Testosterone: It’s not magic

I’ve been trying to gain muscle for about the last three months.  It very much is an exercise in futility since NONE of the men in my family can gain muscle until they’re 30 or so.  My dad and uncles were all in the military, most of my male cousins are in now.  None of them were/are muscular.  Fit, yes.  Able to run 6-10 miles at a stretch, definitely.  Muscular?  Never.  So I know that the chances of my ever being able to look good in those International Male style tight t-shirts are pretty frickin’ low, at least for the next few years.

Still, I try.  Because when I started T everyone went on about how I’d stop being so damned scrawny.  I’d check out blogs and see all these guys who went from puny to ripped after two or three months.  I know logically that their genetics are different from my own, but damned if that’s going to override the magic powers many of us (subconsciously) give to T.

So here’s a heads up for those of you who think T is a wonder cure: it’s not.

T will not:

  • Cure your depression (though it may help a little, for me it’s a mood stabiliser so I need fewer anti-depressants)
  • Transform you from geek to stud
  • Make you more outgoing
  • Give you a beard overnight
  • Do anything overnight, really
  • Cure your social anxiety (unless your anxiety is related to being seen as a woman, but that still takes time)
  • Give you motivation to do things you were putting off, ie: school, work, or otherwise functioning as an independent person
  • Stop your periods in one day (average seems to be 2-3 months, in my case it took years…but I’m an exception)
  • Automatically make you pass
  • Make you a superhero in bed
  • Completely remove your body dysphoria (generally, some people make peace with their bits)
  • Turn you gay

About the last one: some guys do experience a shift in sexuality after coming out.  However, most of that seems to stem from being seen as a man rather than testosterone itself.  Even guys who’ve had to stop T for a while continue to be attracted to men once their system has stabilised to their pre-T hormone levels.

What will testosterone do?  It will simulate a male puberty thereby allowing you to look about how you would have if you’d been born with (functioning) testes.  If the guys in your family are bears there is a good chance you will look like a bear.  If the guys in your family are twinkish (like in mine) you’ll probably end up twinkish.  It’s all about genetics and what you ended up with.

19 thoughts on “Testosterone: It’s not magic

  1. People need to remember that the effects of testosterone are cumulative, not instant. The longer its in your system the more changes you’ll see. I’ve been on T for 8 years and my beard still sucks, but I blame my dad cause his also sucks. I look exactly like my dad did at my age, except younger looking and shorter.

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    • That’s pretty much what I’ve been telling myself since going to an FtM group meeting on my year one anniversary date and having guys go “So, when are you starting T?” I have shit genes for this sort of thing, it’s something I’ve known since coming out. I’m right on schedule based on my relatives, as of now I have the same lack of facial hair, inability to build muscle, and general “pretty” look that my cousin who’s a year older does. My voice is actually lower, but he’s significantly taller (mom’s family is tall, lucky jackass) so we about even out.

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  2. Excellent text, N.A.

    Isn’t all that muscles+beard hunk ideal very “western” centric too? it’s only how some white guys look, not all the men on this planet. I knew one ftm with a mixed heritage, and it was the same with him.

    I dunno if the T is different over here, but from what I see, during the first or second year or so, T makes everyone fat, not muscular. That goes away after some time, but it takes time.
    T can also make your feet hurt when your muscles grow and the bones can’t adapt that quickly.
    Several guys found that T works a lot better after you have your ovaries removed (something that you shouldn’t consider when you can’t get T on a regular basis. Living without any hormones is very unhealthy)

    Question for a friend: do you know about people who don’t get a low voice? His is still female after two years+, which is getting aquard because his passing is pretty good.

    T is known to be a mood and health stabilizer for many Intersex people two. They feel shit on estrogens and feel good on T.

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    • Oh it is SO western-centric. Not even western, really, just certain western countries. I’m a combination of Native American, Spaniard, and Iranian, most of my ancestors weren’t exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger (hell, Arnold wasn’t Arnold until he started taking steroids).

      I think the difference has more to do with the culture of working out. Lifting weights is a very classic macho-guy thing here, it’s what you do to fit in. Another issue may be the de-facto “real life test”, if there is one where you live. I know the UK requires guys to be out working/volunteering/going to uni before they’ll allow them to start T. In the US it’s on a therapist by therapist basis so many don’t require anything like that. If your dysphoria causes horrible depression so that you don’t leave the house they might see that as a good enough reason to fast track you for T so you can get on with your life. So guys can go from having almost no physical activity all day to having a little which helps combat the sudden urge to eat everything in sight.

      I know several people whose voices didn’t drop much. I’m actually amazed mine has dropped as much as it has, most of my relatives are right on the edge of alto/tenor (with bass singing voices, who knew?). Is he still trying to speak from his head? I know that can be tricky to shift, not everyone does it instinctively as their vocal chords change. In my case it took a vocal coach teaching me how to speak all over again before I had a voice I was comfortable with, I couldn’t seem to get past that “squeaky teenage boy” phase without help.

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      • Over here we used to have a real life test but from what I see with the younger ones it isn’t done that much anymore. you don’t get forced to transition on the job etc.
        I think the RLT was more for transwomen to check how/if they can deal with the not-passing issue (in the past when hormones were given mostly to people in their 30s and older)
        The T treatment has been optimized during the last decades so that I can’t come up with an ftm who doesn’t pass after two or three years the latest.

        About the voice thing- could you explain that a bit more? I don’t think that ftm use voice coaches over here, only mtf.

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        • I forgot to say: his voice didn’t crack at all, it’s still in the female register. The sound is woman, not squeeky boy

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          • That’s a bit interesting. Could just be genetics. I know my dad’s voice didn’t drop until he was in his 20s. Expected that mine would be a long time coming, but it ended up being one of the few things to change quickly.

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        • It’s not so much a RLT in that you transition on the job (at least, not from what my doctor told me, I was already on T when I lived there so my process was a little different), it’s more that they want to make sure you can function as an independent adult. Over here there are guys who say “Oh, I’m not going to go to school until I pass” or “I don’t want to go out unless I pass” and therapists consider that a reason to start T sooner. My experience in the UK was almost the opposite, if you couldn’t leave your home you were considered to have problems that needed to be worked out before you could transition.

          [raises hand] I still don’t pass fully until I mention my (very traditionally male) name. It’s another thing that’s based on genetics, the guys in my family are on the feminine side. We all have soft features, relatively high voices, and no real muscle mass. Now, the advantage is that because of my relatives I knew in advance that some guys have the same issues with being called “ma’am” and “miss” by sales people, strangers, etc that trans guys do. If me and my cousin (the one who’s a year older) both walk into the men’s bathroom we both have the exact same chance of being told we’re in the wrong one. It’s annoying, but kind of comforting since I know it’s not because I’m trans.

          Most guys here don’t use voice coaches either, I only did because I grew up singing and wanted to make sure I wasn’t damaging anything. At first I just kept up with my old exercises and warm ups, but I realised pretty quickly that they weren’t doing much for my speaking voice (though in terms of singing they did allow me to keep most of my upper range — and I was a soprano pre-T). Decided to just let things evolve naturally for the first year just to see how they went then extended that to two years when I decided it was changing properly.

          Then the end of year two came. I had been a squeaky teen boy for about a year which wasn’t horrible. On its own I would’ve just figured I needed more time to adjust. I’d also started getting a bit of the “tranny twang” though and I loathe that sound. It was my biggest fear with starting T, I did not want that voice. So I called around until I found a coach who’d worked with teenage boys and started seeing her twice a month. Turns out I’d gotten stuck in the transition between head and chest voice. She worked with me until I could pick either one and sound good without hurting anything. Also helped a ton with the lower half of my singing range, I still go to her when I’m having trouble finding a note.

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          • tranny twang– I didn’t know there was a name for that. But I’m glad to hear that it can be helped with voice training. I was wondering where it comes from.
            Interestingly, I don’t hear it so much over here, only in films from the US or the UK. We don’t have a name for it 😉 I had the theory that because in the US and the UK women speak in such incredibly high registers, through the nose- that ftm voices were higher too.
            Women over here use chest voice, I guess (I don’t know a thing about all that)

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          • There’s definitely a difference in speaking patterns based on location. I know that I constantly end up fighting with MtF vocal coaches because they say things like “men always go down at the end of their sentences” and fail to recognise that that is an American speech pattern. Men in the UK, for instance, have far less of the monotone that characterises male speech patterns in the US.

            What’s interesting is that not everyone mimics the speech patterns of those around them. I’ve been asked what my home country is since I was a small child because my speaking style is rather unique. It’s great, people will say I sound like their English or South African (or Irish or Welsh or whatever) friend and then be amazed when I tell them I was born and raised here.

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  3. Reading your list again, I had to think of all the cisguys (gay and straight) I know who are no studs, no heroes in bed, geeks, have little beard, are depressed, are not outgoing or have social anxienty, and are putting off school or work for decades 😉 I don’t think they have T deficiency.
    I’d advise every ftm to hang out with cisguys *a lot* to get a realistic picture of men.

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    • Lol, I think we tend to forget that cisguys have all the same problems we do. Some are short, some have high voices, most aren’t hung like horses, etc. We chalk all our problems up to being trans when in reality many of them are just part of being human.

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    • Life is funny, ShipofFools. I knew a guy who ticked off all the boxes you just listed (agoraphobia, couldn’t keep a job, video games were his life) except for the thing about the bedroom, as he liked to give head so he was kind of popular with girls who weren’t turned off by the limited employment thing. Though sometimes he did get too depressed for partnersex (despite trying every SSRI there was). Anyhoo, that was all about 10 years ago. A few months ago he–or rather they–came out as non-binary trans.

      So you never know.

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  4. You briefly mention testosterone in connection with depression. Can you say a bit more on your experience with depression and being trans?

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    • If you give me a day or two I’d be happy to. At the moment I’m down a hand thanks to an unfortunate incident with a malfunctioning flat iron. Makes typing a bit slow.

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  5. Thanks! I really appreciate it. Your blog has been a great help to me. I hope your hand gets better soon!

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  6. Can you share some things you learned from your voice coach that helped your voice “pass”?

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