by Andre Perez
This week I reluctantly return to VT for my final semester of college. Return still feels like regression to this navy-brat nomad. But in repetition I’m learning to see difference, and it’s a week before I decide I’m committed to going on testosterone. After a summer of hooking up homeless queer kids with social services, I’ve realize how realize what I’m capable of. The moment T becomes possible, it takes on the weight of inevitability, pushing me through phone calls to therapists and insurance companies and naturopaths. It lingers heavy on my tongue as I confess to my ex girlfriend. She’s always known everything before I told her.
How strange that something I qualitatively denied only months ago feels more familiar by the day. I’ve never known what home feels like, but I know making that decision is as close as I’ve ever gotten. I meditate on what body modification, kink and physical transition have in common. I've been thinking of all the ways we inscribe meaning onto our flesh, of all the events in my life that have marked me against my will. What drives some people to veil those markings and others to display them brazenly?
I remember my ambivalent admiration as a scrawny genderqueer lifted up their shirt to reveal the phrase "Faggots Kill Fascists" etched across their pelvis. They tell us if they ever go to jail, they want us to raise money to get the tattoo covered up. We joke: what about if we can only raise half? Our nods build rhythms like shudders when they respond, "Let's be honest, the word ‘Fascist’ is what matters here. Everything else is inscribed over and over in ways I can never erase."
I pause briefly to contemplate what happens in the space where needs converge... the need to make what is felt real, the need to make what is imagined imminent, the need to make what is marked visible. As I unpack, I find a crumpled sheet of paper with a phrase scrawled across it--Where our imagination cannot stretch, we must test our skin--and I wonder if I ever left this place.
It’s been months since I resumed therapy. In past years talk about relationships dominate the 50 minutes of gaping awkwardness. I had shared my suspicion of therapy as practice, but I had no intention of insulting what she did. I returned from my summer internship with an agenda. Our eyes lock during session. “Why do you come?” she prods me.
“because I have to.”
“Because mid-century, a well-meaning and well-respected physician decided that you get to decide that I want what I want.”
“You don’t see the advantage? You know… not everyone thinks through things as much as you do.”
“I talk to trans people everyday. It’s not something people take lightly. Every time you tell someone, they ask you if you’re fucking sure. They practically beg you not be.”
She was sympathetic. A sympathetic professional whose career is built on the assumption that people can’t solve their own problems. I built my life on the conviction that I was the only one who could change anything that mattered in my own life. We spent months grappling for common ground. I demanded a letter, and eventually refused to return. I graduated and moved half way across the country. I found a healthcare provider who operated on an informed consent model. We made fun of my therapist as she read over my letter. When she handed me the prescription, I was holding back tears.
Last week I referred to going on T as the most anticlimactic life-changing event I’ll ever experience. Moments of impatience accentuate my reverence—that one can change so completely, that this body can become almost anything I am willing to make it, that the very constraints of possibility can be pushed to their limits. A half wall of mirrors entices me to examine these curves for traces of overnight body alchemy.
More important than any change testosterone’s made to my physical presence is the way it’s changed how I relate to my body. What has long been a no man’s land riddled with insecurity and mild contempt has been renewed by curiosity. My body has become the site of progress, of potential, of possibility. It is as if, after being estranged for so long, I am considering reconciliation. I withhold judgment, studying it, trying to see it anew. I let it reveal itself to me. It is as if I am learning to trust—both myself with my body and my body with myself.