Signal boosting: You were a misogynist before testosterone

Rae Rosenberg wrote some commentary on the This American Life episode featuring a trans man who used testosterone as an excuse for his misogyny:

Ira Glass introduces an interview of a trans man named Griffin Hansbury with producer Alex Blumberg halfway through Act I of the episode. Ira tells us, “A warning to listeners that they talk about looking at women and wanting sex during this interview”. Provided with this statement, I brace myself for an onslaught of misogyny, but still find myself appalled at how bad it becomes.

Griffin explains how he used to identify as a butch lesbian and came out as trans during his sophomore year of college. Kind of like me, minus the butch, so I relate to that. Alex asks Griffin to explain some of the changes he experienced after taking testosterone, to which Griffin answers an increased libido. Sure, this is a thing that many folks who take testosterone experience, of course to varying degrees. But Griffin elaborates that taking testosterone made him understand adolescent boys and men much more than he had previously. How, you might ask? Well, testosterone seems to have made Griffin empathize with why boys and men objectify and sexually harass women.

Griffin explains that due to his increased libido from testosterone, even the sight of an “unattractive woman’s ankles” would “flood [his] mind with aggressive, pornographic images”.

Even the sight of an unattractive woman’s ankles would lead him to aggressively sexualize a woman. Oh, God.

Griffin then tells a story of walking behind a woman wearing a “tiny” skirt and shirt, and how he kept on staring at her ass. He continues, “And I, I walked past her and this voice in my head kept saying ‘Turn around to look at her breasts, turn around, turn around, turn around.’ And my, my, you know my feminist female background said, you know, ‘Don’t you dare, you pig, don’t turn around.’ And you know, I fought myself for a whole block and then I, I turned around and checked her out.”

A whole block! Imagine the strength it took to walk a whole block without sexualizing a woman. Talk about self-control, because testosterone sure makes it hard to be a respectful and decent human being. You sure this is all because of testosterone, Griffin?

But y’all, it gets so much worse.

Read more about it here. I’ve also previously written about how estrogen is turned into a fable for the perceived increase in emotions for transfem folks when traumatic incidences are the likelier culprit. Causation is such a tricky thing to tease out in this scenario, because taking hormones is something that concurs with a larger psychological event–transitioning. So I am immediately suspicious of the claims that hormones can be safely linked as the cause of these massive attitude shifts when they happen at the same time as an upheaval as meaningful as a transition. In the case of misogyny, everyone learns it to some degree, so it makes sense that trans masculine individuals will know the misogynistic attitudes before they can express them as men.



  1. suttkus says

    Some years back, I was diagnosed with hypogonadism (my testosterone levels are high-normal for a woman of my age, which would be better news were I a woman). I was immediately put on testosterone injections.

    And I hated every minute of it. That’s not even a strong enough word.

    Having my sex drive ramped up though the roof at age 30 left me confused and, frankly, a bit frightened. I was working in the nursing education wing at a local college at the time, and suddenly finding myself fighting down an urge to be an utter asshole to every woman I talked to put me in a difficult spot to say the least.

    Now, as you say, I’d already spent years being trained in the little cultural misogynies. A lot of this was, no doubt, just amplifying behaviors I already had, possibly to the point where I actually just noticed what I was doing for the first time!

    Another thing, I think, was that I had kinda skipped the “training wheels” stage of normal teenage years. I think people learn to swim in the sea of hormones during those years and act out and make mistakes and everyone around you accepts those mistakes and lets you move on (should you be learning from them) because they’re also going through that same series of trial and error living with the new normal (or already have, in the case of adults). But nobody forgives a thirty year old man for teenage jerk behavior. : – )

    (Okay, clearly, Fox News does.)

    After a few months, I ceased hormone treatments. I just couldn’t do it anymore. This baffled my doctor who just couldn’t understand how I wouldn’t enjoy feeling “more manly” and “more vrrrrooom” (yes, he actually said this). But, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t who I wanted to be on the testosterone shots. I’ll suffer health problems from this later in life (and some of my current health problems are probably already being exaggerated by it), but I just couldn’t see living the rest of my life feeling that way. You know, “normal”, whatever that means.