This Bridge Called My Back Contributor Chronicles His Transition
Max Wolf Valerio isnāt the man he expected to be. Before beginning testosterone treatment nearly two decades ago, the American Indian, Latino, Sephardic Valerio was a lesbian feminist poet whose pre-transition prose is enshrined in the essential feminist of color tome, This Bridge Called My Back. Today he sometimes makes grown women weep.
As he chronicles in his new memoir, The Testosterone Files, within five years on testosterone heād become a sometimes aggressive, virile heterosexual man accused of being sexist. Valerio sheepishly admits, āIāve heard of women actually crying after I read the chapter, āCock in my Pocketā which is graphic about the heightened sex drive, and takes on the issue of rape and violence against women. Because of the intensity of the writing and the fact that I donāt pull my punches when describing intense feelings and impulses, people are often shaken.ā
In Testosterone Files Valerio boldly asserts that there are fundamental differences between the sexes, which are rooted in hormonal influences rather than socialization. Saying heās gained a ādarker understandingā of how testosterone activates aggression, Valerio argues that violence seems āa part of the male inheritance.ā
He admits that some women have found his conclusions about gender contentious, and his frank discussions about sex and violence disturbing. Willing to address even the most controversial issues, Valerio admits, āI known FTMs who tell me that their sex fantasies became more violent or aggressive.ā
Under the influence of testosterone, Valerio says that his own sexual impulses became ācolored by an intense and sometimes edgy desire, a sudden desire to take, or even overpower.ā Over time, he says, heās grown into his new sexuality, and, he says, āThe heightened drive is just another part of who I am now.ā
Ā The San Francisco resident says heās also had to learn new boundaries around women. āI have more power, and some of that power is the power to frighten and intimidate, and thatās not a welcome thing. Itās like waking up and realizing that you are a hulking beast that terrifies people.ā
Testosterone Files is also a celebration of masculinity. āI didnāt want to be an apologetic male,ā Valerio says. āI do not believe that having a virile heterosexual male sensibility and finding women desirable makes one a misogynistā¦ lust is not hostility.ā
Valerio thinks heās perceived as macho because of his class background. āI was brought up very working-class, around enlisted Army men, Indian and white cowboys, and men in working class trades, [and] I think that my masculinity is marked by this.ā
Valerio says that although he still firmly believes in feminist tenants about equality, now his feminism is mediated by his experience of masculinity and manhood, āI have changed. Iām now more empathetic to menās lives and experiences. I see that guys have it rougher than Iād imagined before.ā
Valerio identifies as a āqueer heterosexualā and says for the past three years heās been dating a femme lesbian. He sees their relationship as āpart of a new attempt by the dyke world to accommodate transmen and their dyke partners.ā
As happy as heās been to find a place in lesbian culture, Valerio says he wishes more effort were being made to welcome transwomen into dyke spaces.
āTranswomen are, after all, the women in the equation, and they should be the ones going in before we do,ā he argues. āI actually canāt emphasize this enough. Transwomen should be allowed to be in womenās spaces, not transmen!ā
Valerioās story inspired Monika Treutās short film, Max (part of Female Misbehavior) and her feature Gendernauts (recently released on DVD by First Run Features). The transman began hormone treatment in 1989 and believes his testimony about the impact of testosterone should be compelling.
Valerio argues, āI was a lesbian feminist and didnāt believe that these changes could be due to hormones alone. I also believed that all differences between the sexes were mostly cultural or socially constructed. I found out that I was wrong.ā
Trans writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.