Forays into Masculinity

August 24, 2009 at 1:40 am Leave a comment

What’s up with being a man anyhow? I ask because I’m relatively new to all of this and it seems to me that becoming a man when you haven’t been socialized as one isn’t so different from being an immigrant to a foreign country. I have left the country of femininity and now must learn new social codes, the rules that govern men. Some of them come naturally; others, not so much.

If I use the immigration metaphor it’s not entirely abstract. I happen to be another kind of immigrant as well; the more traditional kind. I was born in South Africa and immigrated to Canada when I was young. The parallels are not so far-fetched, trust me.

The hardest part about being an immigrant into manhood is learning to be assertive. Women simply aren’t trained from a young age to say what they want, to go after what they aspire to or take what they feel they deserve. Women are constantly expected (at least I was) to behave in a dignified and reserved manner and to keep your knees together when you sit and don’t be too overbearing and and and…

How much of gender is social expectations placed on us and how much is hormones or biology. Well, as someone who has been taking testosterone injections for the past five years, I can tell you that hormones have had a HUGE effect on my behaviour. For one, I am much more forward, assertive and confident than I ever was. Of course, this is relative. If you were to meet me on the street, you’d still probably say I was a shy nerdy kind of guy. But at least I don’t fear stepping out the door to go to the grocery store or to get the mail. Yup, it was that bad, folks.

I’m a transsexual man. That means I’ve had surgery and I inject hormones regularly so that my levels are within the range of a typical man. But as long as my ovaries are intact I also have estrogen coursing through my body. Hell, even if I have my ovaries removed, I’ll *still* have estrogen coursing through my body. Estrogen is not an exclusively female hormone, nor is testosterone a male hormone. Every human being carries different quantities of both. It’s in the balance that lies the difference. And some speculate that it’s the balance of hormones in my mother’s womb that caused me to be this way in the first place.

We like to think that we’re more than our chemical makeup, and in some ways we definitely are. But I think we’re fooling ourselves if we think that who we are isn’t at least partly shaped by the chemicals in our bodies. Am I a man because I inject testosterone? No. I am a man because that is the identity, the label, that most resonates with me for whatever reason. The hormones simply help me express myself to the world around me.

Gender immigration is a roller-coaster ride. And I’m only just starting to get the hang of it. I was a boy who had to leave behind my female exterior to become the man I felt capable of being. Only now, five years after starting my transition, do I begin to feel that I am approaching success. Only now do I feel that I am becoming truly male.


Entry filed under: Gender, Masculinity, Transgender.

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