Early on in my medical transition, I experienced an incredible spike in my level of confidence. After my first dose of testosterone, I anxiously awaited the physical changes my body would experience and as it did change, my level of self-esteem changed with it. Every new follicle of facial hair or drop in the tone of my voice, fueled my ego and reminded me of the powerful joy of living my life as I had always imagined it to be.
As the months passed by and my body further masculinized, my confidence was slowly displaced by strong feelings of anger. My sense of pride became muddied by the societal expectations of black masculinity. Specifically, the racist assumption that black men are full of rage and prone to violence. This became extremely evident in the new ways my body was policed by others. Whenever I spoke up, asserted myself, or failed to make those around me feel safe through complacency, I became the physically threatening angry black male. This realization intensified my anger but I quickly learned to contain my rage in ways that I never had to before, lest I became the dangerous stereotype in which I knew that I wasn’t.
Beyond the unexpected racist assumptions of my identity from acquaintances and strangers, my personal relationships experienced their own type of transition. I remember when a friendly debate about politics with a friend turned into a tense disagreement. As prideful intellectuals, we both vehemently defended our beliefs but our differing views quickly turned ugly as I was taken aback with my friend’s reminder “that testosterone is really making you angry.” Although I wanted to inform my friend of the fallacy of her statement, the conversation ended quickly thereafter but not before I profusely apologized and shamefully agreed that perhaps my anger was displaced and unnecessary.
While I had already learned that as a black male I had little room to express anger in fear of the potentially harmful repercussions, what became even more clear to me is that as a black transgender male, I have even less room to be angry. Simply put, because black transmen have to deal with the unfortunate disposition of carrying the racist baggage of an assumed brute masculinity and the damaging myth of aggression as a result of synthetic hormone use, our expressions of anger and frustration are sometimes interpreted by others as inauthentic. In effect, preventing potentially healthy and constructive uses of anger in our on-going process of self-fashioning.
In order for black transmen to move past the limitations of this binary, it is important for us to recognize that our anger is indeed real and is possible to manage within a society that breeds hostility towards our existence. The angry black male that we are perceived to be, should not disavow the reality that is our personhood and humanity and we must seek out healthy ways to reject this distorted image of our identity. This means being aware of our feelings of frustration, rage and resentment and understanding the situations that can provoke those emotions. In other words, use your anger to discover yourself.
I am now almost three years into my medical transition and am still learning to navigate the boundaries of my anger with the process of self discovery. I found out that with exercise, a strong focus on my writing and the use of therapy, I can manage my anger even though it is not always easy. Unfortunately, my recent inability to find solid employment has catapulted me into a depression that is fed with emotional rage, where I sometimes lash out at my loved ones or rely on self-destructive vices to provide a false sense of calm. However, I always try to remain conscious of the root of my anger. This practice helps to direct future expressions of anger appropriately and away from the most vulnerable people in my life to prevent irreparable damage.
Everyday that I am gifted life, I continue to walk the tightrope of anger management. I tiptoe between intense moments of justifiable rage that attempt to spiritually debilitate me, while at the same time offer powerful revelations of emotional strength in the face of adversity. I have come to understand that whether or not one uses hormones, for black transmen, the mismanagement of our anger can impede on what could be a positive experience of self-enlightenment. The stress of racism coupled with the stigma of transition, can either be used as reasons for self-destruction or as powerful tools of self-actualization, with the latter being our most valuable option.