The Day Testosterone Disentangles From Masculinity

syringeLast week, I returned to my high school to talk to a group of 50 students about being a transgender man. It’s only been a decade since I was their age, yet, in essence, it’s been a lifetime. Back then, I didn’t have the language to describe being a “trans man”—being someone who was told they were female, but knowing inside I was male. Today, I have plenty of language. Indeed, there’s a proliferation of language—articles, essays, books—on transgender lives, more and more every day. I have made it my job as a writer to add to the pile. And I’ve actually made a living this way: a reality “younger me” could never have envisioned.

I imagine writing and reading about transgender people will comprise my entire life; each day, I’m further inhabiting that body of work. What strikes me most, then, while I’m reading is no longer that thought that there’s a multitude of people like me out there, and each of their stories is worth telling, but the thought that someday, all of my struggle to articulate and validate trans-ness might not matter.

In other words, I’m stopped short by futurist writers who see a day where “transgender equality” no longer carries meaning because gender itself will have been so shaped by technology and pharmacology that its criteria—body shape, voice timbre, hormonal balance, etc.— will be obliterated, re-imagined, or commodified. This isn’t the gender liberation that some trans activists dream about; rather, it’s often presented as an endpoint of capitalism.

Consider Spanish thinker Beatriz Preciado in Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era. Preciado, who was assigned “female” at birth, took a low dose of testosterone and observed its effects while writing her/his book:

 Testosterone isn’t masculinity. Nothing allows us to conclude that the effects produced by testosterone are masculine. The only thing that we can say is that, until now, they have as a whole been the exclusive property of cis-males [non-transgender males]. Masculinity is only one of the possible political (and nonbiological) by-products of the administration of testosterone. It is neither the only one nor, over the long term, the one that will dominate socially.

If masculinity isn’t the effect of testosterone that history will remember, what is? One possibility I can envision, drawing on Preciado, is its use as a commercial, genderless performance enhancer.

One image s/he brings up is of the day the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally allows pharmaceutical companies to sell testosterone to cisgender women—perhaps as, I imagine, a sex-drive or an energy booster. Other possibilities are raised by trans thinkers Susan Stryker and Sandy Stone in this Wired interview. I can’t help but wonder how dusty these nearly unfathomable changes will someday make my writing seem—it’s disheartening yet thrilling.

 — Mitch Kellaway, Zeteo Contributing Writer



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