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5 things I learned taking testosterone

Disclaimer: This my experience alone. I don’t speak for any other transpeople or anyone else taking testosterone.

A one and half inch long needle penetrates deep into my muscle and pushes the culturally-prescribed masculinity into my system. The first few months of my testosterone injections I had no idea what I was opening in my soul, my mind and my body. I thought I was simply going to grow some hair. Hopefully only on my face and not my butt (spoiler: it grew on my butt). Maybe gain some muscle growth. It didn’t occur to me that I’d gain a deeper understanding of the masculine mystique.

Read More: ‘How Leelah broke my silence’ 

We all have different amounts of testosterone and estrogen drip, dropping in our bodies despite our assigned gender/sex. I made the deliberate decision to tinker with this tango. Here are a few things that have come from this experiment in hormonal chemistry:

1. The soul resides in the pituitary gland. Ok. Maybe not. But it sure felt like the influx of new hormones changed me in places I thought were untouchable. I was under the impression it was like remodeling the outside of the house. Yes, I’d get new and exciting changes, maybe a paint job, but I thought the interior would mostly remain the same. I was wrong. I was gutted. I felt different after my second shot. It was a carnal time in my life. From my second shot until about three years into my testosterone treatment I craved fleshly activities: eating, fucking and making money. I wanted everything to be high-risk and visually stimulating. Give it to me. Give it to me. That’s how it felt. My emotional range went from having complex feelings about a bee struggling to escape my soda can to barely feeling a thing when my girlfriend was curled up and bawling. I questioned if we even have souls during this period. Dark. I know.

2. Sex IS amazing. I had complicated feelings around sex before I took T. My first girlfriend wasn’t a lesbian and didn’t embrace the whole thing very well. Plus, I was raised in a religion that equated my sexuality with burning in the deepest level of hell. So, you know. Guilt and shame. Not fun. Those feelings lingered through all of my relationships until T took hold. Finally. It freed me. Shame was smothered by desire and guilt extinguished in the warmth of a body pressed against mine. I felt my skin tingle and come alive. Now I knew why everyone was obsessed!

Read More: Enduring after top surgery 

3. Masculinity is beautiful. Masculine bodies always had me borderline repulsed until my body began to masculinize. I associated them with brute, hair and stink. They seemed hard and clumsy. Then I watched the veins grow in my arms, my skin became coarse, fat dissolved and hair grew. I looked in the mirror and I still saw tenderness, grace and softness. I began to look at other masculinized bodies and realized they too held a feminine beauty that I had failed to see before T.

4. Emotional violence. Before T I wasn’t one to lash out. I seldom got angry even in times when I should. I experienced verbal and physical abuse in a relationship before T and I did nothing. I was extremely submissive. After taking T I was able to use my voice and stick up for myself. Unfortunately, I also found the ability to be cruel. In moments of rage, I used words that couldn’t be undone. I felt completely out of control. It took a pretty terrible breakup and multiple screaming phone calls for me to realize I had to tame this beast. I no longer find myself reaching those points of anger but I still find myself getting unnecessarily annoyed and frustrated at the tiny things.

5. My body separates me.
When I was a lesbian I’d go out to bars and immediately fit in with a group of girls. They’d draw me in and we’d be friends for the rest of the night. I was safely one of them. Guys rarely talked to me. I felt like the luckiest person in the room – surrounded by the ladies. Then I took T and my facial features masculinized and I had top surgery. I’d walk into bars and girls would tighten their circles and turn their backs. As I stood in line to order a drink, dudes would make disturbingly sexist comments about women in the bar. I was lonely. If I tried to nudge my way into an all lady conversation I was treated like the dude trying to get in someone’s pants. So, going out really lost its appeal. However, I was part of a new network of guys who treated me much better than when I was lesbian. I’d checkout at the grocery and the cashier would say, “Have a nice day, man.” Or the gas station attendant would tell me, “It’s going to be $28, boss.” I’d practice these niceties at home. “Thanks, man!” “Yeah, buddy.”

Read More: Marriage that breaks gender norms

My dose of T has changed over the years. I started on a lower dose and have continued to drop my dose. My hormones usually read in the space between what doctors consider a ‘man’s’ levels and a ‘woman’s’ levels.** A space explored by many, yet left hidden in our language and in our society.  I have no regrets in tinkering with my hormones. It’s giving me the ability to see beyond the black and white and through the gray to realize we’re a rainbow of hormones. This isn’t a man’s world and it ain’t a woman’s. It’s our world. Bodies with differing amounts of hormones racing toward the sun.

**I put quotes because these are amounts established by a medical society that sees gender as a binary.

39 Comments

  1. anonymous transguy

    Really well written, and spot on! Good luck to you

  2. Definitely a sign that everyone experiences T differently. I’m almost six months into this, and while I feel some differences, I still feel like myself. A bit more interested in sex (a LOT, actually), but the rest of it is the same. Same swagger, same emotions. I feel like the way I was always meant to be. My wife has been amazing with all of this, even if she teases me about my teenager-level chin hair. (I call it my proto-goatee.) I’m also not much of a bar person, except for one trans-friendly gay bars where I do karaoke, and I’m still friends with all the same people. The only thing that sucks is the way my face feels after shaving. It’s weird. Still not used to it.

    • Leo Caldwell

      I’m happy to hear things feel familiar to you! Same swagger. Yes! love it. I completely agree that everyone’s journey is different. Also, it’s terrific you have a supportive wife. I wanna do karaoke at the trans-friendly gay bar. ::whine:: I definitely still have the same set of friends. I found my interaction with strangers is what changed so, so much. How about you?

  3. Thank you!! I relate to so much of this.

  4. Spot ON and great wordsmithing- I’m a new fan!!

  5. I’m a man I recently started t treatments I had a super low t levels and I can relate to what you are saying its gotta be tough to make changes and just want to be accepted for who you are me I just wanna be happy and confident with women again be happy period…..

    • Leo Caldwell

      I understand that. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you or if you just need to chat.

  6. Beautifully expressed! I felt T had changed me as a person. Definitely it made me a better person, for myself and the world around.

    • Leo Caldwell

      Awesome! I’m glad to hear it.

      • Hi!i need your advice..i want to be trans man,how will i start?i want to take t too.

        • Leo Caldwell

          Hi Ace,
          The first step is to meet with a therapist. You need to find a professional to discuss your options. Everyone’s journey is different.

          Thanks,
          Leo

  7. Michelle

    Wow… I started E a couple weeks ago and feel surprisingly similar… The part about girls turning their backs etc, I’ve never experienced, I believe in the past I’ve often been perceived as a gay man (even though men have always frightened me) noticing these same things from a somewhat opposite angle has finally started to put me at peace.

    • Leo Caldwell

      Oh! Yeah. That makes sense. It’s amazing how our bodies dictate how people interact with us. Any emotional changes that you’ve noticed? (don’t have to answer publicly if you don’t feel comfortable)

  8. Christian

    I just started testosterone, and reading this was a huge help. I’m currently dealing with #2 on your list, and boy howdy. Thank you so much for this.

    • Leo Caldwell

      Hey! 🙂 I’m glad you connected with the piece. Yeah, 2 can be tricky. It’s both fabulous and out of control sometimes.

  9. In the day’s end, basically am gonna take protein, I
    need it to become as genuine as possible, with as close to zero added elements.

  10. Great insight. I’m just starting my journey, trying to find a good Dr. here. How do you think you could deal with the anger that may have preserved your relationship?

    • Leo Caldwell

      I guess it does sound like we broke up because I was anger. But the reality was she wasn’t being too kind to me and I didn’t know how to handle it. I just got really angry. If I had to do it over, I would’ve left the relationship earlier and maintained distance. I think I was ready to handle being mistreated and being so angry.

  11. This was a really good insight to what’s awaiting behind taking T. I’m nervous to say the less, but I know it’ll only make me more of the gentleman that I am.

    • Leo Caldwell

      Andrew, remember everyone is different. There are some common threads in my story that may ring true with yours… but give yourself space to see how it is for you! 🙂

  12. I just finished reading your story (and ALLLL the gracious comments), and I must say that it truly inspires and gives me hope. I feel like I damn-near fall in love with each and every FTM story I hear, because as a transman at the brink of exploring this treatment as well, it makes me feel good to know there are others out there, and thru this we are being our own social support group.
    The struggle is real, and I feel it the same as everyone else, and we all have our own struggles, but the thing is, Life is Struggle, and Struggle Makes you Stronger.
    Coming from where I’m coming from: abused, depressed, angry alcoholic to just joining CROSSFIT and attending all forms of therapy, as well as an inspiring trans-writer like yourself. Let’s just say, you can and will make it through.

    • Leo Caldwell

      Hi! Thank you so much for reading. I also just got your email. I will reply shortly. 🙂 Dude! You’re rocking it. I’m so tempting by CROSSFIT.. but I’ve yet to join. Thank you for your kindness.

  13. All of these are true for me except the last two. Since being on T for the last few years, I have experienced the opposite of those. I’ve been more tranquil emotionally, slower to rage and outbursts, and I have been actually treated worse by cis men and generally objectified by cisgender women. It is what it is–probably depends on where you are.

    • Leo Caldwell

      I think everyone’s experience is different. We have multiple identities that intersect to create a our own experience. So, yes location plays into what we experience as well. This is my 6th year on T and I also have found myself more tranquil but it took me years. Did you experience that feeling right away?

  14. I just stumbled on to your page last night and read this article and I REALLY appreciate your experience ( as it VERY much resonates with mine) and I am glad this experience is out there and put to words because its important. So very important. Thank you for sharing.

    • Leo Caldwell

      Thank you so much! I’m happy this has touched so many people. 🙂

  15. gurunannerb

    Great article. Last paragraph is wonderful.
    amab non binary been tinkering too with antiandrogens, so also changing T levels. Many of the things you mention are recognisable from when I drop the meds. So fascinating.
    Oh, you write beautifully as well.

    • Leo Caldwell

      You can relate, yes? Thank for writing and sharing your experience.

  16. I’m nearly 3 months on T and I can 100% relate to the first paragraph so far. I feel as if I’ve been reduced to primal instincts. I’m glad to see that this time will pass and I’ll be more than a beast haha! Beautifully stated!!

    • Leo Caldwell

      Thank you for the feedback. Glad I’m not alone in the experience. 🙂

  17. For a moment I started to think you had heard some of my own thoughts and blogged about them! Great piece. I could t agree with you more on pretty much all you wrote!! Thank you for sharing

  18. as a young 18 yr pre t trans man this article really had me in tears. i come from a low income family and i dont know if im ever gonna be able to afford any of this treatment , and its, great to see someone so euphoric about their own experiences dont get me wrong but i just wish. maybe someday ill have the chance to be like you

    • *in addition i meant i cant even bring myself to read all of this cause im just crying too much at it, and i feel like a wimp for crying so much im so sorry im like this

    • Leo Caldwell

      Friend, I’m sorry. I don’t know your situation but I’ve struggled financial before and I know how hard it is to do or get anything you desperately want and need.

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