I know, I’ve not been very active in blogging and for that I apologize. Other social media platforms have taken my focus and also become my primary outlet for my thoughts. But it’s time I get back to this. I started this Blog to help share my experience with other Trans women who start their transitions later in life and I feel like I’ve been letting you down.
March 31 of this year marked my one year anniversary on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). For most trans women, HRT is the starting point for medically transitioning. For me, and I think many trans women who begin their transition in their 40’s it’s also one of the more concerning aspects. We hear how the results are less pronounced after 40. We hear all the warnings of possible health risks that accelerate with taking hormone’s and anti-androgens after 40. For some, myself included, the concerns about whether or not HRT be effective enough and the possibility of real health problems or even death can cause us to consider not transitioning at all.
So as it pertains to my overall transition, I feel it’s important to share my experience over the last year with Hormone Therapy. I’ve been through some ups and downs but I think in the end my journey so far should be encouraging to other trans women considering transition at my age or older. While many of my posts to date have dealt with the emotional, political and social aspects of transition, this post will focus on the more technical aspects (the things early transitioners can easily become overly obsessed with).
So let me start with a disclaimer: I’m going to share some very specific medical information. I am not a doctor, I am not a medical practitioner of any type. What I am sharing are things I learned from my own personal research, from talking with my doctor and from my experience. None of this should be used as a guide for transition without a doctor’s care. Before you use anything I share to shape your own medical transition, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare professionals.
As I said before, I started HRT at the end of March, 2017. I started on a very low dose of Estradiol Estrace tablets and a fairly low dose of Spironolactone as an Anti-Androgen. Where many doctors choose to do baseline labs to measure hormone levels and then decide on dosage, my doctor was content that I was in good enough health to start me on a conservative regimen and check my levels after 2 months. After two months my doctor doubled my dose of both E and Sprio. Over subsequent months, my doses of E continued to increase. However, after 10 months on HRT, while my Testosterone had gone to essentially 0, my E levels were not where me or my doctor wanted them. So in February of this year, I switched to Estradiol Valerate injections. We’re still sorting out the right dose and injection frequency but my E levels are finally above 100 (still lower than where we want them but at least in the target “range”).
I share all this first, because it will provide context for the experiences I’m going to share with you. So let’s talk about the tangible effects:
2 Weeks: I noticed my sweat had lost all of it’s odor. I didn’t perspire as much and even after long workouts I didn’t smell awful the way I used to.
1 Month: My libido was gone, where I used to have a raging libido I now had little interest in sex. Morning and spontaneous erections were a thing of the past. I also noticed my nipples getting sore and the very early stages of breast buds forming.
3 Months: I started to see actual breast growth. Still not enough to fill even a AA bra, but the start was there.
6 Months: Now I’m getting excited, I was seeing some significant improvement in my hair. Where I had very thin hair up front previously it was starting to fill in and even my hair dresser noted how much “new growth” she could see. My breasts were still forming at this point, I was still not quite filling an A cup, but I could get away with A-cup push-up bras without any additional “helpers”. My libido also returned but in a much calmer way. Getting turned on was now a slow process not instantaneous like before. When I would orgasm, it was very intense throughout my whole body. I also discovered with the help of my girlfriend, that I was capable of achieving orgasm through nipple stimulation. It was a very different orgasm though, full body and rolling rather than happening and gone.
9 Months: My breasts started a growth spurt. I was wearing A cup bras very comfortably and starting to overfill a couple of them. I was somewhere between an A and a B. I also noticed my body hair getting lighter and growing more slowly. The little swaths of hair I had on my back were gone all together. The hair on my head was continuing to thicken and grow longer. I stopped wearing wigs in October (8 months), what a relief that was. I noticed my skin was also drier and I was having issues with my nails becoming brittle. My complexion looked much better and my skin over my entire body had gotten much softer. It was about this time that I could really see some of the facial feature changes happening. Nothing conspicuous but subtle little differences.
12 Months: My breasts have continued progressing. I’m now wearing B cup bras and they look really good in push-up bras. My facial features are really becoming noticeable as well. My cheeks are rounder and bigger, my complexion has continued getting better, and my eyes have become more open and almond shaped. Hair all over my body (except my head) is growing much slower now. The combination of hormones and some laser treatments has really cleaned up my arms, torso and legs. I think I’m finally starting to see the beginnings of some body shape changes. I think my hips are starting to get wider (although I’ve also gained some weight so it’s hard to tell). Hopefully now that my E levels are where they need to be, I’ll start seeing more significant changes in that regard.
The emotional aspects of transition have been even more stark for me however. Estrogen does some wonderful and some terrible things. The mood swings are real. I’ve noticed I’ve developed a pretty reliable cycle of ups and downs. I had seen discussion of trans women developing their own cycle, similar to a woman’s menstrual cycle and indeed I’m experiencing that. I get particularly emotional and unstable around last third of the month. It’s crazy. On the good side of things though, I’ve become much more in tune with myself. I have become very self-aware and for the first time in my life I really experience feelings. Emotions always seemed disconnected somehow, but now I feel them in my body. It’s a hard concept to explain but it is wonderful. It’s driven development of significant empathy and that in turn I believe has made me overall a better person.
The mirror is also a thing I no longer fear. Before transitioning I avoided being in pictures. When I saw myself in a photo or in the mirror, I didn’t feel a connection between myself and that person. Now when I see pics of me, or I catch my reflection in a window, there’s an instant recognition that the person I see is me. It’s intrinsic, instinctual and wonderful (I’m sure that’s a feeling that many cis-gender people take for granted).
All this lumped together has really improved my self esteem. I am learning to recognize my own beauty. When I look in the mirror, even with no makeup, I finally see “her”, the real me that’s been hidden. I love who I am becoming as a person physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I feel truly alive and the world is a much less dreadful place as a result.
So finally, I’d be remiss to post a one-year blog without including some before and after progress photos. So here you are. I hope you find what I’ve shared encouraging or inspirational.