Earlier this month I got a text from Danny, the dear sweet editor of this blog, asking me if I wanted to write a blog piece. His thinking was I might have a unique perspective on masculinity. Though he might be right, I’m not really sure it’s that enlightening because I don’t really know what masculinity is anymore and honestly, I don’t care.
I’ve been on this planet for almost 28 years now and, for about 25 of them, I was identifying on the outside as a woman. I knew for a long time before that that it didn’t feel right, but it still took a quarter of a century for me to do anything about it. There were a lot of things to consider. Realistically, how was I actually going to survive the world if I was a 5’5” guy without a dick? Would I just always be some kind of freak to other people? Would I ever be able to find a partner who would love me and this “thing” that I’ve become? It weighed on me for a long time but I eventually realized I was miserable in my body so the change needed to happen. I consulted with my friends and family, and it was one of the better coming out experiences in the vast spectrum of coming out experiences that range from fantastic to life threateningly bad. My parents didn’t even bat an eye and with my friends, it was so unremarkable that I don’t remember coming out to a single one of them. It all just came together and confirmed my sense that this was a good decision. Going forward, I felt pretty confident and ready to take on masculinity.
I was pretty excited until a couple days before my appointment. Going through with transitioning, the hormones and the changes and what not, was daunting and anxiety inducing in a way that I didn’t really expect at all. Most people I’ve talked to were not at all surprised by how anxious I was, but I hadn’t been thinking about the beginning and the middle parts of transitioning; I was only really thinking about the end, which in my head was muscles and beard (if I was lucky). But then the realization dawned on me: I was about to do puberty again. Suddenly I was worried that this would mean my whole personality was going to change or I’d get really ugly as a man. But I ended up going through with it after a highly emotional five hour doctor’s appointment where I cried and panicked and confused the doctors with my distress. I got the first shot though, it was on. The next few weeks the anxiety started fading, the changes started coming and it was exciting again. I expected after all this chaos, a sort of calm to come over me as the testosterone created the physical and mental changes I’d been seeking. But you know what? It never fucking came. I’m definitely much happier with my body now, but there are certain parts of being a woman that I’ll always be wistful for. Not anything physical, but almost something spiritual or maybe even societal. Like someone who is ethnically-Jewish but doesn’t practice spiritually, though I gave up being Female I’m still always going to be culturally feminine.
I grew up what would absolutely be considered a “tomboy” in most senses: no girls’ clothes, no dolls, always outside or playing video games. One time my neighbor, a mother who wanted a daughter but instead ended up with three boys, tried and unfortunately succeeded in braiding my hair. My brother recently reminded me of this moment, laughing the whole time as he remembered how furious I was for the rest of the day. That was generally my reaction to any kind of stereotypically “girly” thing. But as a little kid and into adulthood, I always preferred hanging out with girls. I connected with them more. Even though I always felt more like a boy, I was still living my life through the lens of a girl and people responded to me as a girl. I was able to talk about my feelings with my girl friends and be affectionate with them. I was allowed to be sensitive and develop an EQ. And because the world saw me as a girl, it also allowed me to be treated like one by men; with that, you lose a lot of respect for masculinity. So it was weird coming to terms with being a dude, because quite frankly, I’ve never given a fuck about men. Generally speaking, I do not understand them and I don’t want to spend much time around them (except for Danny who is a good boy and I love his cute funny face). What even is their world? Why don’t they want to emote? Or talk to women like normal people? Why don’t they hug or touch their friends ever? It always seemed so silly to me, from middle school on when the gender gap seemed to widen into more of a trench, that this is how anyone would want to live in the world.
After I started transitioning, though, I thought I would have to try harder to fit more into that world. I especially thought this would be the case in terms of finding a partner, but as it turned out I really didn’t have to do anything. There is no part of femininity that I’ve kept that hasn’t somehow helped me in the trials and tribulations of my personal and romantic life. Apparently it’s charming that I do not come off as threatening and that I seem more interested in getting to know someone than getting in their pants. I’ve been through enough stuff with guys in my time as a girl to know how women do not want to be treated. Some of that weird, uncomfortable trauma has led me to being a better man that understands boundaries and doesn’t feel as entitled to the space and people around him. I love that I get to hang out with mostly women and feel like I can fully be myself without any judgment for needing to talk or cry or needing affection. Or that I can I will play as Toad or Shyguy in any Mario game because I think they’re the cutest characters and I don’t give a fuck that that’s not masculine. These things feel like they won’t change no matter how long I’m on testosterone, and I’m grateful for them. Instead of gaining a better understanding of masculinity, I’m just gaining a better understanding of myself and all the components that make me me.
Luckily for me, I went to what’s possibly the queerest liberal arts college in the United States and one of the main things I learned there is that gender is truly just a construct. The sooner I took that to heart, the easier things started to feel. I don’t need to know how to be a man; I am one the way I am and that’s good enough. Proving my masculinity doesn’t have to be inane things like knowing about sports or closing my emotions off to the world. It can just be me, the guy who shares his feelings and can’t stop buying stuffed animals because every time I see one with a cute enough face I know it’s begging for me to give it a home. Or listening to a female friend complain about how annoying high heels are and being like, “yeah, I can relate. I used to hate that shit, too”. To me, masculinity doesn’t mean anything, and yet I still think I’m somehow doing it right.