A new regular column following the female-to-male transition of Wellington writer Felix Desmarais. Month one: ‘It’s not easy having your balls put in your butt.’
Hi! My name is Felix and I am a 14 year old boy studying journalism at Massey University. I’m also going to turn 30 next year. I am female-to-male (FTM) transgender and I have just started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to instigate male puberty.
I’ve teamed up with The Spinoff to create what we believe is a pretty exciting first in New Zealand: a monthly diary following my transition. Definitely the first column I’m aware of that’s about my transition.
We’re really amped to give you this insight into an experience many people may not be that familiar with, and by doing so help promote discussion about transgender New Zealanders’ lives and how we can make them better. I’ll be including some discussions of wider issues as well as narcissistically talking about myself (hashtag male privo). There’ll also be accompanying videos from my Youtube channel so I recommend you smash that subscribe button so that I can become a veritable Youtube baron.
If you’re my mum, you might have noticed that I wrote a thing a couple of months back when I was celebrating my first Transgender Day of Visibility as a trans guy. In that, I talked a little about how I realised I was trans. I really recommend clicking the link to check it out if you haven’t read it already. It’s a cracking read by one of New Zealand’s best writers ever. Obvi.
Despite not having a (cis) dick, I like to minimise my dickery. It’s important to me to point out the leg(s) up I’ve had, since they inevitably inform my writing. It also avoids people making assumptions about my perspective. I’m Pākehā, I’m 28 years old, I have a degree and am able-bodied. I have experience with depression and bipolar type two. I’m a survivor of rape. I identify as ftm transgender and I am pansexual. My gender identity is non-binary but I use masculine (he/him) pronouns. I have a supportive network of family and friends.
TL;DR: I’m writing this in a café on my Macbook. Enough said.
HRT and Dysphoria
On 26 June I started HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Not all trans people go on the ol’ ‘mones, but some do as it can help a lot with the gender dysphoria we may experience. I’m one of those people, because I feel that ‘passing’ as male, being ‘read’ as masculine, the way I know myself to be, will help me feel better.
I’m not all trans people though, and I certainly don’t speak for all trans people. Going on hormones doesn’t make a person any more or less trans, and a social transition is just as legitimate as a ‘medical’ one. The discourse of ‘passing’ as cis is problematic, because it implies that being cis is the ideal. It’s not. Trans people don’t necessarily want to be ‘cis’. Usually, cis people want us to be cis more than we do. In fact, most of the time, all we want to do is just be.
Dysphoria is a difficult thing to explain to someone who doesn’t experience it. I thought I didn’t really get it too bad until I recently realised that I’ve been experiencing dysphoria all my life without realising it, because it is pretty much a baseline, status quo feeling for me. Now that I’m realising I don’t have to feel this way, I can recognise the dysphoria, and that can sometimes help me combat it, too.
Since I realised I was trans in November, I’d been gradually working towards going on testosterone (or ‘t’ as we call in in the biz. The trans guy biz). There is no ‘one’ way to get on hormones in New Zealand, and it’s all a bit of a hot mess to be honest. Lots of good, well-meaning doctors like my GP don’t really know what the process is, and it means that the onus goes back on trans people to find out how to get the things they need. It’s shocking how much of the process is gleaned from word-of-mouth among other trans people.
It’s different from DHB to DHB too. Honestly, it’s a nightmare, and if I was a yung trans I’d be overwhelmed about what I’m supposed to do to get on hormones. It’s kind of bonkers when you consider a) this is a life and death situation for many people and b) it ain’t that hard to get a prescription for the contraceptive pill, which is basically just oestrogen. Y’know, like… hormones.
So after this six month circus, all of a sudden my day had come. I clutched my vial of testosterone cypionate in my hand. My appointment with the nurse was booked, and nothing stood in my way anymore.
Suddenly, I was terrified. Why was I left to make this decision all by myself? Would it even help me? Would it do anything? Am I sure? Am I sure I’m sure? I was shell-shocked by how unready I felt. Cis people don’t have a moment where they ‘decide’ to release the hormones that will instigate their puberty. If they did, I’m sure they’d feel the same way. It’s a big deal, and there’s no way around that. It’s a massive decision to have to make. I’m not sure there’s any way to ever feel ‘ready’ for that.
I told myself I could postpone my first shot until I felt ready. I sat in that feeling and realised I didn’t want to defer the shot. In my head, that wasn’t an option. I didn’t want to delay being who I am on the outside one day longer. I was just feeling nervous, and it was completely natural. That realisation didn’t make the feeling go away, but it helped me at least be okay with the feeling of utter terror
Dat possum in testosterone headlights aesthetic tho
The feeling didn’t go away immediately after the shot either. I text my cister, Ruby* that I was still feeling strange. Every twinge in my leg was a new hair growing suddenly, a scratch in my throat meant I was Morgan Freeman already. I’d never felt so hyper-aware of my body.
See you next month. Ideally, my only monthly from now on.
Subscribe to Felix’s videos here.
*Ruby is not her real name, her real name is BEST CISTER EVER
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.