Sex Hormones I

Much of what I remembered about human sex hormones from school was that testosterone gave men muscles and encouraged them to be emotional surface-dwellers, and that oestrogen gave women boobs and induced periodic mood changes. As it turns out, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Who knew!?

When I finally admitted to myself in July 2016 that I was transgender, I acknowledged that the concept of transitioning, having breached my conscious defences, would almost certainly soon come rushing at me. I started researching sex hormones, amongst many other topics, to be better prepared.

I found oases of material on the internet, ranging from the atrociously bad to the eye-openingly relevant. I found almost countless personal anecdotes, both written stories, and even more Youtube videos. Many of the personal anecdotes were useful in providing me with a human perspective, yet many others were published by people seemingly driven to say something, yet apparently unaware of exactly what they needed to say.

Having gotten my head around the basics of how starting a course of female sex hormones would affect me, I needed to understand the scientific perspective: what exactly would happen to my mind and body? How quickly would it happen? What would be the extent of the changes (or more specifically, how big would my boobs get)?

I discovered an acronym commonly used in the American transgender community that succinctly answers most of those questions: YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Essentially, the extent of any effect on any one particular body is not pre-determined, and therefore cannot be predicted. The ultimate effects depend on a range of factors: your age at the beginning of your transition, your genetics etc. The end results vary in the same way that they do for a cisgender girl entering puberty.

Thankfully several stand-out gems were to be found amongst the detritus. This document jointly published by Vancouver Coastal Health and the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition is one of the most useful that I have found to date.

At the same time as I was spending hours weekly reading and watching and reading and watching, I was also crossing procedural bridges. I have lost count of the number of GP and specialist medical appointments that I have attended over the past 18 months in relation to my transition, but my rough count over the year from September 2016 to August 2017 is at least several dozen.

Thankfully my GP, who I now literally entrust my life to, had referred me to an excellent psychologist for an assessment. That meant spending many hours with him in late 2016, telling my story as best I could, and answering many, many questions about how I saw myself and how I interacted with others. After the final session in my initial series of appointments, my psychologist wrote a report that was sent to my GP. I wasn’t permitted to see the report, but at my follow-up GP appointment in January 2017, I was asked by him if I was ready to start talking about hormones. I smiled a huge smile of relief, and exhaled as if I had never exhaled before. I may have even shed a tear or two.

Mirrors are complicated

Stories like Teagan’s fully dehydrate my eyes every time I watch them. Until this year, I have assiduously avoided mirrors of all shapes and sizes whenever, and whereever, possible. When this approach was unavoidable, like when I was getting my hair cut, I would always cast my eyes downward for the duration, raising them only when my hairdresser announced they were finished, and that they needed me to say yea or nay. Deciding whether to shave or not was a constant dilemma: if I shaved that meant I needed to look at my face in the mirror every morning. If I didn’t, I then had to deal with the inevitable dysmorphia that facial hair produced. It was a lose-lose situation that I struggled with for decades.

I am proud to say that I can now not only look at my face in the mirror without disgust, I am able to observe and admire my changing body in a full length mirror. I even love quite a few of its parts. As time goes by, I am loving more and more of them. It’s a tricky journey, but I know at last I am heading in the right direction.


It’s (all) really complicated

It’s really informative for me to examine closely how differently I respond to a range of situations over time.

Today I went shopping in Tweed Heads by myself for clothes that don’t contravene the Falls Festival WH&S regulations. I bought 7 pieces of women’s clothing, including a bag and a hat. I’m proud to say it was the first time that I very nearly completely didn’t give a flying fuck what anybody thought. The checkout bloke (who could very well have been gay) asked me if that was the last of my Xmas shopping. I proudly declared it was all for me. He was only a tiny bit surprised. Maybe he was largely disinterested.

Five minutes later I needed to go to the toilet because I’m being really good and re-hydrating as much as I can in this hot weather. I’ve been trying to use the disabled toilet whenever I can this year. I’ve always felt uncomfortable walking into men’s toilets, but this feeling has exponentially increased over the year. Today the disabled toilet was already being used, so I needed to use the men’s toilets instead. Thankfully there was no one else in there. Phew I thought … maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal this time. But someone else walked in to the toilets while I was still in my cubicle. I needed to wait until they left before I could escape. My heart pounded and it took all of my self control not to burst into tears from the stress. Thankfully he left after a few minutes, although it seemed closer to ten or fifteen minutes. Does anybody really need to use the hand drier for that long?

I was still a bit misty-eyed ten minutes later when I was sipping my mid-shopping-expedition-latte. My latte was served to me by someone in their early twenties. Their gender was indeterminate to me. Not that this really matters, and it certainly doesn’t matter to me, but it did reinforce the principle that it’s (all) really complicated.