While I’m not completely against the idea that our biology (genes and hormones, for instance) have some impact on our emotions and reactions, I’m certainly not a biological determinist. Like most social scientists, I think that our emotions and behaviour are influenced by a multitude of factors and that this happens in such an intricate and interwoven way that it’s impossible to isolate one single cause for anything.So when I started reading about the impacts of testosterone, I kept an open mind but I refused to swallow everything that I was reading about it whole.
Now, granted I’m on a moderate dose, so I don’t know how things will change with my dose goes up. But considering a pack of physical changes happened VERY fast, such as voice, hairiness, clitoral growth and fat distribution, and this to the extend that within 4 months of beginning testosterone treatment I was being read as male 80% of the time and, after 6 months, 95% of the time, I would assume that whatever internal states were *supposed* to change would have started to do so by now.
Some internal things have indeed changed but I’m not convinced that they truly match the predictions. So here are a few things that I’ve noticed.
Aggressiveness: I am no more or less aggressive than I was before T. I still swear at idiot drivers as I always have. I still avoid competition, preferring to be the supportive and collaborative sort. I may be a bit more assertive than I was though but I’m convinced this has more to do with greater self-confidence than anything else. And I did notice this change before I even started T and was living as male.
A thing about aggressiveness is that I don’t believe that it’s a male thing. Sure, stats show that acts of physical aggression are initiated more often by males than by females in all of the animal kingdom, including humans. However, what is often overlooked in the generalisations about male aggressiveness is the word “physical.” Having worked with women AND men, I’ve been subject to both sorts of aggression: physical and verbal. And my own experience tells me that women are just as likely to display aggression than men . . . maybe they are just less likely to display *physical* acts of aggression. But I digress . . . .
In either case, I’m neither more physically or verbally more aggressive than I was. In fact, if I compare myself with my teenage years, I’m a hell of a lot LESS aggressive.
Sex drive: This is a HUGE topic and there are HUGE stereotypes about this one. After the first few weeks, I bought into the whole: “OMG, I’m actually hornier than I was!” Then I started seeing what the real difference was in myself. I’ve always been EXTREMELY horny. As a kid, I used to have wild sexual fantasies about gang bangs, making porn and BDSM, before I knew these things actually existed. As a grown up female, I went all out in some periods of my life and did a whole lot of fun and crazy sexual things. And sex pervaded my thoughts a lot of the time, to the extent that I would have to escape my desk at work to go wank off.
NOW, after T, my horniness is no more or less. It is qualitatively different. Whereas arousal and orgasm used to be total body experiences, starting at my nipples, descending into my genitals and then radiating throughout my body, they are now almost entirely clitoral. It’s the same power but it was diffused before. Now it feels stronger because it’s all in one place!
Also, I used to think about sex all the time and this made me horny. My clit would get hard and I would get wet. NOW I get hard and this leads me to think about sex. And since all that energy is condensed in one small place (because in spite of T induced growth it is still small relative to a bio male cock) it is extremely distracting.
Another thing about the relative horniness: how does one define horniness? Is it the desire to go out and screw? Or is it a desire to get off? True, I do feel the need to get off more often because of the above-mentioned physical pressure. 3 times per day instead of once, maybe. But I actually feel less desire to go out and get laid with as many people as possible. Is that physical? Psychological? Who knows. But if one defines horniness by the desire to screw everything that moves and if this is supposed to increase with T, it sure as hell didn’t happen to me. I’ve even cancelled a couple of sex dates due to lack of interest. If one define horniness by the need to get off, then, yeah, I can see how that has increased.
One other thing that has changed regarding sexual arousal is that I’m way more visual than I was. I used to be able to masturbate with no visual stimulation. My imagination was enough for me. I can still get away with that at times but it takes a while. For the most part, I need imagery. Yay for free Internet porn! And, yeah, I’m shamefully more inclined to look at sexy body parts until I remind myself not to reduce humans to their asses and . . umm . . .brains . .. yeah, brains.
Other things that I read about, more or less consistently were changes in professional interests. Nothing could be further from the truth in my case. I’m still as passionate as ever about anthropology. Ask my friends, some of whom know better than others not to get me started on an anthropological topic at dinner time. What else are restaurant place mats for? They are perfect for tracing the descent of humans from our primate ancestors!
The ability to find le mot juste: I read this somewhere only recently but only in one place. It was something about testosterone affecting a person’s ability to find the right word. There are a few cases where that has happened to me, especially when I’m tired. But I’m not sure if that’s only the tiredness acting on me.
Finally, there is the ability or tendency to cry. I have noticed that I cry less frequently but it’s hard to say if that is the T. I haven’t been sad or lonely in a long time so that certainly explains a big part of it. But when things that have traditionally made me cry happen, such as the news of a child’s death, or a touching scene in a film or performance, I still get as teary eyed as ever. I’ve always been easily moved by varioius art forms and that has not changed. I wouldn’t want it to!
So there is my take on the whole testosterone thing. There may be some effects on our internal states but I don’t think they are of the extent that all the stereotypes claims. I think that much of it is mediated by social factors, life circumstances and personality. Our body does things and we are trained to interpret these things in a certain way. Because of this, I don’t think we will ever know how our emotional, psychological and physical states intersect and influence each other. It may even be that the process is different for everyone.