Masculinity from one angle: The Testosterone files by Max Wolf Valerio

“Transsexuals  have an opportunity to probe deeply into the intrinsic nature of identity – its slipperiness,  its preconditions and expressions – as well as the ways in which we determine or know who we are and who we want to become”   (245)

quotes like this kept me reading Max Wolf Valerio’sThe Testosterone Files: my Hormonal and Social transformation from Female to Male.   a Native American of Latin American decent, Valerio, documents his life both before and after testosterone. He details his early life as a radical feminist, who through various relationships with women as a young woman (Anita) and then as a young man, he discusses the effect hormones had on his physical and emotional life.  From everything, from physicality to the very foundation of his politics Valerio details how his life changed as he began to take hormones, and went on both top and bottom surgery journies after a period of some years

I picked up this book because I had heard of Valerio’s writing in transmale circles as well as hearing him mentioned in the work of Patrick Califa and leslie Feinberg. I read a book so close to the understanding of myself I found it almost alarming. There were many times when I found myself outwardly nodding in agreement with what was being said. For instance, the reaction of some of Valerio’s lesbian friends, who no longer wished to associate with a straight man, and the idea of no longer fitting into a “queer” community due to being straight and male.  Valerio with poetics, power and fond reverence at times details his life as a young girl who never saw herself as such, and who grew from that little girl to someone who never fit the lesbian scene, but as many men do, took it on in order to be socially acceptable. Valerio also details the emotional affects of testosterone, the removal of emotions, distance and anger developed as a result.

However, for every nodding in agreement moment I found some cringeworthy, and was often left wondering how young men just coming out who don’t neccesarily fit valerio’s in your face extremely sexual and dominant way of being might react.  Whilst disavowing his former radical lesbian feminist roots,  as is understandable, Valerio also develops an attitude to women that is highly questionable, and often blamed solely on “vitamin T”  He said at one point the last thing he wants to be is a “sensitive man” and often resorts to relegating the differences between men and women to hormones, the experience of one or the lack of another.  Having experienced both “skins” does give you a certain sense of authority, and whilst there is an interrogation of gender running through the book,  some of the quotes from the author himself left me wondering…well, what if you are a “sensitive” man? what if you are someone who doesn’t experience masculinity in the same overtly sexual way?  Whilst reading this book, I encourage readers to keep in mind always  that this is one man’s experience of hormone, culture and politics.

I encourage young men, particularly those who don’t subscribe to mainstream cultural attitudes towards women or who’ve had alternative experiences to speak up and pen their own stories.  In the mean time, give this one a read, but critically.



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