Health / MedicineMedia Portrayals of LGBTTransgender

In Testosterone Veritas

On Cracked yesterday a trans man named Roman Jones wrote about 6 Awful Lessons I Learned Transitioning from Female to Male. Some of the stuff in there felt similar to my experiences, though it’s been awhile (9 years) since I had to bind and much of this stuff applies more to the transition process than the stage of life I’m at now. I found his commentary about medical care especially on point – problems with getting decent medical care has been an ongoing problem for me and many other trans people.

But then late in the article Jones says:

It’s not only physical, either — transgender people who have undergone hormone therapy are a goldmine of information about the differences between men and women because of the effect different hormones have on your mind. Describing his experience with testosterone on This American Life, one trans man flat-out says “I felt like a monster.” He completely stopped thinking about the random women he encountered as people, and a nice-looking one would turn his mind into a pornographic View-Master. That guy was on an irresponsibly high dose, but most trans men on testosterone agree that it increases libido and aggression, which can be a shocking revelation for someone who’s spent their life chasing the estrogen dragon.

Read more:

Here’s the thing: Testosterone does not create sexism on it’s own. People learn these attitudes (aggression, objectification) from their culture. Just because trans guys are usually raised being perceived as girls doesn’t mean that we don’t live in a culture steeped in sexist attitudes and we internalize them as much as anyone else does. T makes us look more masculine and for many guys it makes us feel more masculine, but it doesn’t tell us what masculinity means. Our culture does.

Trans men often say that T made us more visually stimulated. This is certainly my experience – when I’m on T I am far more likely to look at porn, to be aroused by the sight of my partners, and to notice attractive people around me. But visual stimulation isn’t the same thing as objectification. Lots of people are visually stimulated, not all of us see the people who’s appearance arouse us as less than human. One can be both attracted to someone AND know that they are a person. People do it all the time.

Aggression is similar. Some trans guys experience increased aggression on T. Many don’t. Some of us start crying a lot more (I cry at movies. A lot. Especially Pixar ones.) and some of us have a mellowing of emotional volatility because we’re so much less stressed out with less dysphoria. Our responses are varied because our expectations are different and our ideas about what manhood is and who we are as men is so diverse. Guys who are already prone to aggression or who see aggressiveness as a manly trait and part of their masculinity will have problems with that. These problems are created by a culture that teaches us – all of us! – that violence and anger are male attributes, a natural result of testosterone.

The models of masculinity I saw growing up in my family were extremely gentle. My father is an incredibly gentle man. My best memories of him are of sitting on blankets on the floor with him and my siblings, playing and telling stories. He works incredibly hard for my family, is soft spoken and introverted, and deeply devoted to my mother. My strongest image of adult masculinity is that of a devoted father and husband. Unsurprisingly, aggression is not a problem I have had with T.

Testosterone doesn’t create monsters of trans men or anyone else. Patriarchal culture creates toxic images of what manhood is, and some guys (trans and cis) internalize these images. When we experience an increase in libido and visual stimulation due to suddenly having our hormones corrected it shows to us and the world who we really are and who we think men are. The toxic culture we live in can create aggressive and objectifying sexist pigs out of us if we let it.

Guys, don’t let it. You don’t have to be that guy.

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Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes is a queer polyamorous transman, curious skeptic, and enthusiastic seeker of knowledge. He's an undergraduate student in his 30's and loves teaching people about alternative sexuality and gender issues.


  1. February 16, 2015 at 2:13 pm —

    Great piece about what it means to be a man. Thanks Benny.

  2. February 16, 2015 at 8:09 pm —

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Yes, yes, yes.

  3. February 17, 2015 at 9:18 pm —

    *Standing Ovation* Just beautifully articulated

  4. February 18, 2015 at 4:37 pm —

    Thanks for posting this. As a cis guy who formerly had testosterone below the normal range, and now has testosterone at the high end of the normal range, I found that the effects of a large change in testosterone were actually quite mild; I was no more aggressive, still had a moderate sex drive, and really didn’t experience much in the way of personality changes or how I viewed men or women. Certainly this is not the same as experiencing testosterone surges for the first time, but it did illustrate to me that testosterone is not some magic substance that enhances all typically “masculine” traits, and isn’t an excuse for aggression and sexism.

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