By Michael Young
When I went on testosterone, I was told a lot of troubling things. I was told that I would be angrier, more aggressive, and that I would find it harder to control myself. This is commonly referred to as ‘T Rage’. On a related note, I was also told that I would be less emotional, and that I would have more trouble expressing my emotions.
This feeds right into the problematic narrative that suggests that the emotional ‘differences’ between men and women are a result of biology rather than socialisation and gender roles. The idea that injecting a synthetic hormone into myself makes me less responsible for my actions is not only blatantly ridiculous, it’s insulting.
Any kind of hormonal change may result in some emotional instability (puberty, anyone?), but this idea that going on testosterone will make you into a raging, emotionally repressed man-beast is ludicrous. What’s even more troubling is that I didn’t just hear this from the trans* community, I heard it from my therapist, one of the people in charge of my care.
The reality, for me, was far from the one that they projected. If anything, going on testosterone settled me down. I still get angry, but I find it much easier to channel that anger productively rather than lashing out. I have a better relationship with my family – due to the fact that I am happier and more settled in my own skin, we argue less. I also find it easier to take a step back from situations that I don’t want to be in, to disengage from an argument and do something else instead.
Whilst I have never been a particularly emotional person (not that there’s anything wrong with being emotional), I feel that I am much more in touch with my emotions now that I am on testosterone. More importantly, now that I am (for the most part) past my own issues, I am more empathic toward others and I find that I have more energy to try and understand what others are going through. I am much more capable of taking on viewpoints other than my own, and as a result, I am more supportive of friends and family. On testosterone, I have found it far easier to express myself and talk about things than I ever have.
Going on testosterone does not fundamentally change who a person is and how they relate to their emotions. It can create some emotional turbulence, as would any hormonal imbalance in the body, but this should settle down when hormonal balance is achieved again.
I am aware that my narrative will not be the same for everyone, and that my experiences with testosterone are not universal, but this idea of ‘T Rage’, this idea that we will inherently become more aggressive and lose touch with our emotions on testosterone is harmful. Embedded in the myth of ‘T Rage’ is the idea that men can’t help being aggressive, that they can’t help lashing out, that it’s somehow biological. Having testosterone doesn’t make someone less responsible for their actions. Acting like it does falls into ‘boys will be boys’ thinking, and that kind of thinking feeds into rape culture and harms women. It feeds into the idea that men ‘can’t help themselves’, that they are somehow less responsible for physical, verbal and sexual violence. Men are capable of controlling themselves, they are not inherently more aggressive than women, and they are not emotionally defective. The myth of ‘T Rage’ hurts women and plays into cisnormative gender roles. Trans* men on testosterone are not subject to diminished responsibility simply for being on male hormones.