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.
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?
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.
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.
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!