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Changing What You Love: On Considering Hormones While You’re Non-Binary

As I write this there’s a small packet of paper on the desk next to me. Three double sided pages, delicately stapled together. Across the top it reads:

Patient Information for Informed Consent

TESTOSTERONE FOR TRANSGENDER CLIENTS

Three double-sided pages. As if that’s all I’ll need.

It’s been sitting there for about a month now, ever since I walked into a NYC trans health clinic and told the doctor I was interested in exploring hormone therapy. I sat in the small office chair, chest puffed out, hoping I looked more confident than I felt while I gave my medical history and they took my blood. Then they shuffled me into a therapist’s office where I cracked jokes and listed all of the reasons starting testosterone was a Very Good Idea.

“Yea, humor isn’t a coping mechanism for you at all.” The therapist quipped.

“Well… at least I’m hilarious.” I smirked.

An hour later as I was leaving the office they set up my next appointment. “Okay, so in a month or so all of your bloodwork will be back and you’ll be good to go. Just make sure you bring the consent form.”

“I… and then I can just start? You’ll just like… give me T?” I faltered.

“Well… yea.” she smiled excitedly.

I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t even relieved. I was terrified.

__________

Bex Hella Positive Pinup
Credit: Hella Positive Pin Up

Two weeks ago I stripped down to a jockstrap and binder in Central Park to get in front of my friend Braden’s camera for Hella Positive Pinup. The plan was to explore being masculine and sexy, to feel what it would feel like to be a “boy” and to learn what that means for my sexuality. I looked furtively around, adjusted my packer, and blushed bright red every time someone walked by. What did they see? What did they think I was? I didn’t feel sexy, I felt awkward. I felt like an impostor.

Two hours later I was biting my lip and coyly looking up at the camera, my crop top pulled up just enough to show my shiny nipple piercings and my hip cocked out to the side. I waved to the people that walked by as we shot. I felt sexy.

What’s the difference between feeling comfortable and feeling right?

Bex Hella Positive Pinup
Credit: Hella Positive Pin Up

I have 25 years experience being a girl, I’ve been perfecting being charming and alluring and attractive since I was 15, and this photoshoot just cemented what has been becoming more and more apparent over the last month. I have no idea what it means to be a man.

I know how to be masculine, but I don’t have the socialization of being a man. I haven’t learned how to flirt like a man, how to hold myself in pictures like a man, how to sell like a man, how to date like a gay man. I don’t know how to shave my face or style my hair. I barely know how to dress.

“But what does it even mean to do things like a man?” I can hear you all screaming, and yea, you’re right, gender is a social construct, I fucking know. I also know that we live in a gendered society and it’s not going to go away any time soon, and it would be nice to not have to spend every second of every day fighting that.

When people ask me what it means to identify as non-binary I usually just tell them it means I have a lot of feelings about my gender. What it really means is that none of the options that society gives me feel right, I don’t fit in any of the boxes. It means that choosing how I want the world to see me means choosing the thing that feels the least wrong.

Bex Hella Positive
Credit: Hella Positive Pin Up

When I look at those pictures I see a pretty girl. A cute, hot, sexy girl. I feel attractive and powerful and amazing. I love them. But I’m not a girl. I love my body, I love the way I look, but I hate that everyone sees it and sees a girl. How do I separate those things?

I started looking for the voices of people who have started T, and over and over I found the same narratives. Boy born in the wrong body. Boys who have always hated their chest and their curves. Intense dysphoria. People who would rather die than keep looking like a girl for one more day.

If you look back in my childhood you can find countless stories to support that narrative. There’s the time that six year old Bex hiked up their skirt to prove that it was, in fact, a SKORT because I couldn’t possibly be caught dead in a skirt. The fact that I always got along better with the boys. The times I helped my dad with construction projects and my preference for Die Hard over The Notebook

There’s also the time I asked my mom to have a makeup themed sleepover. The time I went to a new Jr High and bought the most femme clothes I could, convinced that I’d actually look like a girl there. My love of stuffed animals and Disney movies.

Bex Hella Positive Pinup
Credit: Hella Positive Pin Up

Where are the stories of the people who don’t know what the fuck they want? The people who choose T because rounding up to “boy” is only marginally less uncomfortable than “girl”? How miserable do I have to be for it to be worth it?

My second therapy appointment was dedicated to these Not Trans Enough feelings. After nearly thirty minutes of laying out my fears I waited anxiously for her response while she looked thoughtfully at me. “Well” she said cautiously “I think the thing most people don’t realize, is that you don’t need to be miserable about something to want to change it.”

I don’t think she realized how important that sentence was, and how much permission it gave me.

“You don’t need to be miserable”

I wasn’t miserable. I’m still not. I’m content, happy even. I love my body, and my personality. I’m cute as fuck, hella charming, competent, confident, and engaging. I’m probably one of the most arrogant people I know. But I want to change.

More than want to, I long for it. Every time I see my reflection, I measure my chances of being read as a guy. Mirrors, selfies, shop windows. I pick apart every conversation, looking for a sign of what gender this person might think I am. It’s literally always on my mind.

I want to change, but I can’t control how that change will happen, and that fucking terrifies me.

What if I’m not as cute anymore? What if it completely fucks my mental health up? What if I grow chest hair and never get top surgery? What if this is just a phase? What if my friends don’t know how to act around me? What if straight dudes don’t want to fuck me because I’m a guy and gay dudes don’t want to fuck me because of my bits? What if my clit gets bigger and I don’t like how it looks? What if I get super aggro and don’t know how to deal with it? What if I look like a freak? What if I get heart disease? What if my ass doesn’t look as good? What if I get gay bashed? What if my facial hair comes in patchy?

What if I’m a really cute boy? What if my voice drops and sounds amazing and everyone who listens to my podcast thinks it’s just Kate and her sassy gay friend? What if I get huge muscles? What if I could wear a dress and look like I was fucking with gender instead of conforming to it? What if I could go topless at the beach? What if strangers called me Sir? What if I was charming and dapper and masculine? What if I looked like I stepped out of a boy band? What if I was the faggiest little twink? What if I have more energy? What if I have a bigger sex drive?

I want it, but do I want it enough to risk it?

__________

That little packet is still sitting next to me, on the last page there are three lines:

Based on all this information:

__ I want to begin taking testosterone.

__ I do not want to begin taking testosterone at this time.

My appointment is in seven days. I haven’t filled it out yet.

__________________________________________________________

Update: Want to hear more about my decision? Check out the video I made after my doctor’s appointment!

To see more of Braden’s photography, head over to Hella Positive Pin Up and to see the entirety of my amazing set (and a bunch of other great ones) pledge on Patreon!

About Bex

Bex talks about sex, a lot, and feels this is the only way to reduce the stigma and lack of education surrounding it. When they're not trying to save the world, talking about sex to strangers, typing frantically, or sticking things in various holes they are usually indulging the other facets of their geekery.

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  • Pantophile Panic

    I have thought about testosterone so much. Reading your fears and hopes felt like reading a book written on own my heart. Bravo.

  • Beautiful photos. 🙂

  • ShriektheMighty

    “choosing how I want the world to see me means choosing the thing that feels the least wrong.” That right there. That resonated with me so, so much. This whole post did, honestly. I’ve been debating whether or not I want to go on T for about 2 years now, and everything you’ve said is so very relatable. It’s awesome to see more nb people talking about their experiences with this. Thank you.

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  • Elaine Barrett

    Hello. This was one of the most honest pieces of writing I’ve read. You are fantastic. As a parent of an adult transgender woman I have read countless accounts of the experiences of many non-binary and transgender young people. Your writing is raw and real. Thank you and whatever you decide please keep us posted.

  • Star Jesse Hum Phrey

    This is how I feel but I am going the opposite direction, my appointment is in June and I still have no idea what I am going to do

  • altron
  • Taylor TJ Hobart

    Thank you for writing this. For what it’s worth–I was in a position very like yours, though not entirely.

    I’d gotten top surgery already when I started looking at hormones, because my top dysphoria was, actually, making me miserable, and it was hard to focus on anything else with that jangling. I had kind of assumed that double-incision was my Transition End Goal(TM).

    After a few months I went on T, and I’m coming up on a year on it now. It’s been a good choice for me, and the changes were gradual–sensibly so; I went on low dose T to start with.

    I don’t know what you’ll decide (decided?), but remember that no choice has to be forever. I’ve worn more cute bras after top surgery; I’m more comfortable in skirts after starting T, and my plan has always been to stay on T until my voice settles and then go back on E.* I wish you love and strength.

    *Phrasing intentional–I’m intersex, so it’s not just a matter of stopping T for me.

  • Wren

    I could have written this. I needed to read it. I’m curious as to what you end up choosing 🙂

  • Maryam Sultana

    Feels strange yet oddly comforting to read what seems like your own thoughts. Still trying to make the decision but can’t. I have decided, for time being, to just go with the flow. If something in my body causes me discomfort, I should be able to alter that regardless of what gendered ideas are prescribed by the society on that body part. Let’s see where this goes.
    Thank you for writing this 🙂 And all the best wishes to you.

  • Jillian Boyd

    Thank you for sharing this – it’s a gorgeous and vulnerable piece from a wonderful human.

  • Pink Kevlar

    This is all of my feelings about gender and my debate of going on T in a nut shell. Thank you so so much for putting it words.

  • Tzipora

    First of all I just so want to offer my support, whatever you choose.

    Second of all, this is such a beautiful and heartfelt post. I know that sex blogger or not it can be so hard to open up about the rawest and deepest parts of oneself and you did that so well here.

    I have to say too that even as a femme identifying cis lesbian I found so much I could relate to here. There’s always debates around on whether the T should be part of the LGBT umbrella and that’s all very complex but I know for me personally, something about who I am as well as growing up a sexual minority has made gender identity something I’ve also given a great deal of thought to. And I’m unsure how common or not that is. I know for me it comes up when talking with other lesbian and sometimes bi/pan female identified folks (cis and not) because so many don’t think there’s a reason to identify as femme or butch or whatever. But I know for me I grew up with some sort of weird discomfort in my body where I knew I was female/a girl but I didn’t feel it somehow. I used to hold back my hair and look into the mirror and cry because I was convinced I looked like a boy. I have PCOS and while it’s no longer the case I definitely had the elevated testosterone that’s often part of that growing up. I don’t know if that played a role in all my thoughts or what. But the very first time I ruptured one of those plentiful ovarian cysts I remember the feeling of seeing my actual uterus and ovaries on the ultrasound screen, of talking about this part of my body and this weird feeling of like surprise or relief or I don’t know what. Like my body was basically harming me but I was just so relieved because oh hey it’s confirmation I am a girl? I don’t know.

    I can definitely see and just get how much ones brain and body can misalign. I mean I had the right parts I align with my brain but still there was a disconnect. I still feel it sometimes and I felt it strongly growing up so I can only imagine that’s just a small part of what it must feel like to be NB or trans. I wonder how many others out there, regardless of how they identify have felt this disconnect as well. I bet it’s a lot more common than we’d think. Or maybe not.

    I know because of that disconnect for me and the fact that going through puberty with higher than normal T left my body somewhat more masculinely shaped (I’m super busty and short but also very narrow hips, carry all my weight in a masculine big belly pattern and I’ve since had jaw surgery which changed this but used to have a pretty strong chin) so I feel most content in my body when I’m femming it up. It’s the closest thing to a peace in myself I can find. I don’t hold to or believe in a lot of the bullshit female stereotypes about weakness or submission (in fact I’m straight up dominant though it also took me years to adjust to accept that as well probably because of this inner struggle and the socialized ideals about women and feminine identified folks in general). I’ve always been pretty unabashedly me, marching to my own beat but this stuff is in there so deep inside my head and thoughts. Sometimes I think I find comfort in being attracted to other women and female identified folks (and I like the femmes undeniably) because it does just feel comforting to that storm inside of me.

    Anyway I’m kind of babbling but I guess in a lot of ways I could relate to so much of what you said. I was drawn into your article from your tweet with the line about telling people being NB means you have a lot of feelings about your gender identity. Even though I’m cisgender and very inclined to the femme I can relate. There’s so many ways my head and my body don’t align or maybe it’s my head and my body and cultural socialized everything. I can only imagine how much harder it all must be for you then debating where you fall along the spectrum (and I so wish the whole idea of a gender spectrum had been taught to me as a child. Maybe I would’ve taken comfort in that) and whether or not to do hormones and everything else your decisions might entail. I hope then that one day you will find the place, the representation, the sweet spot where you can have some sense of peace. I suppose that’s ultimately what all of us want but for some that’s much harder to obtain.

    Anyway, I hope you know you’ve got a lot of support from your readers and followers and you’re not alone.

  • Mx Nillin

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this. It really helped me with clarifying a lot of things I have been struggling with for a long time too and it has kept me spinning in circles on pursuing estrogen. I can honestly say that having never read a post like this before, I’m SO thankful that you wrote it.

    These narratives are SO important to other non-binary, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming folks. Sadly, all other resources seem dominated by very binary oriented, sometimes even cisnormative heavy, transition narratives that just make me feel more alienated and broken.

    This post isn’t like those at all. I leave this post feeling almost empowered and uplifted in the idea that maybe it’s totally okay to be uncertain about my transition right now too. And that I’m not alone in feeling afraid to start HRT either. And that feels pretty amazing tbh.

    So, thank you again. Keep foraging whatever paths you need to!

  • starbit

    oh god I feel you. I feel you so much. I’m having the same argument with myself right now

  • Kat

    This is such an amazing post. Thanks for sharing. I can really relate to this.

  • Kean Woodsworth

    Ugh I feel this. I identify as “ftm” but the term has never really sat well with me. I’m not moving towards “male,” I am a boy with a great butt who wants to have a cool beard. Is that too much to ask?

  • Sara Testarossa

    I already voiced my appreciation for this beautiful piece on Twitter. Thank you again for sharing this vulnerable stuff. I think it’s good to put out there because it’s not something I see talked about much, though you’re far from the only non-binary person out there who’s considering hormones (heck, I happen to have two friends, one transmasculine, one transfeminine, who both decided to start hormones, for different reasons). I have a feeling that other folks in similar situations, as well as people who don’t fully grasp non-binary identities, will benefit from your openness in this piece. So thanks again.

  • Let me just say that I’m in love with this post. Thank you for sharing with us! <3

  • The Palimpsex

    This post is fucking amazing and speaks so much to my struggle whether to go on hormones. For all the affirmation I think I’ll get im also hella insecure as non binary and really uncomfortable in my own skin. I’ve been thinking about T for over 5 years now and the decision doesn’t get any clearer. You are such a beautiful human being. Thank you for writing this.

  • This is such a gorgeous piece and I hope you find your path.

  • Mary Q. Contrary

    This is so beautifully vulnerable and honest! Thank you for giving us a window into a very intimate place in your world. You’re an incredible writer.

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