It’s that time of year again: Some notes for the guys starting T

For some odd reason every year starting in late September and running until early November there seem to be an influx of guys starting T and asking questions.  Maybe it’s that the guys away from home for college can start the process when the school term does or something, I dunno.  In any case, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. No, you probably aren’t growing more facial hair after your first shot.  I’m sorry guys, but the chances of that happening are so small that you have a better chance of seeing a dolphin in Missouri.  I want you all to look at your younger brothers or cousins or whatever tween to teenage boys might be around.  Look at how long it takes for the more visible parts of puberty to hit them.  Trans guys in the US usually take less time because our doses are higher and more constant than the natural levels a cis guy would get during puberty, but two weeks is way too short a time to see changes like that.
  2. Correlation does not equal causation.  If you start T on Monday and feel like your throat is sore on Tuesday that does not mean the T caused it.  Maybe it did.  Maybe you’re experiencing one of the preliminary signs of a voice drop.  More likely you spoke too much/too loudly or are getting an early season flu.
  3. T does not magically turn you into an asshole.  This is what I consider to be one of the most dangerous myths of testosterone.  T can do many things, including lowering your anger threshold and making you more impulsive.  However, those things are still your responsibility to deal with.  If you lash out at your boyfriend that is not the T making you do so, it is your own inability to control your temper.  I said and did many douchey things when I first started T, but that doesn’t mean the T made me aggressive.  It simply means I needed to learn to channel my frustration into more constructive things, something I should have learned regardless of my hormone levels or gender identity.  Take some responsibility for your actions instead of giving the trans man’s version of “boys will be boys”.
  4. You will not die if you miss a shot.  Around March there will be emails coming in from guys asking what will happen if they miss one shot because they think their prescription will run out before the refill comes in or they can get to the doctor.  The answer is most likely very little.  You might feel a little tired or run down or emotional.  You might also feel the same as you always do.  The reality is that damned near every guy on T will miss a shot or two over the course of his lifetime.  Prescriptions don’t get filled on time, life gets hectic and you forget, some surgeons require time off T before they’ll cut you open, it happens.  Try to be as calm about it as possible (I know, the first time is a bit scary) and the time will go by faster than you think.
  5. Take pictures.  Many of us are uncomfortable with pictures, but trust me on this one, you’ll want them later.  Even if you never want to let anyone else see them, being able to look at how different you were ten years or a year or even six months ago is amazing on those days when you feel like you’re never going to be done with transition.  So take a ton.  Develop a secret relationship with your webcam if that’s what makes you most comfortable.  Just make sure you’re documenting it somehow.
  6. Advocate for yourself to the very best of your abilities.  Ask your doctor questions.  Know why they’re making the suggestions they are.  Ask to see your lab results and what they mean.  If you’re uncomfortable with a decision ask if there are any other options.  If your doctor wants to take you off T for some reason ask about risks and if it’d be possible to do whatever cis guys with the same condition would.  Often doctors just don’t know what to do with us so their response to everything is “it’s the T”.  Educate yourself so that if something like that comes up you can at least ask questions and make a more informed decision.
  7. At the same time, do not endanger your health for the sake of T.  I have to admit to my own faults on this one.  When I started T I experienced an increase in problems with my asthma and eczema, two things that only bothered me once or twice a year after I was 14.  I was wheezing and itching all over the place, it was awful.  I spent months trying to convince myself it was just a coincidence or something else that had happened around the same time.  I finally did tell my doctor, but not before torturing myself because I was afraid he’d force me to stop therapy.  Worst part?  It turns out the compounding pharmacy I was going to added a mild scent I hadn’t noticed to their gels and I was having a reaction to that.  I asked them to stop adding it to mine and suddenly I was back to normal.  All that for something that was so simple to fix.
  8. Everyone changes at a different rate.  Some guys start T and within three months everyone thinks they’re a cis guy.  Others are still being called “she” after several years.  It all depends on your personal body chemistry and genetics.  Look at the guys in your family.  If they’re hairy you’ll probably be hairy.  If they’re all lean muscle you’re probably not going to look like the Hulk.  Try to be patient and avoid comparing yourself to anyone else.  When things get hard pull out that set of pictures I told you to keep so you can see that you are different, even if it’s not as much as you want.
  9. Doubling or tripling or otherwise adjusting your dose without supervision will not make you change any faster.  This is part of why you need to know about your lab results and educate yourself about what’s reasonable for a guy around your age.  If you are consistently getting T levels within a male range upping your dose is more likely to hurt than help.  Never forget that after a certain point T converts to estrogen.  If your levels are low and your doctor doesn’t want to talk about changing your dosage then that’s something to debate, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more = better.  I know guys on lower doses than I am who are seeing much more visible results in a shorter period of time.  Once again, it’s all individual.
  10. Don’t be afraid to take a break.  This is one of those things that is more common to do than it is to talk about.  If for any reason at all you feel like you need to reevaluate taking T or transitioning then take a break.  Stop and think about it if that’s what you need.  Sometimes we need to get away from something in order to figure out it’s what we want.  Some of us may think we want T only to find out that we don’t really.  There is nothing at all wrong with needing time to understand what’s right for you.  Even if what’s right for you is not taking T or deciding not to transition.  Other people may not understand that, but their opinion is not nearly as important as you feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Recent searches

While I’m working on a couple of more in depth posts I thought I’d go over the search terms I’m apparently fairly high ranked for, but haven’t actually addressed.  Figure if people are going to get here from them I should at least make sure they get information.

when you start taking testosterone ftm will you get wet dreams?

Let’s start off by defining ‘wet dream’.  Technically the ‘wet’ part comes from a guy ejaculating while sleeping which isn’t always a part of trans guy orgasm so in that sense, no, you won’t necessarily have wet dreams.  General sex dreams during which time you orgasm?  Yeah, possibly.  Sex dreams without orgasm?  Also possible, even likely depending on how your sex drive ends up and whether or not you remember your dreams.   I know I definitely have had my share, but I also had a few pre-T. Just a naturally horny fucker.

what is a gay ftm?

I think I may have covered this in the FAQ (at least, I really hope I did), but since the search didn’t point there for some ridiculous reason I’m going to answer it again.  Note that the following are the most basic definitions designed for the hardcore beginner and do not account for every possible identity permutation.  FtM: Female to Male trans* person.  Generally someone born female who is actually a guy.  Gay: In this case, guy who is into guys.  So a person who is gay and FtM would be a trans person who identifies as a guy and is sexually/romantically interested in other guys.  (Hint in case you’re confused: if this person was not trans they’d probably be considered straight.)

why do transmen wear earrings

Why does anyone wear earrings?  Because they bloody well want to.  Cis guys wear earrings, why can’t I?  I like earrings, they’re fun accessories.  Just because I’m a guy doesn’t mean I have to be Rambo or something.

i am ftm transgender, and i want an effeminate voice

This is an interesting one that I wasn’t expecting.  Honestly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to force your voice to do anything it doesn’t want to do naturally.  Your vocal chords are very sensitive things that are easily hurt.  However, there are different speaking patterns that can be read as more feminine/effeminate based on region.  For example, in the US it’s very common for people to consider men who don’t speak in a monotone effeminate.  Most trans guys end up sounding effeminate by accident because we’ve had social training as girls, but if you’re worried just take all the stuff trans guys say to do to sound masculine and reverse it.

Stopping T

I probably should put up a post at some point about how I considered de-transitioning a year or so into starting T, but I can’t find the words.  Instead you guys are going to get a post about the things that did and didn’t happen when I stopped T during this period.

It was…about six months off.  Not a huge amount of time, but pretty long considering I’d only been on a year-ish.  Hudson’s has a T guide that lists what should happen if you stop treatment.  I’ve found that it is almost entirely wrong compared to what I experienced.

My voice did not stay at the same pitch.  In fact, it still starts creeping up into the higher registers if I’m late with my shot.  Now, it never went back to my old soprano either, but there was a decent octave, maybe octave and a half in there that was lost.

My facial hair did disappear.  Rather, it disappeared in terms of visual sense.  The hair was there (what little of it I had), but it was no longer dark or rough.  Instead I’d get long, soft, blond hairs that were different from the normal peach fuzz women and children have, but not enough to really be considered facial hair.  The growth rate also slowed to where I shaved maybe once a month rather than a few times a week.

Clitoral growth was depressing as fuck.  I cannot even begin to explain the intense amounts of…almost shame that developed as the effects of T wore off.  Flaccid state stays the same, my ass.  The thing shrunk to the point where I almost couldn’t find it!  This was actually one of the bigger reasons I went back on T, I’m pretty well hung for a trans guy and my ego just couldn’t take the sudden disappearance.

My muscle and fat development shifted about back to pre-T levels which is expected.  I will say that being slim doesn’t help make the changes any less obvious, at least not to those of us who have to deal with them.  The ass I didn’t mind so much, I have a good ass off T, but the hip and breast development was enough to freak me out.

I haven’t lost too much hair on T, men in my family have thick hair, but what I did lose started growing back in around month four.  Not a ton and not enough that I think it’d matter if you were going bald or something, but enough to switch my hair pattern back to female.

Skin, red blood cell count, and body scent all went back to female.  The lack of acne was nice, but smelling…girly was unpleasant.  Apparently I also tasted different.  Wouldn’t know that one from experience.

I know that we talk about T being this life long, permanent change.  For most guys it is.  However, I think it’s also important to talk about what happens if you don’t like the effects.  For a while in there I was terrified of becoming some sort of freak show and everyone saying I’d never be the same again didn’t help.  Turns out a ton depends on how long you were on T when you stop.  Stop after a few months and the permanent changes will be minimal, stop after several years and you’ll likely have more things to take care of if you want to be seen as a woman again.  Either way, it’s not the one-way street we’ve all been told.  At least, not physically.

Passing and Testosterone

There’s this myth that every trans guy will magically start passing after six months to a year on T.  It’s bullshit.  Flat out bullshit.

No one can tell you when you’re going to start passing.  I’ve been on T since I was 20 (I’m in my mid-20s now) and I’m still in that gender ambiguous phase.  Based on my genetics that’s likely to last until I’m in my mid to late 30s when I will finally look like a college boy.

I’ve mentioned my cousin in comments a few times, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted about him.  He’s a year older, gay, flaming, and looks almost exactly like me.  He has a Y chromosome (and therefore a penis, the lucky bastard), but other than that we could pass for twins.  Often do, actually.  Both of us get mistaken for girls on occasion, neither of us can grow facial hair worth anything, and I actually have a deeper voice.  We’ve both had our T levels checked (me for dosage, him to see if anything’s wrong) and we’re both easily within the mid range for guys.  Men in our family are just really late bloomers.

Point is, T is never going to override your genetic predispositions.  If you come from a line of really feminine looking women and late blooming men it’s going to take you longer to pass than a guy with handsome women and burly men in the family.  Relax a bit.  Go in, check your levels, see how they’re doing.  If they’re within male range you’re just going to have to sit and let your body go at its own pace.  I know this is a pain in the ass (trust me, I know), but eventually you will start passing.  Remember, the effects of T are cumulative.  Cis guys don’t go from little boy to grown man overnight.  It takes time.  That’s not something we always want to hear, but there it is.

Random T changes I wasn’t expecting

When you start T you usually get a giant list of things you can expect to happen.  Voice dropping, facial and body hair growing, changes below the belt, it’s pretty standard.  Other guys often have their own things to add, usually about how much ass hair sucks and how often you’ll want to jerk off for the first year or so.  However, there are some things that seem to either be individual or not talked about.  These are mine.

1: Increased visual-spatial ability. I am not a visual person.  Those questions on IQ tests where they give you a shape and then ask you to pick what it’d look like if you rotated it drive me nuts.  At least, they did before I started T.  Now it’s like I have some sort of computer animation programme in my brain, it’s awesome.  Really helped with my drawing skills too, I don’t have as much trouble making sure Mickey’s gloves aren’t twice the size of his head.

2: Fewer mood swings.  This one surprised me just because everyone talks about ‘roid rage and anger issues and massive T-drop swings.  I expected to have serious problems with my depression and an increase in violent tendencies.  In reality the opposite has been true.  I’m far less prone to anger, when I do get angry I get over it quickly, and my moods are largely stable.  I still get depressed, I have chemically based depression, that’s not going to go away.  I don’t go into the same level of depression when I’m in a bad phase though and I’m more likely to be able to snap out of it without medication.

3: Meat cravings.  I’ve been vegetarian since I was 12.  I never really liked meat, it always tasted kind of gross to me.  As a kid I preferred broccoli to chicken nuggets and rice to hamburgers.  After starting T I’d smell a hamburger and my mouth would water.  I crave ribs, a food that used to make me nauseous.  I haven’t gone back to eating meat largely because I’m not sure my stomach could handle it after 10+ years of not having any.  I’ve considered it a few times though and at some point I may see about slowly trying a few things to see if it’s just the smell or if the taste has gotten better too.

4: Accelerated learning rate. After I hit 17-ish my ability to handle math and languages dropped off in a bad way.  I went from becoming fluent in four different languages in a year to repeating Italian 101.  This isn’t entirely unexpected, it just happened sooner for me than for most people.  I was the genius kid though and suddenly having to learn things like a normal person freaked me out quite a bit.  After a month of what would become my regular T dose my brain randomly shot back up to speed.  I went back to the learning rate I had at 14 and haven’t come back down from it since.  Don’t know if it was actually the T or just really great timing, but I’m not complaining.

5: Decreased interest in women.  Here’s a little secret: I was closer to a four or five than a six on the Kinsey Scale pre-T.  I’d never actually done anything with a woman and I wasn’t likely to try (too scared), but there were definitely some fun fantasies.  When I was starting T damned near everyone around me was going from exclusively into one gender to very evenly pansexual so I opened myself up to the possibility that I might start liking women more.  …Yeah, that didn’t happen.  Fooled around with a few women during those early “don’t care as long as it gets me off” days, but it was never really satisfying.  After a while I realised even my favourite female fantasies weren’t interesting and stopped trying to force myself into liking women.

6: Increased hyper-focus.  I have ADHD.  Like, bad.  I compensated pretty well until college, then the lack of structure got to me.  Every trans guy I knew with ADHD got worse after starting T and several who hadn’t been diagnosed as kids were after a month or so on T.  I was flat out terrified.  On my good days I’m spaced out and kind of ditzy, getting worse would’ve been hell.  It was, actually.  While I was figuring out my dosage and for about three months after getting it right I was barely functional and impossible to live with.  Almost burned down my apartment a few times, my flat mate was ready to kill me.  Then it just kind of switched.  Instead of scatter-brained and spaced out I went to hyper-active with intensely long periods of hyper-focus.  Honestly, I prefer it this way.  I can handle my activity levels better than my mind wandering.  It’s the one major reason I’m militant about when my shot is done.

7: Increased…flamboyance. This is almost guaranteed to be a response to passing rather than T, but since the two kind of go together I’m listing it here.  Pre-coming out I was…not girly.  I was about on level with my “not butch, but not effeminate” guy friends with a handful of “girl” hobbies like figure skating and fashion design.  After coming out I went into kind of metro/college gay guy with way more Abercrombie shirts than anyone should own.  Then the T…I don’t know what it is, but within days of starting my mannerisms went from “eh, whatever” to “oh my god, he’s like a miniature Emmett Honeycutt.”  I’ve finally learned to control them enough for more conservative settings, but for a while there I even got on my own nerves.  Also developed a sibilant ‘s’.  No idea what that’s about.

8: Decreased acne. Yeah, this one rocked while it lasted.  Now with shaving and the high humidity of my current city I’m back to being a regular at the spa and dermatologist, but those first couple of years were nice.

9: Increased interest in exercise. I have always been a fit person.  I grew up in military youth groups so running and sweating were a part of daily life.  Never really been into exercise as a hobby though.  I worked out in the morning out of habit, not because I thought it was particularly fun.  After about a month on T though I started noticing that I liked doing push ups and running for six miles.  It was weird, like all of those endorphins everyone always talks about finally kicked in.  I’m never going to be a gym kind of guy (too musty and gross), but now I look forward to a quick bit of exercise when I’m stressed out.

10: Increased immune function.  Rather, what seems like increased immune function.  I’m the first to admit that this is likely either me having a selective memory or the result of no longer being as weighed down by depression or some other random combination of things.  At the same time, pre-T I would end up with at least one bad flu that required hospitalisation every year.  Every.  Year.  It was hell.  The winter after starting T I had exactly one cold and it was over within the week.  Since then my allergies have been kind of a pain in the ass, but I’ve only been really sick once or twice.  It’s nice, even if I am slightly nervous about it all catching up to me.

So yeah, those are 10 random things I wasn’t particularly expecting from T.  I’m sure there are probably more if I keep thinking about it, but ten is a nice round number.

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.

Being off T sucks

I once again have found myself in need of a T refill while between doctors.  I’d go to the local GLBT clinic, but [a] they’re vastly incompetent and [b] no longer have any respect for the community they serve.  I have gotten more shit at this clinic than anywhere else in my day to day life, I refuse to set foot in there if I can avoid it.  So until I find a doctor who will prescribe me T without a therapist’s letter (I went informed consent) I’m going to have to deal with the hormone swing.

Things I’ve experienced so far:

  • Constant irritability.  I want to strangle everyone who talks to me.
  • Resurgence of acne (which makes me even more irritable).
  • Lack of appetite.  I went from eating everything in the house to not wanting anything at all.
  • Depression.  Not major, but the last time this happened it got progressively worse.
  • Lethargy.  May be due to the depression, some of these are hard to tell.
  • Lack of motivation.  See above
  • Increase in ADHD symptoms.  Major, but last time it tapered off after a couple of weeks.
  • General feeling of blah.

I’ve had to deal with this a few times now and every time it’s vastly irritating.  I don’t have the sudden, extreme hormone drop most guys experience (unless they’re exaggerating the symptoms which wouldn’t be unheard of), but when I have more than a month between shots things start to slowly get worse.  By the time I hit three months without T I’m a complete wreck, it’s not very pleasant.  With any luck I’ll be able to find a doctor before that.

Anger Issues

One part of being back on T that I’d managed to forget about: the quick flashes of anger at damned near everything.  It’s not a rage thing, I’m not seriously dangerous or anything.  I get mad just long enough to punch a guy and then feel horrible about it the second I’m done.  It’s not something I’ve had to worry about much because K doesn’t upset me in ways that induce violence, I’m actually far more likely to burst into tears than hurt him.

Yesterday I spent the day with M, her little sister (C), and her energetic, probably ADHD, pretty ridiculously immature brother (J).  Now, normally I’m ok with wild children.  J is 12 which I realise is a bitch of an age to be (and be around), but is also the main age of the kids I worked with in YMs.  I don’t like the constant chattering just to hear the sound of his own voice, but I know how to ignore it.  I was even able to keep the kid amused for a decent amount of time.

Then he decided to go into the hotel bathroom and just start banging on the door.  Banging and banging and banging and banging for like 20 fucking minutes.  Ok.  Fine.  Whatever.  Ignore it.  Except when he comes out he [a] insists he was asleep and [b] starts opening the cabinets in the kitchenette and slamming them shut.  The boy is TWELVE.  He’s not two, he should know better than to make large amounts of noise for no earthly reason.  I go up, close the door he’s got open, and tell him to cut it out before I hurt him which is a very normal reaction from me (keep in mind that I was raised in military programmes).

Apparently I’d already reached my frustration limit for the day.  I don’t even know what happened, but for some reason he’d called me ‘she’ and then when I corrected him went into “he, she, it, whatever” in a totally normal, joking 12 year old way and I just snapped.  I shoved the poor kid against the wall and probably would’ve decked him if there hadn’t been other people around.  It’s me so as soon as I realised what I was doing I felt like the world’s worst human being, but that’s not exactly the point.

I’m not used to having to keep an eye on my temper.  Normally when I get angry or frustrated I sulk, yell, or cry.  Crying happens more than I like to think about.  This though…this is different and I’m going to have to learn how to deal with it as soon as possible.