True Trans Confessions: I Started Testosterone To Beat Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Daniel on the left, Logan on the right. One of these people doesn't know this is a competition
In the days of The Toast, Mallory Ortberg was my hero: a comedy writer whose particular brand of humor was exactly mine. The mix classic literature and 90s/00s pop culture references; the overwrought P.G. Wodehousisms; the love of dirtbags; the feminism and misandry; the insistence that my cheesiest heroes, like Johnny Bravo, were lesbians; even small things, like the playful mix of genders in self-descriptions ("I am my own terrible son"). The Toast was everything I wish my early 2000's comedy website had become if only I were just a little funnier and sharper and smarter and god damn you this is how I wish I could write but I can't be mad cause I'm laughing.
To top it off, I am a lifelong lover of advice columns, and when I learned that the new Dear Prudence would be none other than my hero Mallory Ortberg, I was beside myself with both joy and jealousy. Ortberrrrrg! You are living my best life! And being two years younger than me doesn't help! But I am glad I get to read your queer, nuanced opinions. Don't let the door hit ya, Emily Yoffe.
Following Ortberg on Instagram made me feel especially close and almost protective of my favorite author. I recognized myself in their experiments with short hair and ostentatiously loud men's Hawaiian shirts. Full-on deep-end wackiness because there is no filter once you allow yourself to wear men's clothes... teen-boy style at age 30 to make up for not having had a teenage boyhood... fascination with hairstyles and expressions that make your face look more masculine. When I read Ortberg's piece in Shondaland last September about binding, I said, "I KNEW it! I knew he was trans!" He didn't come out as a trans man at that time, and certainly he might not have been - nonbinary people and gender non-comforming women bind, too - but he is, he's Daniel now, and I knew it, and I called it, and I feel so uncomplicatedly glad for him in a way that I can't totally be for myself. In Daniel's public internet presence, I get to see the joy and exhilaration and beauty of transition without the anxiety, lost friendships, and strained family relationships of mine.
In September, I joked that I was jump-starting my transition "to beat Mallory Ortberg." It's not that Daniel gave me any ideas I didn't already have - I started Taking Steps before I knew or suspected anything about Daniel's transition - but having an imaginary competition with a famous person did help push me along when I came to a crossroads. For example, when I was deciding whether to start testosterone or wait until after top surgery: Who knew, my Internet hero might be starting T RIGHT THEN! (He was.) I had to go for it.
And I'm glad I did because: I love testosterone.
It has been such a positive thing for me so far. I've been delighted by nearly every single effect so far, even the ones I didn't think I would like, like increased body hair. Before I started, I thought I mainly wanted it to lower my voice and help me pass socially. I thought I was neutral about facial hair, and felt generally negative about increased body hair. Well, now that it's here, I love all my new hair! The ones on my face, the ones on my upper thighs, even the thicket in my armpit. I don't know why. They just make me feel more like me.
I just got top surgery, and I actually kind of feel horrified to contemplate the parallel universe where I haven't started T yet. I'd be so far behind! You couldn't cut a deal with me to trade in the progress that I made in those extra months. I had to go off T for a few weeks before surgery, and the feelings of lethargy and depression that I felt just reinforced for me how much T has improved my mood. I used to think, "I will take T until I am 'masculine enough' and then I will stop." Now I feel like I may never stop because, beyond the changes it effects, I like the way it makes me feel. It's the right hormone for me.
Top surgery itself has also been affirming, of course. It's hard to even wrap my mind around, still. I had chest dysphoria and now I don't. I had a daily, physically and emotionally draining problem, and now I don't. (I mean, I have different problems - I'm still in pain as I type this, over several sessions because my arms get tired easily. But the pain won't last forever, and simple pain is straightforward compared to mirror aversion, passing anxiety, and the multiple-times-per-day debate of Body Horror Vs. Breathing?) I haven't even been able to take advantage of some of the big benefits (improved ability to run, taking my shirt off at the beach, etc.) and it's still like this giant sigh of relief.
It's already easy to understate the difference because I'm rapidly forgetting what it was like to have breasts. I had them for over 20 years, and it's like they're fading into the rearview at lightning speed. Flat-chested is how I always understood my body to be. The breasts were just these weird extra things that were a continual, unwanted surprise. I'm forgetting them the way you forget your coat in the summer. Sayonara, suckers!
One of the things that I worried about early in transition - and that Daniel touched on in the interview linked above - the worry that you are "joining the other team" when you transition to male. Men are trash, so male is obviously the wrong team to join. That worry just feels so irrelevant to me now. Because I didn't actually have the choice of which team to be on. The choice was: to contort myself to live somebody else's life and push down my true impulses and desires... Or to take a leap of faith and jump into those desires and see where they took me, no matter how far into goofy / teen boy / dirtbag / my own terrible son.
I'm grateful to Daniel for being open about his transition at a moment when it gives me so many feelings of comfort and solidarity and being part of something. It isn't a competition, of course. It's more like the Appalachian Trail. We're each on our own journey, at our own pace, but it's sure an inspiration and a joy to bear witness to our fellow trailblazers. What a time to be a nerdy trans guy on the Internet.