Documenting my physical transition from female to male
August 26, 2015 8:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm finally starting my physical transition from female to male and I'd like ideas on how to document changes. Selfies, obviously, but what are best practices for photo-a-day type projects? What kind of dataviz things could I do?

Common changes on testosterone are male pattern hair loss, changes in fat distribution (from hips to belly), changes in face shape (from loss of fat), facial and body hair, increased muscle mass and definition, and of course voice changes.

I have a decent DSLR, tripod, and camera remote. I also have an iPhone and a Windows laptop with Adobe Lightroom 4. I could throw together a basic website on my own and I'm very socially media literate.

At least initially, this project is going to be just for me, but if I'm disciplined enough it could become a resource for other trans guys who want to know what sort of changes happen at what rate (at least for me, everyone varies).
posted by AFABulous to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

You could get one of those scales that purports to measure body fat and other non-weight items like water, muscle mass etc, and track those numbers. I know they aren't very accurate but even a gestalt might be interesting to track. And hopefully they are *consistently* inaccurate.

Random thought, but do you know how your basal body temperatures will change? Female-bodied persons of childbearing age who aren't using hormonal birth control experience predictable monthly fluctuations in BBT coinciding with ovulation and menstruation. When you start T, does that fluctuation stop immediately, or will it taper, or what? It would be easy to measure, all you have to do is take your temperature with a basal thermometer first thing when you wake up. It might end up being interesting data to visualize, or it might not, I honestly have no idea. Might also have the helpful side effect of bringing any new thyroid hormone issues to your attention! If you already know how BBT changes when you start T and you know it won't be interesting, please feel free to ignore this paragraph :D
posted by town of cats at 9:10 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seems like with the fat distribution and muscle mass changes, tracking your whole-body silhouette would be neat. Maybe project your shadow in the same location every day, and then animate it. It will probably be too slow to notice from day to day, but I wonder if the before/after would show a change from easily recognizable as female to easily recognizable as male with just the outline.
posted by ctmf at 10:11 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Something you might want to look at using is Google Forms for tracking and unifying data, especially for numeric stuff like temperature/weight/proportions/pitch. I'm pretty sure it timestamps it all as well, which is good for logging projects like this.
posted by mikurski at 11:08 PM on August 26, 2015

There's kind of a standard for this: making youtube videos. There's a huge community of transmasculine folks on youtube and there's basically an entire genre of "this is my 14th hour on T..."-type videos. Someone I know sang the same song at the beginning of each weekly video for a year or two, and eventually compiled small clips from each week's video so that each part of the song was from a different week, with his voice changing as the song progressed.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:02 AM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Depending on how handy you are with computers/physics/math if you know a linguist:

Record yourself reading The Rainbow Passage (yes, I know, but it's been a standard text for looking at language variation for a long time) several times as you go through your transition. Use Praat or another program to measure your mean fundamental frequency to get an idea of your voice's pitch. If you want to get *really* fancy, you can measure things about your s's.

And then, see how you compare to the trans men studied by Lal Zimman, and marvel in the wonderful diversity there is in language, and how testosterone does (or doesn't) determine how your voice sounds.
posted by damayanti at 3:52 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Congrats! And this is a very cool project.

Selfies, obviously, but what are best practices for photo-a-day type projects?
Same location at roughly the same angle making roughly the same facial expression every day. That way the changes in your face will actually stand out.

As for other ideas - I really like town of cats' suggestion to use a scale that can measure percent body fat, etc. I think you could also record measurements of your body (thinking things like waist, hips, upper arms, thighs, calves, etc.) and create charts showing how those things changed over time.

And I know that T can have effects on appetite, energy level, and mood. Those things are a little trickier to track, but you could still do it. For appetite you could track your calorie intake each day, and for energy level and mood you could create a 1-5 scale. That might help you (and others) identify patterns in how your body reacts to the hormones. (I'm imagining all sorts of awesome charts!)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:02 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would absolutely track moods-- a friend who has started the hormonal leg of his transition has had interesting reports on this (he's also reporting back on more easily quantifiable things like body fat percentage) and they're some of the most interesting and not always expected data points.
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:46 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

About the voice changes, pick something to say or recite every couple of days, then chop it up and string the pieces together so that your voice does a time-lapse over the course of the clip. Aim for a 50-100word piece, and you could make a compilation that is about 1-2 words per week for a year. The final product will have more flow if you record the whole thing a couple of times per week so you have multiple options for the way you said this week's word to mesh in with the surrounding phrase.

Or more data-driven, less artsy, say the same thing every week and just string them end to end. "Today is December 4; this is week 5." "Today is December 11, this is week 6." That's 4-5 seconds per week, so in a year you'd have a ~5-minute compilation. On one hand that would be dull to listen to content-wise (a long 5 minutes!), but on the other it's easier to listen to the voice as data when the words are just placeholders.
posted by aimedwander at 9:26 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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