Saturday, 13 December 2014

Hormonal effects – more physicality (pt2)

My skin was actually the first thing that changed – and did so relatively quickly. As I say, it got less greasy real quick – to the point where it dries out easily. So easily in fact that if I have not moisturised my legs and arms within the last two days I get major, major itching occurring as my skin dries. I always thought females were crazy, using lotion all the time. Now I get it. It is required. This is one routine I have not quite got used to, but I shall. I also have to stick cream all over my face a lot and especially my eyes. Around my eyes dry out really easily – which leaves the skin sore as heck. Oh – and just so the guys know, you DO need different moisturisers for different areas. My body has one, my face another, one for my hands and a final for my eyes. This is essential for me these days – so folks, do not question your female other half on the amount spent on creams. Essential. 
The other thing that has changes about my skin: the softness. It is so much softer. Oh, so beautifully soft – I love it! I noticed this even before I realised I needed regular moisturiser I should point out! I have read that females have thinner skin, and this accounts for the changes in grease and softness somehow. I have no idea of the science behind that but I’ll go with it. Plus, other girls often mention my complexion, that it looks amazing. In truth I never quite understand the term complexion. But apparently, that has changed and is great. I’ll take that.

An odd little extra thing – veins. So if my skin has gotten thinner, you would expect my veins to stand out more, right? Well – they don’t. I used to have really prominent veins on my arms, hands, feet and legs. But it is like my veins are dropping down, into the bulk of the body. I have read this would happen but it is really difficult for me to work out why. On the plus side, it helps these areas look more feminine so it is great. Veins popping out everywhere is a really gross, masculine thing. So I am very pleased about this.

I do wonder whether the reason the veins are less prominent is because they have actually shrunk. I have heard this said, and also discredited. There could be something to it though, as females (on average) have smaller muscles than males and thus i expect would require less blood supplied to them. In my mind, this makes sense. But I am a material scientist, not a biologist so it is only an educated guess.

Wait – so I am saying women have smaller muscles and thus implying that my muscles have shrunk with that last paragraph. Well, yes. I was still climbing for a few months into my transition and I felt my strength going. My arms are now nearly half the width they were and my shoulders, neck and chest muscles have shrunk a lot. My leg muscles too – I have slowed down with cycling and running even though I never stopped doing either. I have had to start carrying less shopping when I buy food as it was getting so heavy. I do not want to get into a feminism debate – but this was something I noticed pretty early. Heck, my tee-shirts all hang off me now and that is not because I have lost upper body fat – I didn’t really have any so it must be muscle! I know there are a bunch of cis-female climbers out there that were always stronger (and way better) than me. But there is a reason why testosterone is banned for female athletes, and why males and females compete in sports separately. Yer. So this became real clear real quick. And my reaction was to take a break from climbing. I love climbing – I really do. And I have not given it up. But, as my body is changing, and so too are my muscles, I figure I should let my body 'reset' a little. So I will start again once I am happy with where I am and then work on building muscle strength with more female muscles. Whilst I am in-between, I think that the reset time is a good idea. But that is just my idea. And I miss climbing – but that time is currently taken with compulsive gym trips, for a similar reason.

The similar reason – body fat. Male and female body fat distribution is different – which should be obvious to anyone that has ever used eyes and seen a male and a female adult. The main differences – well. It hits the belly a lot for men, and somehow fills around the waist. Not really sure where else tbh – I have never had loads. But with women it hits hips, thighs and ass. This is what gives women curves. And so, yes: as you transition the fat redistributes. My ass is bigger than it has ever been and my thighs and hips are starting to expend. This is no bad thing – a female body is, after all, my aim! But how different is it – well my jeans (yes, skinny blacks, obviously) do not fit right any more. Or my sports pants. My ass pulls the pants out and round and everything just twists into the wrong place. It is really noticeable to me – but I refuse to buy new clothes just yet as my body is still changing. Clearly I cannot do this for two years, I will have to start investing in clothes. But for now it is fine. Just a little awkward. Plus, a couple of pairs of pants, the ones I wear the most, were expensive and I want my gosh darn monies worth! 
How does this redistribution of fat work? Well, from what I read – and it makes sense to me – you burn off male fat deposits over time. Slowly I should point out, as women have slower metabolisms. (Just the way it is. Men do lose weight easier.) And any new fat goes to the female areas. Cool. Course, that sorta means you need to burn off all the male fat AND eat a load of fatty stuff (and I have started craving fatty foods which is not like me). Hmm. So at present I am trying for the ‘reset’ for fat too. I am dieting and hitting the gym loads to get rid of the fat. So far I can see the middle fat going - which means that I am starting to develop something of a waist! Add this to the increasing ass, hips and thighs and I think my figure is actually getting feminine. To the point that I threw on a figure hugging dress the other day and for the first time my body seemed to work with the shape of it – I didn’t just look like a bloke in a dress. WOOHOO!!!! This is so great. Love it love it love it! Oh – I should point out. I am trying to get rid of the male fat asap before x-mas. Dieting and running like crazy. The reason – to get rid of all my male fat and then pig out over the Christmas holiday to build up those feminine curves!!! (Again, disclaimer. This is my idea and probably never advised by a dietician. But, you know, sod ‘em.)

So with the muscle and fat changes, there are other areas that are affected even though they may not be obvious. Arms are obvious for loosing muscle and legs are the same. You also gain some fat in these areas – allowing them to round out a little and look more feminine. Same with the face: you lose muscle and gain some fat – hopefully creating a more rounded face.

I do feel like my face as changed. It is odd as I know it pretty well - I have had it a long time. I see it every day and it is hard to really judge changes. A friend recently said that is looked less angular and more rounded without me leading him to those terms, and having not seen him for way too long. So I feel that the changes I read about are happening. My complexion, as I say, has changed a little. And, last week I noticed that my lips look bigger. Seriously, just a bit more pouty. Nice. With my hair cut into a female style and my hair line dropping, these things are really bringing my face together. This is why I am obsessed with the idea of getting rid of my beard – it really spoils the look. But I think that once this is done and my hair is coloured I will be close to being able to confuse people even without makeup. Makeup is the final icing. It is amazing the difference that is made with a little of the stuff. Even when I dressed pre-transition it really transformed how I looked. With the changes that are taking place – well – maybe, just maybe I can get away with passing in public. Fingers crossed. Either way, so exciting. And the changes, well, I love them. Little and subtle though they may be. They are amazing and this is all worth it for that! Add to better hair growth, body shape and boobs and, well, I am one very happy girl.

Oh yes. Boobs. Best for last? Well, not really. I have never really been that obsessed with boobs. I have made jokes down the years that one day I will get boobs and never leave the house (the first part of which I was actually serious about folks!). Some girls transition and immediately get surgery, buying a pair of double Ds as soon as possible to prove their femininity. Me, well, I just plan to see what happens. I want to look proportional (with my wide chest and all), and have ‘something’ there. But big boobs do not mean feminine to me. I always checked out a girls hair, then shoes, then figure. Rarely I noticed the ‘rack’, unless it was presented in a hard to miss way of course.

So what happens with boob growth then? Well, just like a teenage girl really. Glands develop behind the nipple (which get bigger) – growing into a hard lump behind and making it hurt like crazy. Yes, hurt like crazy. Ow ow ow. For ages moving too fast or knocking them led to a lot of pain. Seems that 14 year old girls are tough! Now the pain has reduced but I am at the stage where it is harder to hide them under tight gym tops. Also, running causes bouncing. So I have ordered my first sports bra – both to hide them and keep them swinging around (they may be little but they are big enough to hurt!). As for what to expect from them? Well, with most trans-females, especially transitioning in later life, an A or B is probably a guide – but again it depends on the person. They say you can expect a cup size smaller than your female relative but in my case I doubt it will go that far. Actually, I kinda hope it doesn’t… if I get to a decent B I will be really happy. Assuming my mind does not change and I get myself doubles Ds at some point… 

But then, I guess that depends on how my mental aspects develop too…

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…

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

How I went about it

So I had emailed the psych guy. I spoke to him and arranged an appointment. I went along. And I was nervous. In the back of my mind I thought that I was just creating the situation in my head. That I am not really a trans female. That it was some sort of psychotic scenario run wild in my mind. And so I wanted to know what an expert thought. I also made my mind up not to lie. To be honest and not play games. I had told him I thought I was transsexual via email. Why lie? I'm not great with honesty but now I am trying to be as honest as possible with everyone (maybe too much information!). So I was direct. I told him all I have written in previous blog entries. And he listened. And it felt great to let out 30 years of secrets and 'thoughts'. He said I should defiantly continue sessions - that I was clearly trans. But also that I should deal with my depression first, to which end he pointed my to a shrink and I got some tablets that stopped the psychoses in my head that prevented me being normal. 

And as my head cleared, my therapist helped me talk through my trans issues. I realised that it was not all some sort of crazy fantasy in my head. And, truth be told, I was so glad. I feel I am a female so much that I am glad it is not all just a mental scenario I invented.
There are thought processes available around the web for deciding whether or not you are really trans. Now, I will only run though the first two of a set of 5, but it will explain my feeling above. The first: if there was a button you could press and, bam, you are female - would you press it. Yes. Oh heck yes. Ok, two: if there was a button you could press and all the transgender thoughts, the GID, would disappear. You would be a 'real' man. Would you press it? Wow. No. absolutely no way. I am who I am and love that. I just need some help becoming more me. So, I guess, that is the crux of being trans. 

Right, so I ain't crazy. So what does this mean for me and what do I do??? Well, clearly it means that I NEED to transition. Cripes DM. Can I do this? Had I transitioned when I first realised I should, back at the end of my first degree, then I could have dealt with it a bit easier i think, logistically speaking. But now here I am. I have a career. And this could have an effect on that, which I will discuss at a later point. And then I have to tell folk. I know I will not get hate but I do not want to be seen as the odd ball. The statistical trans from the group. I do not want my friends and family to see me differently. (Ha. Now I do - I am a girl, damnit. Lie and tell me I'm pretty!) So what do I do? Seems pretty obvious what I should do. The evidence is there and the psych is agreeing with me. Hmm.
Sign one: one of my favourite bands is called Baby Chaos. They became Deckard after two albums, and changed the style slightly. The first Deckard album was hard to get. But, earlier this year - as I am deciding whether to transition - I find the album (avid collector that I am). I buy it and it arrives. I had never heard it before and it did not disappoint. But, one of my fav bands for 20 odd years and I have only just filled the gap in my collection?!?! And on it there is a song called Christine. A song about a friend of the singer struggling to decide whether or not to transition. The refrain "I want this, but how do you know for sure. I want this, I want this change". Yep. Sign one.

Sign two: I head into a comic shop in Seattle. The best city in the world ever. I pick up a title and that prompts the woman that works there asks if I have read Locke and Key. "No, never heard of it." "Buy it, you'll love it" "OK." I pick it up and a girl walks by and says "oh, that is the best book ever." Wow, two great recommendations. Then till dude tells me it is amazing as well. Three folk now. Must be good. So the next morn, over coffee, I begin to read. And I do not leave till I have finished volume 1 even though I am finally in my dream city and about to embark on my first day of sightseeing. That good! And more, in it there is a key. Use it, and enter / exit the closet and you swap gender. Just like that. The thing of my dreams. Well, therein lies sign two (and my next tattoo). 

So two signs down and 5 months of therapy and my doc tells me he will refer me to a doctor for hormones. "Oh, do you think I should transition then?" "Oh, yes. Absolutely. You are a clear case of a trans-female." Again, wow. My hopes confirmed. Note, I did not say fears, even though the implications are huge. Yer. So a few weeks later I am on the train to the doc. I am sweating like crazy with anxiety and cause it was like 30 degrees. After all this, what if this doctor says he does not think I should go ahead? And on the train I realise the latest Against Me! Album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is available on Spotify - pretty much just available. I had read all about the singer coming out as a trans-woman and how the new album was all about her life struggle with GID. And here it is, turning up for me to listen to on the way to the gynaecologist. Sign three right there.

And then there is the big life lesson. Something that was at the front of my mind, and clear in my thoughts on that train. Life is short. You have no control over it. You have no idea what will happen. You climb a mountain and you may fall off. But if you cross the street you may get ploughed down. You stay at home and you can die of any number of diseases. We have no control. In many ways I cannot think that there is some kinda fate thing all around us, even though it does not fit with science. When your time is up, it is up. And so you have to make the most of it. Love life. Live how you want to live. Do all you can and if something may make you happy without hurting others, do it. Do not get hung up on fear and worry. Cause you stop yourself becoming happy and add to the sad. I am not saying go crazy and do anything you want. But when you know there is something you need to do – you need to do it. 
The death of a very dear friend a year before I began my transition taught me this. A friend who loved and lived life to the max. A friend I lost years of time with due to misunderstandings. And when we overcame the silliness it was like old times. One of my dearest friends whom I could tell anything. I could be completely honest and open. One of the few people that knew, maybe better than me, who I was. I learnt a hard, but amazing and important lesson from her. I just wish I could share the good times as a result. I cannot, so instead I just thank her for helping me come to terms with myself and remember all the crazy, fun times we had. Love you so much xxx

So I go in to the docs office. I wait. I talk to the doc, who is real nice, and he says that mentally I am ready for hormones! OK, that is two experts now. I am really not crazy (in that way at least). So, now for a physical. ...What?!?!? Just strip down. Eeeeep. My gross body. Oh, and I am wearing some cute bloody pink knickers that I never thought anyone would see. Well, I strip to me knickers and have a full physical. So uncomfortable but needs to be done. Haha. Oh man. That freaked me out. Anyways. I have blood taken and then he says "right. These are ant-androgens. They block your testosterone. Take one three times a day. This is an oestrogen patch. Stick it on your belly and swap twice a week. This is oestrogen gel. Two squirts applied to leg or belly twice a day." 

And that is it.


Without ceremony. 

Hormones. The things that will make my body come closer to the way my mind perceives myself. 

Just right there. 

So I go home. Hormones in my bag and mind racing. What do I do? Crunch time. I knew this is what I wanted but now it is here and, honestly, I was not expecting it. This takes me from transvestite to transsexual if I want to apply labels. I am altering my body. Woah.

So I get home and look at the meds. I translate the safety sheets. And I am in a little bit of shock. Well, bugger it, I have them now. Patch on. This will make me a girl. Gel applied. This is the start of the journey. I wake up the next morning. No changes yet. But I take the ant-androgens and apply the gel. Excitement mixed with trepidation. Honestly, I was not quite mentally prepared. Even after 30 years. 

One month later, my mind is ready. I take pleasure in popping the pills. I love applying the gel. And each new patch is just full of the crazy hormonal goodness my body craves. And a further 5 months on, I still get excited every time I apply or take my hormones. 

And the changes. Oh. Yes. I love the changes...