bandages off (shot 23)

The two feelings are completely distinct.

The first, the need to get rid of my breasts, I was prepared for. Since the moment in my childhood where I learned what being a girl meant for the future of my body,  I dreaded the day puberty set in. This was followed by years of sports bras turned chest binders, layers of shirts and hunched shoulders. July 31st, the day of my surgery, I was finally able to experience the fulfillment of this need. Even under the layers of bandages and through the haze of the pain killers, when I came to after the procedure I felt the lightness. A huge weight had been lifted, quite literally. It was exhausting. It’s like I’d been holding my breath since I was fourteen years old. On July 31st, I exhaled.

The possibility of having a male contoured chest is the second one. Throughout the years of growing disconnect I had with my chest my focus was on wanting them gone; I hadn’t been able to imagine what would be in their place. I’ve imagined an empty void. I couldn’t picture what it would actually look like for me to have a masculine chest. And I didn’t care. Anything was better than what I had. On August 6th, I had the bandages removed and was able to see my chest for the first time. It was the opposite of drowning. It was taking the training wheels off the bike. It was the second after the roller coaster starts its decent, past the building anticipation and into the moment where you throw your arms up and scream. It was seesaws and slides, it was my first home run, it was red popsicles and roller-skates. It was my first kiss, it was tree houses and love letters, it was falling in love.  It was a feeling of knowing that things were going to be better than just ok. It was gold.

 

 

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on anger. (shot 5, week 8)

The original title of this post was going to be “Buckminster doesn’t even have a castle,” as a tribute to what it’s been like juggling school, work and transitioning, and my inability to get things crossed off my to-do list since starting testosterone.  One of the things that continues to be scrawled at the bottom of my lists everyday, in the not-so-urgent category, is getting my fish, Buckminsterfullerene, a castle. My brother got me this very hip aquaculture fish tank for the holidays, and I thought it’d be fun to get the fish on the day I started testosterone, like a testosterone birthday fish. Maybe there was something I liked about the idea of taking care of an animal that would feed my nurturing side, and I would have a side-kick.

I did finally get Buckminster a castle.

I did finally get Buckminster a castle.

Long story short, the testosterone birthday fish ended up in the freezer within the first 24 hours, Buckminster (and a tank heater) came home with me a few days – and a lot less pressure – later, and this post is on how testosterone has changed the way I experience anger. Anger feels like a track meet. Before testosterone: If something happened that made me angry, I would first give it some thought to make sure that I understood what had happened (checking out the course). I would try to see if I could make excuses for it (the pre-race stretch). Then after I was sure that yes, that wasn’t cool, I’d start to justify my feelings, and admit that yes, I’m upset (warm up run). And then the feeling of being upset would exponentially grow and I’d get angry (the sprint). The mental and physical process of anger was something I’ve learned to have control over (remember this is an organized race, not a run in the woods). I don’t like the feeling of anger, and even more so, I don’t want to be mean, which is why sometime I do literally “run” the anger out, and then of course, begin to cool down.

Then I started testosterone.  I started experiencing a lot of mood swings, which was expected, and found myself being more irritable a few days before my next shot. But anger was changing. Out went control and in came feeling. No warmup, no stretching, just straight to the sound of the trigger being pulled. It really feels like going from 0 to 80 in a heartbeat, and the way my body is physically experiencing anger if more full, more intense and more quickly. I’m not feeling more violent, or violent at all.  It’s more that the sensation of anger is more visceral, I am overwhelmed with feeling, and I want to fill the room with it. It feels like this comes from more of a need to get the energy out of me than to subject others to my “wrath,” even in these moments I’m usually smiling and laughing at myself as I try to explain to who I’m with what’s happening inside me. It feels ridiculous. The cool is still the same and I’m not angry longer than I was before. Perhaps I’m arguably angry less now because I feel it so much quicker, and then it passes. When I first started talking to people about starting testosterone, one of the frequent concerns was around if my personality would change. My response was that I’d still be me, but that I’d be a happier more confident version of me.  It’s on my mind that at some point, these novel experiences of emotions I’m encountering will either go away or become less novel, and part of who I am.

 

1 month on testosterone

22 Feb 2014

Sitting in the backseat of the Subaru on the way to dinner, I carefully opened the red and white box to find a Daruma doll.  I recognized it immediately.

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When I was a kid, my dad’s sat on a shelf in a room we rarely used, but it wasn’t until this moment, in the back seat of my friend’s car, that I finally learned that its purpose is to help you focus and achieve your goals. The doll has two blank eyes. Once you decide on a goal, you draw in the left eye to mark commitment. After you  achieve it, you draw in the right eye. It is traditional to get a Daruma doll annually and to burn them ceremoniously at the end of the year. That night as we shared carnitas, empanadas, and margaritas to celebrate my one month on testosterone, I thought about what my goal will be. I can’t think of a better gift for this journey.

I’ve experienced two running narratives this past month. Above all, I am incredibly happy, at peace, confident and hopeful for the future. However, the day to day has been really rough, and I’m feeling frayed around the edges. So far I have had three shots, one every-other-week, and my energy and mood have taken a real swing in response. The first shot was the most intense. I felt almost too good. 2014-02-27_1393519102My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, but when I would take my pulse, it would be normal. I would wake up to my alarm and bolt out of bed, and then crash right after lunch. All I wanted to do was work out and ride my bike. Sometimes I would get home and just keep walking right past my house and do a loop around the neighborhood. After a few days of energy ups and downs, I’d settle into feeling solidly awesome, followed by a week of feeling anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed. Then it would be time for my next shot. The second round shared the same pattern, but was less severe in the initial rush, but followed by the same second week of feeling down. The third was the easiest yet, I felt awesome right off the bat and felt more even during the first week. I’m starting out on a half dose, so it makes sense that I’d be experiencing a hard come down the week before my next injection. I’m looking forward to evening out over the next few months.

The physical changes I’ve noticed the most so far have been in my ability to gain muscle. Even though I’ve been working out more, even in the times in my life when I was the most fit, I have never been able to bulk up like this. It is really noticeable in my upper body. My legs feel stronger and more solid, and there’s a different weight to them. My voice sounds generally the same, although when I’m singing into my motorcycle helmet or in the truck, I’m noticing that I can hit lower notes than before and that my higher range is weakening.

I’ve been wrestling with how I want this blog to look and feel, and grappling with how to use it to tell this story. Since I started testosterone, I’ve been hyperaware and tuned into transgender and LGB pop culture, politics and communities.@ellenpage Just about two weeks ago, Ellen Page came out during a very moving speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference. It reminded me of how lucky I am to be coming out in this time, in this place. So I decided to tell her that in a tweet, and use that motivation as an opportunity to develop a working timeline of current events starting from January 22nd, 2014, that I’ll be posting here soon. It’s a good day to become who you are.