What’s a man without a dick, and how does he become that?

The first physical change I noticed on HRT was bottom growth.

Two weeks after taking my first dose of testosterone, I was showering and noticed that my clitoris was poking out. I stopped washing, pulled back my pillow (which sounds much better than pubic mound.. that’s ugly), and inspected the area curiously. I had done enough research to expect this change, but I was still on the fence about how it would make me feel. By this time, my vagina and I were pretty solid friends, and after years of building that relationship, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about things.. shifting. The first emotion that registered was amusement. I was amused by the fact that people debate over the validity of transgender identities, usually reducing us to body parts that we do or don’t have, and here I was with a micro penis that no one knew about.

I wondered out loud “Am I a real man now?” and immediately fell into a fit of laughter. The laughter fell into itself as I heard that question echo back into my head. It wasn’t very funny anymore. Repeated, it kind of hurt. I asked again, out loud. “Am I a real man now?” That question stayed with me right up until I got to work. “Yeah, she waited our table last night. She might have seen my…” Well, shit. Guess having a penis doesn’t make you a “real man” after all. I was read as woman, as female, as she/her, because my tiny penis wasn’t painted on my forehead and my voice hadn’t dropped yet.

2 years later, I am never read as woman, as female, as she/her, and my voice has dropped but my tiny penis is still not painted on my forehead. I have no desire to alter my body surgically, so my tiny penis will remain tiny (my tiny breasts may disappear at some point if I stop avoiding the gym), and my vagina will remain present. And I still won’t be read as woman, as female, as she/her, again. I rarely take any of the three penises I own out of their respective closet spots (unless they are requested), but when I leave my home, I am still man, male, he/him.

It’s strange, existing in a world that seeks to define you by body parts they can’t even verify that you have. It’s weird to want to verify someone’s body parts in order to see them so clearly as they see themselves. It’s odd unpacking the expectations you will never meet, around an identity that you had to uncover.

In the absence of a penis, my body does not make me “feel like a man”. Rather, the world makes me feel like a man, in the most basic and reductive ways. The world swallows me whole, digests me too quickly to actually appreciate the taste, spits out a hypothesis of my naked body, and I am man. I am penis-that-is-not-tiny-that-is-not-detachable-sir-young-man-boy-sperm-seed-future-baby-daddy because the world sees me as such. It has taken me this long to realize that, within this body that is mine, are decisions that far surpass gender. Within this body that is mine, is the chance to reject the way the world defines manhood, but also the chance to become another example of what man can be. Though I was never a woman, I have not forgotten the years I spent being treated like one, and it was shit. Though I am transgender, I will not pretend the world looks at me and sees that. What privilege is this that I can champion for women, and transgender folx, almost like a secret agent of change because… the world catches glimpses and pieces of me, and sees me as man, assumes I must be an agent of what they condition the penis having folks to become (read as, perpetuates of patriarchy, misogyny, toxicity).

Which makes me wonder..

What would manhood be if body parts didn’t pop up until after you decided to be the best version of yourself that you could possibly become?

Better question:

What do you call a man without a dick?

Punch line:

His chosen name.

CXe.