A Real Man

Brooklyn girl grows hair on her chest

When you consider what happened to the now famous transsexual Brandon Teena in Nebraska in 1993, you begin to appreciate how much courage it takes to be a man. To be a man, that is, when you started life as a woman. The current film 'Boys Don't Cry' tells the story of Brandon Teena (née Teena Brandon) in graphic detail. (The film's director, Kimberly Peirce, first encountered the story, as broken by Donna Minkowitz, in The 'Village Voice' of April 19, 1994, and was inspired to turn it into a movie.) Though born and raised a girl, in her late teens and early twenties Brandon lived as a young man in Lincoln and then rural Nebraska, managing at first to fool her group of intimate friends and even the teenage girls she dated into believing she was male. When two of Brandon's male friends discovered her secret, they beat and raped her brutally. A week later, they hunted her down; along with two other occupants of her house she was shot at point-blank range, but she alone was stabbed in the belly with a hunting knife.

Though Drew Seidman lives in New York City, where gender is a bit more fluid than in the white-bread hinterlands of the Midwest, every day the 23-year-old has to live with the knowledge that the same thing could one day happen to him. November marks the sixth month of a female-to-male sex change process that he's chosen to undergo.

"I know I'm a target," he says calmly, "but I think I'm less of a target than 'm-to-f's" (that is, male-to-female transsexuals). "Most people just think I'm a kid in a baseball hat," he adds, shrugging. And he's right. If you're a six-foot blonde ex-male with hands and feet the size of Brooklyn, you're probably never quite going to pass muster as a female. But the five-foot-five-inch, 145-pound Drew, whose mannerisms are astoundingly boyish and whose voice is starting to sound almost like a grown man's, passes most of the time, even though his name is a little androgynous. He took it from his favorite great-grandfather, who taught him fishing and carpentry.

EDrew, formerly Susan, began the process of changing his sex by seeing a psychotherapist who, after several months of analysis, provided him with a letter to a physician from whom he could then obtain a prescription for hormones. He started self-injecting 200 mg of a testosterone compound, or "T" as he calls it, back in June. He has been administering a one cc intramuscular injection every two weeks ever since. (Insurance covers none of these injections until an official name and sex change is made on legal documents, allowing the newly "male" person to claim them as coverable male-hormone therapy. A three-month supply of "T" usually costs between $40 and $100. A supply of syringes is an extra $60.)

By August, Susan's vocal cords had begun to thicken and, after one brief episode of bleeding, her period was gone. She-now he-hasn't seen it since. Soon other male secondary sex characteristics started to manifest themselves.

"My sex drive went through the roof," Drew says. "I felt like I had to have sex once a day or I would die." He also says that he became increasingly aroused by even simple visual stimuli, such as a beautiful girl walking down the street. "I was into porn as a girl," he says, "but now I'm really into porn." He laughs and adds, "It really gives me insight on males."

He has begun to grow a peach-fuzz beard, which he shaves ritually. The stubble is very fine and soft, and may never produce anything that really resembles a full beard, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility; some female-to-males enjoy copious growths of facial hair. Patches of hair are beginning to come in on his chest, on his knuckles, and on the backs of his hands, but nothing you'd spot if he didn't point it out. He's also begun to notice that he has more energy and stamina than he had before, and he seems to be experiencing a second adolescence-though, of course, a peculiarly boyish one.

"It's weird," he says. "I do things that teenage boys like to do. I go out and eat large amounts of really gross food, and I laugh at dumb jokes."

But other effects of testosterone don't seem to have played a role in Drew's transformation. He says he thinks that it's mostly a myth, for example, that testosterone causes undue aggression to manifest itself. On the contrary, he says that testosterone has had a calming effect on him, which may be in part because the rage and confusion Susan felt as a woman has been mitigated by becoming a man. The conflict has been largely resolved, and Drew says he feels much better in his skin than he did before making the switch.

But the switch is by no means complete. Slowly Drew's body is growing bigger. His neck is an inch thicker than it was, his calves an inch and a half, his biceps almost two inches. His thighs are nearly two inches leaner, and the weight that used to reside there has redeposited itself around his waist. "I have a little belly now," he jokes, lifting up his shirt to show me. He then proceeds to open more of his shirt to show off his newly enlarged and defined shoulder muscles and a heftier set of pecs underneath his deflating but still bound breasts. He plans to have both breasts removed in February when he goes in for some basic f-to-m surgery: a double mastectomy.

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