Category: FTM/Transition Info


Dec 2014Please be warned, lovely readers, that in this post I will be talking about menstruation. Just so you know, as the ‘m word’ is not a favourite for a lot of trans* men. I shan’t be referring it to Shark Week, or The Red Menace, or anything else that sounds like a comic book villain, though I appreciate why people sometimes find that easier to deal with.

I officially stopped menstruating in March 2011, the same month I started taking testosterone. I was over the moon, and very happy never to have to negotiate the sanitaryware aisle on my own account ever again. The average time it takes for testosterone to stop menstruation is 6-12 months (with much variation – so if you are still waiting, try not to panic). I was exceptionally lucky.

Scroll forward to Summer 2014. Life has changed a lot, I am rarely taken as a woman, can still count my chest hairs on one hand, and am happy transitioning gently as I contemplate my upcoming 43rd birthday. This year seemed like a good time to try and sort out a few nagging health issues that are unrelated to transition. Right up there at the top of the pile was my anxiety. I’ve mentioned it before, so won’t go into the gory details, but anxiety is a constant, crippling, sleep destroying part of my life. I’d had enough, had tried every method I could think of, and many other people suggested, but the Anxiety Monster was taking over, so off I went to my GP.

My doctor has so far seemed very good regarding the issues I have, with a very balanced approach, a desire to learn and the ability to recognise that I’m not thick, and DO know myself and my body. After much debate, he prescribed Pregabalin, which, apart from a variety of other uses (eg: epilepsy, nerve pain management) is apparently very good for anxiety. I started on a super-low dose, and escalated up to a dose that was still barely in the therapeutic range. But it actually seemed to work.

The trouble is, that as my anxiety was beaten down to a manageable level, I started feeling really rotten, both physically and mentally. Now as I’ve previously mentioned, when you have a number of diagnoses jostling for position, it is very hard to untangle why you’re not feeling so good.

Then the bleeding started. Whether you call it menstruation or ‘break through bleeding’, I was having it. You’d think I’d have freaked out, but I felt weirdly calm about the whole business. I figured it was one of these things, and that it would go away. There was even an odd pride that my little ovaries still packed a punch. I went and bought pads (ironically, buying them at the same time that I collected my next box of testosterone from the pharmacy). Of course I spoke to my doctor, who ordered blood tests, the results of which were a bit of a bombshell. My testosterone levels are normally healthily within the male range (9.9-27.8nmol/L) at around 20. This time, however, they were 7.4, despite being on a full dose of testosterone. It certainly explained how I was feeling. See Running On Empty for more information about that.

I contacted my doctor in London, who calmed me down, and suggested that the Pregabalin may be interfering with the way my body metabolises testosterone. Now this is not him, or me, for that matter, suggesting that there is anything wrong with this drug. If you are already taking it, don’t just stop. You have been prescribed it for a reason. I would, however, recommend that if you have any reason to think that it is affecting your hormone levels, go and have a chat with your doctor. I chose to stay on it, initially, and my doctors agreed that I should increase my dose of T by 50% to compensate.

I menstruated for over 6 weeks, before the increased dose of T seemed to bring my body back into line, though my brain was haywire. I’ve now made the decision to come off the Pregabalin….carefully, with my doctors’ help. It seems like I’m stuck with the Anxiety Monster for now, and it looks like it will be a long road back to normality. The moral of the tale, if any, is that even drugs that same entirely unrelated may mess each other up. Testosterone therapy is a bit of an unknown territory for many GPs, so I guess it’s up to us to keep an eye, literally and metaphorically, on our own bodies and minds, and act on what we see.

accountability-savage-chickens13 years as a teacher have left me thoroughly prepared for target setting. My New Year’s Resolutions are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Not for me the “I will be a better person” type resolution. Oh no – I have lists, tables, negotiated steps. Will my resolutions work out? No guarantees.

I took delivery this morning of a set of weights, with the intention of losing the lard I’ve put on in the last 5 months, and regaining my ‘gym shape’. They’re still sat looking heavy on the hall floor, while I find things to do to avoid opening the box…

I am having the healthiest online shopping order I’ve ever bought delivered tomorrow. To give you an idea, the first three items are celery sticks, seed mix and oat flower, lavender and chamomile teabags. Given that my body is currently groaning and moaning about the amount of fat, sugar and alcohol I’ve squeezed into it during the Festive Season (oh, ok, let’s be honest here, since July), I’m quite looking forward to reverting back to healthier eating.

I am, however, the Prince of Planning, the Emperor of Procrastination – the Demigod of talking the talk, and yet the Baldrick of walking the walk. I’m pretty sure that I will end up healthier than I am at the moment, but whether I’ll stick to all those SMART targets? Well, I’ll keep you posted.

Health aside, there’s something much more important I have resolved to do this year – to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate. For those of you outside the UK, this is the way someone like me can apply to be legally recognised as male, and be issued with a new birth certificate. It’s a clunky process, has some costs attached and for me, at least, can be an emotionally challenging bit of paperwork to face.

I know for a lot of people in my position, apply for their GRC is the first thing they do having lived as themselves for two years, the legal minimum recognised by the GRC panel. For many trans* people, going through this legal process is hugely important so they can finally be properly recognised, and hold a new birth certificate. I’ve been procrastinating – not because I don’t think it’s important for me, but because it scares me.

Like my weights in the hall, I have metaphorically been staring at the boxes for nearly 3 years. I’ve read through the paperwork umpteen times, decided to get going gathering paperwork as evidence…and done nothing.

To a certain extent, the way I was living before did make a difference. I was in a civil partnership, so going through the process of being recognised legally as male would have caused a lot of upheaval. In the UK, a civil partnership is only currently permissable between two people of the same gender, so we would have had to dissolve our partnership before I could be granted a full Gender Recognition Certificate, then either marry as man and woman (which neither of us was that keen on, but which it’s fair to say would have had the biggest impact on my partner) or just carry on once more as unmarried/unpartnered. There was a time in our relationship where we were planning having a child, and the implications of our relationship status on whose name went down on the child’s birth certificate, and therefore my rights as a parent, was a serious factor impacting my decision to seek legal recognition of my gender.

Those factors aside, I have never been one to try and pretend that the past hasn’t happened. I feel strangely fond, and extremely protective, of the girl who is named on my birth certificate, who struggled for so long to work out why she felt so ‘wrong’ in this world. No, that doesn’t mean I am not 100% sure that I am Mark, but it does make me reluctant to erase any part of my past. A new birth certificate is what I need to achieve legal standing as a man, but I do not wish to be disrespectful of my old birth certificate, let alone pretend it didn’t exist.

So I’ve been staring at the paperwork for a very long time, and finding things to do instead. For those of you who are curious, I need to:

*Have proof that I have dissolved my civil partnership.

*Provide evidence that I have “lived in my acquired [*see below] gender” for at least two years (eg: driving licence, payslips, bank statements, utility bills, etc.). Apparently 5 or 6 documents will usually do. [*NB: ‘acquired’ is not my favourite word, as I don’t feel it reflects my experience or that of a lot of other trans* identified people, but it’s legalese]

*Give evidence of all changes of name.

*Provide 2 medical reports – one from “a doctor [or] psychologist specialising in the field of gender dysphoria” and one from my GP “including specific details of [my] treatment”.

*Send a cheque for £140 (this does vary for people on lower incomes).

So as you can see, it’s not actually that arduous a procedure, but I’m still sat staring at all the paper, and doing not a lot. Financially, I just need to find the fee, any charges my doctors will make for a letter, and, of course, the cost of the dissolution of my Civil Partnership. The ironic thing is, of course, that now I am no longer with my partner, I’d have had to face this at some point soon anyway. Well, there’s nothing like necessity to sharpen the resolve.

So let’s get all teachery on myself. My biggest New Year’s Resolution is to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate. Is that Specific? Yup. Is it Measurable? Yes – I’ll either have done it, or I won’t, or be in the process of getting bits of paper together. Is it Attainable? Well, others have managed it, so let’s hope so. Is it Realistic? Yes – I’m not planning on jumping off the moon here. Is it Time-bound? I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know how long the whole process takes, but I should probably aim to have all my bits of paperwork ready to send to the Gender Recognition Panel by a specific date, so let’s say, for the sake of argument, 1st April 2014. April Fool’s Day.

Why do all this? A big part of me says that I don’t need a bit of paper to say I am who I say I am, or a Gender Recognition Panel to recognise my gender, thank you very much. However, to quote from the Ministry of Justice website: “If you are successful in your application for Gender Recognition, the law will recognise you as having all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to a person of your acquired [sic] gender”. I know exactly who I am in myself, and it would be nice for that to be recognised on a legal level. Not just the rights, but the responsibilities too. And that is why I have to make this New Year’s Resolution work.

Happy New Year, everyone – let’s hope 2014 is better!

TwitterAre you a UK based trans* identified man, a man with trans* history or someone with experience of the NHS as a person assigned female at birth who identifies as male, trans*, genderqueer or questioning your identity? The NHS are hosting a twitter club for trans* men on Wednesday, asking people to participate in a live debate about how the NHS and GICs can improve services for us.

This looks like an interesting opportunity to have our say. More information can be found here  http://aedanjwolton.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/nhsgenderid-nhs-england-host-gender-identity-twitter-clubs-to-improve-services/

Check out what Aedan has to say about this, and please pop along to Twitter to take part this coming Wednesday – 20th November 2013. Oh, and spend a bit of time looking at Aedan’s blog while you’re over there – it’s good stuff.

kings-speechHello – it’s been a while. If I’m honest I’ve needed a little break from blogging. I do love doing it, and I’ve not run out of things to talk about (yet!) but my head has been in a funny place recently. My natural reaction to that sort of feeling is to crawl into bed and stay there, but Society will insist that I keep on going, so that is what I’ve done, albeit paring down on a few of my commitments.

That’s not to say I’ve been a hermit – tempting as that might have been. I’ve been doing a beginners’ climbing course at my local wall, which has been a lot of fun. I’ve discovered that after a lifetime of being not-terribly-strong, I now have muscles that will propel me from one small chunk of plastic rock to another if I ask them nicely (or tell them, dammit). Thank you very much, Mr Testosterone, for that one. Oh, and thanks are probably due to the weeks of eating well and going to the gym, which have resulted in biceps that make me happy, and leg muscles that have earned me the nickname ‘Thunder Thighs’ by my climbing partner. I’ve not, I confess, been able to stick to the strict regime the way I wanted to for a full 12 weeks. However, I did pretty well for 6 weeks, and I am trying to get my head around the concept of starting another 6 week stint soon. If in doubt, do things in chunks.

Possibly the biggest thing that has happened this month is a visit to a speech therapist about my slightly-deeper-than-it-was-but-definitely-still-female voice. After 2 years and 4 months *most* (but definitely not all – transition is not an exact science) people have a significantly more masculine voice than I do. Not necessarily deeper, but resonating differently. I did have a very high voice to start with, plus as a (cough) ‘older’ person, my voicebox has been used to doing what it does in the same way for a very long time.

I spent a long time assuming things would just sort themselves out, and it’s true that my voice is still getting lower as time goes on. However, it has become the thing that ‘gives me away’ in terms of people recognising me as male. I look pretty androgynous, which is fair enough, but that, coupled with the voice…no chance, or at best, much confusion.

I spoke to my GP about the issue in the end, because I spend a high-ish proportion of my time at work on the ‘phone, and I do get very down being mis-gendered on every third ‘phone-call. Despite giving my name clearly at the start. My GP referred my to the Ear Nose and Throat team at the local hospital, and much to my amazement, I was invited to make an appointment. Big up to the NHS.

I honestly thought the speech therapist would laugh me out of the room, or give me a stern lecture about there being people with REAL problems out there in the waiting room, and I was wasting their time. However, she has been wonderful. Enthusiastic, honest about what she does and doesn’t know about FTM voice issues, sweet, encouraging, and, let’s face it, I’m a little bit in love.

Far from giving me a photocopied sheet and sending me packing, she spent an hour working on solid, practical ways to change the sound of my voice without sounding silly. And it is working. My work this month revolves around the ‘Mmmm’ sound, as it helps me find a good pitch, a bit like a tuning fork. Try it – if you hum ‘Mmmmmm’ at what feels like a natural pitch, it should feel ‘right’. I then have to add on vowels (MmmmmMAY, MmmmmmmME, etc.) then ‘M’ words (MmmmmMARMALADE). This has really helped me find a lower sound to my own voice, and when I think about ‘setting’ my voice, it works a treat. Of course, as soon as I forget all about it and start chatting away as normal, the squeakier, less ‘grounded’ voice comes back.

I have started answering the ‘phone at work with my Mmmmmm voice, and I’ve only been called ‘love’ and ‘darling’ by one man in the last 3 weeks, which is a distinct improvement. I’m hoping the barman in my local hasn’t noticed the ‘Mmmmmmm’ before “I’d like a pint of Old Fisherman’s Sock, please”.

If this is the improvement I’m able to get in 3 weeks, I’m very much looking forward to what 2 more appointments will bring. Perhaps we can slowly get the body and the voice to match, and at least reduce the confusion a lot of the Great British Public experience on meeting me.

In other news, I will soon be guest blogging for ‘Original Plumbing’, an online spin-off of the OP magazine, “dedicated to the sexuality and culture of the FTM trans guy”. Their website is relaunching on 1st August, and I should be doing a piece once a month. Check out my introduction on there when the new website’s up – I’ll put a link on this page a bit closer to the time. Yeah, I’m the one going on about Hong Kong Phooey.

4 months before T2 years on TAs many of you will already know, I’ve just passed my 2nd Transiversary, marking 2 years on testosterone. I’ve already talked about this a bit on my YouTube channel (MrHerbertTurtle – check it out by following the link on the top right of this page) and I suppose I don’t have any super-wise words to say.

Of course there has been a lot of change in 2 years. From a physical point of view my body has changed radically. Broader shoulders, slimmer hips, wider jaw, general hairiness, greater strength: all the things that we are led to expect from taking testosterone have come to pass, more or less. Emotionally, it’s become quite hard to judge how I have changed, simply because whilst I know that my emotional reactions and general outlook are now very different, these things are now so ‘me’ that I can’t really remember how things were before. Or even if there *has* been a change.

It’s fair to say, though, that I am calmer than before, quieter, with less of a need to be included or liked or approved of. I still get stressed out, of course. I’ve spoken before about my problems with anxiety, and they haven’t suddenly evaporated, but then testosterone is just another hormone, not a Magic Potion.

I confess that when I started on this journey, I did think that by the end of 2 years I’d be ‘done’ (like that transgender popcorn I’ve mentioned before). I think I hoped I’d be more unequivocably ‘a man’, at least to look at, than I actually am. As one who still gets ‘love’ and ‘she’ on a regular basis, I look with some jealousy at the guys who just seem to slip into their masculinity like an old jumper.

I’m told this is partly because of my age. Ok, I’m no pensioner, but my body has spent 4 decades being a certain way, and realistically my 2 years on a new fuel won’t have had that much of an impact on muscles, hair follicles and other bits and pieces used to thriving on oestrogen. Everyone changes differently – sadly, as in every other facet of life, we are handed labels and expectations as soon as we identify a particular way, but our genes don’t listen to expectations. My genetic history doesn’t really scream “Big Hairy Butch Fella” – even if it did, 2 years is still a very short time for my body to channel its inner caveman.

What those 2 years has given me is confidence, body positivity, self-acceptance, peace and a hefty dollop of happiness. They’ve given me the chance to work out who exactly I am, and to accept that whilst I may never conform to the world’s definition of ‘manly’, at least I can live the rest of my life being myself.

 

RashI’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. At the faintest whiff of a symptom I’m off to Dr Internet to work out what on earth could be wrong with me. Recently, I was finding it very uncomfortable to swallow, and could feel a definite swelling  at the base of my throat. It did, indeed, feel like I was gargling golf balls. Cue panic, mental re-writing of my will (that didn’t take long) and much tapping at my keyboard. Of course, I am also a sensible person, and concluded, on the basis of previous experience, that my throat issues were just the result of testosterone doing its job. Again. When the pitch of my voice dropped a note or two a couple of days later, everything fell into place.

The thing is that with the knowledge and experience I have, I am able to discern sensible reality from hypochondriac panic relatively easily. But my own reactions to feeling ‘not right’, even on such a small scale, beg the question of how many trans* identified people hit the internet before their GP’s office before coming to the knowledge (sorry, diagnosis) that they are, in fact, suffering from gender dysphoria.

I have a history of going to see my GP with a fairly clear knowledge of what might be wrong with me, and this has led people to think that I am, in fact, a bit of a charletan, in that I pick an interesting sounding diagnosis, then convince the doctor that this is what I have. That gives a lot of credit to my long-term acting skills, but does rather cast me in the role of attention seeker and fraud.

I like to assume that the various professionals I have seen over the years haven’t just looked at my original diagnoses, scratched their chins, and decided to go along with it. Over time I’ve been told that my bipolar diagnosis wasn’t true, contrary to, I think, the opinions of 4 psychiatrists, countless therapists, and a CPN or two, not to mention the entire staff of 2 wards in a fairly prestigious mental hospital. Conversely, it has been suggested that I’ve only been diagnosed with gender dysphoria because I was on a bipolar ‘high’ and therefore unstable enough to convince myself, 2 GPs, a psychiatrist, a specialist counsellor, a gender specialist and a surgeon, that I was right. I’m good, folks, but not that good.

The trouble is, when coming to your own realisation that perhaps the gender you were assigned at birth, validated by apparently having all the requisite ‘bits’ for that gender, is not the same as what resides in your head, heart and soul, being told that this is just some sort of extreme hypochondria can be terribly hard.

The diagnosis of gender dysphoria relies so much on the person involved being honest about their thoughts and feelings that the medical profession has put in place many gate-keepers, all of which are designed to ensure that the medical and psychological help being given is appropriate, timely and necessary. Some people do realise on their journey that they have taken the wrong path, and I respect the courage they have to face that and change their route. However, for those of us who find happiness, strength and fulfillment in our new roles, please save words like ‘Hypochondriac’ for when we’re complaining about sore throats.

 

 

120724-111653I am not generally a giver-upper. However, sometimes you just have to admit that a decision wasn’t the right one, and look at the best way to resolve things.

I started off using Testogel, and was overall really happy with the physical changes I was experiencing, and the fact that my moods were distinctly more even with testosterone as my main fuel. As I have Type 2 Bipolar disorder, it is super important for me to feel in control of my moods and emotional reactions.

However, my initial feeling of being Master Of My Own Destiny rubbing on a sachet of gel a day started to warp into a serious case of dysphoria. When you have to apply a medication every day to be the person you already know you are, it can get to you, and how. See T and Me for a full description.

As you’ll know from this blog, I decided to speak to my doctor about Nebido – an injected form of testosterone that you have every 12 weeks. It sounded perfect: every 3 months, go to the nurse, have a jab, and go back to the business of living a normal life. Theoretically, I couldn’t lose. However, I didn’t count on my body’s apparent reluctance to work with testosterone given over such a long interval.

I didn’t have the best of starts – no loading phase meant that my T levels plummeted during my first cycle. My description of how that felt can be found in my post Running On Empty. My GP suggested I have the injection after 10 weeks, rather than 12, and I hoped that this would fix the problem. Sadly, it didn’t. After 8 months, I was experiencing debilitating drops in my mood, reflecting low T levels.

The trouble is, when you already have a mood disorder, it’s impossible to tell whether feeling depressed, paranoid, tearful etc. etc. is “just” low testosterone, or if it’s a depressive episode. I used to experience bad PMT, and I was experiencing very similar feelings on a grand scale for around 3-4 weeks out of 10. Not. Good.

I rely on those around me to let me know when my mood is deteriorating – most manic-depressives have to do this, as often we don’t see changes until long after those close to us do. I bit the bullet and asked my partner to tell me honestly how I’ve been since I started Nebido.

“Your moods have been much more up and down, you’ve been more down, mopey and angry than usual.”

Feeling so lousy, knowing that it has been affecting my partner, and other people in contact with me has not made for a pleasant few months. My job involves constant contact with other people, in person and on the phone, and I know that I haven’t been doing my best. When a problem is affecting home and work, something needs to change.

I was due to see my doctor in London yesterday anyway, and I think I knew what I wanted before I even saw him. I know that I could spend time fine-tuning my Nebido injection to minimise the problems I’ve had, but honestly, I don’t have the emotional energy. Looking at the sheaf of blood test results I’d brought with me, he agreed that with my mental health history, and the way my body seems to use testosterone, I’d be better off with the ‘little and often’ approach of using Testogel. Let’s not forget that he put me on the gel in the first place for very similar reasons.

So, I will soon be going back to the ritual of slathering on cold gel, and doing the Testogel Dance to dry off before getting dressed. I’m not sure how I am going to deal with the dysphoria I experienced before, other than just to suck it up. There are, of course, other alternatives than Nebido, but right now I need to be back on the level with enough testosterone in my system to keep me well and healthy, both physically and mentally. Watch this space.

To celebrate nearly 20,000 post hits on my blog, I wanted to write about something that maybe isn’t often talked about in the way it should be. Sure, lots and lots of people are obsessed with what’s between a trans guy’s legs, and what ‘they do with it’, but that doesn’t help those lucky folk who happen to find themselves in bed with a trans man.

To be honest, you don’t really need to read further than number 1). Everything else I have to say comes back to that. The other thing to remember is that, as in everything in life, we are all different, and what is true for one trans guy will be the complete opposite for another. Just be aware of those differences, and refer back to number 1).

1) Talk to your man. Ask him about his body, and how he relates to it sexually. Find out what turns him on, turns him off or turns him into a quivering wreck (in either a good or a bad way). Communicate BEFORE you hit the sack – there’s a time and a place for “if I do X to you, will it make you feel dysphoric?”, and I recommend before, not during.

2) Find out what language he uses for his genitalia, and for what you’re doing in bed. Apart from the fact that you’ll both be more relaxed using terminology you’re happy with, if he suddenly yells “suck my [insert nickname for bodypart here]” it pays to know what he’s talking about.

3) Don’t assume that because your partner identifies as male that he will necessarily scorn sexual contact usually enjoyed by female-bodied folk. Some trans guys do have a problem with touching that involves what they see as inappropriate ‘female’ anatomy. If this is the case with your beau, make sure you talk things through to find his sexual comfort zone. However, a lot of guys enjoy vaginal penetration (if they call it that…who invented the word ‘vagina’ anyway? No-one with any aesthetic sense, that’s for sure). That doesn’t make them ‘confused’ or somehow not doing transition ‘properly’. It just means it feels good.

4) Be prepared for some super-sensitivity. Testosterone androgenises the clitoris (or the bodypart formally known as clitoris), making it larger, and often a LOT more sensitive, though equally, sensation may be patchy. A lot of change is going on down there, and it takes a while for everybody with a stake in the area to get the hang of what’s going on (including, I suspect, Mother Nature). If you have been with your trans guy pre-T, you may find you have to modify your technique now his anatomy is changing, or you might just find him clinging on to the ceiling by his finger nails mid-sex.

5) Strap-ons can be a blessing and a curse. Be aware that even for those of us who don’t yearn after our very own dick, attaching a fake one (however pretty/all singing, all dancing/guaranteed to satisfy/etc etc) where we can’t actually feel what we’re doing properly can be hard (pardon the pun). On the other hand, I’ve yet to meet the trans guy who hasn’t done a little manswagger on donning a strap-on. Let him enjoy his moment, and save the Freudian analysis for another time.

6) As hard as it will be, try to accommodate his body issues. If your loved one is pre-surgery in the chest area, he may want to wear a T-shirt during sex. Equally, if he is very unhappy with his genitalia, he may not thank you for staring lovingly at them, and describing what you’re doing to him in graphic detail. BUT, please realise that the way he feels about his own body does not reflect on the way he feels about yours. If you’re a girl, I’d bet a lot of money that he adores your breasts, and would be happy to play with them til dawn. Distaste for his own genitalia doesn’t mean he dislikes yours. If you’re a guy, whilst he may envy your flat chest and male genitalia, that won’t stop him desiring you and all your bits, because he finds you sexy.

7) Playing sexy dress-up, or getting into role-play, may feel uncomfortable for a trans guy – for some of us, it wasn’t that long ago that we were ‘expected’ to conform to ‘female’ dress codes. But you know what, if your fella wants to see how it feels to wear stockings, why not? It doesn’t mean he’s not actually serious about being a man, just that he’s comfortable enough with who he is to play around.

8) A common picture of trans guys is that they suddenly acquire a sexual appetite the size of Mount Etna. This is sort of true, and sort of not. Yes, one’s sexual appetite does change, and you may find your favourite trans guy indulging in a lot of…ahm…Self Love, but overall you won’t find he’s turned into a Sex Monster. If he didn’t have a very high libido before T, you may find it’s increased, but not necessarily as much as you’d expect. Those guys who end up very aroused a lot of the time may not find it a good thing, so try to talk it through.

9) Lots of lovely lube. T can, in many cases, dry things up a little. Bearing in mind what I was saying earlier about things also being Very Sensitive, I’d definitely recommend purchasing plenty of good-quality lube. If you’re using silicone toys, or your partner has a silicone ‘playing packer’, avoid silicone-based lubricants, and if you’re using condoms, don’t use oil-based lube.

10) Be safe. Bear in mind that it may still be possible for your partner to get pregnant. However sure you both are that his ovaries have been fried, it does still happen. Use a condom. Whatever your gender, STIs can still be spread however you like to play. Keep your sex toy hygiene high, and if you’re with a new partner, or have an open relationship, get a quick check-up. That way, you can relax and enjoy sex with your beautiful sexy trans man.

In every sexual encounter or longer-term relationship, there’s a lot of ‘shaking down’ to do, and because transition is necessarily a time of change, that can be very hard for all concerned. However, in my newly adopted role of ‘Uncle Mark’ I’ll just say, stick to number 1), respect each others’ bodies and minds, and enjoy it when you get it!

It’s an old joke, isn’t it, that men who wish to look more impressive in the trouser department stuff a sock in their pants? For many transmen starting out on their journey, or on a budget, a sock is still a useful option. Though let’s face it, a sock isn’t very anatomically correct, or convincing.

I’ve complained on many occasions that the world at large focuses on the penis as being the thing that is central to a female-to-male transition. And for some, it is, but not for all of us. Whether or not I end my days with my very own all-singing, all-dancing penis is not, at this stage, all that important to me.

So why the need for a sock, or a slightly more sophisticated substitute? Rather than feeling a *need*, I’d say it’s more like using a tool. I like to be read physically as male; it makes me feel more comfortable and confident. Men, whilst all sorts of shapes and sizes, share some things in common. One of these is a bulge in their crotch. Given that I still look sufficiently female to make people scratch their heads a bit, it is very useful to me to show signs that they would normally associate with men.

I’m not saying everyone’s a ‘crotch watcher’, or that people actively seek out what appears to be nestled in my pants before deciding which gender they think I might be. It’s not that conscious a process, I think, but when we meet people, we automatically assess them, and our minds tick boxes without us realising.

This is why I sometimes ‘pack’ – a rather unpleasant word for creating the illusion that I have a penis. There are a number of ways this can be achieved. Socks are, at best, an emergency measure: they have a habit of coming unfurled, and unless you’ve pinned them in place (a dangerous process at the best of times) you run the risk of a fluffy Argyle slowly working its way down your trousers and peeping out at the bottom. There are a number of packers on the market, ranging from cheap and cheerful to heinously expensive.

How much money you spend depends on what you want to do with it – a really basic packer is essentially a willy shaped stress ball. It will be about the right shape, weight and ‘feel’ if accidentally brushed against, but is unlikely to pass inspection close up and personal. At the top end of the scale are the products that can pack, be used as an STP (stand to pee) device, and can also be adapted for penetrative sex.

Packers can be held in place in a number of ways. Some are designed just to sit in your tightie whities, though there is always the risk of these making a break for freedom. Just what do you do if your packer bounces onto the floor in the middle of a gent’s toilet? Most packers come with some sort of harness, which is effective, but not awfully comfortable. Given that most people are out and about for hours at a time, that harness can get very annoying, very fast. Some of the higher end packers are attached to the body using medical grade adhesive. Some people swear by this, but I’ve heard it’s a fiddly process.

The trouble with all of this, is that for those people to whom it is a very very important thing that they have at least the illusion of a penis, the whole process of attaching, adjusting, cleaning, etc. their packer adds to their dysphoria. What better way to emphasise that you don’t have a natural penis than fiddling round with harnesses or glue?

I used to pack whenever I left the house – it became a habit, and it suited me that in strangers’ heads, at least one tick box was filled. However, the inconvenience and general discomfort has meant that I now generally just pack for ‘special occasions’, such as a night out or a trip where I won’t know people, and could do with a bit of extra confidence.

Because that’s the funny thing – I don’t have a dependence on packing, but if I am feeling unsure of myself, or need a little extra confidence, then packing does me a lot of good. Even I have to admit that as well as all the ‘using it as a tool’ stuff, having what feels like the ‘right’ anatomy, however synthetic, can be very grounding.

I got called ‘hot’ the other day, by a guy. And not because he thought I was a girl, and goes for the butch type, but because he’s a lover of men. All of this caught me a little bit by surprise, because I’ve never considered myself to be ‘hot’ in my life. Not in that way. On a good day, when my self-confidence is above its usual ebb, and the wind is blowing right, I think of myself as ‘ok looking’ – more ‘luke-warm’ if you will. Definitely not sexy, or anywhere near it.

I wrote about this before, in I’m so vain. I lived for a very long time as someone who was unhappy with their body and dismissive of any attempts by loved-ones (or strangers) to reassure me I really was attractive. It’s really hard to get out of that mind-set, so being called ‘hot’ was, well, a bit nice!

Being complimented by a man was even nicer, I think, because it’s a very long time since my gender presentation screamed ‘pretty, sexy available girl!’ so I’ve not been at the receiving end of a male sexual compliment for well over a decade. In many ways my recent encounter made me feel that I had been recognised as a man, and even more so, an *attractive* man. I have no real idea what I will look like once the Trans Popcorn Maker has popped all my kernels, and whilst, let’s be honest, I’ll be happy to live my life as a man as the most ordinary looking chap around, it’s good to know that something is going right. Saying that, though, feeling sexually attractive is very unusual for me, and something that will take a while to get used to.

When embarking on transition, there’s lots of things you expect, difficulties catalogued by those who have gone before, and a zillion and one websites, blogs and YouTube videos to help you know what’s coming. But there’s some very odd, quite subtle things that no-one ever seems to talk about.

Size, for instance. Not all transguys are short, but a lot are. Short for men, that is. I’m 5’5″, which made me an average sized ‘woman’. However, I now find that I am ‘small’. That sounds so obvious, and unimportant, but going from average to small in one fell swoop takes some getting used to. I’m having to reposition myself physically in the world. Some years ago I used a walking stick to get around from time to time, and I found that a similar social process went on when I had my stick. Physically, and on a deeper level, I related differently to the rest of the world.

I have also had to realign things like shoe size. I’m a 7, which used to be considered quite big  (“Shoes like barges”…you know who you are!). Just as suddenly, I have small feet. It’s not something that seems even remotely significant in the grand scheme of things, but it is a clear example of the ways in which trans people have to redefine themselves: to others, to themselves and in their core ‘story’ or beliefs. Just as I am having to consider that I may be more attractive to others than I have ever believed in my life.

Transition is not just about the big, obvious changes. We are also faced with a myriad of repositionings. It’s hard work!