A reader writes: “I am a writer and have read your previous post to another writer asking about his/her MTF character. I have a good portion of details for my character (FTM), including, as you suggested, the reason I want him in a story.
“I want to portray him as realistically as possible, but being a cisgender female myself, I don’t quite get the full picture of the experiences that transgender people go through, especially those who are female-to-male like my character.
“My question to you is: What are some experiences you have you’d be willing to share, such as difficulties with acceptance or hormones? What are some major milestones or setbacks relative to the FTM transition?”
I could write at least a couple of books about my experiences (and I have), and so have quite a few other guys, so the first thing I would suggest is that you check out as many memoirs by trans men as you can find. (Here are links to excerpts on this blog from Just Add Hormones and Teeny Weenies.)
This doesn’t have to be expensive. Many larger libraries have at least my first book and other books by prominent trans men, including James Green, Max Wolf Valerio, Chaz Bono – and there are many others. And some libraries will order them if they don’t have them. Also, if you live in a larger city that has LGBT resources, some centers have lending libraries. Used bookstores are also a good place to browse if they have an LGBT section.
I would also suggest reading blogs and watching videos by trans men. There are quite a few of both, and some guys have a whole video series on YouTube devoted to their transition. These can be quite enlightening, and you actually get to see the changes and “meet” the guys, so you get a real sense of who they are. Readers can probably suggest several blogs and vlogs that would be helpful.
I would recommend doing tons of research with regard to different trans guy experiences. There’s just so much out there. And even with my own experiences, I could probably write several more books. So what I’m going to put here are just a few of the “highlights” for myself. Other guys will have other things that were important or meaningful to them, and I hope that we hear about them in the Comments section.
Milestone 1: My first shot of testosterone was on Martin Luther King Day in 1998. Now, the fact that it was Martin Luther King Day makes it a little easier to remember, but I would probably remember it regardless. It seemed to take forever for my therapist to approve it, and she made me jump through a few hoops that were irritating at the time (Cut my hair? Stop wearing makeup? Get my implants out? You’re kidding me!), but that, in hindsight, were necessary. She was very wise.
Milestone 2: For myself, and for quite a few other guys who I have talked to, the “sir” thing is very important, particularly in the beginning of transition. Many of us measured how “well” we were doing in transition by the “sirs” that we got during the day. I would count them, and say things like “I was ‘sirred’ 25 percent of the time today (or 50 percent or whatever).” When it got to 100 percent every day, then I felt that I had overcome some major hurdle.
Milestones 3-5: My name change and gender marker change on my driver’s license were huge deals for me. My chest surgery was another huge deal, and once that was done, I felt like I had “made it.” Going shirtless in public for the first time was also a major milestone.
Difficulty 1: Learning to give myself my own shots was a big difficulty. I was such a baby, and I was paying a lot of money and wasting a lot of time going to the doctor every two weeks so I could get a shot. When I was finally able to give my own shots, it gave me a huge measure of independence (sort of like learning to use a potty chair or walk to school on my own).
Difficulty 2: Another difficulty was (and still is) transphobia within the LGB community and homophobia within the trans community. I am most negatively affected by transphobia in the LGB community, as well as a simple lack of knowledge. When I go to an organization that has LGBT in its name or attend an “LGBT” event, I expect that the people there will at least have some knowledge about trans people, and many times, they don’t.
Difficulty 3: I don’t even get the chance to interview for jobs that I am highly qualified for. I never get a callback and I rarely even get a rejection letter. I believe that prospective employers google me when they get my resume and just don’t want to mess with me because they don’t understand who and what I am. It’s easier just to go with someone else.
Setback 1: Getting “ma’amed” after getting “sirred” for months (or even years) is always an emotional setback. It doesn’t happen to me in person, but even now, when I get “ma’amed” on the phone or at the drive-thru, it bothers me once in a while. I usually don’t care, but it depends on how vulnerable I’m feeling that day.
Setback 2: Early in my transition, it was very difficult for those around me to get my pronoun right. Every time it happened, it was hugely discouraging. I even threw some minor temper tantrums that I will forever regret. The name comes first. The pronoun takes much longer. I wish I had been more patient.
Those are a few of mine. I’m sure that my trans guy readers will have a few as well. And although transition for trans women is very different (we are not just the “opposite” or “reverse” of each other), I think that trans women’s stories can be similar and helpful in understanding the whole trans spectrum. So hopefully we can hear from a variety of people, including those who have not medically transitioned.
Also remember that race, class, culture, background, geographic location, and many other factors figure into milestones, setbacks, and difficulties. And no two trans men are the same.
Good luck with your book. Readers, what do you say?