It’s 2005. I’m 14.
I’m quietly printing out a webpage on my parent’s printer, which is meant only for homework and the occasional Harry Potter fanfiction. I curse as I loudly staple the huge booklet together, slide the dozens of papers down my hoodie and sneak back into my room.
For the first time ever, my eyes glaze over in awe. Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide. FTM. Female to male. Trans man. It was 2005 and I suddenly wasn’t alone. There was a name for who I was. A simple guide online offered me a possibility at a future I didn’t let myself hope for.
It changed my life.
It’s 14 years later. I’m living life as a man and attempting to help troubleshoot problems transmasculine people go through on the daily. It gets better.
When I started to enter puberty for the second time at the age of 26, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing fellow trans people who stepped in and guided me through some pretty confusing situations. In the same way, let me be a kind of reassuring Trans Agony Uncle for your own questions and everyday issues!
In this article, I hope to help demystify some boring day-to-day experiences about being a transmasculine person for trans people and allies. I’m going to present gender affirming gear and tools that are helpful for your everyday experiences as a transmasculine person. In the next article, I’ll be specifically discussing toys, tools, and tips for sex, kink, and fun.
How do I make my torso look flatter?
First, put down those ace bandages! While popular culture often shows us images of trans men wrapping their chests flat with medical bandage… this is incredibly dangerous (and uncomfortable).
There are a few options depending on how large your chest is, and how flat you’d like to bind. If you’d like to be as flat as possible, get a traditional binder. Binders are compression tank tops that are made to bind the chest as much as possible without causing damage. They come in either half tank style or a full tank top style.
Most people go for the half tank style since it’s the most comfortable and lightest. However, if you’re finding that your chest slips out the bottom of your binder, or that your chest is larger than average, a full tank top style is better suited to your needs.
There are also compression bras that are meant for high impact sports that can also work really well, especially if you’re waiting on your first binder to arrive and dysphoria is kicking your butt.
Finally, some people are able to bind using only a simple tank top! If you put the tank top on backwards, then pull up half the shirt to cover your chest, it will compress the chest lightly.
Where do I get binders?
GC2B tends to be recommended first. They’re incredibly soft while offering sturdy compression, and they are designed specifically for transmasculine people. As a trans owned and operated company, you can tell every choice is made with the wearer’s comfort in mind. They have five shades of nude, basics and multiple fun colors as well as two styles offered.
Underworks binders are tough and sturdy, and bind extremely well but aren’t always very comfortable. The fabric can bunch up or pinch and are designed for cis men looking to reshape their bodies. Still, many people fall in love with the wide variety of styles offered and the strength of binding, especially in their longer styles that can help slim hips. They mostly come in either black, white or sometimes beige.
You might also find binders at your local LGBTQIA+ organizations usually offered at a sliding scale.
What is a packer and why would I want one?
A packer is a squishy phallus-like object meant to create a bulge, while also alleviating
dysphoria around your current genital configuration (often times called bottom dysphoria). Everyone’s personal experience of bottom dysphoria can vary: for me, it can make me feel like a part of my body is “missing”, and likely feel like everyone’s noticing that I’m somehow different. (They’re not, but still, dysphoria is a jerk!)
Packers are also sometimes referred to as “prosthetics”.
What is the difference between a packer and an STP?
Think of the word “packers” as an umbrella term. It includes our “basic” packers, but also fancier devices meant to look and behave as realistic as possible. STPs, or stand-to-pee devices, are tools meant to help someone pee standing up. They can be basic and look like a medicine spoon or can be so realistic that they can be hard to distinguish from bio-dicks, even up close.
They can be meant to be worn for extended periods of time, either in a jockstrap-like harness or adhered to the body with medical tape replaced daily.
What should I look for in a basic packer?
So, you tried out the ol’ “sock in your jeans” and you’re want to buy your first packer. Awesome!
Your first step is to think about material. There are two major materials to choose from: silicone and non-silicone. If you have any sort of allergies or a predisposition towards having yeast or urinary infections, I will strongly recommend going with silicone. They are often more expensive than non-silicone versions, but they can be sterilized and are non-porous. Non-silicone is stretchier and lighter but does not feel as natural to the touch in terms of density.
Next, think about the size. Bigger definitively doesn’t mean better, but going too small can make it seem like you’re constantly semi-erect. Aim for 2.5 inches to 4.5 inches, but if you’re considering getting phalloplasty in the future go with a larger size more similar to results after surgery.
Some companies offer variety of skin shades, while most offer only three. If you have a wider range, aim for a color one to two shades darker than your skin tone for realism. If you’re interested in fun colors, companies like New York Toy Collective offers fun unrealistic shades like gold or purple.
Pro tip: packers can be quite sticky in texture, so applying cornstarch makes it feel more realistic. Cornstarch is extremely powdery, so put it in a salt shaker to keep your home from looking like the set of Scarface.
How do I wear my packer?
Most transmasculine people know the fear: you’re walking around outside, minding your own business when someone points out that your dick has fallen out of your pant leg and is currently on the floor.
This terrible fate could have been prevented with a harness (like the Spareparts Pete
When buying harnesses, be careful to purchase the right ones. There are packing harnesses which are made for comfort, and harnesses meant for “play” (sex).
I want to buy an STP! What should I do?
STP devices have an infamously steep learning curve and can involve many failed attempts before finding a technique or product that works effortlessly. Consider buying a simple non-phallic STP device first to see if using an STP works for you. There is a possibility that using an STP will feel uncomfortable, so instead of buying an expensive and realistic one, try buying something like the Mr. Fenis.
I bought an STP… now what?
I know you must be excited to immediately dash out and write your name in the snow… but wait! As intuitive as you think it might be, there’s a little bit of a learning curve to using an STP.
You’re going to want to first practice at home, in either your least favorite pants or standing in the shower. There’s a certain amount of restraint that you have to use. Use your pelvic muscles to try to slow down the flow of urine, otherwise, the cup will fill too quickly and it’ll spill out the back. Keep the shaft of the STP straight as any kinks will cause a stricture and slow the flow, risking spillage again.
Once you’ve mastered these basics, congratulations! Your certificate of STP Competency is in the mail!*
*This is a lie. The certificate is a lie. I am sorry. But congrats just the same!
I’m starting testosterone injections! What do I need?
Boy booster. Masculinity marinade. CapriSon. Whatever you call your testosterone injections, congratulations!
First, you’re going to want to purchase circular band-aids, cotton balls, alcohol swabs, and nitrile gloves. Circular band-aids will rip out less of your glorious leg hair, and nitrile gloves are helpful if you ever get nervous and lose grip when trying to inject.
The types of needles and syringes needed will depend on the type of injections you’re doing (intramuscular injections or injections into subcutaneous fat). You’re likely going to have two needles; a thicker needle for pulling the testosterone into the syringe, and a thinner needle for injecting it into your body. Using two needles allows for the needle that is injecting the testosterone into your body to remain as sharp as possible.
Now the fun part: you’ll need a box that can hold all your supplies. Your average syringe (with the needle attached) will be roughly seven inches long, so your box has to be long enough to fit that. Many folks go for funky metal lunch boxes or wooden cigar boxes. Logan, a friend of mine from an online trans community, uses his old Caboodle makeup train case. Genius!
(Personally, I’m really attached to my Sterilite divided case; it’s spacious and secure... and I can cover it in stickers.)
Pro tip: If you’re planning on traveling with your testosterone kit, it’s a good idea to keep your prescription in the box.
My injections are psychologically hard to do lately… what can I do to make it easier?
When I started transitioning, testosterone shots were almost laughably easy for me. I got a little nervous but shrugged off any fear arrogantly. As I began to lose significant weight from transitioning, I noticed my weekly injections were becoming more difficult as the fat dwindled from my legs. One week, it took me over five times to find a spot that didn’t make me yelp loudly!
Now, I try to keep myself distracted with funny YouTube videos or sometimes use ice to numb the spot. There are devices that are meant to help with numbing injection sites by vibration only or even more expensive devices that will “auto-inject” the with the touch of a button.
I started getting facial hair… but it’s so light. How can I darken it?
The excitement of budding facial hair is sometimes overshadowed when you see how light in color it can be initially. A simple trick is to dye your beard hair with beard dye but apply it delicately with a mascara wand (a spoolie). It’ll keep your skin from getting dyed, which might make you look more like an old-timey cat burglar than a dashing lad.
For a more temporary solution, you can also buy eyebrow gel with fibers. The fibers actually will thicken up your facial hair and eyebrows, while darkening them. Try to be messy but not heavy-handed, you want it to look rough and a little blurry.
Puberty isn’t easy. As a society, we understand the necessity of quality sex education, and that shouldn’t stop at adulthood, especially if a person is trans.
In the next part, we’ll be discussing toys, tips, and tools that transmasculine folk and people who love them can engage with each other.
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.