Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Hormonal effects – let’s talk physical (pt1)

Hormones change you. Actually change you. Physically and mentally. You are never gonna become a genetic, cis-female. That is obvious. But that said, holy smoke Batman- you really can make a whole bunch of changes with hormones. I was shocked – both at what I read and what I am experiencing. There are things that can change, and things that cannot. 

I should probably point out real quick what i actually take.First up there are anti-androgens. these stop testosterone being produced. Not completely, too little and you get tired and stuff (as cis-women have some testosterone in their system). So I experimented and have a good dose now which seems to work rather well. Then I also take estrogen. I have two methods, via a patch replaced every few days and also via a gel that I apply twice a day. This means I have a slow, steady release of the stuff compared to other methods like injections once a week say. I think my doses are right for me, although I will get updated blood test results next week but last time my hormone levels were those of an average, healthy cis-female.

Individuals do vary and, thus, so do the results. But a rule of thumb is that any changes you are gonna get really kick in around the 6-12 month mark for m2f, and have done their most at the two year mark. So that is my time scale. I am entering month six. I am happy with the changes so far and I am happy to see what this next 6 months brings!

So, these are what I have noticed to date. I have split it up a bunch to stop it being way to long for a single digest. These are my thoughts, what I think has happened to me – but I have tried to not include changes I hope to see. And I realise that I have tried to explain things without using references i.e. it ain’t so scientific but rather made up of ideas and also reasonable discussion from the internet. The reason – well, there is a lack of scientific data out there. Plus, this is a blog not a paper. I hate writing papers – so I refuse to do so for fun! (Ironically I should actually be writing a paper right now. Ugh.)

So the thing about hormones. The older you are, the less they can change you. Now, some younger folk may have terrible results and some older folks have insanely amazing results. So it is down to the individual. But on the whole, the younger the better. When folks are ‘too young’ to start hormones they are given hormone blockers – to prevent them being dosed with the ‘wrong’ hormones due to puberty. I do think it is right to make sure the person has the mental maturity to make the decision but at the same time studies repeatedly show that trans people tend to know at a very young age. Well, that ethics debate is for another time. But the reason you do not want the ‘wrong’ hormones is, quite simply, because you do not want the irreversible changes associated with those hormones – the things hormones will not change. 
In the m2f case, the big one to my mind is bone structure. Mid-twenties your bone structure fuses into shape. So for me, I have pretty broad chest. Certainly compared to cis-women. I can see my ribs – so I cannot ‘slim down’ any more in this region – the size is ‘fixed’. And girls have wider hips. Again – a structure thing. Height – well, this is something varies but compared to most UK females, I am tall. So heels will be special occasions only because otherwise my height will make me pretty easy to ‘clock’. So there you go. Bones. Oh, and include here; that often ‘tell-tale’ sign – the Adam’s apple. It can be ‘shaved down’ with surgery, but not removed once it has dropped for obvious reasons. Luckily mine is not so prominent. But still, I notice it. (Again, this and the effects below, with the obvious exception, can be put on hold using hormone blockers, so I fully support their use in trans-children.)

So let’s stick with what cannot change for now. Get the ‘bad news’ outta the way first. What else will not change? Well, the obvious things. Sexual reproductive system. To remove the, erm, obvious parts there is surgery. Pretty intense, major surgery but the results can be great for m2f. Now generally you have to wait a long time in the UK before you will be accepted for this. Fair enough in my opinion. As I go on I do think more and more I want it but it is scary. We shall see. That is something for the future. And with that, I will never have the parts needed to give birth. Seems obvious, but I mention it. And I have mixed feeling about this. But let’s move on. Male fertility… hmm. Icky stuff, I will not lie. Let’s say that 'volume' decreases – presumably potency does also and infertility can occur but medical folk do not like to say anything concrete about this so I assume huge differences between folk in this regard.

The voice is another one. To change this you need to train your voice. Put in a lot of hard work. Damn, it is hard to do and I would like to see a voice coach when I get to the UK. For now I practice speaking high – not feminine but high. Just to get used to it. My throat is prone to get raw easily so it hurts like crazy but the practice should be worth it, assuming I am careful. I try to read a chapter or two of my current book out loud as practice. But every few days I need a break – it is so important to not strain and injure your voice. This process is a pain, to be sure.

Next –let’s mix this up. Things that do and do not happen – hair. 

Ok, your beard. Yep, that does not go. Now it does get thinner and lighter and starts to grow slower. But if you want rid of it you need to get it removed. Lazer for the darker hairs (which works best the thicker the hair) and electrolysis for the lighter hair seems to be the general consensus. And as I have advanced, I find myself becoming more obsessed with wanting to have my beard removing. Lazer is better for various reasons but the longer you are on hormones, the less effective it is as the hairs start to grow thinner, decreasing the effectiveness of this method– so the sooner the better. I want it gone so much. I did not at first but more i feel it stand out like this big, huge thing to me and I want it gone! Anyways, I am sorting that. (Oh, the complications. That is another, long story.) Oh, and it will hurt…

Now, body hair. Yep. Pretty quick my body hair started to grow thinner and lighter. As time went on it has become less and less and I am very hopeful that it will bugger off, or at least reach female levels, fairly shortly. My back, arms, shoulder and lower torso now have typical, female type hairs (thin and blond). Even the back of neck (under my hair line) – which is great as said rear hairline rose higher and higher each time I trimmed it! Yes, not all cis-women are the same but this is the level I have reached as someone who does have quite fair hair. My upper chest has reduced loads. It also grows slower and thinner but it is not quite gone yet. I still have to shave once a week to keep it down (way easier than before mind). This should go too but we shall see. Legs and under-arm hair – well. Again, thinner, fairer and slower growth. But these are things cis-women have to remove. And so do trans-women. But, I will say, epilation is now required less frequently and is much easier so it has changed somewhat.

Then, up top hair. So generally it is said that if you are bald, hormones do not make your hair grow back. Male pattern baldness, MPS, is one of those things that once it has happened – it is done. If you start taking hormones (well, the anti-androgens really), then any further hair loss should stop. Now, if the hair follicles have become dormant rather than dead it seems that taking the anti-androgens can allow them to reactivate. i.e. if your hair is not dead but napping then the MPS can be somewhat reversed. But this depends on your hair follicles not being too far gone. I am lucky – again! Over the last six months my thin areas are filling in nicely. My crown is thicker, my front hairline dropping and the temples are filling in. Slowly, but noticeably (so much so that a friend who did not know I am transitioning kept going on about it!). So yes, your hair may return. It may not. Over the next two years I shall cross my fingers and see what happens but I doubt I will need wigs – which I am so happy about. And I think it may just become hide-able. Fingers crossed!!!

The other thing about head hair. It grows thicker. Yep. Females typically have more active follicles at any one time so my hair is thicker than it has been since I was young. And hair grows faster. This is great – so very, very great. Hair was a big worry for me, especially with the MPS that I had. So my hair is making me very happy indeed. Oh, and it also gets way less greasy. Seriously. I used to have to wash my hair every day or it was just gross. But now, I only wash it when I have been to the gym. And if I have not been to the gym, it only needs washing once a week. Such a huge change. I could never understand how my ex washed her hair once a week given how greasy mine got each day. Now I get it!

And why does it get less greasy? Well, I expect because my skin has changed and is also now much less greasy…

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