Tag Archive: ftmark


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.

IMG_0881[1]It’s certainly been a while since I ventured near my WordPress account. I’ve had all sorts of guilty feelings about not writing, and an equal number of depressive-type thoughts along the lines of ‘What have I got to say, anyway?’ Silly Mark. Lately, though, I’ve started doing what I’ve done in the past for this blog…thinking thoughts, noting them down and pondering if I might be able to say something interesting about them. The Muse returneth.

Life has been what is politely known as ‘a challenge’ for the last few months. I have been living alone for the first time in many years, in a slightly chilly flat, watching the world go by, and being entertained by the antics of the people I can see out of my window, not to mention rather ‘eccentric’ neighbours. I’ve done my best to bury my hurting head and heart in work, though I wouldn’t recommend trying to be polite and perky to complaining customers on the phone for  5 or more hours at a time as an antidote to feeling sorry for one’s self.

I was starting to resign myself to the life I’d begun to carve out – my flat’s not so bad, and I’d only have to work in the office for another 20 years to get a half-decent pension. But now everything has changed again – the cat is, as they say, amongst the pigeons.

I have been offered the job of personal assistant and carer to a gentleman with a spinal injury. I’ve know him a little while, and we get on, and he’s looking for someone to live with him, do the stuff he can’t, enable him to do the stuff he can, cook, clean and generally be a modern-day Jeeves. I’ve accepted. What, let’s face it, do I have to lose?

However, moving AGAIN means I am currently surrounded by boxes for the second time in 4 months; I am trying to wrangle my paperwork into a recognisable format; trying to work out how to get greasy blu-tack stains out of paintwork, and generally going a little bit mental.

I have a week and a half left of my office job. I’ll miss some of the people I work with, but generally I’ll be a happier bunny for not donning ‘officewear’ every day and dealing with all the difficulties that working in a customer services setting brings. It’ll be good to work in a completely different environment, where I can be me. I know that a change of career scenery won’t solve all the problems I’ve had recently, but you never know. Maybe when life stomps on you, you need to take the hint.

So will I be back up and blogging more regularly? Yes, I hope so – I don’t promise my previous weekly or fortnightly offerings, but it’s about time I embraced by inner Blogmonster again. After all, in the time since I last wrote, people don’t seem to have stopped visiting, and I’m now up to 40,105 post views, which is altogether awesome!

I’ve been sorting out my driving licence today, and got some new photos done. I also, in my search for bits of paper, found the last one I had done, 3 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the changes – they’re subtle, but definitely there. As I am convinced, every time I look in the mirror, that I haven’t changed a bit during this journey, sometimes it’s good to see that the change is there, and possible.

 

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.

 

Those of you who know me on Facebook will recall that recently I found an unfamiliar lump in my bottom, which turned out, on bemused exploration, to be my tailbone. On this occasion I wasn’t such a hypochondriac to imagine it was anything that shouldn’t be there, plus I did learn enough in Biology lessons at school to realise that I was poking a bit of skeleton. However, the genuine shock was feeling it there at all – for the last 41 years my tailbone has stayed happily padded, tucked away from sight and general poking by a pretty generous fat layer. Which it would seem has gone. Well, substantially reduced, anyway.

Changing shape is such a bizarre thing. Those of us who take testosterone usually do so with a bit of research, and it wasn’t like I didn’t expect things to change. However, finding unexpected bits of coccyx when sitting down in the bath is a bit…well, unexpected.

Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide, a very useful resource on all things FTM, provides a good list of expected changes for someone born female-bodied taking testosterone. Of these, the Guide refers to “Migration of body fat to a more masculine pattern (i.e., fat deposits shifting from hips, thighs and buttocks to the abdomen area)” However prepared I was for this ‘migration’, though, I still can’t quite believe that it’s happening.

I should point out here that the emergence, turtle-like, of my tailbone, is due partly to testosterone, but also to weight-loss. The thing is, as my fat cells went on the march, protesting against living conditions in my thighs, hips and bum, they decided that my abdomen would be a great place to settle down. Suddenly I could actually see most of my fat, in one place, and that, my friends, is great incentive to eat less, and exercise more. Which I have, with some success.

So here I am, just over a stone and a half lighter than I was 2 years ago, with fat in way different places than it used to be, and my poor brain is having trouble keeping up. I’ve written before about struggling with self-image through the changes, and I’d reiterate what I’ve said before about still not seeing myself ‘properly’ when I look in the mirror, thanks to my brain having got far too used to me being a shape that I didn’t like. I do very much enjoy my new slim(mer) line bod, and am marvelling at being able to buy size Small clothes, and 32″ waist trousers. However, as love affairs with my body goes, I’m still definitely in the stages of being amazed this slim new Man Body is hanging out with me, rather than feeling head over heels in love with it just yet.

Birthday Beer2I started writing this blog for two main reasons. The first was as a form of cheap therapy, and the second was to try to help family and friends understand what on earth “transition” actually involved. I didn’t really have any grandiose plans for the blog, though of course I still fondly imagine how it would feel to be offered a ‘proper’ writing job as a result of someone important reading my efforts and being inspired! Equally, I’d love it if a publisher contacted me to say I am wonderful, offering a book deal. Yeah yeah. We all know these things don’t happen.

Still, what started out small has got much bigger. For the first few months, the average number of ‘post views’ on my blog was around 400 a month. By ‘post view’ I mean one viewing of one of my posts, not how many people. So one person could visit, look at three posts, and you have three post views.

I started in March 2011, and by the end of the year, I was averaging nearly 1000 post views a month. Now that figure has grown to nearly 1500 a month. The scary thing is that I’ve halved the number of posts I publish, but the numbers keep going up.

What started as friends and family has spread to friends of friends and beyond. Other bloggers have created links to my blog, and I’ve been fortunate to have my details on Transguys.com, ‘The Internet’s Magazine for Transgender Men’ (NSFW in places, if you plan to take a look). I self-promote in a small way, on Facebook, but contacting Transguys.com was the first time I’ve really actively sought to get my blog ‘out there’. Now I am seeing the effects of people reblogging what I write, and I am losing track of who is reading my posts. It’s frightening.

I am still surprised when people I know say that they enjoy my blog. I’ve once had a complete stranger bound up to me in a pub and say “You’re ftmark!” (turns out he was a friend of a friend). That freaked me out, and I must admit that the way my blog has grown and blossomed is doing the same now.

I feel like I ought to be writing about ‘proper’ subjects and addressing ‘issues’ and being ‘representative’. Suddenly me talking about rogue nostril hair and how cheesed off I get with ignorant people seems a bit…well, trivial. I’ll be honest, dear reader: my confidence has taken a bit of a knock.

It does seem a ridiculous reaction, I know. I should be pleased that people are reading what I write, and hopefully taking something useful away from it. This may, I realise, come under the ironic Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems. But I think that it’s going to take a bit of time before I can get my head around the concept of a wider audience, and get back to feeling confident writing about what comes from my heart.

On a lighter note…BEER. My lovely partner and I have 2 nights booked in a suspiciously cheap hotel, just up the road from the National Winter Ales Festival. We used to go to a lot of events like this, being beer lovers, but this will be my first as Mark. Beer gatherings tend to be very male-dominated, and Will and I have often been referred to at events like this as ‘girls’ (not women, even though at that time we both identified as such. Girls.) I am sorely aware that I will probably be misgendered  a lot in the coming weekend, and I really hope it doesn’t detract from enjoying the frothy brown loveliness. Will did suggest she could enhance my chin fluff with eyebrow pencil, or we could just go the whole hog and use that pencil to write ‘I am a man’ across my forehead. I will let you know how it goes…

InterrogationI was sipping tea at the end of a meditation class, when I became aware of a conversation going on next to me between a trans* woman and one of the other group members that made me very angry. Given where I was (the local Buddhist Centre) and that the woman in question hadn’t asked for intervention, I kept my mouth shut. But that didn’t stop the steam coming not-so-gently from my ears.

The gentleman this woman was talking to had, after ‘discerning’ that she was transgender, decided it was ok to ask her a series of increasingly personal questions about her transition, right down to ‘will you be having the Full Monty?’ – his words. Over tea in the Buddhist Centre.

Now she was answering those questions, so perhaps the whole conversation was fine with her, but it did get me thinking about all the questions that people feel are really quite ok and appropriate to ask on learning that we’re trans*. I’ve asked my good buddies on Facebook to give me the questions they are most asked, so read them, weep, and make a note not to ask any of these things unless you are extremely sure of your context, and the person you are asking. And even then, consider just not bothering. Please.

1) What was your name before?

This may be totally motivated out of curiosity, but really this is never an appropriate things to ask a trans* identified person. My old name is irrelevant to your interaction with me now – why will knowing it help you to understand me better?

2) Has your sexuality changed?

Some people’s sexuality does become more fluid after transition, often because of increased confidence and comfort with their body and responses to it. Many other people carry on being turned on by exactly the same type of people they always did. Again – why ask this question? Curiosity is not a sufficient reason to pry about someone’s bedtime preferences.

3) How far are you going to go?

For a start, this implies that transition is a straightforward linear process with an exact end point, and a series of jumping off points along the way. Not true. But actually, you just wanted to ask about my genitals, didn’t you?

4) So does that mean your partner’s sexuality has changed?

This question is often wrapped up as ‘concern’ for an existing relationship. My partner’s sexuality did not just flick like a switch the day I first said ‘I’m not a woman’, but fortunately for me, her love for me triumphs over society’s more salacious expectations that we’ll fall apart as a couple over my transition. It’s just another kind of voyeurism, and if there ARE any changes/problems in a relationship like ours, due to the politics of sexuality or anything else for that matter, why on earth would I be discussing it with anyone except those in whom I choose to confide?

5)Will you have sex with me?

To be honest, if you’re asking me in this kind of context in the first place, the answer is probably no. If you want to add ‘slept with a t****y’ to your list of achievements, run away now before I hurt you. If you like the idea of sleeping with someone your own gender, but without those awkward tell-tale bits (eg: ‘it won’t make me gay because you’ve not got a penis’), sorry, but there’s professionals for that kind of thing.

6) How does your partner feel about you changing?

What do you want to hear? That everything’s brilliant, in which case, fair enough. I can appreciate that people who love us will want confirmation that “we’re ok”, but it’s an odd question coming from a stranger. Are people actually trying to find out if a couple are going through a really hard time, and maybe receive confirmation of their own that ‘transition harms relationships’? Either way, it is, quite simply, none of your business.

7) Can I have your X when it/they have been chopped off?

I know, I know, it’s a common joke when trans* people are contemplating surgery. But being common, we’ve all heard it a few hundred times, and it gets a bit tiresome. Besides, it makes what we’re going through into a cartoon situation. This is not some kind of advanced Mr Potato Head.

8) Have you always felt like a [insert chosen gender here]?

We all have very diverse internal histories when it comes to identifying as trans*. Having to explain our journey in a social setting is not what many of us want to do. As a result, a lot of us have to hand a potted one-liner to sum up the ride so far. Mine is “I knew there was something wrong, but didn’t identify what that was until I was in my 30s”. There, easy. The trouble is, that makes the psychology of transition seem over-simplified, even childlike. Besides, why exactly do you want to know what my gender identity was aged 10, 18, 27, etc…?

9) Why do you want to do this to yourself?

Well, I was bored one weekend and thought I’d spice things up a bit by questioning my gender identity, jumping through countless hoops for the medical profession, taking life-changing medication and undergoing elective surgery. Why do you think?? If there were a different way of becoming the person I know I am, I’d be doing that instead.

10) When you’ve had surgery, can I see?

Did you want to see my genitals before? Have I indicated any desire to play saucy show and tell with you? Why are you so interested now? Are you going to give me marks out of ten? Ok, sarcasm aside, it can be helpful for people considering surgery to see the results of someone else’s, but really, unless you have a vested interest in seeing what a modified body looks like, it’s not very polite to ask. There are a million pictures online. Go (go)ogle them.

11) Which way round are you going?

Surprisingly common, this one, and in a weird way it is almost a compliment. However, I’d advise that if you really can’t work out ‘which way’ someone is going, just keep quiet, use the name they’ve asked you to use, and reflect on whether it really matters for you to know.

10) Are you sure?

By the time most of us tell our family, friends and wider acquaintance of our intention to transition, we have spent endless months and years weighing up the decision. If you mean ‘are you sure you’re a man?’ well consider your own gender identity. Are you sure you are a man? A woman? Genderqueer? How do you know, and how can you be sure? I bet it’s not because of what is dangling between your legs. Of course we’re sure. Or as sure as anyone else can be about how they identify, and that’ll just have to do.

I’m sorry if this week’s post seems a little angry. I know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I guess I’d rather be sarky and a touch bilious than outright furious. Because sadly, trans* identified people are subjected to questions like this all the time, all over the place, by people they have barely met as well as those who are closer to them. You might think it’s unfair of me to say ‘Don’t Ask’, because it does help to understand someone if you ask about their journey, but please, I beg of you, choose your words carefully, choose your timing, and examine your motives. Most of all, consider whether you actually need the answer to a particular question to be able to support someone on their journey. And if you’ve just met someone, it does NOT show empathy, support or acceptance if you ask intrusive questions.

Most of us will answer questions when we’re pinned in a corner, but it can be humiliating, uncomfortable and stressful, even when we still have a smile on our faces. Please consider that perhaps empathy, support and acceptance comes in NOT asking these questions.

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!