Biohacking to Change My Gender
I had been experimenting with biocompatible polymers for around a year in 2020. I was interested in both short-term temporary body modification using injectables and longer term. See, there is not alot of information out there on this even though we know of sooo many biocompatible polymers because pharma companies want to charge $500 for 1cc/mL of some custom compound. People are willing to pay anything to like the way they look. Me, I was just willing to try anything. Usually, I would make a new recipe, inject a little under the skin in my forearm and monitor it for a few days and then try a larger volume. Really, my main goal in doing this stuff was to subvert the cosmetic medical enhancement industry. What if I could figure out how to have breasts for 48 hours. Or maybe something more permanent. Someone could completely change their appearance and then it would go away. That would be pretty cool. There are countries where injectables for breast enhancement are common and even some cosmetic doctors in the US do saline breast injections that go away in a day. I already tried the saline though. It lasts much less than a day and requires serious volumes. It was interesting but not interesting enough. This time I planned to try polyethylene glycol. I'ma be honest, my curiosity got the best of me and so that day I decided to skip the forearm test and just inject a small amount of a highly concentrated solution straight into my chest. After 30 minutes I could swear it felt like something strange was going on. Was my chest getting bigger? Another, 30 minutes pass and fuck, my chest was definitely getting bigger. It kept growing and growing and growing. From what I could surmise, the polyethylene glycol was so concentrated that it started to absorb water and expand. It was funny and cute. I couldn't help but laugh that I now had size C breasts and had no idea for how long. (It went away in 12 hours or so) How am I supposed to explain this to my partner? Another crazy biohacker experiment I guess? The thing is it wasn't just that. I was doing these experiments for more than just some sense of greater good. I was doing it for myself, I wanted breasts. I figured it was time I stopped hiding that, I really couldn't at that point. Ya' know the boobs and all. So I came out to my then partner. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life.
I never wanted to be non-binary, trans-femme, transgender or whatever word humans think describe me. I'ma be honest, if I had a choice, I probably would have just chosen to be a cis-gendered heterosexual human. Life would have been so much easier that way. I wouldn't have had to come out to my partner and risk losing that relationship. I wouldn't have had to upend my life. You can't even imagine what it is like to change your gender. It's a mind fuck, the hardest thing I have ever done. Everyday you are fighting against social and cultural expectations just for the right to be happy in who you are. I had to be willing to sacrifice my family, my relationships, my identity, so understand me when I say I wouldn't be doing this if I really had any choice in it. I hope if there is one thing you get from this writing it's that people who transition aren't doing it on a whim or just _because_. People transition because the pain of not doing it is greater than anything they would experience by doing it.
I don't know when it all started but this has been with me for a long time. It wasn't until the last 15 years or so that it really started to eat away at me. I hated how I looked. Bro-siah, how I affectionately refer to who I was before, didn't really match up with the person was in my head. You can't really escape your brain. I tried everything and anything to suppress it. It's hard though because you just bottle it up but it keeps coming back. If you want to talk to people about it there is no going back. Telling someone you don't feel comfortable in your body and wish you could change genders makes people look at you different. So I never said a word.
As a scientist it is really hard to understand what is going on inside my brain. Why is my brain like this? Hormones? Genetics? Was I born this way or did something in my environment change me? I don't know why I don't feel comfortable in my culturally acceptable gender. What I do know is that no matter what, that uncomfortability didn't go away. I agonized, I saw therapists about it. Finally, I came to the conclusion after a lifetime of fighting it that the only way to deal with it was to accept it. I told my partner, my family and friends about it because I wanted to be able to share with them everything I was going through. I'm not someone who wants to come out though. I wish I could just exist and people would be ok with these things. But society has hang-ups around this shit. People care way too much about the way others look. Honestly though, please tell me what you think I should be able to do to my body so I can fucking ignore you.
It's interesting how much changing genders and biohacking overlap. Injecting myself with biocompatible polymers wasn't my only experimentation. I also found a pretty active DIY transgender community. Amazing people who are taking their medical care into their own hands because the system has set up so many roadblocks. I learned about websites where you can order hormones from other countries. I also found out that you can order blood tests online and so I experimented alot with hormones and how they made me feel and my body's response. I read scientific papers to see what dosages of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone blockers people used and what the levels should be in my blood. I even tested drugs like cyproterone, an anti-androgen, on myself which is approved in the EU but not US. There are very few resources out there for transgender people that aren't just like, goto a doctor spend alot of money and arrive at your desired results. That sucks. But I've always been an experimenter so that helped especially because the experiments worked. I felt different. My body felt different. In a good way. I could finally be me. Then, after I came out I wanted to go legit. I stopped experimenting on myself and found a medical doctor. A recorded history of hormone therapy is required if I wanted to pursue further interventions in the medical system down the line. It's funny though because despite hormones or hormone blockers being prescribed for low testosterone, menopause, acne, hair loss or many other things, to get them for gender dysphoria I had to wait three months to talk to an endocrinologist and go through a lengthy interview and sign a bunch of forms showing I understood all the repercussions of what I was doing. And this was in San Francisco. It was so much easier to obtain the drugs illegally and still is to this day. Why does society care so much about prescribing hormones only when it has to do with gender?
It has been about two years since I have been on hormone replacement therapy consistently. There is no denying anymore that my body has changed. I've grown breasts and my waist, butt and thighs have changed. My face has become more rounded. I can't really hide it anymore. I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by people in the real world who just let me be me and don't really care how I look. But I'm not "out" to the majority of people. Not out on social media. Not even to my extended family. I hate the fact that I need to come out. Probably why I have put it off for so long. It makes me scared and nervous. It obviously changes the way people view me. Its even harder coming out while being mildly famous. So many people are watching me. I'm always being filmed. I can't just switch genders halfway through a documentary can I? What if I say the wrong thing? What if people are mean? I'm too tired now. It's getting harder and harder to hide. I'm doing this because I don't want to hide anymore. I don't want to avoid posting pictures of myself online. I don't want people to be confused about why I look the way I do. I'm doing it because a woman commented on my Instagram the other day about how I should take testosterone because I look feminine. I hope people now understand that I don't give a shit about your gender hang-ups. I hope I never have to look like a cis-gendered male ever again. I hated it. If you don't like the way I look, figure out your own shit. I promise you that I'm not the problem and I won't hide anymore.
Gender is a construct that we use to categorize people. Who I see myself as in my minds-eye doesn't fit easily in our simple gender categories. But I'm not trying to categorize myself, I'm just trying to be happy. I get it though, people need definitions and journalists need a name and pronouns to use when they refer to me. And so I think that the best description of me would be a non-binary person named Jo with they/them pronouns. And this might change. It's an uncharted space I am exploring. There isn't a solid cultural framework to define me. Be patient with me. I'm doing my best. And as a journalist it doesn't hurt to just ask. If you're not a journalist, you do you. I'm doing this for me, not you. I'm not someone to get offended that some people will continue to refer to me as Josiah or "he". I'm not even kidding when I say that I still sometimes accidentally refer to myself as "he". It's habit, I get it. Fuck though, in the overall scheme of things don't be an asshole. If you think using someone's preferred gender pronoun is too arduous shut the fuck up and show some compassion for once in your life. But also, if somebody makes a mistake and misgenders you, let it go. Genders are made up anyway.
I know this might all come as a shock to you but I didn't just start feeling this way recently. Or maybe it is not a shock because you see me frequently and are sitting there right now saying “I knew it!” Still, this is something I have felt most of my life. It's just that it wasn't until the past few years that I felt I could only do anything about these feelings. I've always felt uncomfortable in the way I was told to look because of the gender I was assigned. It's why I have consistently had a non-standard appearance throughout my life. Facial and ear piercings, different colored hair, long hair, crazy hair, tattoos, different gendered clothes. It's not like my sexuality was traditional either. I've dated men and women. A person's gender and genitalia matter little to me compared to the qualities they have as a person. To me this isn't new, it's just the first time you are hearing about it because I never had a reason to say anything.
I took a picture of myself the other day and sent it to a friend and asked if they thought it would be ok to share on social media. That's what I do because sometimes my pictures look really feminine and I don't want to deal with all the comments from people. In this picture in particular my friend pointed out you could see a purse strap and I looked pretty feminine so maybe don't post that one. I didn't post it, even though I loved the way I looked. Even though I thought the picture was super cute. I want to be able to post those pictures and share my life and happiness. That's why I'm coming out. For the first time ever in my life, I look at myself in the mirror and smile. The way I see myself in my head is as close as it has ever been to the way I look in real life and I'm excited for it to get even closer. I never thought this would be possible. I don't want to hide myself anymore.
I like the way I look.
In a world so fucked up as we live in. Where I imagine the majority of people could not truthfully utter that statement, I have found an impossible thing. And it makes me so happy. No matter what you think or how you feel after reading this, know that I only ever wanted to not hate myself and the way I look. What you think about me now is only ever up to you.