When I started testosterone, actually before I started too, I used to shave when I was feeling dysphoric. Obviously I wasn’t growing the mountain man beard of my dreams, but going through the ritual of shaving was a welcoming relief to my dysphoria.
I even took it to the next level. I got into wet shaving and created a very personal experience out of the chore of shaving. Sometimes I would put on some 20’s jazz and enjoy the time to myself.
This went on for years… and then I grew a beard.
I couldn’t grow a decent beard until I was about 2 ½ years on T, and even then I don’t have the genetics to give me the kind of beard that I want. As a consolation, my beard is better than my brother’s, who is four years older and has an in-house testosterone supply.
I started with scruff, waited until that filled in, and once I was comfortable enough with how it looked I grew it out and kept it trimmed up. My hair doesn’t curl and is very fine and thin, but I still pulled it off and looked good.
After many months of fur, I started feeling the twangs of dysphoria creeping up. It was a different kind of dysphoria than I was used to and it was even more uncomfortable because of that reason. Like my other dysphoria, this too would ebb and flow. It slowly dawned on me that my beard was to blame. For some reason there was a serious disconnect between my bearded face and my internal face (the face I see when I close my eyes and imagine what I look like).
The only solution I could come up with was to shave. To bring back my ritual of wet shaving and give myself a bit of a jump start. Lather up and shave my way into feeling manly again. So, I did just that. I woke up from a Saturday afternoon nap and decided today was the day and went to town. I spent over an hour oiling, lathering, shaving, rinsing, and repeating until my face was smooth and clean.
As if my mind knew what was coming, I felt that same dull dysphoria resonate through my chest before I took my first full glance at myself post-shave. I knew I wasn’t going to like what mirror was going to show me, but hiding isn’t in my vocabulary so looking was my only option.
The dysphoria came on full force when I stared into my winter-pale face, still slightly red from the strokes of the razor. Of course I didn’t like what I saw: a younger, more feminine version of the face I had been getting used to for the last few months, and days later I still feel defeated and uncomfortable.
I’m still working on coming to terms with the fact that my clean face is no less my own than my bearded one and that both will never match my internal face. I’m also no closer to understanding why my bearded face was making my dysphoric or if there was another force at work.
What I do know is that because all of these faces are my own, they are all equally masculine, equally feminine, and equally awesome. I just need to remember it more often.