hormones, hrt, transgender

Hormones are Momentum

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Surely you’ve seen it?  In the latter quarter of the first year on HRT, the majority of trans women find they have very little to say.  It isn’t a case that changes have stopped, just that the physical and emotional foundations have been set in concrete and it becomes so subtle that it is almost indescribable to explain the sensations without experiencing them yourself.  When you’re doing it, you’re doing it – it’s wonderful to be on the path to an honest life, but the actual process is not that exciting.  I want to optimistic and positive but I also want to try to share the realities of transition away from more acute presentations that I sometimes see in wider trans media.

We simply cannot claim to know very much about our inner workings in general.  Hormones are momentum, it allows transition to be carried by forces other than disabling dysphoria, as in, those initial changes in emotions and mind-mapping at the onset of HRT are quite profound in their nuance; those things that may in general be noticed most broadly as a reduction in aggressiveness, sex drive and a sense of over-emotionality.  These attributes eventually calm down to a regular functioning background level, but the mind is still changing, growing evolving, and it’s all happening sub-consciously.

It’s too much to expect to have one eyeball peering back into the brain to notice all these changes; nobody has the time or awareness to document it all, so it just happens, and you are the change you want to see.


I am three weeks off one year on HRT, and though I remember clearly the days when its’ acquisition was a dream, I barely remember that person.  In a wonderful dichotomy, I recall it clearly because it is me, but I have grown so much in that space in awareness and knowledge that I couldn’t pretend to think with that same mind.  In that, I barely remember who I was 4 months ago so many of the inner workings have changed.

You want to know what trans dreams are?  Utter regularity.  For as remarkably interesting as the experience of transitioning is, it doesn’t hold sanity quite as well as being able to throw on a random dress to go to the shop to buy some milk without having to worry or care about looking out for people who may be looking at you.  When you get over being trans yourself, you can get over it for how anyone else perceives too.serveimage

So, it has been nearly 4 months since an update.  I’ve had my own issues with anxiety both unlinked to transition yet inexorable from hormone medication. In this time I’ve went from being still wary of my perception, to being gendered female the majority of the time, and what’s more is that I understand how people would view me this way regardless of my presentation.  So let’s look at the physical signs:

Hormones: In April I went from 2mg Progynova to 3mg, after finally seeing my endocrinologist for the second time.  Due to my levels still being too low, 2 months later in June I was upped again to 4mg.

Moving up to 3mg was emotionally difficult in the same way coming onto estrogen was initially but less severe.  I found myself pretty depressed and volatile for nearly two weeks but it settled down after that.  Luckily, moving up to 4mg wasn’t a problem, I imagine because my body is getting used to a consistently higher level of estrogen.

Along with this I was prescribed the 12 week injection of Prostap 3DCS which creates a special kind of hell.  I’ve talked to others and had already done enough research to learn Prostap/leuprorelin is absolutely the worst testosterone blocker to be on.  On the 4 week blocker, the last few days were irritating as testosterone trickled back into my system, however I’m only 8 weeks into the 12 week shot and I feel the T seeping back in already, which is normal and very distressing for many.bluespill

Even without that fact, the past two months have seen me feeling more like a eunuch than a woman.  My sex drive is absolutely severed; it’s not low, it simply doesn’t exist.  The influence of a sex drive is a key component in human wellness (even for plenty of asexuals) even if I don’t like to admit it, but without some sort of a drive it’s hard to feel like any kind of person.  This apparently isn’t such an issue on other T-blockers, and like many of my peers I’m seeking an alternative.  For the lack of experiential data on Prostap, I’ve still found that cis men and women on this drug have the exact same problem, and it is not healthy for many active relationships.

Face:  I might say I’m one of the lucky ones, my features initially lent well to the idea of a feminizing face.  A couple of months ago (8 months 17 days into HRT) I saw it finally, a face that I would gender as female; because that matters…as much as my prime goal is to be seen as female in society, I really wanted to see it and believe it for myself, if anything, to deal with the disassociation of being gendered female whilst seeing myself as looking quite male.  That would confuse me, ‘I look like a guy, how don’t people see that?’ Now, I almost consistently see a face way more attractive than dead to rights I am privileged to.  Even from the side in certain angles I look good, and rarely, from below, I could see my jaw and chin just about pull through holistically.

A lot of these benefits come from laser treatments.  I’ve been having laser for over 18 months now, with at least another 6 to go.  I was told at the start it would take this long, and it’s not as grueling as it has to be, if you can start early.  I’ve had 12 sessions in that time with 5 more to go;  I still won’t have a clear face by then, but right now I’d say I only have a couple hundred hairs really coming through at any one time, which considering I had upwards of 30,000 hairs to start with is a massive improvement.  In the last week leading up to laser, many more hairs start to come through, so I know even 2 years of treatment isn’t going to be enough and the next level pain of electrolysis becomes the only long term option.  It’s not 2 years of still having unmanageable facial hair, it consistently gets better and easier to hide, but I personally do recommend making it a priority in transition, on the same level as obtaining HRT, if this is the path you have to go down.

I get called ‘cute’ ‘adorable’ even at times ‘beautiful.’ I’m not boasting – it is a buoying experience, but it can be perturbing without having a certain level of belief and self-love to allow the joy of these compliments.

For years I watched the transition timelines and got that cold dread, I still do.  When I see beautiful trans women I still wish I could look so good, as passably delicious as them…and then I get told they feel the same way, and about me.

 

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A couple of months ago, I would have struggled to find good photos, but now I have an abundance.  I look good right?!  I posit this as a means to your own inspiration, and serve up the treats low expectations can bring.  Sure, it doesn’t always look so good…

It’s a lot better than this…

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Those are ‘Help Me!’ eyes. Sometimes I still have to check out the mirror just to make sure it’s real.  Not as often as I used to, and in some ways I actually feel my face as looking as it does now rather than how it used to, yet behind my more sparkly eyes it is the same person viewing it, and there can be a strange ‘joining dysphoria’ where the mind is still playing catch-up, but it is close to an almost unquestionable reality.

But you know what?  Whoopy-do.  A pretty face doesn’t pay my bills, it doesn’t guarantee me a good honest relationship, and it doesn’t make me not trans; it just gives me a little more wriggle room in playing with public perception.  It’s important not to get caught up in aesthetics; appreciate them, then get humble.

Also, eyebrows.  Going into an eyebrow bar is much less painful than laser and much less humiliatingly worrisome than a GIC therapist asking about your masturbation habits.  It’s a great first step, and when you see how much a wax and shape changes the outlook of your face, you’ll see why eyebrows are a big deal to some people.

Voice: I had my final voice lesson recently, the first of my transition programs to come to an end.  My voice is far from perfect, and still is probably what will get me clocked on most occasions.  I ploughed about 8 months intense daily practice to get to where I am and stopped, and it’s going to take another few months of focused practice to fine tune my voice to sound reasonably passable; since it’s important to me.  However in the meantime, like I’ve said before, confidence and acceptance make a big difference even in the delivery of your voice, as does presentation.  My voice will still sound like the voice I’ve always had in my head to an extent, because it is my voice; even if it were perfectly passable I would still hear myself because we all have a unique vocal identity.  It is simply, my voice, as female.  Embrace that, you’re trying to be yourself, not someone else!

Body: Look, I follow people at the same stage of their journey as me but from all different age groups.  I started HRT at 29 years old and my monthly effects have been corroborated almost identically with a 19 year old, whereas a 24 year old may have very few results, and a 45 year old can have them happen even quicker.  Age is not the prime issue when it comes to HRT results, genetics are.  Also be aware that many people are experts at manipulating their image both in the real world and the digitized one.  Don’t let me or anyone else fool you from the realities of your personal journey.

Changes in my body shape are only now beginning to become more pronounced.  Here’s the thing, male and female human bodies are, in general, remarkably similar.  Humans tend to look like humans.  Sure, primary and secondary traits of gendered biological sexes can seem very blatant, but little has to change to alter innate perceptions of gender.  When you spend time with non-binary and intersex folk you can get a real idea of this, that if ambiguity is possible, then the lines between male and female are mutually blurred within each other.  An inch here, a breast there.

My breasts have been the most notable change, I’d say obviously.  Though they are small and undeveloped, it’s difficult not to notice the two bags of chocolate and cheese fed fatty flesh bumps protruding from me.  I don’t need bra inserts anymore, a simple push up bra can give the idea of some kind of boob if I so choose, barely.  I don’t care about having boobs, but I can’t deny they are fun, and add to a feminine look.  On my mostly male frame they don’t look too good naked, but you take what you can get.

They still hurt to touch and that’s a good thing because it means they are still growing, there’s a long way to go, but it’s already exceeded my low expectations.  I still hate wearing a bra, but now even a long walk without one can be pretty unpleasant.  Like most of transition, it becomes a normal thing and not a particularly exacting subject to spend energy thinking about.

I suppose it shows the major benefit of HRT is that even the most trying dysphoric notions can come and go and be taken for granted after a time, if you let it.

Other changes are the result of wonderful coincidences.  A loss of muscle mass makes the neck, shoulders, and arms seem a little less harsh without any actual reduction in size.  Whilst my waist hasn’t gotten any smaller, the growth of fat around my hips partially creates the illusion of a smaller waist.

The loss of strength is ever more of an issue.  Carrying shopping can become a real problem sometimes and I seem much more prone to foot and leg pain.  I haven’t been exercising as much as I should but still I recognise the difference in capability levels.  Self-defence would be a real concern now because I am simply less able to weigh leverage on a confrontation.

Appetite and weight is also a concern.  Before HRT, I could happily maintain a goal weight of 10st 7lb (147lbs) – 10st 10lbs (150lbs), yet 8 months in I was stuck at 11st 7 lbs (161 lbs) and now, even with making a few changes I’m up to 11st 10lbs (164 lbs) which is unthinkable for me.  Of course this goes into creating new fat masses at a speed quicker than the heavier muscle can atrophy, and it may not show that much, but it bothers me greatly.

 

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Source Unknown

Hair continues to grow slightly less coarse and slightly slower but it still comes in annoyingly fast, and it will continue to do so because humans tend to grow a lot of hair.  It is still prominent in my nose, nipples and pubic area but this further highlights the similarity of sexes, especially if you’ve ever seen a cis woman try to remove nose hair with a set of kitchen tongs.

My skin is noticeably brighter than it was six months ago, but again, it’s not something that can be kept track of and as time goes by it’s easy to forget what it felt like the same way I can’t totally remember what my old bed felt like, and it becomes just as relevant.

Aside that, you’re going to have a body that somewhat reminds you of the body you had pre-HRT.  It’s your body, it will always be your body, and that’s a good thing; look at what it can do, look at how effortlessly a human body can at times accept cross-sex hormone therapy.  It is affirmation at its finest.

Mind: As far as emotions go, the drastic ups and downs are settled for the most part as HRT normalises in my system.  I cry as often as I ever did…maybe less in fact, although I am rarely prone to aggressive anger.  Violence still exists in my mind, although it is much less likely to manifest than ever.

My sex drive as I said is minus zero.  Erections are incredibly rare, though still annoyingly robust, and have actually become quite painful.  Trying to force one upon myself fortnightly has now become a struggle to do even monthly.  The pain is just another deterrent in an otherwise defunct sex life.  This however isn’t an exclusive effect.  Many trans women on HRT have regular or high sex drives, and an ability to temper it at will and have a great time, but circumstances personally leave me bereft.

Sex may become more a part of my life at some stage, but I think it’s important to spell out what sex means as a trans woman on hormones seeking surgery.  We should know by now that even genital surgery is not sexually motivated, however, sex can be desirable regardless of genitalia, and with the changes brought about by something like surgery, it’s more of a learning experience to use what you have now being borne out of lack of choice, rather than an explosive coming together of all the hopes of immediate normality in pre-transition thought.  For me, it’s still more a case of ‘Oh gosh, what am I going to do?’ than ‘Ok, let’s do this!’ Although……… a story for another time.

IMG_5724Otherwise…pff.  The dense arrays of neurons and goo in my mind have changed me enough to not know how much I’ve changed, and in that I can only know myself for who I am now.  I am free from the repression of a false life, free from the hindering yoke of dysphoria, how could I say which changes are hormonally induced and which are a product of self-acceptance and exploration.  Either way, I’m seen as a brighter person, the lows are still low, but the highs are higher; content people tend to break out more often in genuine smiles.  I walk about the streets with the same casual arrogance I did whilst living as male, and I love it.  Revel in your strength, if you can do this, you can do anything.

I’m still having a difficult time in my life but in terms of transition, well, that’s the one thing that’s working out pretty well.  Time and experience makes one adept.  Putting in the time early in my transition has allowed me to get by without very much effort or stress at this point when I have bigger fish to fry than dragging my transition on any longer than it needs to.

I still rarely wear make up, but I’ve done it enough times, picked up enough tips, and been helped by enough people that if I want to put it on I can do it just as well as the millions of Western women who aren’t very good at makeup but still make it work.  At times I even experiment.  I’ve been with enough cis girls who’ve shopped for makeup their entire adult lives to see that they often don’t know what they’re looking for either, and so you learn blagging tricks for getting round a store without feeling like you’re standing out.  And then it too, becomes normal.

Same with shopping for clothes.  I observed for a long time before I was brave enough to get in on the fun.  I still get anxious, especially by myself, but it’s not a big deal.  Flick through the hangers of things that look like clothes and pretend you are looking for your size and then just go ‘naaaah.’

At one time, you’ll hopefully see something, something you just want, and you’ll go find out that it’s in your size.  If you’re super brave you’ll ask your friend to keep watch while you go into the changing room and then come in to see how you look.  It looks great on you; you’re scared, but you gotta buy it; not give it to your friend to buy, but to go up yourself and pay for it.

It’s a great feeling, and before long confidence and knowledge builds, and if something doesn’t work out?  Postal returns.  I don’t know how, but now I can put an outfit together that makes sense for my style.  Honesty from friends and family is essential, because as much as you can hopefully tell what just doesn’t work in the mirror, a good friend will tell you not to wear that mess of misplaced fabric outside, and help you make adjustments.  Match colours, cover unwanted lumps and bumps, accentuate desired lumps and bumps, appropriate accessories.  It’s less scary than it looks.IMG_6317

As a wardrobe grows, opportunities to mix and match become exciting, and unique new looks can be created to express yourself the way you want to rather than the way you feel you should.  Go easy on yourself, it’s taken me nearly two years to show that I can pull off jeans with a dress.

If you’ve been following my story you may see that there is a lot more confidence now in being able to do all the transition-y stuff.  Looking from the inside out at the wall of seemingly impenetrable transition guides and information that greets trans women making the leap…it doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds.  The real changes honestly come from inside, and it’s from those that it’s easier to deal with the practical issues.

With so many potential dreams, hopes and obstacles in a ‘male to female’ transition, try not to see it as so many unattainable goals; learn to pick smaller battles, celebrate in little victories, start building a picture of experience, compromise, discover yourself, and over time it will come together.  A long time.  All the small cogs in transition eventually start adding up and connecting with each other to build a better idea of the picture you are trying to create.  Don’t let the word ‘years’ scare you, this is time to grow more quickly than at maybe any other point in your life; there are so many little and momentous successes to be had that they can outshine many of the difficulties you may have to endure, for a long time.


In a lot of ways, HRT sucks.  Sometimes a big shot of testosterone feels like exactly what I need when emotions become strongly overbearing, but I’m at a place now where this is just how it is.  For all my appreciation on surviving thus far, larger battles await.

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Ready to battle dysphoria demons!

I’ve had my second opinion for lower surgery and now I’m waiting for a pre-op assessment.  If things go well I could be lying on that operating table within six months.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is what I’m going to do, but it’s still terrifying.  As reality creeps in and I picture myself getting ready to go under, and then dealing with the extensive and probably very painful recovery recovery period, a little bit of panic sets, because all things going well this will happen.  The worries are the same any trans women going towards this procedure experiences; there is only hope that it will be satisfactory, whilst preparing myself for the notion that it will go badly.  Again I temper my expectations – it doesn’t have to look right, it doesn’t have to work right, it doesn’t have to feel right, it just has to be there in place of what I currently have.  Being able to have this operation at all is the bonus, any positive effect is a privilege.

Then comes to the big question of what next?  To what extent does being transgender effect you for the rest of your life?  The transition period comes and goes regardless of how long it takes.  For my experience, this is a very quick transition and therefore may feel quite disorientating for a while once it’s done.  My optimum is not to normalise being trans, it’s to negate it.  My gender(s) shouldn’t have to be normalized, only hopefully accepted and embraced as an everyday occurrence.  There are still a few things I have to do to be totally free; to not be scared of swimming pools, gyms, and still to an extent clothes and makeup stores.  Maybe wearing a bathing suit…..maybe.  I don’t like them but it could be an affirming experience one day.  Then back to shorts.

Toilets aren’t a problem – With good observational skills you can make trips to the toilet less stressful.  I don’t do it so much now, but if it were possible I would keep a glance of the toilet when I needed to go and went when it seemed there would be less people there.  I would take advantage of single stalls, disabled and gender neutral toilets whenever possible.  However, for the most part I’ll still easily go to the bathroom in a busy bus station because I gotta pee and it is always going to much less troublesome for everyone and for me to use the women’s toilets.  And if I’m drunk, outdoors and really need to pee, I’ll still do what I need to do in a hidden space, giving that I can with the equipment I’ve got.  That’s the big drawback to not having a penis for me, not being able to pee at will.  Ahem.  Not endorsing.

As I have tried my best to manifest this experience I’ve been feeling better than ever in some ways. A couple of years ago I escaped from an abusive relationship, found out I was losing my job, and realised that I was transgender within a month and it broke me.  I still suffer quite a lot from the effects of these little traumas but I have also turned them into positives, necessary blows that got me to this point.  If that relationship hadn’t ended, if I hadn’t lost that job, if I hadn’t realised I was trans..I couldn’t believe my life would be anywhere near as good and full of possibility as it is now.  Sometimes the sacrifices you make are of things that hold your life back.


To this point I’ve have been transitioning for almost two years and on HRT for almost one year.  This whole thing came out of nowhere, and now I’m doing what I thought two years ago was only for other people, or a certain type of person.  But it’s happening, and it’s still pretty surreal, which is why I try to encourage at least myself to think about it as little as possible because it can very easily swallow up your whole life.

The goal for me is the same as always, to alleiviate dysphoria as much as possible and then get on with my life.  Yet on the way I’ve learned so much about the human condition.  I’ve met, spoke with and made more friends in these past couple of years than I ever have, people from all walks of life.  I don’t think of myself as being particularly ‘queer’ because I feel just like a regular person, and I realised my ignorance in going to queer events – folks who may be all kinds of genders with all kinds of styles, hairstyles, mannerisms, impairments etc who are just like me, who are just like you, who are just like anyone.

Queer is a reclaimed term, not because we are different from ‘normal’ society, but because we aren’t; we are simply unique within it.  Getting more ingrained into queer scenes and circles, to see at times real solidarity is a very special and heart-yearning experience.

Being transgender inevitably opens one’s eyes to new ways of understanding the world, and with that information many want to speak out, to educate, to help, because there isn’t always a lot of information or support for transgender people.

Sometimes, I feel I would like to go stealth, but more often I think we all have a role as our individual experiences are entirely unique and whatever we add is part of a beautiful collage, not part of some grey book about how you should or shouldn’t transition, how you should act, who you should be.

I want to encourage you to keep finding your ways to express yourself, it doesn’t have to be limited, it doesn’t have to be forced, it doesn’t have to be anything other than what you want.  What other way could it be?

I’m here because realising I am trans hit me in a momentary flash when I was 28, and once it was out of my jail of oppression there was no stopping it.  It was terrifying, rightly so, but it’s not the worst thing that can happen in your life.  In fact, for all the bad life changing things that can happen in life, being trans is probably one of the best, because for all you may lose in health, wealth and support, you gain back in truth, love, hope, potential, opportunity, and greater support than you can imagine.

Just because it’s far away doesn’t mean you can’t get there, it will just be a more epic journey!  That’s not platitudes, it’s spoken from experience.

Until next time,

Amy Xx

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hormones, transgender

Amy’s Hormone Adventure, Week One!


Welcome to my first hormone update 🙂

For years I read blogs and watched videos about transwomen on Hormone Replacement Therapy, repressing the cold dread of what I later came to know as ‘gender dysphoria’, lying to myself that it seemed like exactly what I needed.  Waiting.  It was all about the wait, the patience necessary to get to this point – months, maybe years, it seemed like the day would never come.

I wanted as much information as possible, what happens to your body, when?  What happens to your mind, how?

The day did come and I was ill-prepared, but I have taken the plunge and began HRT a week ago.  I want to add my version of events to the ever growing range of subjective transgender experiences for anyone like myself who has found them to be a comfort and a benefit.  The more of our experiences we share, the greater we can understand each other, and be understood from the outside.

A quick recap:

My name is Amy, I’m 29, and from Northern Ireland.  Two weeks shy of a year ago today, I finally came to the realisation that I was probably transgender.  I had twenty years of repression, which unfurled itself at distorted paces throughout the next few months.  Two days before Christmas I made the decision to go ‘full time’, and in March this year that’s what I did.  My documents have been changed and so I live my life now being known as a transsexual female. It all happened in a sort of daze, strange to think of that as being behind me, and life is basically the same.

I started this blog very soon after my revelation to get these thoughts out as part of what I consider a time capsule.  Now I move onto the next big stage in transition, medical.

I have as a starting dose to be re-evaluated in 3 months:

Estrogen – Progynova, estradiol valerate, 2mg pills to take once a day.

Testosterone blocker – Prostap SR, Leuprorelin acetate, 3.75mg, delivered by monthly intramuscular injection

Coming into this I was in a bad state, I hated life, I was becoming very withdrawn, anti-social, depressed, worse even.  I was going to take my first estrogen on a Monday, but I was too scared, I was so worried that my awful mental state would be exacerbated greatly by the hormonal shift, that it was an emotional risk I couldn’t take.  On Tuesday I bit the bullet and things began to change.


Day 1 – 10am.   Nobody I know understands, right this second I’m making one of the biggest changes I will ever make.  It is exciting and terrifying in equal measure.  Old doubts linger but they are long past exhausted.  Do it or don’t.  I ate the little blue pill and relaxed, nothing I can do about it now, let medical science take its’ course.

The effect was of relief and placebo throughout the day, just the victory of making this commitment, having this opportunity, although I can feel the foreign substance working on my body.  I felt a nice tingle in my brain, similar to other drug interactions I’ve had before.  Although these drugs can take weeks or months to take effect, I know from my own experience that I am usually quite quickly receptive to drug effects and this is no different, it hit me straight away.

It’s a thinking day, a day for wonderment, possibility, hope, fear, courage, letting go as my mind fuzzes over in waves, growing less concerned with my current daily grind.

Day 2 – I got up, starting my new 10am ritual of take estrogen, take a photo, briefly meditate.  I went to the nurse so she could stick a needle in my bum filled with testosterone blockers.  Quite quickly again I felt it working on me, with a few squeezing pains in my guts and testicles.  I had been warned I may have a testosterone boost for a few days while the drugs do their work and they were not wrong.  I went to see a good friend straight after, more or less dragging her out of the house before I tried to jump her.  It was less a feeling of being horny and more a strong feeling of biological need.  The feeling still lingers a week later, it is annoying.

We went into town as the two new drugs circulated throughout my system.  I walked through shops experiencing both genders, and neither, in a surreal haze.  I realised I wasn’t under the yoke of dysphoria.  Sure, the same worries, fears and resignations were there but the darkness behind it was lifting.  My confidence grew, my obsessing about how others perceived me began to wane.  Instead of thinking about my spirit crushing loneliness, I was thinking about my loneliness crushing spirit.

I was annoyed that I haven’t been able to tell many people about starting HRT, and more annoyed that those who did know didn’t seem curious or interested at all, even other transfolk; quickly I’ve had to understand more deeply how intrinsically personal this experience is, no matter how much I want to share.  I think quite easily I could be as single-mindedly annoying as if I were pregnant given any real chance to talk about what is changing.

I calmed later in the evening, being sure to note that my elation is still paper over the cracks of the exact same problems that were always there.  I felt fine, jovial even, but my emotional triggers were still firing, they just didn’t have any impact.  I felt like a paper tiger, that any moment this initial elation would wear off and I would be back in the mind gutter.  I decided that this is a grace period, a chance to deal with some of these lingering issues whilst I have energy.  Regardless of how much more uplifted I feel, my goals are exactly the same.

Day 3 – Still rolling with the testosterone, sore guts and testicles again for a few hours.  Various aches.  Emotional changes in the same vein as emotions I’ve always had, feeling grateful to have a bit of any kind of feeling again for a few days.  Usually I wake up and I start thinking all sorts of garbage, all sorts of dysphoria, but the past couple of days I haven’t, I’ve been, like I said, fine.

I feel the physical buzz of the changes in my brain chemistry, but nothing discernibly new.

Day 4 – Still no dreams.  I woke up with various pains.  Maybe I’m going crazy, but my skin feels the tiniest bit softer.  When I rub my fingers up and down my spiky haired arms there is much less resistance, surely imagining it, though I’ll take the boost.  It doesn’t feel like it’s something I’m really doing, this is an express art of subtlety.

At my voice lesson we pin down the issues with my articulation, intonation, prosody and accent. I feel like I’m going backwards again. As much as the lessons have been enjoyable this week, I’ve done something wrong in my practice that will be hard to remedy. If I knew how I sounded at the end it would be easier, because not knowing how I’m supposed to sound makes it difficult to sound like that. All things aside, it is my voice that will ruin me.

I can’t deny making a few more masculine seeming actions in my swagger.  Without the dysphoria drill in my forehead I’m less ill at ease with myself, I don’t feel I have to try as hard, but I’m careful because the triggers still go off.  I went shopping with my Mum and didn’t get needlessly frustrated the entire time which is quite rare.  I was calm enough around the shops, though I did man it out a bit.  I had a funny thought, watching all the people, that for years I tried to resist fitting into the man slot I never wanted to fit into, and now I’m fighting against the female slot that I don’t want to fit into either.  I’m not rejecting gender, I’m rejecting extreme gendering.  For being gender expansive, fluid even, queer folks like me can’t waste energy trying to fit into boxes that cannot contain us.

I look in the mirror and I see beard.  Whatever is going on around, that’s fine, but I have facial hair.  I can’t cover it with make up and I’m not going to try.  I’m not going to up my femme because it makes me feel dysphoric, so I feel stuck middling for a few more weeks until laser starts again. I won’t use a public bathroom with hair on my face, sorry.

Feeling way too calm.  The buzzing is becoming a druggy head rush, coming in waves.  I’m excited for the next pill tomorrow.  I try not to overanalyse any possible changes in the differentiation of my thoughts.

Day 5 – The morning wood sex drive thing bugs me.  I wonder what will happen when the day comes that part no longer works anymore, possibly like the sadness of losing a long term bad friend. It felt slightly different this morning, warmer, less mechanical.  I put no thought to it; I have lots of different moods.  My skin feels the tiniest bit different again today, I can’t deny I’m getting softer.  Being softer is strange, from being used to the brusque skin of a male, this slight change challenges my concepts of vulnerability and potential fragility.  I thought I had a little change on my nipples, but it was falsehood.  I anticipate a lot of time staring in the mirror asking myself if anything has changed in the past hour.

I feel more in tune with myself than I have done in maybe a couple of years.  My heart is growing, dysphoria is a vague shadow.  My voice seems the slightest bit softer, my throat is less sore, probably because I’m more relaxed.  Later into the day the drugged feeling of the past few days started to tone down.

Day 6 – I had an entire phone call with my mother without getting irrationally frustrated.  That’s a big deal, I love my mum, but there’s just something about talking to her on the phone that drives me nuts almost every time.  Not this time.  It definitely feels like things are slowing down after the initial hit, testosterone levels should be coming down, and the little bit of extra estrogen will still be scouting out my body, building silos and power plants.

I had a workout and didn’t get quite the same buzz off it I’m used to doing.  I still enjoyed it just the same and pushed just as hard, but it was missing that testosterone rush that made me feel really good about my strength and how I could destroy things with it.  I didn’t have a shower for a while afterwards and realised that I didn’t stink quite so much as I should, even my feet were bearable.

This medication does something to my guts.  Another girl I talked to on estradiol did warn me about flatulence and possibly diarrhea. Also I’ve got a few spots.

Day 7 – 10am is the highlight of my day.  An alarm goes off playing ‘Fluff’ by Black Sabbath and I take my pill.  Somehow I’m still riding a high, even with not nice dreams and not nice thoughts.  The numbness seems to be wearing off, thought my content mood persists.

Day 8 (Today) – I look the tiniest bit cuter, only enough that I would notice.  My skin is brighter and I noticed my cheeks properly for the first time I can recall.  My reflection makes me smile, facial hair and all.

I only wanted to try estrogen to help with the mental ailment of dysphoria, so far it is doing that, but I’m under no illusions that something will hit.  I still feel the fizz fizz fizz in my brain, I’m not scared of it, I’m not going to lose myself like I feared, though I can imagine some of the neurological changes in time.

HRT may change my emotional composition somewhat, but it won’t initially or perhaps ever change how I actually deal with emotional issues.  For whatever ways our experiences have moulded our triggers and reactions, hormones don’t seem to be changing the thought process, rather it seems to be changing the information that is fed into the process, piece by piece.  I will still react in the same way, which may be challenged if a differing way of experiencing emotions comes to the fore.


For all that waiting to attain hormones, now comes the waiting for the hormones to do their work, if any.  Still I will maintain a fatalistic position, that each little change is the last, but still that I can be happy with what I am on the path towards. I’m still more worried about my voice and my facial hair.

I don’t want my HRT experience to be the focal point in my life until I start thinking about surgery.  Obviously it will be, as I celebrate and share all the little changes that make so much difference, but now that I am secure in my regimen, I want to start looking forward, past the all encompassingness of being transgender and moving back into everyday reality.

My blog is an attempted exercise of transparency and sharing.  I still remember how I have felt over the past while thinking about hormones, waiting for hormones, waiting some more, waiting, wondering what might happen, reading incessantly.  I want to help out as best I can, so if anyone has questions, requests for things to keep an eye on, philosophical interpretations to impart, please get in touch at unexpectedamy@outlook.com.  I also have an awful vlog if you want to put a face to a name.  Any way I can help, let me know, I try to be an open book for the community.

Finally I would like to promote a new website and vlog called Happily Ever Trans.  This site is run by a girl called Angie, who I believe is an amazing advocate for trans youth.  She’s very well spoken, super confident and doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to personal trans issues.  I recommend you go have a look, can never have too many resources 😉

Thank you all,

Amy Xx

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gender, hormones, transgender

When you can’t calm the waves, ride the storm.

There are always going to be low points, really low points, in anyone’s life.  Transition is a neon bug-catcher around the neck, the buzzing swarms of fear, anxiety, stress and panic crackling away, dying and brought back to life in never ending attempts to torment.  What matters is what you can do now, even if in screaming and crying through the whole process you can do what you need to do, it shows not weakness, but the highest level of courage imaginable.  The harder the process is, the braver you become.

Through it all, remember and celebrate each little success, for they are beautiful, and incomparable to what most people will ever know. Rejoice in your unique experience, the quality of self-knowledge, and the enlightenment of your understanding of the world at large.

At the moment, I only really know three emotions – stress, anger and panic.  In the past year I’ve developed somewhat of an anxiety disorder, mostly through the stress of work, cruel betrayal and heartbreak by loved ones and feelings about my situation in life. At times it is greatly exacerbated by the sheer weight of the transition process.  I dealt with depression for a long period in the distant past, but anxiety is a different animal; it doesn’t make me unhappy, rather it makes me feel like I’m not in control of my shifting emotions and how I express them.

I have a bad habit of comparing my life situation to that of others’, and being trans for me unfairly highlights my shortcomings in a more profound way than ever.  This way of thinking can never work, one is only ever comparable to oneself and what I need in life is relevant only to me.  If you’re also just a regular Jane, you probably notice that many people consider their lives sucky to an extent – working for just enough to pay the bills; having problems with partners; watching as friendships are lost to the realities of adult responsibility, work, marriage, kids.  All the things teenagers say they’ll never do; how we’ll never lose touch or ‘be like that’, yet we follow the exact same path each generation does.  Life goes on, as we either grow closer to ourselves, or further away.

‘It’s not the load that breaks you down…it’s the way you carry it.’ – Lena Horne

I used to pride myself on being able to deal more effectively with more difficult problems than those I would try to help; now I see myself on the other end.  I want to be stronger, I need to be stronger.  In a lot of ways I am ashamed of my attitude, I see videos of little kids in hospital beds waiting to die and I bawl my eye’s out at their simple insurmountable strength in the face of doom.  I read about a woman who didn’t know she was born with XY chromosomes who had to suffer serious medical and social indignity through puberty and developed osteoporosis amongst other ailments just for being born with the condition, whilst I complain about a bit of facial hair and a masculine voice.

I’ve spent the last year preparing to build my life back up from scratch after losing everything – my apartment, my job, what I mistook to be a loving relationship.  It’s only now that things are picking up for big positive change, and there are a lot of big changes coming.  An opportunity has arisen to move into an apartment in the capital city (Belfast) without having to sign a contract, with a good friend. I’m taking the risk with my savings to move up at the end of this month in the hope I can find work and stay there.  The plus to this is that most of my trans related appointments are in the city anyway, but the downside is that I have so many appointments a day job would not be sustainable.  By moving up with the money I have, I’m basically putting myself on a timer to find a reliable source of income or I’m screwed, but if it somehow works, possibility can bloom.

Also in a month’s time, I’ll be off to Barcelona for nearly a week, my first holiday in a long time, and I’m trying to prepare for it in consideration of my place in transition, which is pretty stressful.

‘What do you mean, every month?!’

The crux in this is the appointments.  Gender therapy, laser therapy, voice therapy, fertility appointments, and soon endocrinology appointments, each of these building pressure on top of each other and taking up massive chunks of time and money trying to get there and back.

Voice therapy is humiliatingly embarrassing and feels like no progress is being made, so it’s important to take as much humour as possible, and to realise that the only way to get there is to persevere, to never give up because it will take a long time for any of the progress to feel like progress. The constant daily practice is incredibly draining. Keep going though, it is the only way.

I had my first fertility appointment, where it was explained to me the various risks should I ever get the opportunity to have a child.  Waiver after waiver was signed, informing me that freezing could irreparably damage the sperm, that the machines could break down, and that IVF will be my only method of having genetic offspring.  These are huge risks for me and enough to unsteady my commitment to the medical pathway, because having my own kids is more important to me than my gender.  The catch-22 is to show those future children the way to live in fear of themselves by not being resolute in myself.

This first appointment was only a consultation, at which I gave blood to test for hepatitis and HIV.  At the second appointment I will have to give a sperm sample to check for viability before freezing and then I assume a third appointment to give the sample for freezing.  Two words I never thought I’d hear together ‘Ejaculation Timetable.’  It will be interesting to work on because my sex drive is still basically non-existent. Another stressor is that these appointments are normally attended by couples, and the whole sperm sample thing generally by cis-men, not transsexual women, so it’s not a fun waiting room.

Hormones on the way?

All of this is in anticipation of Hormone Replacement Therapy.  The minimum wait for diagnosis in Northern Ireland is six months, with the Gender Identity Clinic here apparently notorious for making people wait at least a year.  I got diagnosed at exactly the six month mark, I wonder why.  I think it’s because I’m very clear, rational and unwavering as to what my transition goals are: to abate so much as possible the impact of dysphoria, and to be able to get on with my life.  I’m not doing it to have boobs or a cis-normative seeming body; I don’t need hormones to be a woman, I don’t need to label myself; I’ve been through enough crap in my life to hopefully be able to deal with it; I’m aware of the risks and limitations.  Hey, it would be nice to blend in flawlessly, but I accept that it will never happen, no matter how amazing I may look, no matter if I ‘pass 100%.’

Now is the time for deep research.  When the decision to take oestrogen is made, life branches off on a new path and the old paths close forever.  The clock starts ticking, with initial decisions for bottom surgery in my opinion needing to be made concurrently.  You can jump on this ride, but you can’t jump off and hope for things to be as they were.  This decision for me has never been ‘OMFG I’m finally getting ma hormonez!!’ No, it’s come to Jesus time, honey.  This isn’t someone else’s body; this isn’t watching transition videos on YouTube or meeting with other transgender successes.  What this definitely isn’t, is the ideals in your mind dysphoria have created about how you would hope to be.

Hormones will not change you in the ways that you dream, they may do a lot, but they will never do enough.  My hope is simply that hormones are a hammer with which to beat down dysphoria effectively.  This is the process of attempting to align our bodies with our minds, not our minds with our bodies, so no amount of modification on its’ own can beat dysphoria, you will only ever be able to ultimately cage (not vanquish) it with your heart, your soul and your mind – not medicine, not surgery.  Being a woman is not a special achievement, having boobs and a vagina is not a special achievement, this is a normalization process, not specialisation.  Being a woman will only get you as far as women go, and if you are trans, it quite likely won’t even get you that far. However, remember always that we are all equal and we can all go as far as our determination carries us.

I’m not trying to be brutal, but you have to understand the likelihood of realities here.  Medical transition can and does make unbearable lives into exceptionally amazing lives for some whose lives are unbearable because of extreme dysphoria only.  It is not a perfect treatment, is extremely risky and requires lifetime maintenance.  If you are quite unlucky, oestrogen will give you deep vein thrombosis, a stroke, or a pulmonary embolism.  The hormonal shifts might drive you to madness or worse, the surgery may leave you inorgasmic and feeling mutilated creating a new nightmare of intolerable suffering.  You don’t have to do any of these things to be the gender you experience yourself to be.

Please note that I haven’t done my research to the level I feel comfortable discussing intricacies, and I’m not trying to instil fear, I’m just saying there are some fatal scenarios and that whilst for some there is no choice, if there is a choice, be aware of the negative possibilities.

Life doesn’t wait.

Another thing that is holding me back is simply the lack of real life support.  Yes, I have plenty of amazingly supportive friends and family, and while I don’t expect them to understand exactly what I’m going through, I worry for their knowledge of what I’m about to go through.  The attitude I get is usually ‘Good for you, I’m so happy you are finally getting the chance to be yourself, I’ll do whatever I can to help.’  This is beautiful, I love and appreciate it so much, but what it feels like to me sometimes is a template, that they don’t understand these dangers, that they don’t challenge my decisions, that they don’t ask me about transition unless I bring it up, and even then I can tell they know basically nothing about transgender people, and for me that’s dangerous, especially for my decision making since I cannot do it alone. I understand their reticence, it is my issue, my journey, and they do what they can, and they do so much for me.  I need their help because I trust them, I rely on them.

One of the stressors I have is that my friends are all isolated from each other; they don’t meet up or talk to each other so the only thing that is holding my network together is me.  Because of this I find myself running around like crazy trying to maintain these individual friendships and it takes too much energy on top of everything else.  I feel like they support, but they are unable to help. I totally understand; everyone is busy with their own lives, they don’t want to be offensive, they don’t know what to say, they expect me to educate them, and I maybe expect too much. One thing I am is completely grateful for the impact they have on my life in general, how I am accepted and cared for, and I know I am so lucky to have just that simple acceptance, when they could so easily have abandoned me. If anything, I have to try harder for them, to be more open, more vocal, because they know I don’t like being made a fuss of.

The best thing for me would be to have some real life support from other trans individuals, yet every time I reach out in my community my confidence gets raked.  Each time I build up the nerve to speak to a trans-person in this country, or a support group, I’m met with overawing awkwardness, coldness, misery and most generally silence which really impacts on my confidence and emboldens the idea of feeling like an outcast within the community and instilling an unhealthy lone-wolf attitude.

The most reasonable transfolk I’ve knowingly encountered have been through this blog and on YouTube, and I am indebted to those who so freely share their stories and encouragement. I’m hoping when I move to the city I’ll be able to foster some new vital bonds.

However, currently without this feeling of help, taking HRT now is going to be a difficult path, yet with therapy rules in the UK, I could put myself back by months or years if I fully indulge in my issues which will have the ironic impact of extending the duration of the difficulties that impact me daily. Problems like this can’t be let lie, so I’ve arranged for a regular counsellor to help through these issues. Never be scared to talk to someone if you have to, and if you are, do it anyway.

You’ve got male.

One struggle I have noticed is that of testosterone and male anger.  I feel I can distinguish between regular anger, and the anger brought on by testosterone, though it’s only hyperbole.  When I get the male anger, I want to be violent, I envision scenarios in my head where someone might say or do something disrespectful or dishonourable enough that I would get to inflict damage upon them, a seething rage to hunt, kill and screw.  I have to do some serious exercise and mindfulness to help abate these feelings as they have always been scarily abhorrent to me, but they are getting harder to control.  Indeed, I’ve often considered the sign of a strong man to be his ability to quell these very natural emotions and inclinations.  I’ve spoken with male friends and many accept they have these same impulses and agree they must work to supplant the urges to conquer, to destroy.

The anxiety has been brutal, I am not myself, in some ways I am less of a person than I was before my realisation, but at the same time I can’t say that I wouldn’t have felt like this anyway if I weren’t trans due to how I feel about my position in life.  Going through transition however is basically like trying to maintain the workload of two lives within the space of one.  For everything I think of, note down and try to do, I can think of about a dozen other things to do.  When I write my daily to-do list, it ends up becoming non-exhaustive and it can be very difficult sometimes.

Still, persevere.  There is a lot to do and there will be lots more to do, with ever more life changing decisions to be made.  Cisfolk don’t understand the nature of how transition impacts almost every aspect of life.  Every time I open my mouth, I’m transitioning; every time I get dressed, I’m transitioning; every time I leave the house, I’m transitioning; every new situation I introduce myself as female in, I’m transitioning, whether it’s relevant to the situation or not; any time I think of where my life is going, I’m transitioning.  Any time I do any of these things, I am facing fears, both new and entrenched.

Feed. Me. More.

I have a list of simple fears, and I am going to eat them, fears that a cis-person would generally never even conceive of as a need for concern. Things like using a public bathroom; shopping for clothes; getting my makeup done; going swimming; going to a support group; wearing clothes that show any of my skin other than my face and hands; using a changing room. I embrace the challenge, even if I am not up to it yet.

There is great strength to be earned through all this – the more fear we face, the less fear can impact us;  the more pain we endure, the less that can hurt us; the more we commit to our understanding of ourselves, the less we need to question who we are;  the more we do, the more we can do; the more we surprise ourselves, the more we realise how deep the wells of our capabilities are; the more we decide to take care of ourselves and our dreams, the more we realise what we are individually worth.

Doing it through pain, tears and fears, is still doing it. The toughest journeys make the best stories. Life is a battle that can never be won but must always be fought. We learn that when times get tough, we can be tougher, and that when we can’t always calm the waves presented by both our internal and external lives, we certainly have the ability to show our true resolve and ride the storm.

Amy Xx

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