I will be discussing here the effects of female hormones on my body. I will avoid being gratuitous but I will be candid – if you are uneasy reading about these effects, just skip this one.
If you are reading this in hopes of learning dosages with the intent of “doing it yourself” I will not list dosages and would discourage you from self medicating – please go through your doctor – you can really screw yourself up by DIY. If you have questions, please comment below and I will answer as best I can.
(This is one of the last pictures of me from “Before”)
January 19th marked one year on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) (AKA “The Pink Cloud”)
1/19/13 – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared as I sat alone in my big empty house. I had seen my doctor earlier in the week and received my prescriptions for 3 different medications.
- A Testosterone blocker
- Estrogen (Estradiol)
The T-Blocker was in pill form and the hormones are a transdermal cream that is made in a compounding pharmacy.
I take the prescribed dosage twice a day, once in the morning and again before bed.
I had done a lot of reading about the effects of these medications and had lengthy discussions about them with my therapist and physician. Still, I was apprehensive. The effects of these are permanent. No going back.
What effects? Well, among others, breast growth (yay!), softening of the skin but dryer due to less oil produced, sterility and a severe lessening of the libido as well as difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection (like I care) and shrinkage. (Awesome!) There are many others as well, like a slow redistribution of fat in the body and some areas of hair growth will slow or diminish, like on the back and some arm or leg hair, but male pattern baldness will be interrupted. Then there are the mental changes – which are flat out amazing!
These are all general and not a complete list – everyone has a different reaction to the therapy – we are all individuals, so your results may vary. Generally, the younger you are, the more dramatic the results you will see. Starting at my age – I didn’t have terribly high hopes.
2 heartbreaking areas that are not affected at all are: Facial hair and voice.
Was I sure?
Yes, I was sure. It’s a year later – I’m still sure, more-so now than ever.
So, I swallowed my first t-blocker and applied the hormone cream and…nothing happened…nothing at all. It takes a long time for the effects of the hormones to kick in. Not as much for the T-blocker. The original use for this drug is as a medication to treat high blood pressure. So someone like me with low-normal blood pressure needs to be careful standing up too quickly. It’s also a pretty efficient diuretic. The first few weeks were the toughest adjustment. I was having to pee every 30 minutes it seemed. I have since adapted…the only lingering effect is that when you think you are done peeing…you are NOT done peeing.
Other than that, there are no real “immediate” effects other than the psychological effect of finally being on the right hormones for my body. My brain knew it immediately.
2 weeks in, my nipples began to feel itchy and tingly. I’m getting up every few hours to pee.
By mid February of 2013 – I am finding that my emotions are more readily available. I cry pretty easily now. I also feel good – right. Sometimes euphoric. A significant lessening of the dysphoria I’ve felt for so long.
2/18/13 I saw my doc and she said I am tolerating the hormones well and upped my dosage.
So, one month in, the noticeable effects are tender breasts that are also itchy and tingly, (Not an itch you can scratch) as well as a sense of well-being.
By the end of February – 6 weeks in, I can feel little breast buds and some visual difference –though not much…but something!
(March ’13 – my first “girl” haircut)
March 3rd – I am noticing that I don’t need to shower every day and I only need to wash my hair maybe twice a week. This is a big departure from every day. My body smell is different – better.
My sex drive is much diminished. I crave companionship, but there isn’t the same drive at all. (Not that I was ever a horn dog before)
3/9/13 – I ran in a 4K for work (I wasn’t out yet) so was hoping my growing boobs didn’t show under my shirt. Since it was a weekend day I had been out earlier and didn’t bring make-up remover, so I just wore sunglasses!
Mid March – I begin to notice that it is difficult if not impossible to lose weight on Estrogen…where before I could melt the weight. (Gee, is it just me? Or does the beauty and fashion industry pressure women to be thin? Oh yeah, the breakfast cereal and yogurt industry and…you get the picture)
April marked a bit of a milestone in my transition – as a matter of fact it was one of the more eventful months in my life. April marked 3 months since I started HRT. The 3-6 month period is perhaps the single most visually evident time of change. Breasts are really beginning to make themselves present and subtle changes to my face happened, so subtle that I can’t say exactly what it was that changed, it’s just different. In April, I lost my job which was and continues to be traumatic…but I also decided that would be a good time to be Leslie full time and I have been ever since.
(Leslie in April – full time – no looking back now!)
May – Hugs hurt! Ouch. Breasts are very tender. Even a soft t-shirt can be irritating. I’m really battling my weight. I wrote in my journal that I thought I could GAIN weight on the show “Survivor”!
From my journal is a note to myself. It reads: “Sweet Leslie girl, enjoy the ride…you’ve dreamed the dream…enjoy watching it come true.” I wrote that during a particularly difficult and impatient time in my transition. Good words of advice.
End of June – I wore a bikini in public for the first time and received some nice compliments. I liked the experience, but I’ve never felt so exposed!!
(June of ’13 – I love roses)
July – got my blood work back from my HRT doctor – my Testosterone levels are almost too low to measure. About what would be found in a woman of child bearing age – same for my Estrogen. Just right.
(By July – I’m beginning to see a lot of changes)
End of July – The effects of HRT showed when I tried to lift or move things that I used to be able to move fairly easily…now it’s a real chore! My upper body strength while still there is ebbing away at a steady rate as the muscle mass diminishes.
Late August from my journal I am now 7 months on HRT – I commented on how content I am. The inner torment that had been a constant companion has greatly diminished. I also noted that the growth of my breasts seems to be starting again and I am very happy with their shape. While I’d been wearing them for some time now, I was finally properly fitted for a bra – between a 36 and a 38B – I don’t fill the cups but I’m getting there.
(From August, one of my favorite pictures of me – do I seem to be getting younger?)
September – 8 months on HRT – this stuff sneaks up on you…I notice for the first time that I have a butt! It was always flat as a pancake – but now I’m seeing some shape and definition to it. I finally look decent in jeans.
I’m also noticing that I have a clear cycle and when I am on the peak Estrogen dosage each month, my emotions are much closer to the surface. My room mate knows to stay away from sappy movies during that time (the week leading up to the full moon) or she will just throw me a box of Kleenex before hitting “play.”
September 12th from my journal: “I had gotten up and made coffee. I hadn’t put make-up on and had my hair in a messy ponytail. I happened to glance in the mirror and a pretty girl looked back at me.” This was a really important moment and gave me a “whoo!” feeling in my stomach. I didn’t yet have that feeling every day, but nearly every one of us feels like that day will never come – but it will.
In spite of significant and unrelenting challenges, I am very happy to finally be living as the person I’ve always known myself to be.
September 20th – Major day in my life – not connected to HRT directly but this would not be possible without it. This was the day my name and gender were legally changed. (corrected) I am now and forever Leslie McMurray a female. Yay!
(Now LEGALLY Leslie – Happy Day))
October 1st – Putting on a skirt today, I noticed it sat differently. Lower. On my hips. The way it’s supposed to. Wow, I am developing hips. Not the skeletal design of a female (that doesn’t change) but instead of storing fat around the middle, it’s migrating and I’m becoming more female shaped.
Hormones are funny that way – months go by and …nothing. The suddenly…boom! Hips! Or butt!
Mid October – I saw my HRT doc for the last time – (she is leaving her practice) and she was very complimentary which meant a lot to me. Her yardstick for determining success in HRT (for transgender individuals) is this: Do you think differently? Do you feel like you are a woman? Yes to both.
Late October – I had a session with my therapist and I had brought a laptop with pictures I had taken of me every month since starting HRT. These are in a montage set to music. As I played these for her, we both ended up with tears on our face. Looking at the difference is profound. One day to the next, you don’t see it – but looking at nearly 10 months of it in just about a minute is astounding. What a difference.
(Being silly in my Halloween costume)
Mid-November – even waking up 1st thing in the morning – no make-up, hair in a ponytail…I see all girl looking back. The skin on my shoulders and back feels like it’s another person, not me. It’s so soft. My breasts are developing nicely – but slowly (finally have the hint of cleavage). I won’t know the ultimate finish for a couple of years yet.
January 19th 2014 rolled around and as I look back – I look nothing like the scared girl who started on HRT a year ago. No doubt about it, hormone therapy changes a lot – but much remains un-changed.
(January ’14 – a work in progress)
Although I’ve been known to refer to HRT as a “slow motion miracle” and in some ways it is – hormone therapy can only do so much. It’s often said it can give, but it can’t take away. It can give you breasts, but it can’t take away a deep voice. (Practice can help though) It can change the shape of your face in subtle ways, but it can’t make your beard quit growing. (Electrolysis can)
It is not a small step. You are changing your body chemistry and causing irrevocable changes to your appearance and function. You need to take care of yourself and understand that this is something you will be taking for the rest of your life. If HRT is something you may be considering to deal with Gender Dysphoria, I’d recommend seeing a competent therapist and a medical doctor experienced in working with Trans* patients.
Hormone therapy didn’t make me a woman. I have always been, as long as I can remember. But what it has done is greatly lessen the familiar feeling of discomfort from “nature’s little prank” when I see myself in the mirror.
I never imagined that my mind could find peace like this. The changes are many, physical, mental and emotional. It’s a big deal and I love every minute of it.
Now, if I could just remember where I put my keys.