Category: August


One of the most obvious parts of FTM transition is the voice change. To me, it’s one of the clearest signs that the testosterone is doing its thing, and as such, is quite comforting, in a way. My voice started changing on the very first day I took T – it became hoarse and uncomfortable –  which shocked me by the speed at which my body was responding, but delighted me too – it WORKS!

I was fully prepared for the changes to my voice, or so I thought. I’d done my reading, spoken to other people like me, and so on. I knew that the voice would not drop smoothly and I was aware that the most likely pattern would be sore throat, drop, sore throat, drop, until hopefully my voice reaches a suitably masculine pitch after several months.

I was wrong. My voice does get sore before going a bit deeper, but then pretty much stays croaky and uncomfortable before the next stage of the process. I sound like I permanently need a throat sweet. I had, with the benefit of hindsight, been warned. I read the memoir of a transman in which he describes a woman he worked with asking him constantly about his croaky voice, and him fobbing her off with ‘oh, it’s just a bit of a throat infection’. Apparently, by the end of nearly a year, she was practically dragging him along to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. When I read this, I thought it was odd that his throat seemed ‘off’ all the time, as I was convinced there would be ‘good bits’ in between the drops.

My throat and voice feel ‘off’ all the time now, and I’m always clearing my throat (witness all the coughing on my videos!). The trouble I find when my throat gets really painful (and it hurts like hell at the moment – hence the inspiration for this post!) is that although my conscious mind think ‘it’s ok, my voice is just about to get deeper again’, my subconscious mind think ‘aaaargh! I’m ill’. It’s very difficult not to feel ‘ill’ with a really sore throat, cos quite important bits of my brain only know that pain=poorly. So I feel quite low, physically and mentally, with my brain constantly trying to get me to stop what I’m doing and rest up, so I can get better. Except that I’m actually fine, so there’s a lot of mind over matter, or even mind over mind going on!

Back to my actual voice. Those of you who’ve known me for a while will attest to the fact that I had a pretty high voice before starting hormone therapy. The very first video on my YouTube channel was made after 4 days on testosterone, and even with the accompanying slight gravel (yes, really, this is my voice showing signs already) you can hear how high pitched I used to be. Now my voice is still solidly within ‘female’ range, but I sound a bit like I’m speaking through a vocoder at times.

The trouble is, I’ve lost my very ‘top end’, but not yet gained a real ‘low end’. I thought, wrongly, that my voice transition would go from high to low. Nope. I occasionally sound low (though fuzzy), with squeaks and slides. It’s almost impossible to keep talking at just one pitch. When I forget about it, my voice just goes everywhere, and I just sound like a crazed woman who’s been smoking 50 a day for her whole life.

Talking on the phone to people who don’t know me is hard, as there is no way my voice sounds male, even though I’ve given them a male name. Problems come up all the time with telephone banking, ringing the barber for an appointment, doctor, you name it. It’s embarrassing and frustrating, but there’s nothing I can do except put up with the sore throats and be patient.

I love singing, but cannot sing at the moment. I used to love doing karaoke, but that’s a no-no just now. I went to a pub recently where they had a karaoke, and a new friend was trying to persuade me to sing. I said I couldn’t, and she took that to mean that I had a bad singing voice and didn’t want to look silly. ‘It’s ok’, she said, ‘you can’t be THAT bad’. No, I really can’t sing. It’s physically impossible. I wouldn’t just not hit the notes, I wouldn’t be making even the right sounds. If anything came out at all in some places. That brings me down, even though it’s superficial and hopefully only short-term. I miss my singing voice.

It has been suggested to me that whilst in this stage where voice-control is up the spout that voice training would be helpful. A lot of transwomen spend time training their voices to sound natural at a higher pitch, and I believe it can be very successful. As a transman, I am fortunate in that whatever I do with my voice, it WILL end up lower. Testosterone thickens the vocal cords, so the voice has no choice, really, but to head South, albeit bumpily, and with little control.

‘Trying’ to sound like a man is something I’m wary of, as I don’t want to seem like a stereotypical ‘wannabe man’ pitching my voice really low, but there’s probably something to be gained from at least thinking about what I’m doing with my voice, until it’s finally decided where it’s going. Until then, Strepsils and positive thinking!

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Those of you who follow my vlog on YouTube (MrHerbertTurtle) will have seen that my latest offering was talking about patience. I try not to duplicate the things I say in my videos with what I write in my blog, but suffice it to say I was talking about how little patience I have, in particular related to my plans for chest surgery.

I am extraordinarily lucky to live where I do, as Norfolk PCT currently has a pathway for transgender people which bypasses a lot of the waiting most people have to endure. I say currently, because things are a-changing, and I am probably one of the last people to take this particular route to treatment. I really have no right to be impatient. None. But sometimes, when things don’t happen as and when planned, it can be hard to be mindful of my good fortune. That’s why I was grumbling on my vlog that trying to ‘lead’ this self-proclaimed patient-led process has been a bit exasperating recently.

I received a phone call today, though, which didn’t just make my day, it was like a thousand and one birthdays all rolled into one and blasted into the skies like a giant joy firework. My surgeon’s secretary called to say they’d got the funding approval letter from my PCT that I’ve been chasing so doggedly, and when did I want my surgery?

I tried briefly to sound cool. I failed. Quite badly. In between my happy burblings, we plumped for 12th September. Not long now!

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For anybody interested, the photo is from the Telegraph’s Pictures of the Year 2009, and is an artwork called The World’s Largest Breasts, by Chinese artist Shu Yong, being towed by an ox in Qingyuan, Guangdong Province, China

I went to see Dr Curtis yesterday, which was overall a very positive meeting, full of laughs. However, one of the things he pointed out (that I was already feeling) was that I am at “That Awkward Stage” of transition.

According to him, most transguys go through three to six months of looking very androgynous, before the body really starts to masculinise fully. When I first started to take testosterone, changes started, slowly but definitely. It’s kind of hard to put your finger on a lot of changes that have occurred, but you only need to look at a recent picture of me to see that I am considerably less feminine in appearance than I used to be.

I certainly cannot claim to look fully masculine. My body is doing its best, with fat moving from my hips and bum to my stomach (thanks, body), and facial hair starting to become a reality, along with all the hair now bedecking every limb, nook and cranny. But being realistic, anyone who takes me for a man is either being terribly polite, or should have gone to Specsavers.

This stage, where I am neither one thing or the other brings out mixed feelings in me. I have always been attracted to androgynous looking people, so I can’t say that the image I see in the mirror is unattractive, or distressing. A wicked side of me quite likes messing with people’s perceptions of what gender ‘should’ look like. However, on the flip side I feel like a fraud – I am unable to prove physically that I am who I say I am.

If I were transitioning on a desert island, I’d be super-happy with the way my body is changing, but I don’t, I live in a social context, and whether I like it or not, the interactions I have with other people do count. And a lot of people do not currently know what to make of me. I exist outside of most people’s normal frames of reference, and they are left scrabbling for gender signals and some sort of context through which to read me. Unfortunately, in my experience, failure of others to slot me into a gender category can lead to ridicule, embarrassment, and even hostility. Unlike others, I have never been physically threatened, but if looks could kill, I’d be writing this several feet under.

When dealing with people on a more personal level, it is hard when I know that my physical appearance does not match the masculinity I am claiming. But then, not every trans person “looks like” the gender by which they identify. Some cannot, some choose not to, and others, like me, are simply at the start of a very long process. But why should we have to look a certain way in order to be taken seriously? Until we as a society find some sort of acceptance that gender is not just a binary fact, us ‘in-betweenies’ face a rough ride.

Sorry about the dodgy title. I do like to entertain myself with post titles from songs, but try as I might, I couldn’t find any decent lyrics about hairloss.

Yes, I’m losing hair. Not in big dramatic lumps, but by regular sprinkling. Wherever I go, I leave little hairy calling cards, sprinkle by sprinkle. When I wake up, there’s little hairs all over my pillow. When I wash my hair, the bath needs epillating afterwards (and no, they’re not *that* sort of little hair). At work, I tend to run my hand through my hair when I’m thinking, and as a result there’s usually a good sprinkling of the little blighters whenever I look down at my desk. The same goes for the desk at home, which is conveniently white so that I can see all the escapees clearly.

None of this is entirely surprising – I take testosterone, and one of the known effects is hairloss from the head. I suppose I thought that I wouldn’t be affected. After all, my Dad has a full head of hair. On the other hand, we’re told to look to the male relatives on our mother’s side for clues on how we’ll look regarding hair loss. It’s not an exact science, but I don’t think the only close male relative I have on my Mum’s side of the genetic fence would mind me outing him as Not Having Much Hair. So potentially, my sprinkling could just be the beginning.

Everything I’ve read on FTM hair loss points to ‘Male Pattern’ hair loss – you know the sort of thing, with the forehead becoming steadily higher at the sides, then meeting up with the bald spot that’s appeared on the crown. Not all FTMs go much beyond the receding hairline stage, and I hope that’s the case with me, but to be honest, what will be will be, and I’m not going to panic and start massaging my hair with cowpats, or shelling out hundreds of pounds for a forehead weave. I know that many men find hairloss to be traumatic and damaging, but as I have taken a clear decision to make my body masculine, accepting the good and the bad that comes with that, I’m in no position to complain about my hairloss.

It would appear that I am losing a handful or so of hair a day, from all over my head. There’s no discernible change of shape to my hairline, and certainly no bald spots. I do have a LOT of hair to start with, so all I can do is carry on sprinkling and see what happens.

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On a slightly more serious note, I am aware that in the last few blog posts I haven’t really been giving my all. A few weeks ago I came under fire from more than one person for what I’m doing, the impact it is having on others and the way I have chosen to deal with it. I won’t go into details, but I came out of a very rough week wondering whether I should just shut up, be a model person, and try to do whatever other people want. When I started this blog, I swore to myself that I would be honest, whoever was reading it, and recently, I have found that difficult, resulting in a blog that was more ftmark-lite, than honest. Of course, nothing I’ve said has been a lie, but I have been holding back. So I’m sorry, and I’ll try to get things back to where they should be. If there’s anything you’d like me to write about, I’m always open to ideas, though I reserve the right to say no, politely.

No more ftmark-lite.

If Ever I Stray

Forgive me someone, for I have sinned
And I know not where I should begin
And some days it feels like you just can’t win
No matter what you do or say.

Things didn’t kill me but I don’t feel stronger
Life is short but it feels much longer
When you’ve lost the fight, yeah you’ve lost that hunger
To pull yourself through the day.

But if ever I stray from the path I follow
Take me down to the English Channel
Throw me in where the water is shallow
And then drag me on back to shore!

‘Cos love is free and life is cheap
And as long as I’ve got me a place to sleep
Some clothes on my back and some food to eat
Then I can’t ask for anything more

So come on everybody sing it 1, 2, 3, 4

So we all have secrets that we hold inside
They’re the worst little things that you never confide
And the worst one of all that you just can’t hide
Is that you’re never quite as strong as you sound
So I’m sorry baby, for the times I’ve hurt you
Sorry friends, for the times I desert you
Most days it feels like I don’t deserve you
And I wonder that you’re all still around

So if ever I stray from the path I follow
Take me down to the English Channel
Throw me in where the water is shallow
And then drag me on back to shore!

‘Cos love is free and life is cheap
And as long as I’ve got me a place to sleep
Some clothes on my back and some food to eat
Then I can’t ask for anything more

So come on everybody sing it 1, 2, 3, 4

Come on and join me in the water
And we’ll swim for home
Sometimes it’s hard to remember
I couldn’t do this on my own

So if ever I stray from the path I follow
Take me down to the English Channel
Throw me in where the water is shallow
And then drag me on back to shore!

‘Cos love is free and life is cheap
And as long as I’ve got me a place to sleep
Clothes on my back and some food to eat
Then I can’t ask for anything more

I won’t ask for anything more

The path I chose isn’t straight and narrow
It wanders around like a drunken fellow
Some days it’s hard for me to follow
But if you’ve got my back I’ll go on.
If you’ve got my back I’ll go on.

If Ever I Stray by Frank Turner

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