TBT: In Testosterone Veritas

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays. This post was originally posted on Queereka on 2/16/2015.

CN: Transition experiences, discussion of aggression and objectification.

On Cracked yesterday a trans man named Roman Jones wrote about 6 Awful Lessons I Learned Transitioning from Female to Male. Some of the stuff in there felt similar to my experiences, though it’s been awhile (9 years) since I had to bind and much of this stuff applies more to the transition process than the stage of life I’m at now. I found his commentary about medical care especially on point – problems with getting decent medical care has been an ongoing problem for me and many other trans people.

But then late in the article Jones says:

It’s not only physical, either — transgender people who have undergone hormone therapy are a goldmine of information about the differences between men and women because of the effect different hormones have on your mind. Describing his experience with testosterone on This American Life, one trans man flat-out says “I felt like a monster.” He completely stopped thinking about the random women he encountered as people, and a nice-looking one would turn his mind into a pornographic View-Master. That guy was on an irresponsibly high dose, but most trans men on testosterone agree that it increases libido and aggression, which can be a shocking revelation for someone who’s spent their life chasing the estrogen dragon.

Here’s the thing: Testosterone does not create sexism on it’s own. People learn these attitudes (aggression, objectification) from their culture. Just because trans guys are usually raised being perceived as girls doesn’t mean that we don’t live in a culture steeped in sexist attitudes and we internalize them as much as anyone else does. T makes us look more masculine and for many guys it makes us feel more masculine, but it doesn’t tell us what masculinity means. Our culture does.

Trans men often say that T made us more visually stimulated. This is certainly my experience – when I’m on T I am far more likely to look at porn, to be aroused by the sight of my partners, and to notice attractive people around me. But visual stimulation isn’t the same thing as objectification. Lots of people are visually stimulated, not all of us see the people who’s appearance arouse us as less than human. One can be both attracted to someone AND know that they are a person. People do it all the time.

Aggression is similar. Some trans guys experience increased aggression on T. Many don’t. Some of us start crying a lot more (I cry at movies. A lot. Especially Pixar ones.) and some of us have a mellowing of emotional volatility because we’re so much less stressed out with less dysphoria. Our responses are varied because our expectations are different and our ideas about what manhood is and who we are as men is so diverse. Guys who are already prone to aggression or who see aggressiveness as a manly trait and part of their masculinity will have problems with that. These problems are created by a culture that teaches us – all of us! – that violence and anger are male attributes, a natural result of testosterone.

The models of masculinity I saw growing up in my family were extremely gentle. My father is an incredibly gentle man. My best memories of him are of sitting on blankets on the floor with him and my siblings, playing and telling stories. He works incredibly hard for my family, is soft spoken and introverted, and deeply devoted to my mother. My strongest image of adult masculinity is that of a devoted father and husband. Unsurprisingly, aggression is not a problem I have had with T.

Testosterone doesn’t create monsters of trans men or anyone else. Patriarchal culture creates toxic images of what manhood is, and some guys (trans and cis) internalize these images. When we experience an increase in libido and visual stimulation due to suddenly having our hormones corrected it shows to us and the world who we really are and who we think men are. The toxic culture we live in can create aggressive and objectifying sexist pigs out of us if we let it.

Guys, don’t let it. You don’t have to be that guy.

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TBT: In Testosterone Veritas
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2 thoughts on “TBT: In Testosterone Veritas

  1. 1

    That was a quite interesting reads. Here are a few thoughts that popped in while reading.

    1. It reminded me of the ludicrous amount of arousal I esperienced while in early stages of puberty. This would (like this still today) come as an irregular cycle, but I remember being 14 and litterally feelling like I was seeing hot men everywhere and would constantly have sexual immagery poppong up at random. (It did of course calm down in adulthood).
    2. It is actually a very cultural idea that testoterone provokes aggression in males. Not that no studies have demonstrated it, but some more recent ones seem to indicate otherwise.
    (http://www.nytimes.com/1995/06/20/us/does-testosterone-equal-aggression-maybe-not.html?src=pm&pagewanted=2)
    That myth has had terrible consequences on men and their surrounding, though I presume as per usual the transmen and minorities have been more affected.
    3. I don’t know to which degree we can say, though, that some transmen experiencing anger outbursts and some others not proves the cultural aspect. I feel like this can alone be a clue, but not necessarily evidence.
    4. On the other hand, I do feel like it being completely impossible to predict the effects of hormone replacement therapy does give a fairly compelling example of how NOT UNIVERSAL hormones are, so we should not use beliefs about hormones to justify too mouch preconscieved notions about sexes.

    1. 1.1

      It’s less that I’m completely confident that testosterone has no impact on aggression, more that I want us to seriously question the assumption that it does. I was told so firmly that I would DEFINITELY experience aggression or anger outbursts, and was surprised that it didn’t happen. I had TONS of really extreme outbursts of emotion (including rage) as a teenager, and nothing even close to that happened when I started T. My emotional management improved dramatically during my early time on T, probably because I was 20 years old and that’s a thing that happens to many people around that age.

      I am completely with you on #4. I’m just really sick of “testosterone” being used as a euphemism for toxic masculinity.

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