That Testosterone Thing

18 03 2009

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.

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9 responses

18 03 2009
genderkid

Yesterday I started wondering about the emotional consequences of T, so I’m glad you shared your experience. Your view on aggressiveness and sex drive, particularly, are illuminating: most FtM writers say both went up for them, without really analyzing the implications.

“I’ve always been easily moved by various art forms and that has not changed.” –Phew, that’s a relief: I was worrying testosterone would cause insensitivity. Actually, I started thinking about all of this while I was watching Milk; I had strong emotional reactions during the whole movie, and I was hoping to keep that susceptibility.

19 03 2009
Shirley Anne

I understand all that you are saying here Jacky. The physical changes you feel are due to testosterone, there is no doubt about that and to some extent it will have had or will have some effect on your psychological demeanor too although I think that will be limited. One thing you mentioned was crying. It is a fallacy to think that men don’t cry, it’s just not observed as much because of the ‘macho effect’, you know, ‘big (or little) boys don’t cry’. You will see men cry when they cannot control it. Anhow it is far better to cry when needed no matter which gender you are. The whole idea that T drives aggression is wrong too, as you say there are just as many women who are aggressive and in the ways you mention. Any hormone has an effect on the recipient whether it is T for men or E for women and I think that each has an equal effect too.
Speaking about ‘hornyness’ (LOL), here I think the respective hormone is doing it’s job. It’s more likely the hormone driving the urge rather than an inbuilt tendancy in our genes (Maybe? Not sure about that one). Personally speaking I’d not noticed any difference in my own libido except it took on a different guise. You talked about sensitivity and I am happy that you have not encountered a problem here. One question was asked of the surgeon by one of the girls having GRS where I had my op. was, ‘What effect would GRS have on my sensitivity? Will I lose sensation when the penis is converted to a vagina and clitoris? On a scale of one to ten compared to a natural clitoris, what can I expect sensation-wise?’ The answer that came was rather unexpected when the doc. replied 15. I have found that to be true too! My clitoris is super sensitive. The doctor explained that the glans has far more nerve endings in it than a clitoris so when converted it stays sensitive. Boy was he right! In your case you say the sensitivity is at the very least equal to what it was and maybe a bit more sensitive, that’s a bonus eh? No running off to the bog now to toss yourself off! How discusting….LOL….tehe..Love

Shirley Anne x

19 03 2009
How does T mess with your mind? « genderkid

[…] Tboy Jacky just posted about this issue; his experience is really illuminating, especially concerning aggressiveness and […]

19 03 2009
Shirley Anne

Just read your article ‘Genderkid’ and I can see now that T evidently DOES affect the psychological according to what I read there. Thanks for that.

Shirley Anne x

19 03 2009
genderkid

Shirley Anne, I just based my post on what I’ve read and heard from other transmen, since I haven’t started testosterone therapy myself. Jacky is a much more reliable authority on T! Thanks anyway =)

19 03 2009
BT

Always wondered about this. We’ve heard T can even completely reverse sexual orientation, and to be frank, the idea that if I took this stuff and suddenly stopped being attracted to Mac just scares the shit out of me.

It doesn’t sound like any really huge differences, then?

–Rogan

21 03 2009
Jacky V.

Genderkid: Yeah, I was sceptical about some of the things that I heard about T before. A big part of it was that what I read online from various tguys did not match what I heard in person from tguys that I knew! The sex drive and aggressiveness thing – other guys reported similar feelings as mine when I was asking before starting myself. Bottom line: not all bio men are the same so why would all tguys be? As for being an authority on T – same goes. I don’t think any of us can be an authority on T or anything. We can only talk about our own experience.

Shirley Anne: Yes, the hormone is having an effect on horniness but, remember, I do make a distinction between needing to get off and needing to get laid. I think it’s an important distinction that too few people make when they make these broud generalisations about female versus male libido. I needed to get laid more as a female, with as many people as possible. Now, if I get off a couple of times per day, I’m OK with having one steady partner and an occasional “extra” or two . . . (all with said steady partner’s knowledge because I’m into ethnical non-monogamy).

You’re right though, of course about the crying and aggressiveness thing. When I grew up, I saw my dad cry from time to time . . .and this increased when I was in my teens and he was sick and lonely after my mom left him. But, yeah, men don’t succumb to the urges so much out of shame, etc. Too bad, really.

Rogan: I think it depends on the person. I was bi-queer before and still am. I’ve found that I’m less compelled to go after men but it’s not that I’m not insanely and intensely attracted to men, it’s more that I’ve resigned myself to having little chance of finding a guy who will be into me. I’m too manly for hetero men, not manly enough for gay men. There could be bi men but many of the ones I know like “manly” men and “feminine” women so that someone with an in-between body and identity like me would not be their cup of tea (or cup of T – HA!) There might be chances among other bi or gay trans guys but there aren’t millions and then after that there are all the other, usual factors that make it hard to find compatibility (mutual interest, personality, etc).

All that to say that I don’t feel my orientation has changed. But perhaps for some people it does. Who knows.

29 03 2009
barok.eszter

Wow, extremely interesting, esp. how arousal is kinda directed at different places, or one place, to be more exact. I never understood as a teen how guys don’t react when I play with their nipples (wheas it drives me crazy). Later thought it was genetical – but now I see it’s more hormonal. Incredible! (And it also explains why girls in general hatttttttttteee guys going right into their pants while kissing… not that we are prudes or anything, but it takes time for females to get there, yeah. So guys, you’d better start with her nipples, neck, belly!)

The other crazy thing is how T is making you more visual than ever. I’m not saying that sexy images do not touch me at all… but I cannot imagine it would be enough in itself to “get me hard” or wet.

I’m convinced that FTM and MTF-experiences help us understand our sexuality and motivations better.

7 04 2009
Jacky V.

Yeah, Barok, it is all very interesting. I like observing changes in myself and trying to see where they come from. However, I know that I will probably never know the answers to all the little things.

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