The effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy as they apply to the transgender community are still being collected and documented. However, there is enough information available for those looking to start to know the overall certainties that come with beginning the process. Regardless of that being the case, one truth will likely always be a constant: Your mileage will vary.
With that said, I’ll be sharing as much as I deem relevant for educational purposes about the effects of HRT as they apply to my physiology and psychology. For the sake of optimal reading, I’ve decided to separate them into multiple parts as well.
The effects of HRT are specific to my genes and are not representative of what may or may not happen to your body. Though not always possible in many cases due to the nature of healthcare & medical awareness, I highly recommend seeking medical and/or professional assistance before taking any dosage as blood pressure, hormone imbalance, & kidney issues are some potential threats that should be monitored. As stated prior, your mileage will vary.
Now that that’s out the way, let’s start from the beginning for those not in the know.
What is HRT?
The official medical definition is:
Treatment with estrogens with the aim of alleviating menopausal symptoms or osteoporosis.
However, we are definitely NOT using that definition since that is the reason many trans people are hindered by a doctor they may have trusted for many years due to their medical education overriding our attempts to offer transgender education. It’s worth mentioning that being refused treatment by one’s long-time doctor is sadly a very common scenario.
So let’s use Wikipedia’s definition instead:
Hormone replacement therapy for transgender or gender variant individuals, also sometimes called cross-sex hormone therapy, is a form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in which sex hormones and other hormonal medications are administered to transgender or gender variant individuals for the purpose of synchronizing or more closely aligning their secondary sexual characteristics with their gender identity.
Basically, it’s a medically-induced puberty meant to increase the presence of either testosterone or estrogen in the body while reducing or stomping out the other all together in order to more accurately align one’s body and mind to who they are. Effects are obviously more successful with children or teens who have come to terms with their identity before or during puberty. However, those who have already have completed puberty, like myself, are still able to benefit and ultimately achieve a “second puberty”.
How Did I Begin HRT?
After blood tests, a full physical, and multiple consulting sessions with a LGBT-specialized therapist – all over the course of about 4-5 months – I was cleared by a medical professional to begin my first low dosage of Spironolactone (often shortened to “spiro”) and Estradiol on May 20, 2014. This private doctor took approximately 30 minutes to drive to within my state with a higher co-pay than your everyday doctor. He was very personable and frequently said how any doctor could attain the knowledge of how to monitor and aid their patient in this process. Given that I received a number of print-outs from him, including a small packet of the certain effects of estrogen and T-blockers on my body, I very much believe him.
A person must intake two types of drugs daily to begin shifting their hormonal levels: The hormone itself – estrogen [E] or testosterone [T] – and the hormonal suppressant. As I’m only familiar with the [T]>>[E] transition, I’ll only speak on that. Spiro is taken to stop production of existing testosterone to make way for Estradiol, which is basically the female hormone, estrogen. There are other variants that do the same thing, but those two seem to be most common.
Pills are less expensive and are said to work slower due to having to be absorbed into the bloodstream. As you’d probably guess, a shot is more expensive but effects are said to be more potent due to direct access to the bloodstream. My dosage was raised two or three times as my body adjusted to the hormonal shift until set at the amount I’ve currently taken for the past 2 years.
Why is HRT Important?
- Reason #1:
- When I came to terms with my gender identity, I was going on 27. I had little knowledge of the healthcare system, but I knew that my mother had warned me that this would be my last year on her plan. I had used her insurance to quietly see an LGBTQ+-focused therapist and I knew I should try to find a medical professional who could help me move forward.
- Reason #2:
- At the time, I was doing okay financially, but still not great. Gender dysphoria had been running rampant for years and this would help by either decreasing my emotional suffering or, if I were so fortunate, killing it completely. This would be the most reasonable first step towards aligning who I was inside to the outside.
- Reason #3:
- Through prior research, I knew that in order to change my gender marker and be cleared for Gender Reassignment Surgery (what many tend to refer to as “the surgery”), I would have to show medical proof that I had received consent from a medial professional or therapist and have been on estrogen for 2 years minimum. HRT, obviously, would make that possible if and when I was able.
- Reason #4:
- As it applies to youth, HRT is absolutely instrumental in halting development that would otherwise occur through a natural puberty. Depending on how old they are when they realize their gender identity, a medical professional can either start them on HRT, or, more commonly, suppress hormonal development by use of “puberty blockers used to suppress the endogenous pubertal changes that quite often worsen the individual’s gender dysphoria. In addition, by not being exposed to one’s own sex hormones, cross hormone therapy is even more effective at achieving the desired physical appearance in gender transition.”
Starting the process for HRT as soon as possible while I was still benefitting from my mother’s healthcare was absolutely number one on my list. Three years later, getting cleared for HRT is still one of the most memorable moments in my life and it has done wonders for me physically, mentally, and emotionally. At least, as much as could be done for someone well past their natural puberty. A few caveats do exist – will go into those in future parts – but I really can’t stress the importance of healthcare that allows for this option to be made available for trans youth and adults. To receive proper medical treatment without fear of discrimination is so very important in paving the way for future developments in aligning one’s body to their mind.
Have you been able to start HRT? Have you experienced any hurdles in the process? Any opinions on the current state of healthcare as they apply to the LGBTQ+ community? Let me know in the Comments! Also, please be sure to “LIKE” this post if you enjoyed it!
In my next entry, I’ll be going over physiological changes I’ve gone through due to HRT. Be sure to subscribe to be notified on future posts!
Thank you very much for reading. Until next!
- Reason #1: