Six Months On: Looking at My Experience with HRT

 

 

Writing this, I don’t think my intended audience is the network of other trans people around me. No, we’ve all looked up “what does testosterone do” and “how long does it take X to happen” when we start to get serious about HRT, hormone replacement therapy, and there are many more extensive places to go when looking for a broad overview. To write this, I think I intend it more for the Facebook moms that make up the other 50% of my life, the cis friends who’ve gotten bits and pieces of my transition; ultimately, I haven’t sat down and written out all the weird little things that have come about in the first six months of this, and I think now is a good time to start as any.

So, as a general disclaimer, I do not intend to speak for all experiences. As any trans person will tell you, not all occurrences are universal, and everything happens differently for each person. All that is written here is my own personal experiences, and I in no way mean to present myself as any sort of medical professional.

 

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The Voice

Perhaps the most jarring thing to change was my voice– even now, on six months to the day, I still sound like my pre-transition self with a particularly strong head cold. Because of this, I’m glad I took video of myself speaking every month to listen back on myself. There’s a huge shift from December to January for me, from month 3 to month 4, when my voice goes from slightly deeper to almost downright husky. It makes a lot of January make sense to me, looking back on every friend I ran into or adult I visited who had very physical (positive) reactions to hearing what I now sounded like. My Uber drivers say “have a nice day, young man” now, so something has had to shift!

I can’t say for certain, but I expect/hope it will change further as I learn to speak with this new voice, rather than the voice still inside my head that is used to 18 years of sounding much more feminine. Doing things like taking videos and tracking my voice through apps has been incredibly helpful in alleviating the demon of dysphoria in regards to my voice, especially back in November when I was convinced nothing was happening. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the vulnerability of being in a transitional period, but having consistent and frequent mile markers makes the progress stand out even more.

 

Mood Swings

Right off the bat: my family is no stranger to having some emotional problems. As someone who’s been in therapy twice and had anger issues bubbling under the surface for some years now, this part was more annoying than it was surprising.

There are two particular moments I can pinpoint that mood swings were really apparent, the first being right at the start. I’d guess the better part of the first month was very rocky around my injection day; 5 days of the week I was perfectly normal, and the day before my shot would always be incredibly tense and stressful. I felt generally uncomfortable, skin tight, easily aggravated by nothing particularly upsetting to begin with. Living with two roommates was something that fed into this, as just the sound of other voices would almost leave me crawling the walls of the room we all shared, even though I was fully aware it wasn’t the roommates themselves that were bothering me. I was luckily able to calm myself down by drowning everything out with headphones and music, ride it out until my internal workings got used to the weekly shots and I evened out.

The second time shit hit the fan was during that 3rd/4th month– in very brief summary, I unexpectedly ran out of testosterone whilst out of town, and my college pharmacy, supplier, and hometown pharmacy were all giving me different lip service, and by the time everything got figured out, I’d been forced off my injections for two weeks. It took another few weeks after getting back on for the shakiness to come back, and it came back about as strong as the first few weeks were. I became pretty intensely frustrated with the sound of human voices at night, and friends I generally liked fine would suddenly become completely unbearable to be around in those moments. Though this luckily ended faster than the First Weeks, and I’m now particularly careful to keep an eye on my bottle amounts now.

I also want to note that I’m in the process of getting tested for ADHD, so it’s very possible that none, some, or all of this could be explained away if I come back with a “you definitely got it” on that.

 

Shots & Blood work

I don’t like needles. 6 days and 23 hours of the week, the thought of sticking myself in the leg with a needle makes me physically recoil and squirm. But, here I am?

The weekly injections have mostly gotten better. I’ve got a lot of it down pretty solid– wipe down bottle, withdraw, change the withdraw needle for the injection needle, wipe down leg, stick leg, wait ten seconds before pulling out, wipe down leg again, band-aid. It’s clockwork. Sometimes I don’t get the angle quite right, sometimes the spot I picked out is just particularly bad, and the injection itself is a little more painful than the norm. The spot tends to itch for two to four days after the fact, but never reaches a point where I fear infection, and I take care not to scratch with any type of nail when I do to further prevent that.

It’s possible to do injections in the fat of one’s stomach, but I can say I’ve done that exactly one time, and I won’t ever do it again unless I lose both of my legs in some horrible accident. I have nothing but respect for my friend who does his injections in the stomach every week, because that is just something I cannot handle even the smallest bit. Heads up for the squeamish here, but the stomach shot does come with having to hear the needle puncture the fat. It sucks.

The blood work is drastically less frequent, but just as squirmy. Thus far, I’ve had to have my blood drawn for testing three times. The first two were to test my testosterone levels, and this most recent one was to check in on something to do with my liver levels (something I’m told is typical for trans people, and benign), and every time it’s a special type of painful as it’s done in the arm, and they take more than one vial. Even talking about it here makes me tense up if I’m honest, so I’ll spare us all from focusing on it any longer.

 

The Body Changes

I promise not to go into any gross, too-personal details here.

Foremost, my acne levels have exploded in the past six months. According to my friend, who is roughly a month ahead of me, the acne is supposed to even out again after one year. To say I’m excited for this is the highest of understatements. As a teenager, even though my skin was never as unrealistically clear as my sister’s, I was lucky enough to only have a max of three or four zits at a time; having dry skin was the larger problem for me. But now that I’m going through this second puberty, my face is in a constant state of acne ranging from baby zits to giant spots of weeks-lasting sores. It hurts, it’s ugly, and it makes me feel unpleasantly 15 again. My skincare routine can’t really do much in the way of stopping it, mostly rather it can put a slow to the onslaught.

I’m not going to lie, it was initially hard to judge the level of facial hair growth. Even pre-transition, I just had a baby mustache to deal with, because I have some hairy, hairy genes in me. But now that I’ve picked up shaving, I can definitely say there’s more than there ever was before. I think my mom and I noticed my first chin hair within hours of each other, sometime early January. My goal is still a lovely little beard like the kind my dad can grow, but I’m nowhere near that yet, so at this point shaving exists to try and catch the rest of my face up to my upper lip. I think my leg and pit hair has been maxed out for a while now, and I’ve been nursing some stomach hair for some time as well; again, that’s always kind of been there, but it’s now significantly exaggerated six months on.

I can’t say there have been a lot of other bodily changes that a) I’ve been able to particularly notice, or b) I’m going to talk about on a public blog; everything behind the boxers is staying there and staying dark. I’ve read that it’s possible for the chest-area to shrink, but my chest never really had anywhere to go to begin with, and I’ve noticed next to nothing different there. My periods were one of the first things that went away, which, yes, that has been undeniably great.

My weight and any change there is hard to judge. I can’t safely say if the 15 pounds I’ve put on is that Freshman 15, or the result of my taking testosterone. It’s made going to the gym a little weird– I don’t want to unleash my bass-y voice on some unsuspecting stranger who sees me in a sports bra and assumes woman, and I’m not muscle-bound enough to be my own security force yet.

 

Ultimate Overview

Despite being aware of my trans-ness to some level for the better part of four years now, the past few months have been something of a wake up call. It’s one thing to know, in your mind, that you’re a man and to need to look like a cis person for your state of mind. It’s something else entirely to now be mostly passing, but to now deal with the previous 18 years of socialization as a female. I’m now dealing with people who genuinely might have no idea that I’m not a cis man, and that was a reality I don’t think I’d fully prepared for until it was upon me.

There are obviously still a lot of things that I want to happen, but for the first six months of completely changing my physical self, I’m really happy with how fast some things have kicked in. I consider myself very lucky in that aspect. And while I don’t intend to look at chest surgery very seriously for another few months, I’m very optimistic about going into the future with these first steps now firmly under my belt, and I know that I have a very strong support network behind me no matter what happens when.

 

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– Logan Kisner, March 2019

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