Imagination and Body
Max Wolf Valerio
Age: 55 years old
Identifies as: Man of transsexual history
From Max’s memoir The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male, a book with many narratives about body dysphoria. Here are two passages:
My parents are gone and I’m in the bathroom peering into the mirror. I comb my hair back and to the side, male hairstyles. It doesn’t look right, I know, but I can see it, if I look long and hard enough. An instant, a flash where I look like a boy or the grown man I feel I should become. It frustrates me that I can’t make it more real. One afternoon, my father sees me doing this and takes the small black comb from my hand, and, doing what I always do, parts my hair to one side, then tries combing it straight back. Together, we gaze into the mirror. He laughs at my reflection. Does he know what I am doing? Why is he laughing? Embarrassed and puzzled, I wonder how aware my parents might be of the conflicts and feelings going on inside me. (Page 90)
The night before I leave New York, in bed with Tama, the TV screen flicker lights my body gently. Prone, I look down at my breasts. For once, I am naked, my skin moist in the humid night air. My entire torso shines softly, taut, a resilient, elastic stretch of flesh. My slender arms rest parallel to Tama’s. Nude, our bodies seem congruent. Contextualized in erotic closeness, I become hyperaware of my physicality. The way my body is motivated through its flesh. I yearn to embody a physical presence that feels more tangibly other. Stronger, larger. My arms feel too slim, almost fragile, my skin too soft. I want my body to sharply contrast hers, to be muscular, firm, hard. And it isn’t simply a matter of becoming well muscled, of getting the sculpted physique of a female bodybuilder. I yearn for my body to have the density, smell, and look of a man’s body. To possess a physicality I don’t completely comprehend but, at that moment, instinctively know is male.