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Pressure and judgment from the "FTM community"

(Entry from my personal journal)

March 2006

I came out as trans about six years ago. At that time I was able to find maybe ten other guys who were about my age (though mostly older) who were dealing with the same things. I was a part of a mailing list for a while that was composed mainly of older, "post-transition" guys who told me that unless I was on hormones and pursuing every surgery possible, I wasn't a real man. The FTM friends I did have were almost all focusing on getting on T and having top surgery. I wasn't sure what I wanted for myself. I was proud of having been born female. I very strongly identified as butch and didn't want to turn my back on that. I knew I wanted to have chest surgery but wasn't sure about testosterone.

I waited a long time to do anything in regards to medical transition, about three years. I needed to be sure I was doing what was right for me, and when I finally did start testosterone it felt more like giving in to something I couldn't resist anymore than like something I should be celebrating. I really wanted to be okay with living in the body I was born into, but I just couldn't be. I also wanted to be in a stable and independent place for myself. I didn't want to need anyone else to support me, especially my family, who at the time were not at all keen on my transition. A lot of factors played in to my decision to wait so long.

In that waiting period, I did see a boom of FTMs. In just a few years there went from being only a handful of us visible, even online, to literally thousands. I watched a lot of guys who came out way after me going on T and having surgeries before I did. I had a lot of thoughts like "wow he's going so fast" and "all these people can't really be FTM." There was no way I could know what each person was experiencing individually, but as a trend, there was definitely a big shift happening.

Now, several years into transition, I still see more and more guys coming out, coming out younger, transitioning faster. I also have seen quite a few people who have begun transition and then realized that it's not what was right for them. Even some of the "trail blazers" who were my initial support system, and people who many folks have seen as guides or pseudo-icons in the FTM community, no longer live or identify as male. I can only assume that we're going to see that happening more and more. I think it's an incredibly brave thing to do, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for those folks.

So the question I have is how do we, as a group of people, talk about these issues without being judgmental or hypocritical? Is there pressure to transition? If so, let's talk about where that comes from. How do I as a transitioning guy caution other folks against rushing into transition? I think it involves supporting the validity of someone's experience regardless of age, transition status, or identity, but how? As trans men, we are subject to the same pressures to be more masculine or macho that non-trans men are, and we have the opportunity to work against that and not tear each other apart from the inside out. I'd like to celebrate the lives of those people who do not or are not transitioning (medically or otherwise) just as much as we support those who are.

I also challenge myself and other guys who are further into transition to continue being open about what life is like after your first few years on T. Initially things are very exciting, there are plenty of new changes and for those of us who are, for the first time, feeling at home in our bodies, life is good. As time goes on there are new and different sets of challenges (and positive experiences) that not as many people get to hear about or consider. If we all keep sharing our stories, maybe we can create a more complete and realistic picture of transition, and people can be better informed in making their own decisions.

There are underlying tones of misogyny and sexism here, too. I think to a large degree, the FTM community operates in a way that values masculinity over femininity and maleness over femaleness. Of course it is exciting for some of us when we are first read as male, when we figure out how to bind effectively, when we start testosterone, or whatever. Those are milestones that should be recognized. But we need to be aware of the climate that creates. What effect does all of that have on a masculine female bodied person who might not ID as male, or may not otherwise have a desire to transition? Is the implication that her experience is less valid than someone male or trans identified? I think there is a standard set in many circles that being male or FTM is bigger, better, cooler than being female. What are the ways in which we are (consciously or not) making it harder for those who live as a masculine woman?

I don't really know how I want to wrap this up, but I am hoping for some thoughtful and respectful dialogue in the comments. There is a wealth of diverse knowledge and experience in this group, let's try to capitalize on that. I hope none of my statements have come across as judgmental to anyone's individual choices. That hasn't been my intention, so please speak up if that's the impact that's been made.

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