It was one of the most exciting days of my life.
In an office ripped from the pages of an Ikea catalog, my doctor sat across from me describing the effects of HRT.
I sat quietly, daydreaming excessively about the large fistfuls of luxurious chest hair I’d no doubt acquire in the future. When he paused, my questions were a relentless barrage of requests for information from him.
“Nerd,” joked my doctor between listing side-effects while I frantically took notes.
I knew I was a boy from a young age, but never felt comfortable enough to medically transition.
After decades of hoping the dysphoria would pass, I was tired of the charade. At the age of 26, I embarked on this alchemical adventure in hormones, and finally started to medically transition from life as a woman to life as a man.
In spite of my information gluttony, I quickly noticed that sexual wellness wasn’t a topic of conversation with health professionals. To be fair, doctors and patients don’t generally spend time discussing changes to sexual health unless they’re dangerous or overwhelming.
Most of the changes transmasculine people reported were sometimes odd, but mostly benign. With no professionals to turn to, as a community we’ve had to turn inwards and learn from each other.
So if you’re someone who’s considering HRT to masculinize your body, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Your anatomy will change faster than you expect
Health professionals will prepare you for the changes you’ll go through, but will forget to tell patients how quickly things will change.
You might notice your genitals reacting strongly to testosterone’s effects within hours or days of your first injection or application. It can feel like throbbing, tingling or warmth, and can range from pleasantly distracting to worryingly painful. It will usually dissipate after the first month or two, but changes will continue for years.
Your body odor will also do a chameleon shift, and can literally change overnight. This can sometimes surprise people, but it’s perfectly normal!
There will likely be a dramatic change in lubrication, usually towards dryness. A high-quality water-based lubricant that avoids parabens, glycerin and sugars will be a powerful ingredient in your sexual pantry. And remember, even if you think you’ve applied enough lube… add more.
I made sure to keep a very private document listing all the changes that I was feeling during the first few months. It was important for me to be able to cross reference my experiences with others in the community, and it gave me more confidence about my body’s sensitivity to change.
You still have to worry about That Thing
Shark week. The Red Invasion. That scene from The Shining.
We all know it and dread it. Sadly, menstruation is one of the last things to change: for some people, it can slow down and stop completely within 1-3 months of beginning HRT. For others, it can stop but suddenly return for a month or two then peace out forever. This is normal, but if you’re noticing changes, they should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
One more major concern: testosterone treatment does not count as birth control.
I’ll repeat it for the people in the back: testosterone does not count as birth control. If you’re not currently looking to conceive, it is absolutely important for you to still practice safer sex by using condoms or more a long term solution like an I.U.D..
You're going to have a new "favorite move"
Everyone has that one “move” in their self-pleasure bag that is guaranteed to send them over the threshold. It can be vague or obnoxiously specific: your fingers have to be at a 45-degree angle while rhythmically tapping a Phil Collins worthy drum solo.
Then after a couple of months on testosterone, you notice your MVP (most valuable pleaser) isn’t scoring. It’s been a tough week, and your growing level of sexual frustration is adding to the stress. What gives?
First, don’t panic. Your junk isn’t going through a genital depression, I promise! This means it’s time to explore your changing body and modify your usual techniques. Your anatomy is a little different now, and your usual trigger spots have likely packed up and moved too.
This was my experience, and if I can be honest: it was an incredibly frustrating one. I was starting to date someone new, and I noticed it was causing us both increasing levels of frustration. I started to wonder if I somehow “broke” myself, and my anxiety whispered fears that maybe my testosterone was too high/low.
Nope! Things just… shifted a little bit. Once I took the time to work things out, and learned how to verbalize what I needed from a partner, my confidence abilities returned.
Moral of the story: take time to calmly see what feels good.
There’s a whole range of toys that are meant to be penetrated by a transmasculine person’s larger clit (often called “bottom growth”). These are toys that act like smaller versions of a Fleshlight, only for smaller parts.
The most popular penetrable toys currently available: Shot Pocket from FTM Pitstop, or the Fascination Sleeve or GenderExtender from Gender Cat.
As your anatomy becomes more phallic, take the hint and treat your bits more like a dick. For example, you could try incorporating more movement instead of passively leaning a vibrator against your body. If you normally climax by focusing only on one side, try stimulating both sides simultaneously. If you use circular motions, try a more stereotypical “jerking off” motion.
What you like in a partner or sex act might change
Whether from magic, hormones or the simple magic of alleviating dysphoria... your preference for partners or practices can radically change.
After a particularly painful breakup, I was confident in my decision to swear off dating men for a while. We were together for approximately six years, and I noticed that my interest in “masculinity” was waning. I knew sexuality fluctuated, and I figured that our breakup would commence a period of finally dating women.
It won’t surprise anyone when I explain that things did not go according to plan.
Four weekly shots in, I noticed that I was finding more and more men aesthetically pleasing.
It was exciting but worried me: I didn’t want a cis man to see me as less of a man because I was early still in my transition. I noticed that reluctance to date men was rooted in fear. I was afraid that a clearly more masculine guy might cause me to feel like they didn’t really see me as a man too.
Quickly that fear was pushed aside when I met The Poet. He had an interesting profile on OkCupid; his pictures were handsome and moody in a that reminded me of smokey bars, thick books, and good music. When we met, he assured me so earnestly that he saw me as a man that I never thought to question it again. My fear was resolved, and I gained an exciting new facet to my life.
So, it could be something as simple as wanting to be more dominant with partners or even finding yourself questioning your orientation altogether. Try not to judge your feelings, and instead, let this be a period of growth and discovery.
Sex (solo or partnered) feels like Spring Awakening 2.0
Scientifically speaking, skin contact on HRT becomes a million percent more intense. Like making a wish on a monkey’s paw, this newfound sensitivity can be exploited for good (think: orgasms!) or it can easily become overwhelming.
The bad news: do you enjoy your current cotton briefs? Tough luck! They’re made out of shark scales now. You might be relegated to a life of silky polyester blends, but take comfort knowing that they’re comfortable, attractive and moisture wicking.
Also, your partner might not have gotten the message yet, so make sure to explain it to them before they enthusiastically jump in.
On the subject of enthusiasm, your sex drive will go into overdrive at first. Just like a freshman in college, you’ll be struggling to keep up with your urge to get laid. In the short term, it’ll be distracting in a negative way but won’t last forever. You might be thrilled to know that life on testosterone does include the benefits of higher sex drive, just not in the earth-shattering way that most people experience within the first six months.
Showers are a blessing but burn your loofah
Twoberty comes with all the joys of puberty, especially when it comes to sweat and body odor. If you thought you were sweaty before testosterone, you’ll be surprised by your increased ability to moisten the world around you.
Most folks remedy this with a solid shower regime, but make the mistake of reaching for a loofah and heavily scented soaps for their more intimate parts. Instead: drop that fragranced soap, and burn your loofah!
Hormones are one of the sneaky culprits behind someone’s susceptibility to yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and other annoying issues. As your body is going through an intense hormonal roller-coaster right now, you want to reduce the number of irritants to an already sensitive zone.
Harshly fragranced soaps can irritate your private bits, making them angry and red. They can also contain sugars, which create the ideal ecosystem for yeast to overpopulate. Stick with fragrance-free soaps that eliminate parabens, sugars, and glycerin and don’t apply soap directly to any bits.
I noticed that even my own laundry detergent was causing me to have repeat bladder infections! It can be incredibly frustrating.
Loofahs are even worse as they stick around in your shower becoming a perfect petri dish for bacteria. It’s better to choose a washcloth, for the simple reason that you can toss them in the washer and dryer to sanitize them!
Right now we live in a world where it falls to every trans person to be a trailblazer in their own lives.
It’s a powerful and motivating thought, but it’s also isolating to know that you’re not able to rely on established help or information.
While that can add to the overwhelming confusion at the beginning of medically transitioning, know that there are people right now who are also trying to figure it out. Find these people and communities!
Search out your local transgender community centers, your GSA clubs, and your trans Discord servers. They will be an invaluable tool on your own path to pleasurable self-discovery.
One last thing: know that no matter how your body changes on testosterone, or if you decide to stay on it forever or only temporarily… you are worth the pleasure your body can provide you, if that is what you want. Seek out the information, and be compassionate to yourself.
Transitioning is about becoming more of who we know we are, and loving who we become in that process.
Zack is a freelance writer and illustrator from Canada. He’s a geeky trans man with a penchant for discussing LGBTQIA+ issues, graphic novels and comedy, and an evangelist for accessible sex education.
When he’s not fussing over his writing, Zack is usually hanging out with friends discussing the merits of icing on cupcakes and non-hierarchical relationship anarchism.
His favorite word is bean.
Illustration by Anouk.