Growing up, I didn’t have many positive masculine role models around me. Many came with a vague threat of violence, and I lost the only safe masculine role model I had before I began my transition. I spent around two decades forcing myself to identify with femininity — including during formative years of my sexual development. Eventually, I embraced my transmasculine identity and started hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
But my transition was tainted when I began what I thought was a “healthy,wp_posts“loving,wp_postsand “compassionatewp_postsromantic relationship with the person who became my abuser. He blamed his hurtful behavior on his masculine sexuality, just as my own began to bloom. After the relationship ended, I noticed the first significant changes from testosterone while my brain relived the trauma on a daily basis, stirring a fear that I would follow in my abusers’ footsteps — but that’s not what happened.
My transition became a site of revelation in understanding and disrupting toxic masculinity, and through my introspection, I developed a healthier masculine sexuality. Here are some lessons I’ve learned throughout my transition that helped me get there.
Having Sex Isn’t the Same as Meeting My Emotional Needs
My bottom (or clitoral) growth started while I lived with my abuser. Sometimes it felt like my brain couldn’t tell the difference between being horny and being in danger, but I was willing to follow whatever logic allowed me to find safety in sex.
I was also experiencing the emotional roller coaster that came with puberty on top of everyday trauma. Fortunately, I had better coping, communication, and boundary-setting skills than I’d had when I went through puberty as a teen, and I was honest with myself about why I wanted sex. I realized some part of me was using sex to fulfill my need for emotional safety, and I knew there were better ways to get that. Sex lost importance when I was getting my emotional needs met, and when I did want sex, I was much happier finding satisfaction on my own.
I Can Harness Sexual Energy for Non-Sexual Purposes
My chiropractor once asked if I felt more energized from taking testosterone. I suddenly realized that my sex drive was an expression of a new kind of energy, always at its peak when I felt restless or bored, except on days when I felt physically exhausted. My sex drive began to feel like a punishment, and masturbation turned into a functional imperative I begrudgingly had to accomplish.
When I’d feel a swell of arousal creeping on me, I’d try out new ways to harness that energy towards something slightly more productive than watching porn. I found ways to make the mundane sexy or turn my solo sexy time into an incentive. Instead of searching for my next hookup, I learned new things and made art and organized my house. If I could do all that and still wanted to get off, then I knew I really did just want an orgasm.
Self-Love and Self-Pleasure Begin with Curiosity
One of my favorite parts of transitioning has been the teasingly slow physical changes, some of which have been pleasantly surprising. Instead of finding ways to avoid looking at my reflection, I started to inspect it with delightful anticipation. From an innocuous glance in the mirror as I brushed my teeth to my own sensual caresses, looking for and appreciating my physical changes transformed my relationship with my body — instead of feeling detached when I looked at myself, I felt curiosity.
I started transitioning with apprehension about my body, but the physical changes of masculine pubescence felt affirming, and the relief that came with that was practically orgasmic. I felt like I’d discovered the embodiment of what adrienne maree brown calls “pleasure activism.” Now masturbation is no longer a quick fix to a nagging feeling — instead, it’s a slow exploration of sensations and changes and possibilities.
I Can Publicly Celebrate Myself — And I Can Keep Parts of My Journey Private, Too
Before taking testosterone, I used modeling to control the way I saw myself. I didn’t always like my body, but I could find moments and angles where I did. Posting pictures and transition timelines of myself online makes sense for me, because that’s how I’d already been sharing my bodily experience.
I don’t post everything, and I don’t share every moment — not even with people I love. I’ve had to get really honest with myself about why I want to share something before I post it.
I Have to Stay Aware of How I’m Showing Up in the World
The more masculine I appear, the more I notice that some of my typical behaviors elicit different reactions from some people in my life. There have been times when I’ve felt like my words have been taken with the least generous interpretation, even at times when I couldn’t be more clear. But I can’t blame people for their trauma responses, especially since I wouldn’t want to be blamed for mine.
I can’t control what people project onto me, so I have to be confident in how I move through the world — which includes understanding how I might cause harm and how I can reduce the impact of that harm on others.
My Masculine Sexuality Isn’t All That Different from My Feminine Sexuality
The hardest pill to swallow when it comes to my masculine sexuality is that it isn’t actually different from my feminine sexuality. While there have been new changes and challenges, the only real difference is how other people perceive me — and how I perceive myself. Sure, I got hornier, but that hasn’t changed my capacity for communication and consent. I started feeling anger more easily than sadness, but my coping skills still work, and I still experience hurt.
Transmasculine Role Models Have So Much to Teach Us
The more transmasculine people I meet who embody positive values, the easier it is for me to envision how I can do that, too. I’ve also sought out transmasculine people who are willing to be open about their mistakes. My role models have saved me from a lot of hardships by sharing vulnerable moments from their journeys. There are some lessons we don’t have to learn the hard way when people have already done the work to teach us.