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Adjusted: Transcript

Anita Rao 0:00
My experience of puberty was very much: hurry up and wait. In sixth and seventh grade, as I watched my friends adjust to getting their periods, buying bras and learning how to manage pimples, I stood by waiting for my body to get on board. Eventually, the changes started to trickle in. But what I thought would be an overnight transformation into adulthood was actually a much less linear journey. Weeks of utter frustration at how misunderstood I felt by my parents were interspersed with months of being unsure of how to dress my new and changing body. This simultaneous becoming and undoing defines puberty for many of us. It is indeed a rite of passage in our tween and teen years. But what is it like to go through these stereotypical adolescent shifts as an adult and experience what many trans folks call a second puberty?

Jamison Green 1:01
At first, it doesn't feel like much, but it grows on you, just like body hair grows on you, and the voice changes happen. This was the puberty I should have gone through. I'd known it for a long time, but I didn't have words to express it.

Anita Rao 1:21
That was Jamison Green, and I'm Anita Rao. This is Embodied, our show about sex, relationships and your health. Taking hormones and medically transitioning isn't part of every trans person's experience. And as we've talked about many times on the show, there is no one way to be trans. Today we're exploring the stories of transmasculine folks who did take hormones as part of their transition and experienced a second puberty after starting testosterone. The length of a second puberty after T is measured in months to years, during which someone undergoes numerous physical, psychological and emotional changes. With me now to talk about that is Julian Socha, Julian, welcome to Embodied.

Julian Socha 2:06
Hi, thanks for having me on.

Anita Rao 2:08
So you started researching medical transitions in early high school, several years before you started taking T. Take me back to that time during your first puberty in your teen years and some of the questions that were emerging for you about gender in that period.

Julian Socha 2:24
Yeah, I had kind of a complicated time with it. Pretty much as soon as I got like unfettered access to the internet, I found myself on like, people's transition YouTube videos or really specific little niche forums that someone had made. But because I didn't really have any trans people directly in my life, I didn't know anybody who was trans growing up -- that I was aware of -- I thought that that was just a normal part of becoming a woman. I thought that it was just something that happened in puberty that nobody talked about, which was that you woke up every day and wished that you weren't a woman. But it's what was happening anyways. And that's just how it was.

Anita Rao 3:10
When did you begin to realize that that wasn't part of everyone's experience?

Julian Socha 3:14
Probably around when I was about 16 or 17, especially like, you know, everybody around me was starting to go through puberty. And it seems like, you know, everybody was going through cycles of being uncomfortable, and then some people were coming out the other end seeming more comfortable and more confident. And I couldn't conceptualize that. I couldn't understand how somebody could have that experience and come out the other side feeling good about it. And I also kind of had to reckon with myself about the fact that I spent so much time watching other people transition on the internet. And every time I saw that, I would think to myself, like, "That's so cool that they get to do that. And if I was trans, I would do that, but I'm not trans. So I'm not going to." And I had to kind of reckon with my, with myself about the fact that if you want to do something, you want to do something. And the only thing different between myself and those people is that we're at a different point in our lives, and that they had already done the coming out and getting the prescription and I hadn't.

Anita Rao 4:21
So for a while there there was like, this is something that happens to someone else. This is other people's story. This is not my story. That began to change for you in college, you began to come out as trans your first year of college and then there was a particular point at which you really decided to start hormones. What led to that particular decision?

Julian Socha 4:43
Yeah, I had done the whole like coming out thing and I knew before I came out that going on hormones was something I wanted to do. I knew that that was going to be part of my personal journey. But initially, I was holding on to this idea of like, I won't do this until I'm off my parents' health insurance. Because I didn't, I didn't want to bring anybody else into it. So I did the one year out. And very shortly into that, I realized that not going to be able to hold out till 27. Just because, I was in Oklahoma and a lot of the people I knew just hadn't met any trans people before. So not only was I sort of grappling with the internal stuff, but it was also like, kind of a battle every day to remind the people around me not to like, be weird. And to just treat me like a person. So that really spurred me on to like, "Okay, I would like to start T as soon as possible." And also just, I don't know, the ball had started rolling, and there wasn't really any stopping it.

Anita Rao 5:55
So once you decided to start taking T, your doctors told you to expect some big physical changes in the first three to six months. But you started to notice some shifts even after just like one, one and a half, two months. Talk to me about some of the most noticeable shifts that started coming up and how your body looked in and how it felt to be in your body.

Julian Socha 6:16
Yeah, the first thing that changed for me was the way I smelled. I started getting pretty stinky pretty fast. And it gave me a much more intimate understanding of why middle school boys' locker rooms smell the way they do. So that was pretty abrupt and pretty shocking for me. And then the other thing that really started changing before any of the physical stuff really was sort of my emotional topography was really shifting how I felt things and where in my body I felt things changed, like physically.

Anita Rao 6:55
Tell me more about that.

Julian Socha 6:56
So prior to being on testosterone, if I, for example, felt angry or frustrated about something, I would feel it in my face right behind my eyes. And I would often start crying, which was then doubly frustrating, because in my brain, I'd be having one response. And then my body would be doing something else. And then when I got on testosterone it moved downwards, so I started feeling things a lot more in my chest and in my core, which one, felt good, because it felt a lot more aligned with where I was at mentally. And also was very difficult because I was feeling things much more strongly. And it was, it was kind of shocking to realize how stunted my access to emotion had been for a very long time.

Anita Rao 7:57
How did you talk about and process this with people around you? Because there's an aspect of puberty in your teen and tween years where like, there are these milestones that everyone is kind of going through at sort of similar times, enough that you can talk about it or choose to not talk about it with other people. What was it like for you to be going through this without that kind of built-in cohort?

Julian Socha 8:20
Yeah, it was complicated. I was the first person at the program at the college I was at -- I was the first person to transition while in the program. So I didn't really have community support. So it's pretty -- I felt pretty isolated in my transition. And a lot of what I was doing was just constantly explaining. I kind of felt like, if I wanted to have connections with the people I was around, and if I wanted, I -- if I wanted to get the education that I wanted, the option was to be very open with everybody. So I wound up making a series of videos that I just posted to my Facebook where like, once a month or so I would just do an update video, just to say these are the things that are happening, this is what's going on with me, this is how that feels.

Anita Rao 9:21
I love the videos, yeah, and I just want to say I love, I love them. And I loved watching them and kind of watching you process the ways that your body was changing in real time. And one of the things that really struck me in our videos was how you talked about your voice and your relationship with your voice and the pitch of your voice as it was changing across these months. Can you talk to me about the process of learning how to kind of be in your new voice, to talk in your new voice and what that was like for you?

Julian Socha 9:55
Yeah, honestly, that is something that's still ongoing. I've been on testosterone for eight years, and only within the last year or so do I feel like it's really settling somewhere. But it did start changing very quickly. That was interesting, because singing has always been a huge part of my life. And I was kind of nervous on one end to, like, lose access to my singing voice. But also, I hate, I hated the way I sounded. My voice was so high, I was a soprano. And you can, you can definitely, like, hear and see the discomfort in the way I used to talk. So on one hand, it's been a huge relief to have a voice that I like, and feel proud of, and feel able to access in use without like, shame and frustration attached. But it's also -- it's difficult to completely relearn how to use a vocal apparatus, especially when it's connected to your career. So it's, I've done a lot of research on anatomy, and the specifics of how hormones affect vocal cords versus the voice box. And where different, like resonant areas are, in terms of like, like, where different voice types want to resonate in the body. Yeah, it's -- I don't know, it's been complicated.

Anita Rao 11:31
We will hear more of Julian's story and explore how going through a second puberty affects how you define adulthood. But first, we're going to meet someone who's three years into his journey taking testosterone. That's all after this break.

This is Embodied. I'm Anita Rao, and you're listening to Adjusted, our show about trans folks' experiences of going through a second puberty after taking testosterone.

Finlay Games 12:05
Going through a second puberty heading into your 40s is quite something. Because when you're young and going through these intense things, people kind of give you some understanding when you're a young boy and going through hormonal changes, voice changes. Not so much when you're in your 40s.

Jamison Green 12:27
I was one month before my 40th birthday in 1988 when I started taking testosterone. At first it didn't feel like anything. And then it started to feel like I was normal for the first time in my life.

Rafael Frumkin 12:49
When I first started taking testosterone, I must have been 31 years old. And it was it was something I was very unsure about. And the very first effect of T was my voice just dropped immediately. You know, millennials listening to this will probably remember, I think it was a Tumblr called "Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber." I kind of resembled the lesbian who looked like Justin Bieber. I had the little hair swoop and I had the baby face. But I had the voice of a baritone angel.

Soph Myers-Kelley 13:22
I was 26 years old when I started taking testosterone. I started micro dosing, and then quickly realized that it was the right step for me. So I went to a standardized dose. And it was painfully slow-going through the emotional and physical changes of second puberty at this age, because I had committed to making this change for myself, but the changes could take five or six years. So there was this incongruence between how I saw myself and how -- really how people perceived me.

Finlay Games 14:00
As my voice began to crack and break, my libido peaked and my first straggly chin hairs appeared, I got to experience all of the embarrassment and excitement that I would have got to experience as a young man, and it was absolutely, truly wonderful.

Anita Rao 14:19
The changes that happen after starting testosterone can take up to five years. Gibby Armijo is 21 years old and is in the middle of those changes, having first started tea when he was 18. Hey Gibby, welcome to Embodied.

Gibby Armijo 14:33
Hi, thank you for having me. I'm super excited to be here.

Anita Rao 14:36
So you were interested in starting on testosterone when you were 14. But at that point in time, your parents were really clear they didn't want you to start taking any hormones until you were 18 years old. Take me back to that time and how you felt about having to postpone that physical transition.

Gibby Armijo 14:55
In the beginning, I was very adamant about the way I wanted to transition. I already had an idea and vision of the way I saw myself going through high school. And when I came out to my parents, unfortunately, they weren't the very accepting parents that every trans kid wished they had. But I will be understanding of the fact that even though they may not want me to start T, I still can go through these social and kind of physical changes on my own, to make myself feel comfortable in the body that was in. At first, you know, I was very frustrated at my parents, and I resented them a lot for it. But thankfully, they were very patient with me. And we went to therapy together. And I tried to get them to understand me more, and so I can understand them more as parents. And then as I got older, I started to realize why they wanted me to wait. And there's a lot of changes that you go through as you're a young adolescent. Do I still think that I would have been just fine if I started taking testosterone at 14? Obviously, so. But I'm happy where I'm at now. So I guess I wouldn't change things.

Anita Rao 16:08
So once you started taking testosterone, you were 18, as we said, it was a little bit before you started going to college. But once you went to school, it was difficult to keep up with your doctor's appointments and get your shots regularly. So it hasn't necessarily been a very linear, like taking T every single week journey for you. Talk to me about that, and how your body responded physically to the kind of more on-again, off-again, testosterone.

Gibby Armijo 16:35
Yeah, so when I first started taking testosterone, I was pretty consistent with it. I looked forward to my shots, I wanted to see what's the next change am I going to see in myself. But as I got into college, and I started getting busy with classes, I lived farther than an hour from my doctor's office, which made it kind of harder to go back and forth to you know, keep up with my monthly checkups and all that. And I also didn't have a car, it was just an ongoing issue of, well, how am I going to get my testosterone next, you know, and with that, it definitely made it a lot harder to want to take my shots. I looked forward to it less, even though I know I wanted to deep down you know, and one of the biggest back and forth changes that I noticed was my emotions with that. When I wasn't taking my shots, I was definitely a lot more vulnerable, got a lot more sensitive, I cried a lot more. Because I definitely cried a lot before I started taking testosterone, I was a very emotional person. And I still am. But when I started taking my shots, you know and getting in the groove with it, I became less vulnerable and less emotional. I guess I did let the anger get the best of me at some points. When I was younger, I did struggle with anger issues a little bit. But, you know, once I started taking testosterone, anger was something that I had to balance out again. And my parents made that very clear to me, they were like, "This is only because you're on testosterone, like, this is -- you're only mad because it's testosterone." And I'm like, "No, I'm not. Why would you say that?" You know, like all mad. But that was like, I guess one of the like, main things I noticed was just my emotional barrier.

Anita Rao 18:26
How did those kinds of emotional barriers shape how you approached, like, friendships and relationships at that period in your life?

Gibby Armijo 18:35
It was kind of difficult, because I remember, I actually lost some really great friends that I had in high school, because they said that I was changing for the worse. And it really made me take a step back. It made me take a step back and look at myself and like what kind of person am I becoming? You know, I didn't want to become this angry person. That's like the last thing I wanted. And I really had to take accountability for, you know, some of the actions maybe I wasn't aware of and conscious of. I always had to make sure that I was coming off the way I want to and really think about the words that I chose to spoke to my family and my friends, because those are the people who care about me the most. And, you know, I want them to know that I also care about them.

Anita Rao 19:25
I'd love to hear also about the physical part of your transition. I know that acne can be one of the defining features of many folks' experiences of first puberty and it can be even more difficult to go through that as an adult. How did you prepare for acne and how was that experience for you?

Gibby Armijo 19:44
I feel like I've struggled with acne off and on since I went through my first puberty. And then I, once I started getting closer to graduating high school, I started to understand my skin a little bit more. I had a skincare routine and I was like, "Oh I got it down, like, I'm good." And then I was like, "Wait, I'm about to start testosterone," and I, since I've seen so many other, you know, trans guys transition on the internet, I've, like, kept notes of like, what they go through and like, what I don't want to go through. And acne was one of them. And when I started taking testosterone, I was very aware that this might change my skin, and it might make it more oily, it might make it more dry. And it really did kind of affect my confidence in a way, because, I don't know, you know, I'm a young guy going into college, I wanted to get all the girls, you know, like, I just, I didn't want to be that guy who looks like he's 13 years old, just hitting puberty, you know. And that was something that I kind of had to just, you know, balance out with, and make sure that I was taking care of myself, and staying on top of my own hygiene, which is very important.

Anita Rao 19:44
So you did leave college after about a year to pursue a career in culinary arts. What was it like to undergo such a big life transition, while your body was still very dynamic and changing in these big ways?

Gibby Armijo 21:13
Um, it was very scary, that's for sure. I was -- definitely had a lot more of a support system at school, in the sense that I had a lot more queer friends surrounding me. And that was something that was very scary to kind of let go of, because then I would have been out in the real world. And at least where I am currently, there's not that many queer people, you know, left and right. And I knew that in the culinary industry, it's not very common to see queer representation in the kitchen. And I had to make sure that I was protecting myself by making sure I knew who I was and didn't let anyone get the best of me, and no matter how the way they treated me. I don't like to tell jobs and interviewers who I am as a person in the interview process, because they don't need to know. Unless, you know, I feel the need to tell them or if I want to tell them in the future. And when I do tell people, like later on as I, you know, start to gain their trust a little bit more, I'm like, "Oh, by the way, you know, I'm trans." And they're like, "Wait what, really, like I would have never known." And I'm like, "That's the whole point. I don't want you to know, unless I want you to know."

Anita Rao 22:32
I want to bring Julian Socha back into the conversation here as we're talking about social interactions and people's perceptions of you as you're transitioning. And, Julian, I know you had kind of a similar experience after about a year and a half of T noticing changes in how you were read in social situations by people who didn't know you very well or didn't know you before you transitioned. Are there any moments or encounters from that period that really stick with you?

Julian Socha 23:02
Yeah, I mean, it's been kind of ongoing in phases. Because there's the first shift that happened where I was both, I would say, passing and clocky, where people would know that I was a man, but they would also know I was a trans man. And there's a certain kind of way that a certain kind of cis person, like, tells you that without explicitly saying it. The upshot of that is I've had a lot of people tell me that I'm unique, or brave, which is like nice or whatever, but like, really, when somebody says that, what they're actually saying to me is like, "I know you're transgender. I'm just cool enough that I'm not going to say it out loud." I understand that the intention for a lot of people comes from a place of, like, ally, but it's uncomfortable. And then the other thing that would happen is, I like people, I'm a people person, I'm an extrovert, I like going out and meeting new people. And something that would happen a lot is that people would take my comfortability with myself as a signal that they should tell me their personal issues. Because they're not comfortable with that, and they want to talk to someone who is, which I love to be there for a friend. But if I just met you, it's hard for me to know how to respond to like, you telling me about your childhood relationship with your father.

Anita Rao 24:28
I'm curious about how that kind of parallels your experience as an actor because I know that your experience of taking T and going through these hormonal transitions did shape how you felt and interacted with other people when you were in those roles. So talk to me about that and maybe how, like, you as an actor felt as compared to you out in the world kind of encountering these people in a less controlled way.

Julian Socha 24:55
Yeah, in the acting world, it's honestly a lot easier for me because functionally your body, your identity, your voice, the way you package it, that is your product. That's the thing you're selling to people. So for me in a professional sphere, it's easier, because I can have an understanding of like, this is what people see, this is what people expect. And this is what is appropriate for this role that I'm going into. Versus when I'm out and about in the world, it's much less of a firm understanding of like, I know what people's expectations are every time I walk into a room. And it's also, depending on where I'm going, what the situation is, it's not always, like, the safest thing to be out. You just don't know. It's also been strange, because like, personally, I don't really relate to much of cisgender, straight male masculinity type thing. I'm more interested in just what makes me happy, what makes me comfortable. But nowadays, people that I meet, the baseline assumption is that I am a man, I've always been a man. And I want to align with, like, typical American masculinity. So it's pretty jarring having those two things at odds.

Anita Rao 26:19
Yeah, Gibby, I want to bring you in here on this thread of masculinity, because the changes from testosterone can play out over five years. It can be a meandering road. I'm curious how you are thinking about your own kind of adulthood and your relationship with your masculinity at this stage of testosterone for you.

Gibby Armijo 26:41
I think in this stage, I've been like the most comfortable I've been compared to when I first started. When I first started, I was very, "I want to be the most masculine-presenting I can be." Now I'm like, "I can balance out my masculinity and my femininity." And I think that's very beautiful. Because I think it wasn't until I started taking testosterone that I realized that I can have both parts of me, I don't have to throw everything from before I transitioned away. Every trans person's experience with that is different. Not everyone's gonna say the same thing. It's also like kind of, like Julian said, knowing who you're going to be with and where you're going to be. Obviously, if I'm with my queer folks, like, I feel more comfortable, you know, voguing around, you know, and like, you know, talking about things that aren't considered masculine. But if I'm like, out and about with the bros, you know, we're having a beer or two and watching the game, like, I can bounce back and forth, which I think is -- I'm really grateful for, honestly. I feel very, very comfortable in who I am now, so that way, I don't care if someone tells me "Oh, like, that's not something a guy would do." I don't care. I don't care what a guy would do. I would do it, though. You know, like, that doesn't matter to me, you know? And, like Julian said, it's just about what makes me happy.

Anita Rao 28:07
Do you feel like the term second puberty is the right way to describe what this transitional experience has been like for you? Or is there something else that resonates more? I

Gibby Armijo 28:20
I honestly do think that's a great term to call it. I like to tell people sometimes I feel like I'm a little superhero, because not a lot of people get to say, "Oh, yeah, I've been through two puberties, by the way, like, take that," you know, because I think it's just something that's so unique about me. And I like to talk about the different experiences I had, you know, as a younger kid who was 12 and confused and didn't know what was happening to the body and hated what was happening to the body, versus being 18 at a transitionary period in my life, and being so happy that this is finally what I'm getting to experience. This is, like, what I've been looking for. I should have been like this since I was, you know, super, super young.

Anita Rao 29:05
Julian, I'd love to close with you on this idea of adulthood also. It's been almost eight years since you first started testosterone. As you have a little bit more distance from those first years on hormones, how are you thinking about kind of your adulthood and this second puberty phase?

Julian Socha 29:27
It's been interesting in that the conclusion of the first like, sort of tumultuous really adjustment phase of being on testosterone has really coincided with hitting, like, the quarter period of my life and you know, the part in which your frontal lobe is fully developed. So it kind of felt like twofold going into that period of my life, like, oh, you know, I feel settled in myself, in my brain in a way that's not connected to the testosterone. And I'm also starting to feel a lot more settled and comfortable with myself in a way that totally is settled with the testosterone. So in one part of it, I feel quite caught up and exactly where I am and need to be. There's another part of it where I feel like I'm still in my early 20s, because I spent so much of my, like, teenage years and early adulthood as just kind of slightly disconnected from everything. I feel like I missed, initially, some of that emotional development that a lot of my peers were going through. And also I look a lot younger -- I have the transgender baby face. There was -- this finally changed within the last couple of years. But I had people asking me if I was 12 up through like age 23, 24, which was great for my career, because there's a huge market for over 18 playing under 18. And then there's the third side of it, which is that growing up confused and isolated and having to like, figure a lot of stuff out for yourself -- it makes you grow up fast. So it's complicated in that I feel younger than I am, exactly my age and older than I am all at once.

Anita Rao 31:16
As someone who also looks younger than I am, I totally hear Julian on those complicated feelings about age. But it is interesting to think about how different that second puberty can be when you are farther from those early stages of adulthood. All of that leads me to the person we're about to meet, who was 30 when he started taking testosterone. That conversation happens just after this break.

I'm Anita Rao. You're listening to Adjusted, an Embodied conversation with trans folks about what it's like to go through a second puberty and adulthood after taking testosterone. Getting acne again and growing facial hair are some of the expected changes. But as the years and months go by, some folks encounter the unexpected.

Jamison Green 32:16
My voice started to change about two months into the use of testosterone. And it took a while for my voice to find its place. And that's a little rough to deal with if you're working in a professional setting, and people don't know about what's going on with you. And you're trying to act like a normal person. But the biggest thing was actually sexual drive, which gives you a lot of energy for things that are beyond sexual behaviors. I felt my muscles getting stronger. I was hungrier. It was a pretty phenomenal experience. It made me feel like a real, true full human being alive in my body.

Soph Myers-Kelley 33:09
The most unexpected or challenging parts were how other people treat me now that I have these changes happening. I had a partner I dated for a year. And we needed to transition out of partnership and into a more platonic relationship because due to the changes of my body, they weren't attracted or interested in me anymore in that way. And that was heartbreaking for both of us. But we've survived that change and have become stronger.

Finlay Games 33:37
The outward changes were incredible and so affirming. But really the most profound changes were the internal changes. I had this deep sense of peace, and this release from the pain of dysphoria. You know, life opened up before me in a way I had no idea could happen.

Rafael Frumkin 34:00
Second puberty is a -- was incredibly liberating for me. And it was liberating for me in the way that it was liberating for me. There is no single experience on testosterone. And the uniqueness of this experience cannot be reduced to a set of talking points.

Anita Rao 34:23
Starting a medical transition later in adulthood is a different kind of hormonal and psychological adjustment. For Luckie Alexander Fuller, this process began at age 30, after several years of exploring where he fell along the gender spectrum. Luckie is with me now. Hey Luckie, welcome to the show.

Luckie Alexander Fuller 34:40
How are you? Thank you for having me.

Anita Rao 34:42
So you identified as masculine from a really young age and because of that you had a lot of expectations for what your first experience of puberty was going to look like. Can you take me a little bit into that and what was going on with your relationship with your or body at that time?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 35:02
Well, I was 8 when I realized that I was not born male, I wasn't biologically male. And so I had this thing where I kept waiting and wanting and waiting and wanting for all of my male parts to grow. And when they didn't, it was a letdown, to say the least. And so I think that my transition began way before I actually started T. It was more of a mental internal transition, where I had to give myself permission to be the person that I was. And I had to also weigh what safety looked like for me against my need to be me. And so all of those kind of played into what trans looked like for me, because transitioning at 30, and you know, I've been on testosterone 13 years now, there was no research in that particular era.

Anita Rao 35:54
Yeah, so it was about in 2010 that you began your transition. And I want to hear a little bit about kind of the process of making that decision for you, because it happened in a lot of ways because you met a trans masculine Black person for the first time. It had been a long time of kind of not seeing yourself reflected. Tell me about that person you met and what that experience was like.

Luckie Alexander Fuller 36:20
Right, like before transitioning, because I didn't have language around being trans or even knowing that that was an option for me to be myself, right. When I went to The Brown Boi Project retreat and I met Sasha Alexander, and I saw myself reflected in this individual, and I was like, "Oh my God, we do do this." Because for a long time, because of the lack of research, I thought that, quote, unquote, our Caucasian folks were the only ones that did this, right? It was like, "Okay, Black folks don't do this." But the first time that I saw someone that resembled what I wanted it to look like, I was like, "Yes, I know, this is where I'm going for sure."

Anita Rao 37:02
So we heard earlier in this conversation from Gibby and Julian, who both started T when they were still pretty young about those initial changes in their physical body. Second puberty can look a little different when you start taking T later in your adulthood. Your body's had longer exposure to estrogen. What were the noticeable shifts for you in the beginning of that process? What was that like in your body?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 37:25
The first thing was my voice for sure. But I think a lot of the other quick changes were facial hair, the way that my body would change muscle mass, the way my face looked. And so it became more masculine than I already was, because I already lived a masculine life. They were really exciting.

Anita Rao 37:46
You had two kids at the time of your transition, they were like 6 and 8, I think. How did they react to the physical changes that they saw on you?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 37:55
Um, for a while, because my kids called "mom-dad" for a long time. And then at one point, they were like, "Well, you look like a dad. So I want to just call you dad." And I couldn't be more excited on the inside. Because at least now, my kids saw me and read me the way that that I see me. And so that was that was super exciting.

Anita Rao 38:18
What was it like to have gone through that experience and then watch your son go through puberty a couple of years later? Did it help you kind of empathize more with him or help him work through anything that he was adjusting to in his body?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 38:31
I think watching him transition into his puberty state definitely let me see him in a different way. But I know that my transition definitely helped with raising him into his puberty because I had learned a trick from my watching my parents teach my brothers to pee, to put Cheerios in the toilet to aim at those Cheerios, right. And so that was something that I had learned with my STP, and I had taught my son how to pee with the same trick. And so like, there was a lot of things like within my transition that I took for myself to teach my son the same tricks around being a man.

Anita Rao 38:32
I love that story. You noticed a shift in your libido once you were on testosterone, and that's definitely a common part of the process for people. Talk to me about navigating that, those shifts that you were feeling and how it shaped your romantic relationships at the time.

Luckie Alexander Fuller 39:32
It was interesting because I already identify as pansexual, but as a quote unquote lesbian, even though I was pansexual in that space, as my face started to change, as my body started to change, the more I was read as male, it became easier for me to engage with other males because I would rather be seen as a gay male than anything else. And I'm a hearts not parts kind of guy. So as long as those partners read me as male, and I was read outside, in community by other people as male, I was I was okay with it, I was happy.

Anita Rao 40:12
You felt those shifts in how you were thinking about attraction and in being with other people. I've also read that it can feel kind of physically different in your body, in terms of like, where you feel pleasure and your relationship with pleasure, once you start testosterone. Is that resonant for you?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 40:32
Um, for me, I think, because of the era that I transitioned, and the way that I had to transition in that there wasn't any real research or any real comparison to other things, it didn't really feel different. Because I was just -- in the, in the way that I'm like, "Well, this is what supposed to feel like." And so I didn't have anything to compare it to. I think that the feeling of my body, besides libido, I felt more complete, as a person, internally.

Anita Rao 41:10
What were your conversations like with medical providers? You mentioned not feeling like there was a lot of information. How receptive were folks to talking with you and talking you through what this process was going to look like?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 41:24
I think with medical providers, I had a really interesting time early on, because I was already identifying as trans, even though I hadn't medically transitioned when I was pregnant with my son. And so I had to literally kind of fall back on the the trans identity, and identify in ways that didn't align with me, because medical professionals didn't understand how to deal with me as a man being pregnant, as opposed to a young lady being pregnant. And so I would have to identify as the young lady in order to get the care that I needed. Further on in the transition, I think that even where I was receiving my first T shots was at a methadone clinic. And so they really didn't have a place for us to be. And so I felt like, "Well, I'm going to rough it through all of the things that, that we're going through on the medical side, because on the back end, this is gonna be great."

Anita Rao 42:26
So when you started taking testosterone, you were taking it weekly, which is pretty common for the beginning. Now you take it about once a month. What has it looked like to kind of feel that shift in hormones as you've gotten older?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 42:41
I think that, because I've had a hysterectomy and the only hormone that I'm now holding in my body is testosterone, I think that it's a lot easier not to have to internally battle with the hormones. Now taking testosterone as a 40-something-year-old, it's upkeep. Now it's just upkeep, it doesn't make me feel any different or any less, because I have been on testosterone for 13 years. So now it's, it's not so much of a difference when I may not take it or might take it. It doesn't feel as restrictive as it was before when I began the transition.

Anita Rao 43:26
You were talking earlier about your beard and the growth of facial hair. And I know you've said that your beard is your pride and joy, I've heard you call it that. Talk to me, talk to me about that, and what it was like for you to develop and come to kind of know facial hair like that.

Luckie Alexander Fuller 43:42
When I was younger facial hair was was always a thing for me to to go after, it was always a goal. And when I finally managed to, to grow an entire beard, and I got all the little holes out of it, I was like, "You know what, now we are going to make sure we keep moisturize, and it stays on point." But my relationship to beard, it's, it's kind of like who I am. It's kind of how people read me. And I think that the way that I'm read in society as male is like, I don't have to perform being a female anymore. I just get to breathe and just be a person because now everyone is reading me the way I read me. And I think that's what my beard means to me.

Anita Rao 44:29
Yeah. When you were going through the beginning of your transition, you didn't have a lot of other models of people who looked like you who had gone through something really similar. That is in part what has led you to create an organization called "Invisible Men" where you raise awareness about trans masculine folks and provide community support. Can you talk about kind of what you've learned through that advocacy work about the variety of experiences that trans men have when they go through this second puberty experience?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 45:01
Well, in creating that I have learned so much about different experiences and different ways that people have transitioned or show up in the world, as well as I've learned that masculinity, for maybe the cis world, has one defining definition. But for the trans world, masculinity could look so many different ways. Masculinity can be feminine sometimes. It's so beautiful to see the ways that people show up, not only for themselves, but also for others. And so I think that's what "Invisible Men" has done for me. It's also created a family, that we can tap into each other, to figure out what that looks like for us or figure out different ways of doing things.

Anita Rao 45:51
There is a program that you run through "Invisible Men" that is about healing through play and getting in touch with your more playful side. What role has play played in your own experience of navigating the hormonal transition that you have been through?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 46:10
I think play has a pivotal role in a lot of life for me, period, because I can find enjoyment through play, whether it's playing checkers, whether it's playing football, anything. I think finding that enjoyment, finding that part of you that is happy and being able to carry that through different parts of difficult life. Like, when I used to play with my kids, it was my way of getting through the hard parts. It was my way of finding the silver lining. That's definitely one of the ways and when I played football in high school, I was one of the only trans guys on the team. And, and I was like, "You know what I can play and I can do exactly what you can do." And so it's just I think play has always been a really good way of finding my life in so many different aspects.

Anita Rao 47:02
Yeah, I would love to close kind of coming full circle to where we started, which was how when you were younger, you were kind of anticipating puberty as this time where your body was going to match what you thought it would be and not having that experience when you did go through puberty. How has this second puberty met the reality of your expectations for you, in, in terms of how you wanted to feel and how you feel in your body?

Luckie Alexander Fuller 47:32
You know, I think second puberty, one, it's super fun, at 30 for sure. But I think that this particular puberty has given me what I was looking for before, like that puberty, that transitional time where you go from young person to adult, except I did as an adult. But it definitely gives me a closure, like, I've figured it out now. I can be a real adult.

Anita Rao 48:05
Embodied is a production of North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC, a listener-supported station. If you want to lend your support to this podcast consider a contribution at now.

Special thanks to Jamison Green, Rafael Frumkin, Soph Myers-Kelley and Finlay Games for contributing to this week's show. We appreciate you.

This episode is produced by Kaia Findlay and edited by Amanda Magnus. Paige Miranda also produces for our show and Jenni Lawson is our technical director. Quilla wrote our theme music.

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Until next time, I'm Anita Rao, taking on the taboo with you.

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