Well, OK, it's not quite a problem on a personal level. I don't have a problem with my trans status, and five years of hormones has changed my body into something me and my culture are both comfortable with (at least while I have clothes on), and they were a great decision for me. But I'm considering going off of those hormones because the changes that are most important to me--deeper voice and facial hair--are unlikely to go away, and I'm beginning to crave the ease of pre-transition medical concerns (no massive shots to remember taking, no needing phlebotomies, less bad blood pressure, more natural body cycles). That got me thinking about the nature vs. nurture aspects of gender transition to begin with.
The story in the trans community is usually told a lot like this: Trans people have an inborn medical condition that causes us a lot of strife, discomfort, and often death through suicide or risky behaviors. The cure for this is hormones and to a lesser extent surgery. Hormones should be given early and often. Somebody who is given the wrong hormones will know fairly quickly, because an estrogen dominant man or a testosterone dominant woman will inherently be depressed.
This is a very nature-based argument which butts heads against a common belief among certain left-wing radicals: Gender identity is not inborn. Gender is a category constructed by humans to oppress each other, and by expressing the need to transition from one to another trans people reinforce that oppression. This belief hasn't just led to disagreement, but exclusion of trans people from radical spaces and outright violence.
Here's the reality of this situation, for me: Nature vs. nurture is a nearly futile and in most cases irrelevant argument. We can acknowledge that maybe trans peoples' need to take pharmaceutical hormones is due to our cultural upbringing while validating that those feelings are in fact real and the effects of denying hormones to somebody who needs them are disastrous. But instead of allowing for this sort of complexity and nuance, people instead choose to commit to binary extremes.
Unfortunately this doesn't only combat anti-transgender bigots. It also facilitates ignorant judgments against trans people who don't meet that narrative, either by being comfortable with our bodies as-is (as many trans people are) or by transitioning by a different method than others. I was thinking about this because I was browsing YouTube for insight on getting off hormones--the same thing I did when I was going to be going on them--but this time there was very little to go by. The few trans people who went off hormones had either gone back on them in a couple of months or had been on them for a much shorter time period than I have. Everybody else had decided they were not trans and were detransitioning. I found only one transgender man who had gone on hormones for several years, gone off them, continued living as a man, and stayed off them for longer than a few months.
The thing is, I know that going off hormones isn't that uncommon. Lots of us do it for health reasons. Some do it for financial reasons, as the hormones and bloodwork can get really expensive. But it's not something we talk about nearly as much as going on hormones, because it's just assumed people will go on them forever because we've constructed this narrative that assumes wrong hormones are what cause gender dysphoria, depression, and other issues.
I'm not saying they definitely aren't... but I think it's dangerous to assume that society doesn't play a part in it. Was my masculinity really an inborn trait or was it something developed by cultural pressures? People talk about sexual orientation as if gays and lesbians are "born that way" all the time, but peoples' sexual orientations definitely do change, sometimes by choice (something I know by experience, as I went from desiring only men to actively conditioning myself to be attracted to women and non-binary people as well) and sometimes by circumstance. Getting married to the idea that it definitely must not ever be viewed as a choice is a viewpoint that only makes sense if you believe that there's something otherwise immoral or disgusting about homosexuality, which there is not. And the thing is, there are so many things about us as humans that we assume are inborn biological facts because it feels like they are, but they aren't. Take the color blue. If you were raised in a culture that has no ability to create the color blue--as there are very few natural sources of that color--you will fail to see it even if it is pointed out to you. People who are raised without blue might describe the sky as colorless or green or yellow, the sea as wine-colored, and other fascinating things. People who are raised in societies that have the ability to render such a usually unnatural color will be able to identify it and distinguish it from other similar colors. But you can't force yourself to un-see blue. You can't decide philosophically that blue is not a natural color and you should abstain. Just because it's culturally produced doesn't make it unnatural or non-factual.
So I am a culturally masculine human regardless of where in my life that happened, whether there was a genetic predisposition or socialization or whatnot. In my culture, a masculine person raised female has certain roles they can occupy. We can be tomboys. We can be butch women. We can be nonbinary. In my own case, for whatever reason, the role that I fit is transsexual man, complete with medical transition. It's a fine role. I value it and don't denigrate it.
But I also don't know that I would feel I needed medical transition if there had been other accepted roles for me. I love my moustache and my deep voice, but if I grew up somewhere that people would have accepted me as a man or maybe even a third gender category, I cannot confidently say that this would be a problem for me.
Herein lies the dilemma. Going on testosterone alleviated my depression to an extreme level. I am emotionally more balanced, more confident, and overall happier. But was it because the hormones balanced me out... or was it merely the fact that people accepted me better? Because if it's the latter, I may be doing myself a great favor by going off of them. And if it's the former... I can always go back on them.
Basically, the pros and cons of staying on testosterone versus going off it are starting to tip toward the "going off" end, for the following reasons (some of which I already summarized):
- I will no longer need a contingency plan if a disaster happens and I am suddenly without hormones. Over the past five years there have been multiple occasions where my pharmacy and doctor did not communicate and I wound up having to bear weeks without hormones. I won't have to worry about if I can't afford them that month or if--Gods forbid--shit really hits the fan and hormones don't even exist anymore.
- My body should revert to functioning the way nature intended it to, with all its cycles and functions, which works well with my philosophical and spiritual sensibilities.
- Some of the health problems I have should decrease in intensity or even dissipate, especially my secondary polycythaemia, which is a direct effect of hormones and which is hard to manage for reasons I am uncomfortable explaining here.
- I will no longer need to feel the total dread that comes when it's time to give myself a shot. They were very easy at first, but are increasingly becoming nearly impossible to do on time. I get nauseous, forget to breathe properly, and have panic attacks over the damn shots. Not needing to take shots would be incredibly freeing for me.
- It would be financially better for me. Hormones aren't that expensive, and my insurance typically covers the bloodwork, but that's still around $250-$300/year that I'm spending on something that I'm not sure I want anymore.
The preparation that I'll need is to try getting certain health stuff in order, do more research to make sure it's something I really want, looking for ways to deal with what may be an emotional roller coaster, and looking into methods of dealing with stuff that's likely to happen if I do go off it (mostly menstruation).
I'm planning on continuing hormones through at least one more bottle of testosterone after I finish my current bottle, which should add up to maybe seven or eight more months on testosterone. That way I'll not only have time to think about it and maybe grow some more facial hair (facial hair seems to slow down after stopping testosterone but doesn't go away, thankfully, and my voice should not return to a feminine-read register), but I'll have time to work out a plan with my doctor to ease off of it if that's how she recommends it be done, maybe lose some more weight so that the fat redistribution isn't as dramatic (this and the emotional roller coaster are my two main worries).
Anyway, I'm off to fuss over my food projects now. Happy trails!