Today, the Supreme Court has allowed President Trump to ban transgender people from serving in the military. A lot has been said on the topic but the focus of all the debates has primarily been on trans women, which is how these things usually go. I felt like we are not talking enough about trans men (people assigned female at birth) not just in the context of the military ban, but just in general. That’s why I reached out to Edgar and Ash to learn more about the lives, experiences, and obstacles faced by people like them. This is what I’ve learned:
5. FtM Transitions Sometimes Start With Phantom Penis Sensations
For many trans men, transitioning isn’t so much a choice as it is a persistent need that they feel deep in their very souls. A need that sometimes starts with phantom penis pains. You of course know about phantom limb pain, i.e. when someone who’s lost a limb in an accident (or an Evil Dead cosplay gone way too far) sort of feels like their leg or arm is still there. Science still can’t explain why this happens, but they know it definitely also applies to lost genitalia, or genitalia you were mistakenly born without. Edgar, a trans man I spoke to, would know all about that.
“As I grew older,” he explains, “I began to experience phantom sensations in my body. Around puberty, I began to feel as if I were missing a penis.”
“I had phantom limb sensations about a penis I didn’t have.”
To all the cis men reading this: try to imagine having a penis that you cannot touch. Now please stop screaming. You’re scaring the neighbors.
Ghost dongs are actually a horrible, painful experience that, according to one study, 60% of trans men go through. “When I became aroused watching pornography,” Edgar recalls, “I felt the phantom sensations more keenly. As I aged, the phantom sensations grew worse and became more prevalent. Sometimes these phantom sensations are accompanied by a feeling of repressed panic, sometimes it feels weird and sexually wrong. Most of the time, I try to ignore it, but it’s both psychologically painful and physically uncomfortable.”
Just how painful can it get? One trans man once compared his spectral wang pain to being “wacked in the balls.” Fortunately, there is one thing that apparently helps with phantasmagoric pecker aches:
4. Before Surgery, A Prosthetic Penis Provides A Lot Of Comfort
Crafting an “outtie” [penis] out of an “innie” [vagina] is an incredibly complex procedure that can take years to schedule and finance. So, in the meantime, what can trans men do about their phantom penis pains? Well, they can use a prosthetic penis or “packer” because the world of transgender men really enjoys “P” alliterations, apparently. For trans men, packers can be a literal lifesaver. Edgar uses one and says that without it he often finds himself feeling depressed, almost as if a vital part of himself was missing. Weird.
That being said, packers do have their problems. Ash, another trans man I spoke to, explains: “Packing is not as easy as it sounds or looks. You see, beyond just the surface idea of wearing a dick, there’s a huge detail of placement involved. Getting the placement right actually involved a lot of research on my behalf by Google searching medical reference images of male bodies. Placed incorrectly you might find it looks alright while standing but unnatural while sitting, or vice versa.”
“Placed improperly (or if you purchase one too big for your body) you’ll be wearing a big-ass boner for the world to see.”
And while looking like you’re constantly happy to see your partner does have its benefits, it might make Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s more awkward than it needs to be. Then there’s the problem of your packer deciding to go explore the world on its own.
“One time, and I shit you not,” Ash says, “I happened to be wearing my favorite packer while some friends and I went to see the fireworks on July 4th. For whatever ridiculous reasoning my mind had at the time, I had decided to just throw that puppy in my boxer-briefs and go as is, no harness necessary.”
“We get there, park, and all of the sudden, mid street crossing at a crosswalk like, in plain view of the busiest street we’d seen all year, my packer slips OUT of my boxer-briefs and begins to fall down my baggy camouflage SHORTS.”
The only way the whole situation could get more farcical is if in that moment a bus full of nuns came from around the corner. Anyway, if Ash’s reflexes had been a tad slower, he’d have inadvertently flashed dozens of people with his packer. When you’re a trans man, losing control of your dick can have far graver consequences than pissing on your pants at the urinal.
3. Many Trans Men Will Risk Their Health With Binders (Compression Shirts) To Hide Their Breasts
While it’s generally accepted that boobs are awesome, there are two groups that would disagree with that: big-breasted women and trans men. For the latter, having giant, unwanted growths (as Ash described them) on their chests can be detrimental to their mental health as it goes against their very identity. Top surgery, the surgical removal of breast tissue, is a popular option but it can cost upwards of $10,000 in the U.S. So until you can save up for one, the only choice is to use binders, i.e. compression shirts that squeeze and flatten your breasts.
“I’d say binding was not optional in my case. It was mandatory.”
“Due to my size and stature (I was a 38DD, maybe 40ish even) I longed for a flat or flatter chest akin to a natal male … I’ll never forget the incredible feeling the first time I put on a binder and thought to myself how wonderful it felt and looked. For the first time in my life, I didn’t mind looking at myself in the mirror.”
Unfortunately, because having a flat chest feels good mentally, many trans men tend to overdo it, which tends to feel bad physically. “I experienced a gamut of emotional and physical side effects associated with chronic use,” Ash says. “I did notice after 8+ hours of wearing one at a time that I would begin to feel chest pains when I breathed sometimes. This would result in immediate removal, dysphoria or not,” which would then make Ash feel shitty about his chesticles, trapping him in a never-ending hell of respiratory problems and self-loathing.
Now, to be clear, binding is generally safe as long as you do it for less than 8 hours a day, but in the most extreme cases overbinding can sometimes result in broken ribs, blood clots, and even DEATH due to decreased blood flow to the heart (although, once again, this is very rare.) The only other option for trans men to feel like themselves is praying that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) will significantly reduce their breast size, but that’s a longshot at best. But here’s what HRT can do:
2. The Effects Of Hormone Therapy Can Be Uncannily X-Men-Esque
One of the most important steps during the transition from female to male is when trans men receive large doses of testosterone which results in their periods stopping, the growth of facial hair, increase in body mass etc. It’s not exactly a super-soldier formula (unless you consider increased BO to be a form of bio-weapon) but it does come close to a chemical time machine. You see, female-to-male HRT results in the recipient undergoing male puberty: zits, oily skin and hair, the works.
As a result, some trans men look YEARS younger than their actual age.
Science is still catching up to all the effects of hormone replacement therapy, though, which is why they’re still not totally sure as to why some trans men experience a change in eye color after HRT.
“My eyes got lighter,” Edgar says. “Before I transitioned my eyes were usually brown. Now they changed from honey-color/brown to a lighter shade of forest green.” Eye color is determined by genetics, but according to one study, hormone therapy can dry out the eyes, which could possibly change how light reflects off of them, making them appear a slightly different color. Whatever the reason, it’s just another thing trans men have to learn to live with. Other than suddenly being carded at bars.
1. You Will Have To Get Used To New Types Of Orgasms
According to science, there are essentially two kinds of orgasms. Type I where regular pelvic muscle contractions last for about 20-30 seconds, resulting in the sweet release of endorphins and the immediate clearing of your browser history, and Type II that’s all irregular and can last about three times longer. You probably think that I’m talking about male and female orgasms but I’m not. Both types can apparently be experienced by men and women.
Here’s the thing, though. There might be a third type of orgasm achievable only by trans men literally jacking off their engorged clitorises, made bigger due to hormone replacement therapy. That, according to Ash, is a whole other ballgame:
“Bodily speaking, nothing can prepare you for the quick but powerful change in orgasm experiences associated with hormonal and external genitalia (clitoral aka micro-penile growth).”
“I can grip it using my index finger and thumb on either side. Not only does the size increase, but its appearance is that of a very small penis as well. And it functions similarly, with the ability to get naturally hard. Once I generated enough genital growth to be able to ‘jack off’ my ability to have multiple small orgasms shifted into this incredible full-body one-off. I quite like it.”
The penis and clitoris are actually made up of basically the same stuff, but relative to its size the clitoris does have more nerve endings. So when trans men go through HRT and end up with a micro penis, their bathing suit sensitivity actually ends up not so micro.
“Previously, as in before testosterone had worked its magic on me, orgasms were kind of like the cherries on top of a sundae, if you could imagine eating one in reverse and ending on said cherry. There was a constant, full body insatiable appetite that never quite felt full despite prolonged and consistent pleasure when aroused, either through masturbation or sexual interaction. Post testosterone, it’s a whole new world. I’ve felt things I have never felt before, in places I’ve never felt them before. Now, my legs, my abdomen, my insides, my outsides, my everything feels it. I quiver. I tense up, but in an oddly satisfying way. I release, and my limbs temporarily feel like jelly.”
In conclusion, micro penis envy is now a thing.