Musically, barbershop acapella is my home. It was the context where I learned to sing and trust my voice. Ringing overtones and delightfully frictiony seventh chords are what give me goosebumps down my arms and neck. I first started singing barbershop (women’s of course) in high school, and while I haven’t been in a chorus all or even most of the time between that first time and now, I still miss it and have some piece of my identity tied to it. While I had some gender dysphoria being part of a women’s chorus, it was all about performance and presenting oneself a certain way, so it was surmountable.
Since I haven’t sung with a barbershop chorus for about a year (interestingly, coincidental or not, that was right about the time I came out to myself as trans), I’m starting to get nostalgic for it. But there are complications. I’m not a woman, and being in a women’s chorus doesn’t fit. So then I worry, will my voice drop enough? Would an octave drop in singing voice do it? Will men’s barbershop give me the same musical satisfaction? Could I fit in socially in a men’s barbershop chorus? If not, what other musical group could I use to get my social and musical needs met?
On the plus side, I’ve poked around blogs/reddit threads about singing on T, and it sounds like gradual increases are the way to go. Something like starting at 25mg weekly for a few months and then going to 50mg weekly. I don’t know if I’d like to go beyond that, since I’m still feeling out the right level of masculinization.
So Fergus and I are planning on having a second kid sometime in the next year or so, after I’ve started and gotten a chunk of the way through HRT-aided transition. Binding is workable now (though I sometimes do it to an unhealthy degree), but my understanding from reading stuff from transmen who got pregnant after social transitioning was that binding was difficult or impossible while pregnant or breastfeeding because of tenderness, size, engorgement, etc. I am pretty sure I can handle the pregnancy bit, even with the potential for awkward conversations, but not binding for pregnancy plus 6-12 months of breastfeeding sounds… very very unappealing.
I know that some form of top surgery as soon as I can manage with insurance requirements should help (I have almost a year of real life experience already, based on when I started going masculine part time, and regardless of binding or not, my chest gives me back problems). I keep going back and forth about degree, though. The plan that fits in better with balancing my overall goals is seeing about a reduction that leaves the parts needed for breastfeeding intact (glands, leave nipples as they are, etc), with a full top surgery later on. The plus sides to that idea include: better health for kidlet #2, potentially easier time getting insurance to pay for reduction as a non-trans issue over full top surgery as a trans issue, and smaller chest than my current size during pregnancy. The cons list is longer: two top surgeries instead of one (surgery has inherent risks, insurance might have issues with covering a second top surgery), living with breasts for longer, dealing with social consequences of breastfeeding while ftm, unable to be flat during time between reduction and removal. There’s also the risk with that plan of not even being able to breastfeed the baby, which would take away a good chunk of the reason to do the plan that way.
One of the parts I keep getting stuck on is: what if the baby needs to eat while out and about? That was no problem when I was an awkward trying-to-be-a-woman person; I just did it and covered or left the room as the situation dictated. But the thought of every feeding being a chance for stares and potential need to come out as a very uncommon category makes me really uncomfortable. I’m fine with the idea of breastfeeding itself, and in private, I imagine that it wouldn’t be a problem (I might be wrong, because when I breastfed kidlet #1, I was still assuming I was a cis woman). But I keep picturing myself as a passing man in a public space breastfeeding a baby… it’s bizarre and uncomfortable and dysphoria-inducing. Perhaps breastfeeding would be a private thing, and formula or pumped milk would be the solution for being out and about?
Some un-paragraphed thoughts about breastfeeding and top surgery that I’ve been having tonight:
- Breastfeeding is certainly better for a baby’s health.
- Or is it? Some sources suggest that the benefits that breastfeeding research have discovered are partially confounded by socioeconomic status.
- Having full top surgery means committing to a year of formula, which would get expensive.
- How bad does back pain or involuntary slouching have to be to get insurance to cover a reduction? Can trans-related coverage be used for a reduction (ie, can a reduction count as top surgery assuming that the insurance covers trans top surgery).
- Doing top surgery before pregnancy instead of reduction means changing the plan yet again on Fergus. What if I change the plan right out of pregnancy?
- How much of a reduction is possible while still maintaining ability to breastfeed? Is going down from DDD to A/B possible for that?
Thankfully I have an appointment with my gender therapist to talk about my transness generally and future top surgery more specifically (my understanding from the intake appointment was that they expected that I was going to them for a referral letter). That’ll be a good time and context to talk through this particular issue of reduction/top surgery and timing, at least on the emotional bit.
This week I had an appointment with my doctor and came out as trans to her. Informed consent was just as easy as I had hoped: she asked some questions to confirm with me, ordered some bloodwork, and set up an appointment for early next month to start T. I still have some doubts, but a strong emotion I’ve been feeling is comfortable or relieved.
One way I’ve seen this is when I had an interview yesterday. I’m not out in general, and I didn’t want to come out for this, so I girled up for it (pink dress shirt, even…), but it felt less constricting that my test run last week (from my last post) where I got into a dress, earrings, and makeup, and it seemed that a chunk of that difference was because girling up for the interview was temporary. I knew that because of my transition plans, I won’t have to live in girl mode indefinitely.
Another way I’ve seen this feeling of comfort/relief has been a little more amusing/counterproductive. A couple times I’ve thought to myself, “oh you’re feeling better, I guess that means you don’t have to do this, you can go back to how you were.” It’s a little bit like in the past when I’ve gotten a cold or the flu, rested to the point of starting to feel better, and then felt like that meant I could get up and be extra active. The feeling of relief is from moving forward with transition, not an indication that I should go backward and stuff myself back in my closet.
Earlier this week I was thinking about that idea that occurs to me every so often that it would be easier to just go back and present in a feminine way again. So I got out my old makeup and a dress I still had and some earring and put them on. I still remember the makeup techniques I had learned before, so the makeup looked socially appropriate, and the dress is one that gets compliments when I wear it. After I got done getting into girl-mode, I looked at myself and took some pictures. I was very uncomfortable, and I felt like a man in a dress (sorry to use that trope, but it fits the situation). It seems like girling up was easier to deal with before I came out to myself as trans. It’s like a new sleeping bag or tent that fit fine in the box originally but just won’t go back in. Or an allergy that starts out as a minor irritation and becomes more severe as time goes on (I have a fruit allergy with precisely that trajectory). Having experienced male presentation, I don’t want to move back.
After that, I took a shower to scrub the makeup off; then I bound myself tightly and got into equally formal men’s clothes: slacks, button-up, and a vest. It felt much better (except that I took the binding a tad too far, using ace bandage, sports bra, and a binder to really press things down). That was a turning point. Before that, I was feeling that maybe I could just stuff myself back in the female box and live with it, but I don’t think I can anymore. I want to get on T and eventually top surgery so that I can pass. I have a pre-existing doctor’s appointment on Monday, which was supposed to be about checking in about a different health issue, and now I plan to use that appointment to also ask for HRT on the basis of informed consent under the WPATH 7. The doctor’s profile says she has a specialty in LGBT and transgender care, so hopefully it’ll work out. I’ll have to explain to her that the pregnancy plans are on hold for maybe 6 months or a year from now and that I reason I was chomping on the bit was because I wanted to get pregnancy over with so I could possibly transition. But now, I want to start transitioning first, before trying to have a second kid with Fergus. I understand there is something of a risk of problems conceiving after having been on testosterone for some length of time, but I’ve heard of enough cases (including an article about 25 trans men who were able to conceive after having been on HRT).
That night, I told Fergus that I wanted to start T soon and that I decided that I definitely want/need to move forward and eventually come out. He was incredibly supportive as usual (and as usual pointed out that it wouldn’t be a problem because my current masculinity is no problem for him and personality would be the deal-breaker), and we made a timeline of plans regarding pregnancy and transition, etc. Here’s some of the basics of it:
- I will come out around the time my voice drops or I am otherwise more visibly masculine. This may take a bit, because I plan on taking a low-ish dose, maybe half or quarter of a “typical” dose of T, because I don’t want to go super masculine, maybe more sort of androgynously masculine but still able to pass even when I talk.
- Fergus and I will start trying to get pregnant about 6 months from now (obviously I’ll come off of T for that, because of ovulation and also fetal hormonal environment). We may wait a little longer than that depending on his job stuff (getting day shift) and my job stuff (if I get a new tech job, I’d rather wait a bit more to be out of the probationary period).
- Top surgery might be something like 6 months after kid #2 is born. Breastfeeding is beneficial and all, and I breastfed kid #1 for 1.5-ish years, but I’m dealing with DDD cups now and would enjoy not needing to bind as tightly. For a while, I’ve been thinking leaving something A cup-ish would be ok. Not totally flat but not super noticeable either. I suppose I can always take the rest off later if need be.