I’m still me…

A friend recently mentioned that they were happy that I still play around with my physical presentation even though I am on testosterone. What a funny comment to make… funny peculiar not funny ha ha. Has the world been holding it’s breathe waiting for me to turn into a different person while on HRT?

The fact that I am on HRT doesn’t fundamentally change who I am as a person. If anything it has brought who I have always been into clearer focus. I am more me than I have ever been with all the quirks and eccentricities that I have always encompassed. Hormones play a surprisingly large role in regulating your emotional landscape, hormones may affect the way you interact with the world because of the way the world perceives you, but hormones will not suddenly turn you into a different person. I am still me!

I can understand that my physical changes may be challenging for my family and friends as it challenges the way the world has interacted with me up until now. The world has always gendered me as female, sometimes I could carry that, sometimes it crushed my spirits. My discomfort with being gendered as female has always caused me a certain amount of distress which presented as social awkwardness, introverted behaviour and embarrassment. I did a lot of work on myself to move past my social awkwardness before I ever considered HRT. Working on my own issues around my gender will only take me so far and my gender dysphoria is still very central to my existence. Being on HRT gives me the opportunity to better align my physical body with the way I experience myself in my mind. If that alignment brings me more comfort in myself and presents as more confidence then that is a result of my alignment not the hormones themselves.

Being on HRT is not suddenly going to make me any more masculine than I was previously, as my body starts getting perceived as more masculine I will likely start dressing far more flamboyantly as I no longer have to compensate for being disagreeably gendered as female by society. The style of clothing I wear has changed since I started hormones. I am far more likely to wear form fitting clothing now as I am no longer hiding under baggy layers trying to disguise and hide my body. Is it the hormones? No! I like my slimmer hips, I laugh at my pot belly, I want to show off my more muscular shoulders.

I am still cranky in the morning before coffee. I am still short tempered. I am still a warm and loving person. I still laugh easily. I still wear make up. I’m still a difficult partner who doesn’t apologise as often as I should. I am still having to scrutinise the parts of my personality that make me easy to love and difficult to live with.

If anything HRT has lifted the burden of gender dysphoria enough for me to start focussing on other areas of my self examination and self growth that haven’t had enough attention in recent years. My growth game is strong, I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, I am not the same person I was even a year ago, I will have changed more in a year from now. Hormones won’t have changed me as a person, they will however be the tool I use to be a more accurate representation of who I am.

I will continue to be the playful, genderfluid unicorn that I have been until that no longer fits me and makes me happy. If you’d like to follow my exploration of gender presentation, feel free to follow me on Instagram.

Coming out over and over again

Coming out is something you never stop doing. Coming out isn’t a one time event. When you are other compared to society’s norm, you will be forced to come out over and over for the rest of your life. Eventually, coming out is easier and the process becomes streamlined and second nature.

I have come out as just about everything there is to come out as. I’ve come out as kinky, polyamorous, bisexual, lesbian, pansexual and now finally as non binary transgender. I have been coming out, or just plain out, as so many alternative sexual and relationship orientations since the very beginning of my dating experience so you’d think I have it down by now. The truth is that each new facet of my experience brings with it new complications and challenges.

I posted recently about the unexpected transphobia I have experienced recently, but what has been harder than anything else has been the transphobic comments that have been made by people in my family. Some incidents have been as a result of me calling out transphobic “jokes” and memes on social media, others have been directly focussed at some of my binary trans friends. I don’t feel safe coming out to these people. I don’t feel comfortable discussing my hormonal landscape with them and I certainly don’t feel safe putting any of my trans friends in a situation where they would be in contact with these people.

At the last support group meeting I attended, I asked the question “Is it okay to not come out to unsafe people?” Coming out to people is a very personal choice. There is no right way to handle coming out or not coming out. For me I decided a long time ago to not put myself in a position of emotional vulnerability with these specific people because of the fact that they are fundamentally unsafe people. I don’t need anything from them and am not beholden to them in any way. Being out to them would unnecessarily open me up to bigotry and abuse. In my case, coming out to these people would be damaging to my well being and as such I have made the decision not to tell them about me being on HRT. I have some trepidation that I may at some point be outed by the fact that I am so open about my transition online, but should that ever happen I will deal with it then. The fact that there is a potential that I will be outed is far less stressful than having to deal with their bigotry directly. I call them on racism, I call them on sexism, I call them on homophobia, I call the transphobia… none of the activism and education that I have engaged in with them or openly online in their presence has stopped them from making racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic comments in my presence anyway. I wonder if me being trans would make the issue of transphobic comments personal and thus make them think twice about their words. I have been queer identified and in a same sex relationship for more than a decade and that hasn’t stopped the bigotry so why would this be any different?

Perhaps I am just buying time and will have to deal with the issue eventually. Perhaps I am just too chickenshit to deal with the fall out and don’t want to do so until the issue becomes unavoidable. For now, not coming out to these people feels like self care. For now, they are blocked/muted/ and put on restricted lists on social media to limit my interaction with them. For now I will see them once every 2 to 3 months as life requires and hope that they leave me alone otherwise.

The dichotomy of this situation is percolating on the back burner of my mind and I am frustrated by the lack of clarity. I am resentful of the fear, and general cautiousness which I have always had to employ when dealing with family. Some times I wish I had cut them out of my life years ago… in a way I guess I have.

Presentation and dysphoria

I love make-up… I like eyeliner and mascara and lipstick and nail polish. These items are all familiar tools of the trade that I used to perform the high femme persona I carried for years. I love how a little powder smeared across your skin can make you feel powerful or beautiful. Make-up can also be a way to hide, a mask to wear that tells the world “never mind me, I’m normal just like you.”

I suffer from an anxiety disorder called dermatillomania which means I constantly scratch and pick at my skin. It is a completely unconscious habit directly related to how stressed I am. When I’m under massive stress I gouge at my skin leaving some rather significant damage. Make up covers the damage, it hides my anxiety from view, it allows me to pretend everything is fine.

Everything is fine…

Yesterday I was having a rather masc day and for some reason I decided that I wanted to wear some eyeliner. (I refuse to call it guyliner because fuck off with gendering make up, make up is for everyone. Is masculinity so fragile that there needs to be some sort of “for men” make-up that will avoid emasculating guys who want to define their eyes?) So I used a soft brown to line my eyes and when I looked up all I could see looking back at me was a face that would be read as woman.

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Eyeliner... not so successful

No… no, no, no this is not what I wanted… this face of mine that refuses to look anything but female. Is it just me who sees every curve and angle as an insult? How can I bear this face looking back in the mirror that is so far from how I see myself? I feel betrayed by the arch of my cheekbone and the curve of my lip that screams to the world “SHE! SHE! SHE!”

So I sat there close to tears and angry at feeling like I could no longer play with make-up if I didn’t want to be totally gendered as female.

I’m not one for bouts of self pity either.

I pulled out my entire treasure trove of make up and got to work fixing the bits that didn’t work, smoothing out imperfections and highlighting the things I do like. Revelling in having my face as a canvas, and using make-up to create a mask that was closer to life than my own skin.

This was the result:

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Eli as a drag-king

Looking in the mirror made me want to whoop with delight. It was a moment of total gender euphoria and an utter thrill of knowing that at some point I will be able to more comfortably inhabit a space that looks like this. I felt handsome… I felt very attractive, and for someone who has never in their life felt anything but plain and forgettable that was far more empowering than the trappings of an ill-fitting femme presentation.

So now I’ll wait, impatiently, for T to do its thing and wait for the day where I look into the mirror and recognise myself again.

“We’re all born naked and the rest is drag” – RuPaul

Testosterone: The next chapter of my journey

One of my wonderful genderqueer friends is starting out on their HRT adventure. Please go read their posts since they are far more eloquent than I am and explain the non binary reality so very well.

life writ large

So I’m going to take testosterone in the next step of my journey. My soul knows that this is the right thing – it feels like a puzzle piece finally fitting into place, so I am not writing this post to justify this to anyone, ask permission or to demandyour acceptance or support. I am writing this so that it’s out there and I can begin to live my truth. I’m frankly exhausted at having to come out to everyone over the last three weeks and just want to get on with actually just living my truth instead of having to explain it… I am also writing this for those of you who are vested in my journey as close friends who have questions, for those of you who are interested, but mostly for those of you who are on similar journeys. Because there is so very desperately little out…

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2 months on T – a rambling update

My 2 months on HRT milestone has come and gone without much fanfare. Reflecting back on the last couple months there have been some big changes and some subtle changes, all of the changes have been comfortable and affirming so far.

The physical changes have been quite noticeable:

Facial hair – both peach fuzz and longer, darker hairs on my chin. I love the facial hair. I love playing with my chin whiskers. I find myself playing with and tugging on my hairs constantly. Today I had a weird moment of frustration with my facial hair, I feel caught in between having facial hair that warrants starting to shave and not really wanting to get rid of my fluffy cheeks. I plucked a couple of the longer, darker hairs out and now feel like I can get away with postponing shaving for a bit. It is a weird place to be where I feel internalised social pressure to be “cleanly groomed” while not being sure what that means for me as a gender bending person. I stopped shaving my body hair years ago and found myself contemplating shaving myself top to toe in the shower a couple days back. I am not sure what this means for me or where it suddenly comes from. I think it has to do with a newly awakened awkwardness with how I fit in the world and with the fact that the constructed space of femininity is the easiest place to default to. With having so many discussions about coping the world see me as more masculine, I am acutely aware of how my presentation affects how I am read. I am at war with wanting to follow the path of least resistance and just fit in versus my natural inclination to stand out and be very eccentric in my presentation. I have even considered dyeing my hair black and cutting it shorter again. I want to know if I can comfortably inhabit a more masculine space without the quirky self defence mechanisms that I have developed. My blue (currently green) hair has been a way of othering myself and giving people a focus for their reaction to the undefinable weirdness of my non binary gender. As long as people can read me as weird because of my hair colour then they aren’t all too perturbed by my non conformity in other areas. How will people react if I remove that element?

Muscle bulking and strength – I am much stronger than I was. I have noticed that I am developing shoulder and arm definition without doing much exercise, well no more than the usual running around and carrying 20kg toddlers that comprises my daily life. This makes me want to go to gym and work out to see how much of an effect exercise and T will have together in reshaping my body.

Fat redistribution – I have dropped a pants size and developed a paunch. Well gee, I was expecting it but another reason to get to the gym for sure.

I think my feet are getting bigger… is that a thing?

Deeper voice – it seems to have slowed in progress. I’m a bit frustrated by that. I want my voice to break already. Yes I know I have only been on T for 2 months, I’m impatient alright? I am actually contemplating increasing my dose to 50mg weekly to see if I can’t hurry the process along a little and then will drop back down to the lower dose once my voice has settled. It doesn’t help that the trans guys who started T at the same time as I did (on a much higher dose obviously) are sporting their gorgeous deep voices already. I catch myself being acutely aware of my voice and how high pitched it can still be. The biggest culprit for my voice dysphoria is my laugh, it leaves me feeling very self conscious. Can I have my deep voice already please?

Perspiration and body odour – Yup, it’d definitely more noticeable and I think summer is going to be interesting. Wearing a binder on a hot day is less than ideal and by mid afternoon I am hatching a million escape plans in my head because I feel so hot and sweaty. With sweaty comes an acute awareness of just how noticeable my body odour is

Emotionally:

Less emotional –  I cry less, I blush less, emotions generally have less of an effect on me. It isn’t that I feel less emotions, I just don’t feel compelled to react to every little thing. It has been a bit tricky to navigate as I find myself being dismissive of my spouse’s feelings when we argue or disagree. The reoccurring thought in my head is “why are we even arguing about this? It isn’t even that big of a deal!” Yeah yeah, I can hear the collective cyber community cringe and think “dude I hope you didn’t say that out loud,” don’t worry I do have some sense of self preservation. I am finding that is engage with my emotions and the emotions of other people in a more cerebral fashion. As a person who has dealt with mental illness most of my life, this new way of processing feelings is actually a welcome relief. I’ve been trying to learn the technique of ‘feel, stop, react’ for decades and now on T it is much easier to get right.

Anger – So many guys talk about getting more angry on T, I can’t say that I feel more anger in general however I think I am more likely to express my anger than I was previously. (I would like to preface the following with the disclaimer that this is based entirely on my own experience and that I certainly don’t assume that the same is true for all people nor is it anything more than my own musings as I relate expected effects of T to my own experience.) I have a theory about anger and transition. People who are socialised as female in childhood are taught that anger is a negative or undesirable emotion, as a result we become adept at suppressing reactions to anger or find passive aggressive means to express it. People who are socialised as male in childhood have far more outlets for anger whether it be through sports or actually expressing the emotion. When people transition later in life they are finally given permission by society to express anger instead of suppressing it, I think this is especially true of binary trans men who suddenly find themselves given free rein to redefine how they express their emotions and interact with the world. I wonder if the anger they feel is T or just the fact that inhabiting a masculine space give people permission to finally act on their emotions in a different way. With this comes the difficulty of dealing with emotions that you have never been really taught to deal with in a constructive manner. I think the correlation between increased awareness of anger as an emotion when guys begin presenting male and start taking T isn’t entirely due to T as a causation of increased aggression.

Depression – So here is some real talk. I have struggled with depression pretty much constantly throughout my life. T has helped lot. There have been the bonus effects of having more energy, drive and motivation, as well as the less global emotions that I described earlier. Together it means that I am far better equipped to deal with my depression in general. Furthermore, the fact that I am actively dealing with my gender dysphoria and that I feel more in control of how I exist in the world means that there are less factors contributing to my depressive state. Last week everything fell apart. We had 3 really hard weeks, crisis after crisis broke on the shores of our little family, illness, work stress, more illness, instability and generally excrement hitting the fan from every quarter. And then, I missed my shot. I ran out of needles and just didn’t get to the store to go buy more. My shot was delayed by almost a week. One morning I found myself in bed, tearful at the idea of even getting up, of course having kids meant I had to get up and take them to school but afterwards I just went home and climbed back into bed and spent the entire day there. Depression is still a very real factor in my life. My mental health is a very careful juggling act. If I miss just a couple balls (get enough sleep, eat properly, get down time, have my T shot) things fall apart. T has be a big contributor in me feeling as good as what I have been, though I am not fooled into thinking it is a magic silver bullet for all my problems. Not by a long shot. It is easy to be blasé about self care when you’re feeling good but I was taught a hard lesson in not taking my mental health for granted.

So far being on T has been an immensely affirming and positive experience. I am loving how I feel, and how I see a truer reflection of myself in the mirror and in photos. The alignment within myself is a welcome relief after a lifetime of chafing on all the jagged edges that society said didn’t fit. Two months in is barely a start in this exciting journey and I can’t wait to see where I end up.

Genderqueer on HRT

A friend recently asked me how I will cope with being read as mostly male as a genderqueer person now that I am on HRT.

I have been churning this question over in my head. I don’t know if I will ever get to that point. I have features that are read by society as very feminine. I crave being seen as more masculine, I crave being sir’ed out in public, I want the world to be confused by me. I don’t know if that will ever happen.

I am on a very low dose of testosterone, 50mg (0.5cc of 100mg/ml depo testosterone cypionate) every 2 weeks, which means that the changes I am experiencing will happen relatively slowly. Even if I was on a higher dose of T, I think my features would still be read as female and nothing will change that short of me growing a full beard.

Physically I want ambiguity, though I think at most I can expect to be read as butch rather than male. I have had to make peace with the fact that the world will try to label me based on my appearance and that none of the labels that will be used for me will ever fit, or feel anything less than constrictive. The society we live in is not accommodating towards non binary people and as such we are the ones who are forced to make concessions in order to survive.

I get frustrated that my masculinity is invisible to society because people are hardwired to prioritise certain physical cues as male or female. Frustration leads to anger, anger leads to dysphoria, dysphoria leads to more frustration over the limitations of my physical form and how little control I have over how the world sees me. Every day is a fight to break the cycle of self-loathing caused by toxic gender roles and a binary-centric society.

Something I have realised through my journey is that hoping for external validation from society for your identity as a non binary trans person will harm you. You can not expect people to understand what is so massively outside of their frame of reference, at most you can expect that people will respect your choices. I am not taking testosterone for anyone other than myself. I am not changing my physical appearance for anyone other than myself. If I never get read as anything other than female by a binary obsessed society, that’s okay. If the changes that T bring on are so extreme as to have me being read as male, that will also be okay. If I look male my femininity will be invisible, if I am look female my masculinity will be invisible. Either extreme brings with it a certain amount of invisibility of my identity because of the society we live in. That is an indictment on society and not an invalidation of my identity. No matter how society reads me, my identity as a genderfluid genderqueer person is still valid and complete. The changes happening to my body as a result of me taking testosterone are an attempt to align my physical body with the image of myself in my head. That said, even if I have no further physical changes, I doubt that I would ever stop taking T as the psychological/emotional changes are necessary for me. I am a much calmer, happier person on T.

When I started T my focus was on the physical changes and what I hoped would happen and how that would allow me to move through the world, however in the last 2 months my feelings about physical changes have changed and I feel like the physical effects of T are far more incidental in the landscape of my gender identity. I am experiencing a greater sense of security about who I am, how I understand my gender beyond the binary, and how I don’t fit within society and my own trans community.

facial hair 2 mth

My facial hair is coming along nicely and is definitely more prominent, though it still requires fancy lighting to photograph.

What is ‘transgender’?

life writ large

I’ve been asked by a friend to ‘explain’ transgender for when she has to stand up against transphobic assholes online. It’s testament to how complex, and diverse, trans* experience and identity is that I as a trans* and gender activist, and a trans* person myself, took two days to formulate a response, which will always be a draft and never a final version. But it may help clarify some things that I know my non-trans* friends struggle with.
I’ve taken a while to respond because this is not an easy question. I’ve also taken a while because the responses so far perpetuate misperceptions that hurt the trans* community.
Trans people don’t change their gender, they make changes to affirm the gender they are and always have been.
There is no such thing as a verifiable biological sex: when last did you have your sex scientifically verified? And if we all…

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