I squeezed Joanne’s sweaty hand. We sat motionless in the women’s clinic office, listening to the doctor explain to us that I would have to stop taking hormones for at least six months. I heard the doctor talking but my mind stopped processing the words. I found myself staring at the beige wallpaper remembering what it felt like to live in a body filled with testosterone.
My trance was interrupted with a question, “Do you really want to do this, Lara?” The doctor must have noticed my expression. My mind raced with a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t. Starting hormones saved my life. I was able to be myself, inside and out. Why would I stop?
I spent the morning convincing Joanne to come with me. I’d done research online and already knew that detransition was probably the only way I could have a child with her, but I wouldn’t be able to stop my hormone prescription unless Joanne was there. I needed a physical reminder. This could be the mother of my future child. Her body and mine becoming one human being. All I had to do was say the words.
Joanne looked at the doctor and asked, “Would you want to have children?” Her expression became cold and she told us about the yearlong struggle her and her husband had trying to have a child. She explained that her husband recently died in a car accident and she would never have a child with him. In a blink of an eye she had become a childless widow. All because she waited too long.
After this there was no question. I’d do whatever it takes to have a child with Joanne.
My entire life has been a struggle to counter the masculinity that was imposed at birth. To create my own version of femininity. Through medical intervention and deep spiritual development, my goal has been to find myself; my gender. Then I met the love of my life.
We met early in my transition. We matched on Tinder and naturally I stalked her social media. I saw terms like “gold star lesbian” and rants about her cisgender ex-girlfriends. It was clear that she was attracted to me. I worried if her attraction would remain when I took off my clothes. I hoped my femininity would overshadow not having a vagina.
I also noticed an article she posted about in vitro fertilization. She wanted to have a child. A family. A wife. I fantasized about being a stay-at-home mom with a baby in a stroller. In theory, I could produce sperm again and make a child with her. I wouldn’t learn until later in our relationship that she was thinking the same thing.
Our attraction grew along with our relationship, and my desire to be with Joanne overcame my gender dysphoria. My body mattered less and less. I had to be a part of her. It was the first time since I transitioned that I didn’t care about my gender.
Naked. Her and I. Alone. We weren’t gendered humans. We were bodies with skin that needed to be liquid. Her curves, her breath on my neck, and her assertive masculinity. My muscles left over from my former life combined with my soft femininity. We were beyond the archaic ideas that were imposed on us.
When I imagined having a baby, I started to see my body as a vehicle I was navigating, instead of a prison.
My goal was once to be read as a cis woman. I lost weight and muscle mass. I took classes to perfect my “female” voice. I mastered makeup and age-appropriate clothes. My goal was to blend into what mainstream society claimed femininity to be.
As I matured into my own version of womanhood, I started exploring masculinity in a way that reflected me as a feminine person. I had reached the opposite end of the gender spectrum and still couldn’t find myself. Being read as a cis woman wasn’t important to me anymore. Instead, being completely authentic with my gender expression was the priority.
Still, nothing could prepare me to be reintroduced to testosterone after I stopped taking hormone blockers and estrogen to have a child. Without medical intervention, my body quickly reverted to its former self.
Each day without estrogen brought on characteristics and mannerisms that I had forgotten, little things like the more aggressive way I moved my hands or how I found myself having the urge to meat again, after becoming vegetarian in early transition. I wasn’t getting the subtle intuitive hints that Joanne was giving me anymore. My demeanor had become cold and it became hard to have conversations with people. Testosterone was forcing me to recreate my identity.
While I mostly passed as a cisgender woman before I stopped hormones, my changing appearance led people to question my gender. People started asking me for my pronouns or defaulting to he/him/his. My feminine presentation started to be a statement of queerness. “I am a femme person assigned male at birth and I am standing in front of you,” I imagined myself telling people. “I am authentically me. I embrace my femininity and my masculinity. I am proof that this society is wrong about gender and I am challenging you with every breath that I take.”
There is no version of “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” for transgender femmes trying to reinvigorate their penis.
This is what I said on the outside. On the inside I was screaming. Crying out in pain with every moment. Beaten down every time someone treated me differently. Othered every time I was misgendered.
He. Sir. Him. These one syllable words created a concentration of gender dysphoria that was unbearable. With one word, I would be taken back to my darkest moments. Why? How could one syllable have so much power over me? Who cares how a stranger interprets my gender?
I noticed my breasts start to compress. Subtle things like smell and skin texture were changing. My sex drive increased and I wondered if I was producing sperm.
That was when I imagined having a baby, and I started to see my body as a vehicle I was navigating, instead of a prison. This body was changing but it will always be changing. My evolution as an authentically queer person has to move beyond clothes, makeup, and cis passing privilege.
My body is a tool. As long as I maintain this tool, I can always be myself. No matter what my age, what hormones are in my body, or what my appearance may be. This reintroduction of testosterone could be a blessing if I learned from the lessons my body was creating for me.
I wanted to condition myself to being referred to as with male pronouns, to change the way I interpreted them. So I told people that while I preferred other pronouns, I would also accept he/him. Those pronouns would no be longer an attack on my gender identity. Being called “sir” was a chance to honor the men in my family; my ancestors. I was creating a version of masculinity free of misogyny. Free of oppression. I loved my masculinity because it honored my femininity. I learned that my masculinity made me a more complete human. A more well-rounded femme.
Still, I had moments of doubt. As testosterone started to become the dominant hormone in my body, my emotions felt harder. My skin, smell, and appearance fit more with what society labeled masculine. My genitals had become larger and erections happened often, reminding me constantly that they were there.
My words were sharper, more matter of fact. My soft body became rough and my emotions did the same. In conversation with people, I wondered who I was. How can I have a conversation when I don’t know who I am?
Even though I wanted to challenge even my own assumptions of what it meant to be a woman, I still found myself going to a laser clinic to remove hair from my face, as an aesthetician asked me to lay down on a treatment bed. She reassured me with her broken European accent, “Beauty is pain, baby!”
My mind tried to separate from my body as she carefully cleared my face. I found myself thinking about the two children in the lobby. They were so loud, obnoxious even. The mother had to take them both with her because she couldn’t find a babysitter.
Is this really what I wanted? I’m the same person on testosterone or estrogen, but my emotions play out differently. It’s as if certain emotions were stressed like a different accent or dialect. Different syllables had more emphasis. I found that under the influence of testosterone, I didn’t have an interest in being around children.
Was this because I didn’t like children anymore? Did I even want children? Was all this for nothing? Was I making a mistake?
My face felt hot as I walked out of the clinic. My body walked in autopilot. The physical and emotional pain was too much. How could I ever be a good mother? I don’t even know myself? How can I teach another human being how to live?
There is no version of “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” for transgender femmes trying to reinvigorate their penis. There are no guidelines for transgender femmes trying to make their girlfriend pregnant. But as the physical and emotional pain from hair removal subsided, I remembered why I started this journey, and the deep yearning for a physical representation of Joanne and me, our love. A tiny human to experience life with.
I remembered similar stories from cisgender parents and friends who had their own pre-baby crisis. What parent is not terrified before their child arrives? My feelings were no different from any other parent, cis or trans.
As I sit in this experience of masculinity and femininity, I see the small brown/-haired child in my mind’s eye. I see a tiny human ready to take on this difficult world. I hope they’re just as excited to meet me as I am to meet them.