Complex Personal Narratives

A few weeks ago, I had a guest speaker come into my Constructing Sexuality class.  His name was Daniel, and he was a FTM.  He began telling his personal narrative, describing how he perceived himself as more masculine than other females growing up.  He thought, at first, his “manliness” was caused by hanging out with more males than females.  His parents similarly attributed his masculinity to lack of female friends, and they tried to “socialize” him by enrolling him into female-only sports and activities.  By high school, he had started experimenting with the female gender – growing his hair long and dating men.  Because he felt comfortable around men and held similar interests with them, he said he never had a difficult time finding a boyfriend.  He had one serious relationship during that time and, after it ended, he realized he was more interested in women.  In college, he began exploring trans* issues and identifying as queer.  Then, when he realized he could identity as trans* without transitioning medically, he began adopting a trans* identity.  After college, he started binding his breasts and exclusively wearing men’s clothing.  He began hormones around seven months ago, and he said he was immediately more sexually attracted to men and sexually driven because of the testosterone.

While listening to Daniel’s story, I found it both intriguing and contradictory.  On the one hand, he is challenging traditional gender norms, describing his gender and sexual orientation as fluid, complex entities.  On the other hand, he falls into a Western paradigm crux, discussing how he shared similar “masculine” interests with other men, such as playing video games and watching action movies.  Additionally, he naturalized heterosexuality by attributing the female gender with dating men.  Thus, he ends up reinforcing a binary world, one that separates men and women and normalizes heterosexuality.

In addition, his described situation with testosterone reminds me of Patrick Califa’s story.  Califa described how after taking T, he would have physical sensations that “acquired a piquancy and an immediacy that is both entertaining and occasionally inconvenient” (437).  His desire for instantaneous, casual sex grew rapidly, and he said he suddenly understood sexual differences between the sexes after his intake of T.  Similarly, Daniel describes an intense, sexual urge for men and desire for casual sex.  What’s largely problematic about both accounts is that it presents women as sexless beings (who don’t have desires or impulses!) by attributing sex drive to an increased testosterone level.

This type of narrative is similarly highlighted in PLENTY of articles, especially in this cringe-worthy Men’s Health article called Why You’ve Always Been So Horny.  It “describes” how testosterone affects the body:

“The first [burst of T] produces a male brain: one that’s more interested in objects, actions, and competition. The left (parietal) lobe flourishes in the testosterone bath and helps you visualize objects in three dimensions (good for catching a football or watching a woman cross the street), and it boosts your aptitude in mathematics (that’s how you estimate that she’s about a 34DD).  In addition, testosterone beefs up your hypothalamus, the area of the brain that’s interested in sex. The hypothalamus is twice as large in men as it is in women.”

A part of me wants to believe this is a joke because of its BLATANT sexism but, alas, I honestly think this was printed.  Anyhow… while Daniel and Patrick clearly are complicating and challenging identity categories within their narratives [unlike this terrible, terrible article], I do think their attributions of sex drive to testosterone are perhaps troublesome and even reflect notes of biological essentialism.

http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/understanding_sex_and_the_brain/Why_You_ve_Always_Been_Horny.php

-Anna Sekine

Chris and Greg: Children??

Falling in Love with Chris and Greg was not at all what I was expecting, yet amazingly entertaining and kind of awkward which made it even more entertaining. The couple covers everything from body and hormone issues to relationships to marriage and children. By far my favorite episode was Road Trip TV Special! where they travel from California to Death Valley to Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, and back. Their discussion about why they should or should not get married because of the “loophole,” and Greg’s freak out over Chris being able to have a baby or not was mind boggling.

First, it’s hilarious that Chris referred to his own vagina as a “loophole”. Second, both of their reasons behind wanting to get married made absolutely no sense to me. This may have been because I actually didn’t understand their arguments, but I’m thinking it’s actually because I couldn’t understand their fast bickering over the issue. And lastly, I had never before had the thought cross my mind that a transman could have a baby if he still had the reproductive organs of a female. I mean, you would think this is something to ponder, but never had I even considered it.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed watching Greg eat many twinkies and go on what seemed to be a crazed sugar high, I have to think about what he was really questioning. I should preface this by saying I have very little knowledge about what extensive effects large quantities of testosterone have on the body. But say a transman who is taking testosterone is having penile/vaginal intercourse with a man, would he be able to get pregnant? And if he did, what kind of effects would the “mother’s” body chemistry have on the child? Or would this not be possible because the testosterone lowers the previous levels of estrogen and progesterone and therefore no eggs are released and there is no menstruation? These are interesting things to think about. 

And here is a link to the ridiculous sideshow news craze that surrounded Thomas Beatie back in 2008, when he attracted media attention from EVERYWHERE for being the “first pregnant transman”. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/fashion/22pregnant.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I had totally forgotten about this story until I typed “transman pregnant” into Google. According to the article, yes a transman can become pregnant, but only after ceasing testosterone injections. I know that news sources are not always entirely credible, but I’m willing to go with the NY TImes on this one and assume they are correct. However, if any of you are like me, you’ve still got to be wondering “What if…?”

-Jocelyn Crizer