Fat doesn’t migrate and other things I’ve learned

One of the most common things you hear as a trans guy before going on T is that it will cause fat “redistribution”. That makes it sound like the fat in your body is going to move around and relocate to places where men typically put on weight, like the belly.
In reality there is no fat redistribution. What happens it what when you’ll put on new fat, it will go to different places than when you had an oestrogen dominant body. The fat you’ve already accumulated is going to stay right where it is unless you do what you have to lose it.
I was reminded of this the other day after I booked a vacation to Gran Canaria. This trip will be the first opportunity I’ll have to walk around with my shirt off because my top surgery surgeon told me I should avoid exposing my scars to the sun for at least a year post-op. But as I was looking in the mirror at my shirtless reflection, I realised I just don’t have a masculine upper-body shape. To put it crudely, I look like a hairy girl without tits.
The main problem is my hips. I’m not overweight but kind of on the verge and most of my excess fat is located in my lower body. If I want to develop a more masculine upper body I’ll have to 1. lose fat or 2. build more upper body muscle, but preferably both.
I can do it but I have something that is going to make it a bit harder. As I’ve mentioned in previous post, I’ve struggled with fatigue since my late teens. Well, this year I found out why: I have a condition called Ehler-Danlos syndrome. Mostly it causes me problems with my joints (now I know why they’re always aching) but it comes with a variety of other issues, such as digestive troubles, eye problems and bruising easily.
The fatigue is the symptom that affects me the most. Pain I’m used to. I’ve suffered from joint pain since as far as I can remember so I’ve learned to deal with it. But being tired all the time really makes it hard to live life to the fullest, be productive and reach your goals.
When it comes to my goal of getting the masculine upper-body I want, I’ll have to take this all into account. Having EDS makes it hard to put on muscle and you can’t really put on that much mass in two months anyway (my Gran Canaria vacation will take place in February). Another thing is that weight lifting, or anything that puts significant strain on my muscles and joints, gives me terrible bouts of fatigue. Sometimes for days afterwards.
Cardio, on the other hand, doesn’t tire me nearly as much. Sometimes it even gives me an energy boost.
So I’m going to focus on doing more cardio training, mostly on the crosstrainer at home because it’s the form of excercise that causes me the least joint pain, and to keep counting calories and make sure I don’t get too much of them. I did the later this summer and ended up losing 10 kg without even exercising so I know it works for me.
I started my diet and exercise program on December first and I’ll update in the beginning of next year. If there is other trans men out there who have struggled with getting smaller hips, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share any advice you might have!

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A World Tour of Books: The King’s Day by Abdellah Taïa (Morocco)

Abdellah Taïa is one of the most interesting Moroccan writers. In 2006, he became the first openly gay Moroccan author and is to this day the only one. Him being opened with his sexuality is probably helped by the fact that he is based in Paris since 1998. Homosexuality is still illegal in Morocco.

The book of his that I’ve picked is The King’s Day, a story about the complicated friendship between two teenage boys. Omar is poor and taking care of his father, who has fallen into depression and alcoholism after Omar’s mother left him. Khalid is rich and has supportive, successful parents. Everything seems to be separating the two boys, but there exists between them deep love and caring.

That is, until Khalid is named best pupil in Morocco. As a reward, he will get to kiss the hand of king Hassan II. But he keeps this secret from his friend and when Omar finds out he sees it as a great betrayal. After that, nothing will ever be the same.

 

taia pic
The Swedish translation of Le Jour du Roi, or The King’s Day as it could be called in English.

 
The style of writing in The King’s Day is simplistic but somewhat poetic, although probably not as much as in the original French. I’ve said this many times: the French language has an inherent poésie which is untranslatable.

The themes which are dealt with are not only that of class and frienship, but also of sexuality, gender, race and, in a lesser degree, gender identity. Despair and melancholy I would say are the primary feelings in this story.

The King’s Day is a beautiful and thought-provoking book and I get why it won the precious literary award Prix de Flore. But unfortunately, it has yet to be translated to English.

I often found myself thinking while reading that the story would be unusually adaptable to the big screen and as it turns out Abdellah Taïa is also a filmmaker. In 2013, he directed the movie Salvation Army, based on his book by the same name. It was the first movie in the Arab world with a gay protagonist.

Both Salvation Army and another novel of his, An Arab Melancholia, are available in English and published by Semiotexte.

A World Tour of Books: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia)

While pondering what book I was going to read next I realised I hadn’t read anything from South or Central America yet. I remembered that a man from Colombia had won the Nobel Prize in Literature a few years back but I couldn’t recall his name. After a bit of internet searching I realised I had remembered wrong. A Nobel laureate from Colombia had passed away a few years back, 2014 more precisely. 1982 is the year when Gabriel García Márquez won the Prize.

Nicknamed Gabo or Gabito in Latin America, García Márquez was a journalist and author who is considered by many to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. He was one of several Latin American authors who popularized the genre of magic realism and even inspired in a way the counter-genre of McCondo; a name derivative of Macondo, the town in which many of García Márquez’s books take place.

This fictional village is the setting for the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. Telling the story of the Buendía family over the course of 100 years, this whimsical book is one of García Marquez’s most popular works.

The man reading the Audible audiobook version had a really pleasant voice.

The magic realism is always present in Macondo, where strange things happen without the people thinking much of it. Whether is people passing by on flying carpets, a woman ascending to heaven or ghosts wandering the Buendía family’s house, none of these things are considered very out of the ordinary. This makes Macondo kind of its own surreal universe, where the reader can never be too sure of what will happen next.

But the town also goes through some more realistic things, both good and bad. War, colonialism, political conflicts and everyday events like people falling in love and having children.

Themes many can relate to, such as love and solitude, are woven into the dreamlike fabric of the story and making One Hundred Years of Solitude a fascinating book unlike anything I’ve read before. 

One Year on T!

Today is exactly one year since I started taking testosterone. Not much has changed since my last update. I got a few more chest hairs and I think my facial is growing a wee bit faster.

The biggest change has been the way I take T. After being on Testogel for about ten months I was put on Nebido injections. I found they hurt a lot more than I thought and on top of that take several minutes but it’s not bad enough to not be worth the trouble. It’s quite nice to be able to shower and exercise at any time of the day and also not having to constantly worry about cross-contaminating others.

In Sweden, November 7th is Mud Cake Day. But I wasn’t in the mood for cake so instead I decided to celebrate with a container of Ben&Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream.

1 y

And yes, I ate all of it myself in one sitting. It’s not every day I allow myself a 1000+ calories treat but it’s not every day you’re one year on T.

Also, truth be told, it was a bit of comfort eating. I’m definitely not where I hoped to be at one year on HRT. It took forever for my voice to start dropping, I’m still getting misgendered all the time and still getting what we in Sweden refer to as “lingonberries week” even though it’s supposed to stop after 3 to 6 months on T.

The last thing really surprised the endocrinologist I met before starting Nebido. She concluded my body wasn’t absorbing the testosterone properly. The reason seems to be kind of a mystery. Hopefully it will be different now that I’m on injections.

 

A World Tour of Books: Aicha by Bene Batako (Togo)

“If you want to know what life is like in a small village in West Africa, read this book.”

These were the words of the nice middle-aged lady who sold me Aicha at the Gothenburg Book Fair. One of the main reason I started this World Tour of Books journey was to learn more about the world, so I bought the book and started reading it on the train back home.

Aicha
Aicha tells the story about the impossible love between Karim and Aicha. They were previously engaged but while Karim was away in the city to study, Aicha’s parents sold her to the wealthy merchant Aladji to be his fourth wife.

Karim is devastated to learn this upon his return. And the troubles have only just begun.

He starts to work as a school teacher in the village and soon one of his students falls ill with malaria. Karim wants to get him access to modern medicine but the boy’s parents only trust the traditional medicine of the local marabout (a kind of witch doctor). Will Karim be able to persuade them to take the child to a hospital before it is too late?

But not everything is going bad in the village. The winds of change begin to blow when Rachida, Aicha’s aunt, refuses to let her daughter undergo female circumcision/female genital mutilation. A great debate starts among the villagers and more and more women will realise the power of making their own decisions about their bodies and their lives.

Aicha is in many ways about the conflict between tradition and the individual’s longing for self-determination. But it’s also about the power of change and progress to free people’s minds and expand their horizons.

Aicha has only been published in Swedish and French but if you know any of these languages, consider giving this thought-provoking novel a read.

 

A World Tour of Books: The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola (France)

For the country of France, the place where I spent most of my childhood, I wanted to read a book in its original language. French has a special poésie to it which simply can’t be translated. I once tried to read through an English version of one of Rimbaud’s poems and found it utterly depressing how the almost musical touch of the words got lost in translation.

I looked through my parents’ library is search of a French book I hadn’t read yet and found Le Ventre de Paris or The Belly of Paris as it is called in English.

Émile Zola being one of the greats of the genre of Naturalism, which I would like to describe as hardcore realism, I immediately became interested. The era of Naturalism is, in my opinion, one of the best periods in literature and its proponents’ determination to portray fearlessly the realities of life is a personal inspiration to me as a writer.

emil

The Belly of Paris tells the story of Florent, who returns to the French capital after years of exile in South America. Having been sent there after being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, he is full of resentment towards the Second Empire of Napoleon III.

He reconnects with his younger brother Quenu, who is now running a successful charcuterie alongside his beautiful wife Lisa.

Florent takes a job as an inspector in the now gone marketplace known as Les Halles. There he witnesses the affluence it brings to the city, but also the misery that exists within its walls. A distinction is made between the fat and the thin – the rich and the poor.

Although Florent lives with Quenu and Lisa, who are both unmistakably among the fat, he remains thin both in the physical and figurative sense. What he hungers for more than anything is justice and he begins to dream about a great revolution.

But while the thin might envy the fat, the fat are full of suspicion towards the poor. The idea that you should never trust a skinny man is expressed by several affluent characters throughout the book. And it is that very suspicion which will make sure Florent’s dreams remain only that.

The Naturalist beliefs of Zola are obvious in The Belly of Paris. Both in the milieus (I don’t think I’ve ever read such detailed descriptions of piles of vegetables or stinking fish) and in the dialogues. I sometimes caught myself feeling like I was reading the scenes of a documentary rather than of a novel. Although it felt a bit excessive sometimes, like when the narrator suddenly starts giving an incredibly thorough image of piles of cheese in the middle of one of the most suspenseful conversations of the story, but it does the trick. I feel quite confident that if I somehow could travel back in time to the Paris of the late nineteenth century, that I could find my way around Les Halles as if I had been there before.

The Belly of Paris is a great novel about a time and place which witnessed big changes in French society. If you are interested in history, or the Naturalist genre, this would be a good book for you.

 

Liebster Awards – Part 2

After giving it some thought, I have decided what blogs I am going to nominate for a Liebster Award. Here they are:

Caspian aka afab1996 writes about his experience as a transman in the UK. A very interesting blog, be sure to check it out.

The Foundry
Ruhen writes about writing and I find it fascinating.

I often find myself scratching my head, wondering how the hell people think. That’s not a good think to be so clueless about human psychology if you’re a writer. Luckily, Psychology for Writers is here to help!

Philosophy and Video Games. I stumbled upon this blog while looking through the Absurdism tag (Absurdism being one of my favourite philosophies) and discovered the fascinating subject of philosophical themes in video games.

DMY Inspires. Dmitry is a bisexual teenager with Aspergers and ADHD.

As a favourite blog, I would have to say it’s a shared win between Androgendernaut and Sebastian Lewis Pod.

To the nominated: you are hereby challenged to write a post nominating five other blogs with less than 200 followers, choose a favourite blog and if you wish you can also answer my ten questions.

What is your favourite dish?
What is a great documentary you think people should see?
Do you have a motto or favourite saying?
What day do you consider to have been the best in your life?
Why did you start your blog?
Who are the best: cats or dogs?
What is the best book you’ve ever read?
Tea or coffee?
What is, in your opinion, the best genre of music?
Do you have anyone you consider to be a role model? And if so, why?

Liebster Awards – Part 1

First, a big thank you to Androgendernaut for nominating me for a Liebster Award. I’m happy you like my blog.  🙂

I’m now supposed to nominate five other blogs with less than 200 followers as well as pick one favourite blog. I want to think through some more who I’m going to choose so in the meantime I’m writing this post to answer Androgendernaut’s ten questions.

 

– What inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing since I learned how to. In my case, it feels more like a need than anything else. If I don’t write, it feels like I’m going to explode.

Books, I started to write and share with others because I felt I was relatively good and it. Also: why not try to make a buck from doing something I was going to do anyway?

My blog was originally supposed to be an author blog but I’ve been writing a variety of posts not related to my writing, such as book reviews and opinion posts about the political climate in my country and the rest of the world.

– What keeps you writing and creating new content?

It’s a variety of things. Sometimes there’s an issue I feel I need to address. Other times I like to share things about my life to connect with people who might be going through something similar.

When I write about books, it’s simply because I’m so passionate about literature that I can’t keep it to myself. Especially when I come across a really good book.

– What keeps you motivated in your daily life?

Knowing that I’ll never reach my goals if I don’t at least try. That and caffeine.

– What life lessons have you learned that you´d like to share?

Kindness and compassion are not signs of weakness. Rather, they are qualities difficult to retain in a world filled with so much apathy and suffering. It takes strength to continue giving a crap.

– What is your favourite thing in the world?

Vegan ice cream, especially the kind made from cashew milk.

– What music do you use to write, if any?

I tried to write some music in my early teens but I just wasn’t that good at it. The best I did was write song lyrics, typical angsty teenage stuff about depression and unhappy love.

– What´s the most awesome book you ever read?

My favourite book: “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. Not because of the style of writing (Truman Capote said of Kerouac’s work: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”) Rather, it’s the spirit of the book. It’s that yearning for life, to embrace it fully and with your whole heart. To truly, madly grab it and howl at the moon when you feel like it.

“On the Road” is the first book that made me dream of freedom, of liberating myself from the shackles of my own mind. It’s one of few works I can say in all honesty changed my life.

– What other passions do you have besides writing?

Reading is my biggest passion besides writing. I’m always reading books and looking for new ones I haven’t read before.

Apart from reading, I’m obsessed with philosophy. After losing my faith in God, I started to question what the meaning of life is and if it even has any. And I wanted to learn about different ways to look at life and how to best live it. The two philosophies which have inspired me the most are existentialism and stoicism.

– What event has changed the way you view life?

When I was in my early twenties I got terrible chest pains. Turned out I had an inflammation in a muscle located close to the heart but I didn’t know that so I thought I was having a heart attack. I was afraid I might die and it got me questioning so much. I had had doubts about the faith I had been raised in for years but tried not to think about it. Being reminded of my own mortality got me questioning everything I’d ever known. It eventually led me to leave the Christian cult I had been raised in and finally becoming my own person. To this day, I consider that muscular inflammation to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

– What are some changes you made in your life?

What I consider to be the biggest life changes I made are the following: leaving the cult I was raised in, starting my transition from female to male and getting proper medication for my ADD. The last one is a very controversial topic, although it shouldn’t be. For those of us with attention deficit problems, getting the right meds can be a total game-changer in the best sense of the word.

To Boycott or not to boycott?

One of my favourite events every autumn is the Göteborg Book Fair in Western Sweden. It’s the biggest cultural event in Scandinavia and one I’ve been looking forward to every year since I first attended it when I was twelve.

Some controversy arose last year when it was revealed that the far-right magazine Nya Tider was going to be allowed to participate in the event. This so-called newspaper is notoriously bigoted and is on a mission to paint Sweden as a country falling to pieces because of immigrants and changing norms, such as a greater acceptance of LGBTQ people.

As a response to this many participants and visitors decided to boycott the Fair. Last year I couldn’t attend so the question of whether or not to go wasn’t one I had to make. But this year I will be able to and Nya Tider is still going to be there.

My first instinct was that I didn’t want to set my foot anywhere near where this garbage of a magazine would be exhibiting. I thought about it some more and realised that might be exactly what they want. After all, isn’t a society without trans and gay people exactly one of the things Nya Tider is fighting for? In their eyes, I am among the undesirable and the Fair will only be made better by people like me not attending.

I don’t claim that either boycotting or not boycotting is the right answer. In the end of the day, people have to follow their own conscious and do what they feel is right.

But personally, I feel more than ever that I need to go. The far-right has doubled down their propaganda in later years and made their way into places they would have never been tolerated before. That’s why I want to never back down and keep reminding them that I and all other people they have marked as enemies have as much a right to be here and as much a right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

This year especially I feel an urgent need to stand up against these destructive forces. Apart from Nya Tider being allowed into the Fair, the city as given permission to the neo-nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement to parade through Gothenburg during the event. To give you an idea of how insane this is consider that beside being openly and shamelessly Nazi, this organisation is also responsible for actual terrorist attacks. Just last year they set off a bomb in the very city they will now be allowed to march through!

That’s why apart from going to the Fair and buying as many books as I can that Nya Tider wished didn’t exist (queer books, books by people of colour etc.), I will also attend on Friday the 29th a protest against Nazism.

If Nazis and other far-right extremists think they can scare their opponents into silence, they are terribly mistaken. We aren’t going to go down without a fight. Just bring it on.

A World Tour of Books: The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna (Finland)

From the country of Finland comes this humorous and charming story about a man and his hare.

Vatanen is a bored journalist who leads a passionless life in the country’s capital. One day, while he’s out on an assignment, the car he’s riding in hits a baby hare. The animal survives but has an injured paw. Suddenly gripped with compassion for the poor creature, Vatanen decides to save its life.

He leaves everything behind, including his job and his wife, and travels across Finland with his new companion. They get into many comical situations and meet many interesting characters, including a hungry raven, an angry bear and a conspiracy theorist who believes the president has been replaced by a look-alike.

 

Hare
The Swedish translation of  The Year of the Hare

 
The Year of the Hare a feel-good book. It’s going to make you smile, laugh and maybe even pause and wonder about your own life. Vatanen’s escape from the stress of modern civilization might make you feel jealous and urge you to search for your own adventure from the drudgery of everyday life.

This 1975 book by one of Finland’s most popular authors has been translated into 18 different languages and has been adapted twice into movies, including a 2006 French film featuring Christophe Lambert.

It’s a beautiful story about the special bound between a man and his hare and has touched many hearts far beyond Finland.