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.
Throughout my life I’ve had more short-term passions than long-term pursuits, with a few exceptions. About once a week or two I would come up with something new that I was super interested in. I remember being enthralled in space exploration one day and obsessed with medieval weaponry the next. That’s how I’ve always been wired.
Some things just naturally don’t fit into the category of “hobby” or “interest,” notably sexuality and gender identity. However, that’s a hard thing to come to terms with as a parent, so it’s understandable how my folks were temporarily just going with the idea that I was a guy. Emphasis on the temporary bit.
They would eventually realize, at some point between two weeks and two years of confiding in them, that it was not a temporary thing. My dad has always been the skeptical one, and I don’t blame him at all since I’m just as skeptical about other people’s stuff and things in general. He was skeptical about anti-depressants when I was a teenager, he was skeptical about my decision to go from a computer science major to an English major, and he was pretty skeptical about the whole me being a guy thing.
To be very clear, he has always accepted me and shown me his love in the ways that make sense to him. Only in my most irrational moments did I ever interpret his skepticism as something other than the deepest concern that parents have for their children.
All in all, it made a lot of sense when I was on the eve of my name change, and again on the eve of starting hormones, and yet again on the eve of my surgery and my dad made me do a gut check just to make sure one last time.
When the gut check is coming from him, I don’t mind asking myself, and in turn reminding myself, that this is the right path for me to be on and to reflect on how much more comfortable I’ve become after each step in my transition.
And then, random people ask me what it would be like, or even worst, what it will be like when I de-transition.
I shit you not, through college I experienced more than the recommended dose of stupidity and rudeness when people would tell me that I would never pass well enough, that I would be ostracized, that I would be emasculated and broken to the point that I would willingly slink back into womanhood.
It still doesn’t even make me mad. Ok, maybe a little frustrated, but mostly it’s just hilarious. Beyond the face-palming initial reaction, I am faced with a person who is so internally conflicted about the idea that their own gender identity might be in question that they are telling me how impossible it would be for my own brand of masculinity to be accepted as natural fact.
So, no, I don’t wonder what it would be like if I de-transitioned just like I don’t think that happily cisgendered people wonder what it would be like if they transitioned. However, for the sake of pondering, my results are quite comical.
Time has a way of changing people and minds, and if me and mine change then I guess I’ll just roll with it. Hell, that’s basically what I’ve been doing so far and it’s been working out alright.
This question baffles me.
No one has ever asked me what I would do if Matt changed his mind, but I’ve read of many parents of gender-nonconforming kids being asked this relentlessly.
I don’t think a person could meet Matt and then ask me what we would do if he “changed his mind”. There isn’t a fiber in his being that suggests he’s anything other than male.
But, I love Matt. I love him immensely.
If he changed his mind, about being trans, I’d do everything in my power to help him feel loved and safe.
Would it be easy? Absolutely not. Generally speaking I don’t find myself attracted to feminine features. I love beards. I love treasure trails. I love deep voices. I love tough, strong men. But would I still want to be with him? Yes.
I would do everything in my power to help get him back to a place where he feels comfortable in his body.
I am so lucky to have met Matt at this point in his transition. I feel so lucky that he is established as a man in his (and everyone in his life’s mind). Blessed, actually.
I see stories often on the /r/MyPartnerIsTrans subreddit of couples who have been together, as seemingly cisgender individuals, now faced with one partner transitioning. The toll on each partner, not to mention the relationship, their families, their friends… it’s unimaginable.
I like to think that I am a strong woman. I like to think that the love that I feel for Matt is unconditional. That being said, I can never begin to guess how I would feel if he told me he needed to transition for the first time or even to detransition.
In trying to understand dysphoria’s place in my life, Matt’s life, and our relationship I had been pondering what I thought dysphoria felt like for Matt and not what it felt like for me.
I’ve been struggling to find words to find something I’ve never felt before. It doesn’t really feel like my topic to talk about. Dysphoria is a trans thing. Right?
Dysphoria is something I can witness, but it feels weird for me to talk about it from my perspective. No one has ever asked me what it feels like to be dysphoric, so I never considered it. But it still exists in my life. I still encounter dysphoria because I have a trans boyfriend.
Matt is generally really comfortable in his skin. Suddenly he didn’t want to be naked in front of me. I’m not sure if it was embarrassment fueled by the dysphoria, but I went a few days without seeing him totally naked. I’d tug at his boxers and he’d give me a look of discomfort. Like, what was underneath was foreign and he didn’t want to have to look at it.
So, what does it feel like for me when Matt feels dysphoric? I feel helpless. I feel absolutely useless.
There is nothing I can read on the internet to help me understand dysphoria. There is no quick guide for dealing with a dysphoric boyfriend. These first six months of our relationship have consisted of me learning about trans-ness as a general topic. There isn’t any way for me to understand away dysphoria. It’s not something I said, it’s not something I did, it’s not something I triggered.
I wanted to caress his face, and feel his beard, but I was worried he’d think I was drawing attention to one of his “manlier” characteristics. I wanted to lay my head across his chest, he always loves that, but I was worried he’d think I was drawing attention to his post-op chest. I wanted to tell him that I’m here for him. That I love him, no matter what. That I would do anything in my power to ease his pain. But I still fight an internal struggle. I don’t want him feel demasculinized. In that moment, I want to help him forget all the things that hurt him, not emphasize the things that are hurting him.
And then suddenly, the dysphoria passed.
It was like a switch. It seemed to be a really short time between Matt wanting his boxers to stay plastered just beneath his belly button and Matt wanting me to rip his clothes off and screw like little bunnies.
It was surprising. We didn’t really change anything in his routine, I didn’t do anything differently… There wasn’t a fix that I could see and it was unsettling for me.
In a perfect world, I wish that he had the ability to communicate what he’s feeling. Not just to help me visualize what hurts (emotionally or otherwise), but to help see how he went from 0 to 60. What triggered him. What flipped the switch.
That being said, I recognize that Matt generally does things to the best of his ability. When he’s dealing with dysphoria, I might as well be talking to Harry Potter seated next to a dementor. I get that that’s all he’s got in him. There are some days where I come home from work in a huffy. It had nothing to do with Matt, but I’m in the fuck-everyone mood. I understand that Matt is human, and that he probably wants the exact same thing out of me, when I’m in a bad place.
The best I have to offer is this: Ask your partner, in a time that they’re not feeling dysphoric, what they want, need, or expect from you. Respect their response, whether it was what you expected or not, whether it’s how you would want from them in the same position.
Know that you cannot solve their dysphoria. The best you can do is love and support them in the same way you have in every other aspect of your life together.
I like deadlines. Well, no. I hate deadlines, but I find them useful.
Without deadlines I tend to not do things… have you noticed?
So, after a little bit of nagging from Steph–and to be clear it’s the only nagging she ever does and only because I’ve given my approval for her to nag–we came up with a day that seemed to be ok.
Actually, the conversation went more like this…
Matt: I think that since I’m doing weekly injections now that I’m going to start doing them on Wednesdays.
Steph: Alright, cool. Sounds Great.
Steph: We need to start posting more.
Matt: Ok. Yeah. You’re right. I need a deadline.
Steph: How about on Wednesdays, the same as your injections.
Matt: Yeah, that’s a good idea.
Steph: Yeah, and then you can’t do your injection until you post on the blog.
Matt: *a look of horror*
Now, this is all in jest. Really, it is. But then I had an idea since I’ve been going through a rough time lately with my T levels and it’s been sooo bad some days… I’m going to tell you all what my levels are (to be followed up with some posts about dysphoria from both of us).
Prescribed Dosage (May 2011 – September 2013): 200 mg / every other week
New prescribed dosage (September 2013 – present): 100 mg / weekly
- Total Testosterone = 1010 ng/dL, normal range is 240-950 ng/dL
- Free Testosterone = 46.0 ng/dL, normal range is 9.0-30.0 ng/dL
- Hemoglobin = 14.9 g/dL, normal range is 13.5-17.5
- MCV aka Average Red Blood Cell Volume = 93 fL, normal range is 80-100 fL
- Total Cholesterol = 164 mg/dL, normal range is 100-199 mg/dL
- Triglycerides = 122 mg/dL, normal range is less than 150 mg/dL
- HDL Cholesterol = 44 mg/dL, normal range is greater than 40 mg/dL
- LDL Cholesterol = 96 mg/dL, normal range is less than 131 mg/dL
- ALT (SGPT) aka Liver Test = 19 IU/L, normal range is 8-45 IU/L
- Hemoglobin = 15.1 g/dL, normal range is 13.5-17.5
- MCV aka Average Red Blood Cell Volume = 90 fL, normal range is 80-100 fL
As you can see, my levels were completely bonkers back in April, and while I don’t have new T levels since I’m in the middle of switching doses and stuff, all of my other labs came back squeaky clean.
I should, according to my labs, be growing two beards a day and be in tip-top fighting shape.
So where’s my dysphoria coming from and what is it doing to me and Steph?
We’ll try to get to the bottom of that…
Matt (and Steph)
There are a few really simple answers:
1. Don’t. Not everyone displays kid-pictures, right?
This one just isn’t good enough for Steph. I love having pictures up. It’s one of those things that turns a house into a home.
2. Just do it. People might ask questions, but if we’ve let them into our home, then that’s “to be expected”.
This one just didn’t sit well with Matt. There are a lot of people in our life together that don’t know Matt is trans. While some of our readers don’t believe this is the best way for us to “live our life”, we feel it is. For instance: Neither of us are ready to out Matt to Steph’s parents. There may be a time and a place, but here and now is not it. Having pictures of Matt, with long pigtails and pink dresses, doesn’t bode well for keeping stealth.
So, like always, we went into brainstorm mode to find a solution.
3. Reddit. Check out one of the many subreddits: /r/picrequests.
Matt and Steph submitted a request for the photo manipulation masters of the web to give his pink clothes a blue-tint and shorten his hair. The results? Absolutely fantastic and 100% framable. We’ve actually shared the digital copies with Matt’s parents, who were thrilled.
Remember, if the solutions presented to you aren’t adequate, keep thinking.
This past weekend was a monumental one, both in our relationship and in Matt’s life as a whole. For Matt, it was his first time being shirtless around people who weren’t aware of his trans past, it was the first time we faced the possibility of needing to come out to Steph’s family (with Matt being shirtless and all), and it was the first time ever that Matt brought a girl to meet his extended family.
So here’s a look into how it went down for each of us:
1. How were you feeling about the holiday weekend before it started?
I was pretty nervous about the initial shock of her family seeing my chest and what their first impression would be. I had my excuse ready but I’ve had some experiences in the past where people have been violently shocked, and I hated that.
Nervous and excited. We had a lot planned and we were both coming off of stressful weeks. Often vacation with family (especially new family) is more stressful than relaxing. I prepared for this to be the case.
2. What was your biggest fear with Steph’s family?
That they would know what my scars were from and I wouldn’t have been able to use my gynecomastia excuse. It was actually a tie between that and not being able to water ski/sky ski/wakeboard/etc. They’re big into water activities (which I have virtually no experience in), so I didn’t wanna suck.
The drinking! Oh, the drinking. My extended family tends to do a lot of our bonding over drinks. Often… that trickles into naked swimming. Naked swimming and trans-boyfriends (even cis-boyfriends…) don’t exactly mix well. I was worried that Matt would get pressure to take off his clothes. Thankfully, the drinking was minimal.
3. How did you recall the shirtless situation going down?
I think her sister-in-law saw first and was like, “woah, those are wicked,” or something and I was like, “yeah, I had gynecomastia as a kid.” I don’t think she really know what that meant (expected) so just went with it. Repeat for Steph’s dad and uncles. No one else cared.
A few family members asked about them. My sister-in-law inquired with a few questions out of concern, being that she’s in the health field. My father/uncle asked out of awe of the gnarly scarring. Matt’s response was smooth; I had gynocomastia as a kid. The guys nodded and moved on. It was a non-issue.
4. What was the most memorable moment with Steph’s family?
Getting up on the sky ski on my first go at it. Apparently it’s really hard to do that, so it was pretty great that I did. Also, they didn’t want us to leave early (to go see my family) so it was nice to feel wanted.
My family’s cabin experience, when not centered around drinking, is focused heavily on water sports. Matt got up on my dad’s SkySki on the first try. No, that’s not him, but he did look pretty darn great 🙂
5. Overall, how do you think it went with Steph’s family?
Really well. I’m more of an introvert and it takes me a bit to open up, but Steph’s family is great and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable around them. The being shirtless thing was a non-issue, which I’m glad for.
Great! He’d already met everyone there, so I wasn’t really worried about much other than the swimming. Once that cat was out of the bag, it was smooth sailing. (Omg. So many cliches!)
6. What was your biggest fear with Matt’s family?
That my less that sensitive uncle would mess up my pronouns or name (on accident or purpose). I knew it wouldn’t bother Steph, but he can be a huge dick. Also that I would get shit from my family for needing time away from them since I can only handle them for a few hours before I need some “me time” or “Matt and Steph time.”
Interrogation. My first meeting with Matt’s mom and her boyfriend included a lot of questions. Including, but not limited to, what my favorite part of sex is.
7. What was the most memorable moment with Matt’s family?
My Uncle saying “fuck you” to my mom when she was razzing him in front of the WHOLE family and my grandfather telling Steph and I jokes and just talking with him for once.
Probably the whole picture taking ordeal and Christmas name drawing. In my dating history I’ve never felt so accepted into a partners’ family so soon. I was asked to be in all the family pictures AND to be a part of the name drawing. Very, very cool.
8. Overall, how do you think it went with Matt’s family?
Well, no one fucked up my name or pronouns in front of me and my tiny cousins think I’m the best cousin ever, so there’s that.
Pretty good. There were a few minutes where I wish I’d have bitten my tongue, but the whole weekend went really well. It was great to get to put faces with names.
9. What would you have done differently?
Made the weekend longer. I had a great time, actually. Once I got over the nerves of being shirtless around her family for the first time, I had a lot of fun swimming and hanging around drinking beer.
There was one memorable negative moment, in which I was teasing Matt for a long-ago bonding experience with his cousin. I’ve since replayed that two minute segment in my head a number of times, and wish I could get a do-over. I won’t go into specifics, but I teased him for being compassionate. I wish I would have just “aww’d”.
10. Did you have fun?
Enough to keep Steph around for a little while longer…
Absolutely. There hasn’t been a day in the last four months that I haven’t been having fun. I guess that’s how I know I found the one. 🙂