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Let’s talk over T (testosterone)

  • Posted on December 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

I don’t know which of us said it first. Three of us were discussing medical issues and lack of clinical care (well, interest, actually). Suddenly we were in complete agreement: blocking testosterone and the male sex drive was a huge relief. A single molecule has such an enormous impact – I’ve seen what it does to a male to female trans person, and envied it’s speed of transformation. But yes, losing that urge, the imperative to respond constantly to it, is heaven-sent.

Time and again over the past few years I’ve spoken with trans people at all stages and every variety. It’s a tough call when you have a contented relationship and good sex: if I lose my drive, will everything else crumble around me? Hell, I need sex, I love it! And what, you’re saying my libido will dive?? And yes, it’s a big thing, among all the other big things.

What is desirable?

I don’t believe that libido is the main factor in relationships and marriages destroyed by transition. Many marriages cope with that. The same applies to impotence; marriages survive. ‘Becoming the same gender as me’ is far bigger, and a partner unable or unwilling to explore the potential in a context of love may include libido in that deal. Which is interesting. Loving marriages survive impotence, lack of libido, disease, injury and surgery affecting genitals. Not always, but love does overcome. Nobody calls you (and you don’t call yourself) gay or lesbian or bisexual for finding new ways to be intimate and mutually satisfying for what has been lost, altered or rearranged. Being trans seems to be quite different.

So we also talked about orgasms. Yes, the female orgasm is different, yes we still achieve it, differently, and we understand it. And we still want it, though nothing like as much. Phew! In some ways I question whether I have lost libido, or just lost drive. Do I want sex? Hell, yes! But not because I am driven, but because I want that kind of loving sharing in my life, that kind of giving, that kind of being wanted.

Is it inappropriate to quote Shakespeare ‘Aye, there’s the rub!’ (appropriately from Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be?’ soliloquy. Interesting, do read it!)?

Blockers and blockers

If this information is useful to you in your trans decision point, well and good. I sometimes meet people reaching the point I did three years ago, uncertain of what transgender and transsexual and gender dysphoria mean, and how prepared they are to discover their own position. These things are seriously important. I discovered the female orgasm long before I lost my sex life, and attracted hugely more attention in online comment than from anything else I wrote later about being trans! But now I have to worry that people who need to read these things will actually never reach my page. The idea of protection through Internet filters may seem good, but it is now blocking access to young people especially, from good information about their sexuality and their gender.

The message appears to be quite plain: learning about sex is bad, finding your gender puts you at risk. Web pages that talk about sex are bad for you and we can’t trust you. Why can’t we trust you? Because all those human beings with testosterone in their blood (like you, mainly) are out to corrupt you. Jane Fae has written about this (link at the bottom to one of her articles, do read it), pointing out that the cultural context of good and bad has also slipped out of our national hands. And this is in a month in which India and Uganda have been added to Russia and Ukraine in the news for savage repression of gay and lesbian people and issues. Precolonial societies had fewer problems with homosexuality and with transsexuality than after our western imports with their male god and male standards, based of course on testosterone, power and guilt.


In the middle of this stands pornography. As old as drawing itself, sex is a human activity that has been portrayed as naturally as hunting and building houses. It becomes secretive and dirty when boundaries are stretched, when consent is absent, and when guilt is woven into it. ‘Have sex, but don’t look at anyone else having it’ is a curious construct that is about a lot more than privacy and monogamy. For very many young people, it is the only way to see what another person’s genitals actually look like, how they work and are used. Don’t most of us look at it and use it this way at some point? If we could do that objectively with grown-ups in the absence of embarrassment and guilt, maybe it would not be seen the same way. Can we not accept that male and female responses are a bit different? That it’s OK for you to find a naked male arousing, and for you to find a naked female arousing (whatever you are)?

Underlying much of our guilt and societal dysfunction over sex, pornography, sexuality and gender identity is something that we just don’t seem to want to let go of: testosterone is the power driver of western civilisation. And we allow it to be so. How many women remark that wars would not start if women were in power? That society would be calmer, fairer and kinder? I won’t digress into feminist politics here, but there is real truth in this. Women are subjugated, denied, reduced and treated as second to men, everywhere and every day. Testosterone makes men feel stronger, bigger, more important, driven, and also competitive and yet insular.

That, not the pictures within pornography per se, is the problem. The choice of portrayal, the manner of procurement, the route of delivery, the potential addiction, and the refusal to grasp the issues, are what result in the blocking, that may stop many people reading this page.

Back to blockers

The three of us like the effect of blockers, necessary until surgery relieves us of the underlying cause. No, I am not recommending this for all men, only recognition of this fact in our lives. And here is an interesting illustration, if you would care to compare the top right (progesterone) and bottom left (testosterone) molecules. That little adjustment highlights how close our differences are, and yet what a world of difference they make:

compare hormone molecules

Let’s have the right kind of blockers then, supplied to those who need them, and understand what is being blocked and why. I’m glad you are able to read this. Some people won’t be able to.


Jane Fae’s article: Three embarrassing truths about Cameron’s porn filter