Tag Archive | FtM

I’m Not Dead!

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

“It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
– J.R.R Tolkein
The Lord of the Rings

The path of life is often described as the long, winding Road laid out before us at birth. Every step, every decision to turn this way or that, to go forward or turn back, will determine what options will be available for the next step. The only certainty is that with every step, we are forever changed by the choices we make. Some of those changes will be small and seemingly insignificant. Some choices will bring major changes that will affect us for the rest of our lives. Some choices may bring us closer to our true selves, while others may take us further away, leaving us wandering the maze looking for the path back to ourselves.

I titled this post “I’m Not Dead!” because I want to talk about something that happens far too often when a person makes the choice to transition. The belief by friends and family of the transitioning person that they must grieve the loss of the person they knew as if that person had died or no longer existed. We’re not dying. You’ve not “lost” us. If anything, you’ve “found” us. The true person beneath the masks of flesh we were forced to wear can finally be revealed. This is not a sad time of our lives. We have found ourselves and have made the choice to live an authentic life. We have finally triumphed over the overwhelming forces that kept telling us that we are not really ourselves. For many of us, it has been the ultimate struggle of fight or flight. Transition or die. We chose life. So why is everyone around us grieving our death?

When I made the decision to transition, it was like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I had been wandering the maze and had finally found the path back to myself that I had lost sometime around puberty. I was like a kid again, eager to run down the Road of self discovery. At times it was difficult for me to contain my excitement at my new found life. It was as if I had been trying to complete a puzzle upsidedown and someone finally turned the puzzle around so I could see the picture more clearly. Then more and more pieces of the puzzle started to fit. Everything started to make sense. My *life* finally started to make sense. But while the picture was becoming clearer on the inside, not everyone liked the new view from the outside. Some people strongly opposed my decision to live my truth, believing that I was choosing to become a fake me. Some were tolerent, wishing the best for me and my happiness, but not necessarily celebrating my new found sense of self. I was lucky in that I did have some people around me who could celebrate with me, however there was always this underlying tension. This unspoken question of “Who are you going to become?” as if I was suddenly going to become someone else.

Any major life change comes with some uncertainty and fear about what affects it will have on ourselves and those around us. Some of those affects may be known from the outset while others seem to come from out of nowhere to smack us upside the head. Change is inevitable in our lives, and whether the changes are joyous occasions or painful ones, sometimes they can leave us with a sense of loss for what we knew before. For most of these life changes, we navigate the joys and sorrows without losing sight of the continuity of the person changing. Friends and family members can go through major changes such as marriages, having children, changing religions, changing nationalities, or any number of things that would necessitate a change in how we might relate to that person. Of all of these life events, I don’t know any where friends and family would view the change as the death of the person they knew who is now replaced by a different person. So why does the transition of gender seem to be so fundamental a change as to render the old person “dead?”

Gender is the very first label we are given, often even before we are born. It is also the foundational label to which so many other labels are attached. It can determine other labels like our name, pronouns, family references, and even the form of occupational titles we can be given. We grow up believing that this label is unchangeable. It stands to reason that when someone does decide to change this label, those around them might feel that they are becoming a completely different person. It then seems natural to mourn the loss of the person they used to know. But while it might feel like the whole person is being lost, that is not actually true, and indulging in this type of metaphor can be harmful and alienating to the person transitioning. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t acknowledge their feelings. One of the first rules of our house is that each of us is allowed to have our feelings, no matter how irrational they may be. But along with that, we also acknowledge when our feelings are irrational and don’t align with reality. Sometimes we can’t help how we feel, but we can choose how we act on our feelings. While you may feel the need to mourn the loss of certain aspects of the person transitioning, please keep in mind that they will still be the person you already know and love. Yes, they will change. Everyone changes, but treating their transition as a type of death sends the signal that this change is akin to suicide. For many, transition is the triumph over suicide and a time to revel in the wonders of self discovery and self actualization. It’s a time to celebrate this new found life and get to know your loved one as their true self. It’s a party, not a funeral.


Transgender Day Of Remembrance


Every year on the 20th of November, the trans community gathers together to memorialize those who were killed during the previous year. This year, there were 265 known deaths. The top three countries for deaths this year are:

  • Brazil – 126
  • Mexico – 48
  • United States – 15

The list is complied not just as a list of names (although 57 this year were nameless), but includes other information such as age, date of death, place of death, cause of death and corresponding remarks when any of this information is known. A thorough reading of the list is not for the faint of heart. This year, 123 people were reportedly shot. Some by drive by shootings. Some by execution. One woman in Brazil was walking in a public square with a child when a man walked up to them and shot both of them in the face. The child was not counted, but was killed by the same transphobia. Another transwoman in Turkey was shot by her brother, who was given a decreased sentence under the argument that he was under “heavy provocation.” Fifty were reportedly beaten or stoned to death. One person in Brazil was tortured and beaten by a mob of up to 400 people. Fifty were reportedly stabbed to death. One woman in Mexico was killed by her neighbor because the neighbor believed himself a savior like Jesus who killed the homosexual because he was a demon and did not want him to do further harm (another example of how those who hate us don’t distinguish between gay and trans). Thirteen were reportedly strangled. One woman in Brazil was found hanging from a bridge. Twelve of the reports specifically noted that the victim had been tortured. A few of those specified mutilations, amputations or burns to the genitals. One woman in South Africa had her genitals cut off and put into her mouth. Six were reportedly decapitated and two were dismembered. Five people were killed by police or security guards. One woman in Honduras was taken from her home by people who said they were agents of the National Office of Investigative Crimes under the pretense that she was needed for an investigation of an offender they were prosecuting. When the family went to the police station the next day they found that no one had been detained but their family member’s body had been found with multiple shot wounds to the face.

On and on, the heartbreak of lives cut short just because of who they were or how they lived. As I read through each one, I started wondering about the lives of their friends and families left behind to deal with the loss. I couldn’t imagine how the family of the woman in Honduras felt when they found out their loved one had been killed by the people who took her away. How many others in this list still had family connections? Did their families even know they had been killed, or why? What about the 57 that did not have a name listed? Do they even have anyone who will miss them now that they are gone? Will the friends and families of those who have been killed find justice? Does the world think so little of our lives? One of the nameless women in Venezuela was lying in the street, alive, for hours and no one came to help. A neighbor called the local authorities, but no one bothered to come.

Some of the notes indicated that the motives of the killers may not have been specifically about trans issues, but it is hard to say what part their gender identity played in their murders. And there are probably many more that we will never know about. It’s difficult to get detailed information on a group of people who are routinely forced to conceal themselves. Countless other trans people will never make it into this list for the simple fact that they took their own lives. Suicides are not counted, although it would be hard to get any kind of an accurate count. All we do know about suicide statistics for trans people is that 41% of us admit to having tried to kill ourselves at some point. We’re the ones who survived. How many more don’t, and how many of those end their life without ever telling anyone the real reason why?

I am somewhat ashamed to say that this is the first year I’ve actually read the whole list. Not just the list of names, but the entire list detailing how they were killed. Somehow, only reading the names removed the horror of it all. But in removing the horror, it also removes some of the anger at the senselessness of each death. Maybe I wanted to believe that these are things that happen to other people, but could never happen to me. Granted, as a white, passable trans man I am less at risk for violence than my trans sisters, especially my trans sisters of color, and those who live in very homophobic/transphobic countries. But there were trans men on the list, and trans people from countries that consider themselves diverse. I am very privileged that I live in a country that is tolerant of diversity and I don’t for a moment take that for granted. But this privilege also means that I feel an obligation to do what I can to make a better world for all trans people.

I hate the fact that the major “Trans” day is one that is dedicated to all of the lives lost. A day of mourning those who have died and a reminder of how difficult it is to be trans in today’s society. The major societal narrative is that the trans life is so hard that it’s not really worth living. Yes, the trans life is hard, and I’ll admit to wishing I could end it more times that I really want to count. But we need to find a way to make things better, because it doesn’t have to be this hard. I hope for a time when instead of a day of remembrance, we can have a day of celebration. A day dedicated to celebrating all of the wonderful and unique things there are about being a trans person. Celebrating the diversity we bring to a world that all too often sees in black and white. Celebrating the light we shine because the world would be a little darker without us here.

Maybe someday…

A quick surgery update

Surgery recovery has been slow but steady. I have been getting better every day. It’s still too early to predict what changes I’ll have now that the female plumbing is gone, but I have noticed a bit more stability with my moods. It’s similar to what I felt when I started on testosterone, so I am assuming that this bodes well for the future.

While intellectually I know that the female organs are gone now, it still seems a bit surealistic. It’s something I’ve wanted done for a very long time, but it’s still a bit hard to believe it’s actually happened. It’s going to take some time to get used to it.

The Hormone Roller Coaster to Hell

Some of you may have read in earlier posts that I have been having a very difficult time since switching my testosterone from a weekly injection of testosterone cypionate to a longer acting form called Nebido. Mood swings have been off the charts starting around week 4 after every shot. My shot cycles were shortened from every 12 weeks to every 8 weeks, but that still leaves 4 weeks per cycle when I  feel like I’m on the hormone roller coaster to hell. It’s part of why I have not been writing here as often as I’d like.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be taking the first step in trying to remedy the problem. I’ll be undergoing the first of the FtM “lower” surgeries. This one will be a radical hysterectomy where the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix will be removed via laproscopy. My endocrinologist believes that my body has still been cycling and that my estrogen levels have been too high. It is hoped that by doing the radical hysterectomy it will stop my cycling and get me off the hormonal ups and downs.

I’ve been a lot more nervous about this surgery than I was about top surgery. I’m not exactly sure why though. This is a routinely performed surgery. It will also be a shorter surgery. I think this one might scare me a bit more because it is an internal abdominal surgery and there are more things that can go wrong. Like seriously wrong. I’m probably nervous for nothing and everything will go just fine without any complications. I just wish I could get myself to believe that.

I also wonder how much of my apprehension about this surgery is because so much of my quality of life seems to be riding on the outcome. I’m getting really tired of the roller coaster. I’m ready to get off it now.

Body dysphoria and sexuality

It seems like some of the first questions people think about with regards to trans people are “What’s in your pants?” “How does it work?” and “Who do you have sex with?” In this post I am going to talk about my own experiences with the intersections of body dysphoria and sexuality. This post is going to be quite long and I would like to make a few disclaimers up front. First, I want to make sure it is emphatically stated that gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender social roles are separate things. I will be discussing my experiences of where these intersect, but it is important to keep in mind that they are distinct. My one sentence explanation of the difference between the first two is “Sexual orientation is who you want to go to bed with, while gender identity is who you want to go to bed as.” Gender social roles pertain to how we perform gender in society: males generally perform masculine social roles, but those could easily be performed by someone who identifies as female and vice versa. Secondly, I want to say that my experiences are not to be interpreted as some “universal” trans experience. Every person, trans or cisgender, has a unique sexuality all their own. There may be other trans people who will be able to relate to my experiences of dealing with body dysphoria in their sexual life, but I expect there are many others who don’t have to deal with these specific issues. Third, I want to add a warning that I will be talking a lot about things of a sexual nature. I am going to be open and frank about my own body’s sexual function and how my body dysphoria affects sexual desire and performance. I want to say that just because I, as one trans person, am willing to share this personal information, it does not mean it’s okay to question other trans people about things of a personal nature. If you wonder whether a question is appropriate for a trans person, imagine asking the same question to a cisgender person. If it is inappropriate to ask a cisgender person, it is inappropriate to ask a trans person. So please, don’t ask trans people personal questions unless they has specifically given you permission to do so. But even then, just because you are allowed to ask does not mean you will always get an answer. With that in mind, I want to extend to my readership the permission that you are free to ask me questions. I may not always answer all of them, but part of my intention with writing this blog is to help educate others about the trans experience by sharing my own life experiences. Educating others is not necessarily my job, but it is my hope that as more people understand the trans experience, it will create greater empathy for those of us who struggle with the unique difficulties of being trans and lessen the stigma and discrimination against trans people.

For many trans people, the first step taken towards physically transitioning the body is hormone replacement therapy. For trans men, that hormone is testosterone, or T as it is known in the trans masculine culture. Testosterone is a very powerful hormone. Trans men are repeatedly cautioned about the changes, many of which are irreversible, T will cause before being allowed to start on hormone therapy. Some of these changes include a deepening of the voice, a shift to male pattern hair growth, increased musculature, penile (clitoral) enlargement, shifts in body odor, shifts in fat distribution, cessation of menses, and increased sex drive. Some trans men have also reported changes in facial shape, increases in the size of hands and feet, increases in energy and appetite, and various emotional changes, including shifts in sexual orientation. Many trans men, such as myself, welcome the majority of the physical changes as an affirmation of our true selves. The degree of change in any particular individual is dictated by genes, just as it is for cisgender men. Not all trans men will get a deep bass voice, just as not all cisgender men have a deep voice. Some trans men will get male pattern baldness, just like some cisgender men get male pattern baldness. My own hairline has receded considerably since starting on T. The extent of genetically determined changes to the genitalia, like penile growth, have a profound impact on which lower surgeries will be viable options for relieving body dysphoria.

My top surgery gave me an immense amount of relief from some of the body dysphoria I’d lived with for as long as I can remember, but I still have a considerable amount that affects my life on a regular basis. Some of this dysphoria relates to things I can change, like the female shape of my waist and hips. I have started physical training with a focus on strength training and weight loss to reduce the female shape and build a more muscular, masculine body and testosterone will continue to shift my body’s fat distribution to a more masculine shape. But as I am quite overweight, weight training and hormone therapy will take a considerable amount of time before I see many results. While the female shape of my body does cause me some amount of angst, by far the greatest dysphoria I still struggle with is directly related to my lack of typical male genitalia, which will only be correctable by surgery. Attaining typical, functional male anatomy is a lot more problematic than reshaping my body.

The testosterone has been as generous as I could have hoped in giving me penile (clitoral) growth. I had a bit of an advantage, though. Before I started on T, I already had a considerable amount of natural testosterone produced by my own body, enough to grow a small but visible goatee on my chin. This testosterone also gave me a head start on penile growth with a clitoris that was on the larger side of average and positioned a bit more forward than it is for some women. Now that I have been on T for 2 years, my genitalia look more intersex than strictly male or female. What was my clitoris has developed into a small but distinct penis. It has grown in length to approximately 6 cm (2.3″) flaccid and about 8.5 cm (3.3″) erect (yes I do get erections just like other guys). It has a fully formed glans head complete with crown. The clitoral hood is now a foreskin that covers the glans. While the top of my penis now looks male, the underside still has remnants of the female anatomy. The foreskin is attached to labia that extend down from both sides of the shaft and the labial folds form a split that runs from the base of the penile head down to the vaginal opening. Some of this tissue swells with the rest of the shaft on erections giving me some added girth, usually from about the width of a pinky finger when flaccid to a bit wider than a thumb when erect. Even with this growth though, I do not have the ability for penetrative sexual function. Because the female clitoris is held under the pubic bone by ligaments, my little guy is pretty much stuck pointing due south. The lower surgery I have decided on getting is called a metoidioplasty and is often referred to as a clitoral release since it releases the ligaments holding the penis under the public bone and allows it to be moved up to a more male position. The ligaments are then used in the penile shaft to add girth and the skin of the labia minora is used around the shaft. The metiodioplasty is often performed in conjunction with a scrotoplasty where the labia majora are stretched and stitched together to form a scrotal sack for testicular implants. This surgery will help give me a more male appearance, but unfortunately it will not give me anything close to an average male size, and it is unknown if I will gain the ability to perform penetrative sex.

Our society places an enormous value on a male’s ability to engage in penetrative sex. So much so that for many years, babies born with ambiguous genitalia were assigned to be male or female based on the size of the penis and the future potential of penetrative sexual function. If the baby’s existing penis was too small, the child was emasculated and female genitalia was constructed so the child could be raised as a girl. It was deemed that males could not lead a satisfied life if their penis was considered too small. I am glad that these views are beginning to change and that people with intersex conditions have started to gain a voice in the medical field to advocate that surgical corrections only be performed when serious physiological complications are present. As much as I disagree with the medical field’s surgical correction of males deemed to have too small a phallus (mainly because it robs the infant of any personal choice and often causes loss of sexual sensation), I do understand some of the concerns about living as a man with a small penis. I know it is not impossible to have a satisfying sexual life, but it can present some difficulties.

It can be very frustrating to deal with desires, of any sort, that cannot be fulfilled. We don’t have much choice over what we desire, but we do have choices about how we will act on our desires. We make these choices based on the benefits we will gain or the consequences we will avoid, and sometimes we have to choose between competing desires. I get up early three times a week to work out because my desire for a strong, fit, manly body is stronger than the desire to sleep in. I go to work every day because my desire to be able to take care of myself and my family is more important than the desire to stay home and goof off. There are some situations where people would say they have no choice because the consequences of a choice would be too much to bear, but that does not actually negate the fact that a choice was made. But what do you do when you have a desire that can’t be fulfilled because there really are no choices?

I am a man who has the typical male desire to engage in penetrative sex, a desire left unfulfilled due to the lack of functional anatomy. Most of the time it is manageable, but at times the desire gets strong enough that it leaves me feeling impotent. Along with the impotence comes a whole flood of fears and doubts about my worth as a man, or even my right to call myself a man. Oddly enough, the frustration over the lack of ability to function like a typical male has increased with the changes to my genitalia from the testosterone. It’s as if the closer I get to actually having a penis, the stronger the desire and expectation my brain has to be able to use it like a penis. While there is no question that I have the innate physical desire to engage in penetrative sex, I do often wonder how much of my fears and doubts about my worth as a man are influenced by the societal expectation that in order to be a real man you have to have a functional penis capable of penetration. I don’t actually believe that a penis is required to be a man, and I don’t believe that all trans men must try to attain one. But for me, having a penis is something integral to my identity as a man, and I fear that I will always feel a bit less of a man without one.

To complicate things even more, I also experience the desire for sexual pleasure from using my female genitalia for receptive penetration. As someone who has always been highly sexual, I learned to use the existing anatomy to fulfill my desires the best I could, so I have not had an aversion to receptive penetration as some trans men do. In fact, as a teenager I often wished that I had been born a hermaphrodite, with a functional penis and vagina (with no internal female organs). I thought that this would be the best of both worlds as I could be a man, but still be able to engage in the pleasure of receptive penetration. I think the lack of dysphoria with my vagina (even though I have had a lot of dysphoria with the internal female anatomy) was a large part of why it took me so long to figure out that I am a trans man. I always wanted a penis, but didn’t necessarily want to give up having a vagina. When trying to live in the black and white world where penis = male and vagina = female, I thought I couldn’t be a man because men didn’t have vaginas. Luckily I have been able to move past this biological essentialism to understand that your genitalia actually have very little (to nothing) to do with your gender. It so happens that most men have penises and most women have vaginas. But some men have vaginas and some women have penises and that’s okay.

While I have not had much dysphoria with having a vagina, I have had a considerable amount about the internal female plumbing, which apparently came as some surprise to my wife when discussing this the other day. Her thought was “Since it is all inside and can’t be seen, how could it be causing dysphoria?” For me, my femaleness didn’t come from having a vagina, it came from having the uterus, ovaries and monthly cycle associated with those internal organs. The vagina was merely a means to sexual pleasure. The monthly cycling was the constant reminder of being female. Some of this dysphoria subsided when the T caused my cycles to stop. Unfortunately, it seems that my body is still doing some cycling and causing me problems with headaches, spotting, and depression. Within the next few months I will be scheduled for a complete hysterectomy which should relieve the dysphoria and other symptoms I have from the internal female plumbing. I will be very happy to see them go. The hysterectomy will leave the vagina in tact, but there will come a day when I will have to make a permanent decision about whether or not I want to keep it.

In addition to complications from anatomy, my transition has brought a slight shift in my sexual orientation towards a greater desire for sexual experiences with other men. I have always been bisexual so this shift is not some drastic change, but there has definitely been an increase in my desire for sex with men. I have occasionally wondered how much of this shift is exacerbated by my strong desire for a penis of my own. How much of my desire to be sexual with a man is influenced by my own frustration of wanting what I don’t/can’t currently have? I also wonder how much of my discomfort about my weight and my “female” shape is due to my pessimistic belief that no gay man would ever be interested in an overweight trans man without a penis. It doesn’t actually matter that I’m not looking for a male sexual partner. It’s more the fact that in my perception of myself, there is no male partner who would want me. Maybe I have internalized too many of the stereotypes about how gay men are supposedly only interested in muscular guys with washboard abs and large penises. I read an article the other day on Gawker titled “The Real Reason Gay Men Don’t Get Fat.” It was a bit of a depressing read. The article postulated that gay men’s fear of being alone and unwanted drives them to get fit and stay fit under the assumption that gay men only care about bodies. While this may be true for a subset of gay men, I am not willing to accept it applies to even a majority of gay men. But the article did make one interesting note that I have been pondering on for the past few days. It said that gay men are attracted to themselves and will often remake their own bodies into what they desire in a mate. I started thinking about this premise and how it intersected with my questions about how much of my desire for a male sexual partner was driven by my desire for a male body and how closely the image of my own ideal body for myself matches with traits I am attracted to in other men.

While gender identity and sexual orientation are separate things, in lived experience they do intersect and influence each other, sometimes in ways that can be quite unpredictable. A difficulty that I, as a trans person, have faced in my own self discovery is trying to sort out where all the lines are drawn, wondering how my body dysphoria has shaped my desires. I know that not all of my desires for sex with men are caused by my desire for a male body, but I do question how much that desire would change if I had fully functional male genitalia. And how much has the testosterone influenced the shifts in my sexual orientation? How would my view of myself change if I believed I could attract male partners? How are my desires for performing penetrative sex influenced by my longing to have a penis capable of everything an average cisgender male can do? Will I still want to keep my vagina, and would my decision change if I could get a fully functional penis? And how do I deal with the frustration of genitalia that doesn’t function like my brain expects it to? I don’t yet have answers to these questions, and I predict it is going to be some time before I have much of it figured out. But I think it is important that we can ask ourselves these kinds of questions. We spend so much time reiterating and detailing how gender identity is different from sexual orientation or social roles that we don’t take much time to look at how these things intersect and interact with each other. Maybe we spend so much time and energy trying to keep these separate because we are afraid that if we acknowledge that they do intersect, we will be perpetuating myths that conflate them and contribute to discrimination and invalidation of our identities. But we do ourselves a big disservice when we allow our fear to keep us from looking at our lived experiences as a whole. Gender identity, sexual orientation, and social roles do intersect and interact with each other in life. In understanding both how they are independent and how they influence each other, we will better understand ourselves.

Sex Geek

thoughts on sex and life

Danny Ramadan

A gay Middle Eastern Man telling his stories

On Being Jewish, Christian and Gay

Refusing to recognize what you know to be true about yourself because you fear the opinions of others is a recipe for complete self-deception and leads you on a road to nowhere.

The Evolution of Man

Becoming the Man I was Meant to Be

Zander Keig, MSW

Social Worker, Educator, Editor

a gentleman and a scholar

trans politics, too many books, a great deal of music, assorted ephemera.

thoughts ON

identity, sex, religion, life, liberty, and the pursuit of something resembling happiness


The story of a transformation

Journey to Me

My FtM transition