shop mirror yesterday and not realizing right away that I was looking at myself and not some random guy.
Is it what I expected? Honestly, it’s hard to remember exactly what I expected. It’s been slow and steady progress, and I see a long road ahead if the changes continue at this pace. But I’m fine with that. I’m out of the in-between world of second adolescence (despite my teen facial hair.)
I’m so close to one year, yet I’m looking at the pictures and it’s hard to spot the change. I’ve gotten pudgier (gained almost 20 lbs!). My voice is deeper. I kinda can grow some facial hair (I shaved this morning, if I still look like a baby peach.) Yet I pass better most of the time (thanks to the voice?)
Next month should showcase more changes. First off, I’m not going to shave between now and my next update, so we may see a bit of facial hair. Second of all, I am hitting the gym 3x a week and eating way healthier. I hope to lose a few of those 18 lbs in the next month. But as for now, the pics and video below are all I have to show for myself.
“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Two days before my top surgery, I looked down at my chest and questioned–for the first time in a year–whether I should keep my body the way it was. I felt my breasts, weighed them in my hands, coaxed myself to like them. I couldn’t muster any emotion about my breasts, but still I found myself wondering if I would regret the surgery.
This wasn’t the first time on the transition path that I’d encountered doubt. It cropped up every time I was on the cusp of a step in the transition that had a feeling of finality. Starting testosterone, changing my name, coming out publicly, surgery–all of these steps made me start the process from the very beginning.
So a few things are different about this monthly update . The main event this month was my top surgery. I was pretty much a recluse all month, so my 100% success rate in being “sirred” is due to the fact that I was addressed as anything a whopping one time. The other thing is that this month, my hormonal changes ground to a halt because I was off testosterone for three of the four weeks (surgeon’s orders). I only now feel like I’m getting back to normal.
But the good news is that all the tape on my chest incisions came off and this is the first month I can share totally topless progress photos. The bad news is that after several weeks of inactivity and stuffing my face, I got pretty fat. Three more weeks before I can hit the gym.
Yesterday was the day! First, I could finally take a T shot after over three weeks without. Then, I had my appointment to take off the huge stack of bandages I had wrapped around my chest and got to see my results for the first time. Here’s how my surgery and recovery went.