Witnessing conversations about bottom dysphoria amongst trans men, there is one thing I rarely see mentioned: the struggle of reconciling the desire to inhabit a male form with the reality of how testosterone changes the genitals.
While there is no single universal trans male experience, I’m sure I’m not the only trans man to have experienced this troubling hangup, which is exactly why I think it’s so important to acknowledge.
When I was still gaining the courage to transition hormonally, the genital growth that occurs with testosterone seemed like the “scariest” effect of FTM HRT to me. Pre-testosterone I had very conventionally attractive “female” genitalia, possessing the general shape and characteristics that are seen as the “ideal” in mainstream porn directed for straight men. Knowing this, I was aware that by going on testosterone I’d be changing that part of my body in a way that would make it fall less in line with Western beauty standards, which was terrifying to me. My pre-T genitals were so familiar to me that I was mostly unaware of the full extent of my bottom dysphoria; even though I felt uncomfortable, I was unable to truly fathom existing any other way. I worried that going on testosterone would be altering my healthy, functioning genitalia for “no good reason” and told myself that although it might feel bad, I would be better off living as a girl and staying “normal” than I would transitioning and potentially failing at masculinity. I was existing in this perpetual state of angst for the sake of not abandoning the refuge I had found in conventionally attractive womanhood, because I was desperately afraid of losing that mode of existing—I was scared that if I were to transition, my body would no longer be attractive to the men I found attractive: particularly my genitals. This is something that especially weighed on me as a homoflexible trans man who tended to predominantly fall for cis guys.
I met my (cis) boyfriend when I was eighteen, a year before I finally started testosterone. He knew I was trans from the outset—we met on Grindr—and him being bisexual as well as lacking a genital preference and not really caring much about genitals in general went a long way toward making me feel more at ease about the genital growth that I knew would occur on testosterone. That being said, I still ended up crying on more than one occasion asking him if he’d still be attracted to my genitalia on testosterone. He was honest with me in saying that he wasn’t sure, and the fact that we shared that same uncertainty was ultimately far more reassuring than any white lie would have been. We both got more comfortable with the idea of how my genitals would change on T by sitting together browsing nude pics and videos of other trans guys’ non-op penises, and my boyfriend made the humorous observation that “it looks like a rhino horn,” which was very much intended to be a compliment (and which I can now never un-see). Witnessing other trans men looking desirable and sexy made me feel confident that my body, T-dick and all, would be no less desirable on testosterone than it was pre-testosterone. Recognizing that T-dick has as much potential to be sexy as any cis man’s penis was a fairly intense revelation for me.
For months prior to meeting my boyfriend I had been eyeing the Transthetics Joystick, but I hadn’t ordered it because I was still having the “Do I really want to abandon my Mainstream-Vagina Security Blanket™?” crisis detailed above. Now that we were together, purchasing the Joystick immediately moved up on my list of priorities; he and I are both versatile and he wanted me to top him with a penis (as did I), so I saved up and ordered the Joystick. When it arrived and I tried it on, I felt comfortable in a way that I never had before. For the first time in my life, I had a cis-resembling penis that looked like it was a part of me. It was in that moment that I realized how much bottom dysphoria I was (and still am) constantly suppressing. Personally, I’m just grateful that it was such a gentle experience where I was able to become aware of my dysphoria due to its conspicuous absence, rather than in a more painful manner.
For the first time in my life, I had a cis-resembling penis that looked like it was a part of me. It was in that moment that I realized how much bottom dysphoria I was (and still am) constantly suppressing.
By the time I was ready to start testosterone, neither I nor my boyfriend were concerned about his potential lack of attraction to my junk, and the changes to my genitals were only unsettling at first due to the sheer speed at which they occurred; within only two days on testosterone I was starting to have growing pains in my glans and there was a visible change in size by the fourth day. Aside from the initial “Oh god, how did it start so fast? Is this supposed to happen?” factor, these changes—changes that I’d spent so unnecessarily long being afraid of—inspired overwhelmingly positive emotions. Naturally, I still have bottom dysphoria, but it is no longer accompanied by shame surrounding the appearance of my penis. Oddly enough, using the Joystick has had the effect of making me more comfortable with how my penis looks and feels on testosterone. For years I used to feel silly when I acknowledged to myself that I wanted a penis, seeing it as an embarrassing thing for a “girl” to want, but the catharsis of seeing the Joystick attached to my body definitely prepared me for when I look down now and see my penis sans Joystick. I can now confidently say that both my silicone and bio-dick are pretty cool.