September 21st, 2019 marked thirteen months of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for me. It’s been a wild ride, so instead of tweeting about it I figured I’d blog for a change.
Anxiety & Dysphoria
One concept I try to tell people who ask me about HRT is: everyone is different. Folk will react differently to different treatments. We may have different problems, and have different solutions. Everyone walks their own path. But still, hearing or reading one’s experiences can help another to figure their own self out.
For me, I didn’t really have what I felt was perceivable dysphoria. I didn’t know for sure from when I was like, three. Honestly, I was okay or at least able to tolerate many things. But the more I studied and accepted myself, the more the fog lifted, allowing me to see how messed up I was. How long I’d been dealing with problems that have a viable solution. It’s frightening and very exhausting to be increasingly aware of your own dysphoria. Even worse when you think it’s “just in your head”, that you might be causing yourself to feel that way to fit in with friends or some-such.
Another issue I had to deal with was my anxiety. And honestly, for the longest time I thought this was my sole problem. Perhaps when this was addressed, I could re-analyze and adjust my path to not want HRT anymore. An opportunity came about when we were going to visit Nikki’s family, and I had some Xanax to alleviate my anxiety for the plane ride. The anxiety was lifted! And yet, my anxiety was just a hood or a mask for the real problem, which I now felt in spades: the nightmare that is dysphoria.
As a kid, I didn’t think much about gender. Sure, I knew the extremely simplified differences in one’s sex. But none of that really applied to me–I was just me! Unfortunately, as you grow up society has a penchant for putting you into gradually more boxes. I was boxed along with the guys, and in many ways wound up punished any time I deviated from that box. Bullied, mistreated, and forced back into those boxes that I didn’t fit into. But neither did I fit fully into society’s boxes for girlhood. So, I hid.
Years of prayer, asking to “be normal”, did nothing. No one else I knew had these problems. The Internet, at the time, wasn’t at all a decent resource for figuring things out. Back then, my Dad claimed he wasn’t anti-gay, but he wasn’t supportive either. My Mom never spoke against what he’d say, so I felt I couldn’t address it with them. I’d already had a teacher who’d given me hell for being a lefty. It was easier for her to teach how to write cursive with the right, so now I’m ambidextrous. Strange benefits?
I couldn’t go to my parents. Nor the school. Church was absolutely out of the question. The Internet wasn’t helpful at all when you didn’t know what to look for to begin with. And the media, TV shows, movies, etc. would always make a fool out of anyone breaking outside of gender norms, crossdressing, or transitioning. I just wanted to be accepted for who I was, and didn’t want to lose anyone’s approval. So, I hid. I buried these feelings deep, and separated myself as best I could from them. From my truth.
Over my lifetime, a few people brought up similar problems and feelings to what I’d had. Putting my trust into them, I’d explain how I felt to make a connection–to validate one another. Any time my depression or anxiety got too bad, I’d let myself drift deep into my mind. In here would be a main land and an island, separated by a river. If I was feeling okay, the river was calm. If not, the river would rage and thrash. On the island was another me, but different. I would reach out to my “other”, and together we would calm the river. This helped me to calm my conscious mind and process whatever emotion I had to deal with.
When I started HRT, I was able to see this inner world one more time in a dream. The island was rejoined to the mainland. The river that had once torn the two apart was now a gentle stream, which supplied a lake. I looked around for my other, and when I found them I saw what amounted to a “#goals” version of myself. Her happy smile was reflected into the mirror in front of me.
Since starting HRT, my once overwhelming anxiety has been blown away. Sure, I still get anxious, but it’s about things one should probably be anxious about. I have my bad days, and good days–but both are significantly more improved than what they previously were. My transition path is, “do what makes me happy”, and that seems to be working out pretty well. I’m able to live.
Something I’ve heard from many people is that getting onto the proper hormone with the right levels unlocks a smorgasbord of emotions. I’ve always been a fairly emotional person, even if it’s been hard for me to cry sometimes. One year I lost two dogs, a bird who’d lived almost as long as I had, and my Grandpa in the same month. My heart was pretty closed off after that. Years later I’m able to cry at videos where people come home to their families and pets, along with a wide range of emotions.
For me, HRT didn’t give me access to more emotions so much as it made them vividly stronger. Something I’d be able to shrug off easily before can irritate me within moments to where I need to take a moment to cool off. I cried at a video of a cat because the kitten was cute. Cuddling Nikki or Quincy gives me such an energy and happiness boost that I’m nigh unbreakable. And holy shit, my sass is so fierce lately that I’m actively having to watch my mouth when people need it but I’m not in a safe situation.
A coworker mentioned once that their idea of a best friend is someone they’d take a bullet for. And that took me by surprise. I understood the concept. It was one I had absolutely felt before. But now I felt differently–no less strong, but differently. And I think that’s another component to the unlocked emotions of HRT. You might process them differently, leading you to perceive them finally, or feel them stronger than before. For me now, a best friend is someone I want to support and grow old alongside.
Dealing with People
I’ve always dealt with anxiety in life, though it became increasingly worse as my dysphoria increased. And yes, that was true no matter how well I masked the real problem. I would stay inside most of the time, or wait out in the car as opposed to going with Nikki when we went shopping. The crushing weight of the air around me, my heart pulsing like crazy, the sounds blending into chaos… it was never a fun time, even if people were mostly outside of my bubble. Calling someone? A nightmare. Keeping up with conversations that involved multiple people? A monumental quest.
Within the first few days of taking HRT, we were at Walmart together. And I just… existed. There were even some people in my bubble, because I guess they couldn’t wait for those sweet, sweet tangerines. But it didn’t matter. I mean sure, I’d rather them wait but I know that respecting personal space is not on the front of everyone’s mind. Even so, it didn’t turn me into a useless pile of jelly. Rather than fret over what others thought of me, of not disappointing people nor upsetting them, I was able to focus on what we were there for. I was able to enjoy more time spent together with Nikki, rather than be further stressed over knowing that she had to deal with me.
Recognizing a Problem
After enough time, I even somewhat forgot about those moments. The times when my brain would shutdown over critical stress and anxiety were basically gone! Except the first time when I had forgotten both my prior night dose, and that day’s morning dose. We went to a party for Nikki’s office and it was a classic example of, “you live like this?” I only truly understood how bad my anxiety been once it came back. I’d always made up excuses for it instead of addressing the problem, and those kept me in the dark for years.
Lately, there’s other things I’m feeling called out on. Ever forgot what you were going for, as you go into the room where the thing you wanted was? Had your multiple pill alarms go off and acknowledge them, only to forget to take them? Does time slip away even if you’ve allocated enough, and did all of your planning steps? Do you get lost in subjects that interest you? Or forget basic, long-term information (thank you, password managers)? Need to always have something to stimulate yourself with, even if that’s just fidgeting? All of these are things I’ve pretty much always done, and only recently have people pointed them out.
I’m honestly a little nervous if there’s more that I’ve just swept under the rug. Maybe even I’ve felt that something is off, but never connected any dots. Like the Spider-man GIF where he senses danger, only for a gun to be at his head a moment later. You shouldn’t self-diagnose, but do try some introspection. Also, listen to others and talk with those you trust. Those who see you often may notice things that others who don’t may not, and vice-versa. It’s okay to not be okay.
Worries of Love
Out of everyone and everything, the most important I was worried about losing if I came out to them was Nikki. I knew she was supportive of others, but she’s also afraid of change. And this would be not only a huge commitment of change, but something I would understand if she felt I had been lying about. We all form this mental image of others in our mind, and especially for close family members and partners it can be potentially catastrophic to lose that image.
She’s very family oriented. What if she had to give up her family? She always loved my scent. Well, that’s gonna change on HRT so what if she misses that? What about how others will treat her, being seen with me, when we’re out and about together? Or her extra worries for my safety and well-being atop everything else she already worries about? We both had a lot to think about, a lot to talk about, and a lot to confide in with others outside of our relationship. It has not been an easy nor a short process for either of us.
It Takes Work
Relationships take work from all those involved. We’ve taken each day as its come, and are always learning more as we go. Rather than “the one who wears the pants”, we’ve adopted “the one who squishes the bugs.” Even though our responsibilities have always been based on what we enjoy or are good at, I’ll continue to swear she does the lion’s share of the work. Some of her recent findings online have been… interesting for reasons. Love blossoms with time and effort, and my love for her grows stronger every day. We’re happier together now than we were before, and are more wholeheartedly here for one another. I wanna be her biggest cheerleader!
Thankfully, both of our families have been good to us still. My process of coming out restarted her own process of figuring our her sexuality, and since then she’s come out as bi. While labels don’t often fit precisely, they can still be empowering when we’ve chosen to wear them with pride. I’m so damn proud of her. 💖 As for strangers and how they view us, it often comes down to a roulette. Most of the time, people see me as a woman. From there, either they see us as a couple, or they don’t. When you go from automatically being given one check at a restaurant to either being asked if you’re split, or outright given two, it’s… weird. And sometimes frustrating.
Most of you probably know this, but we’re getting married next year! February 14th was our date for the Eternal Bond Ceremony in FFXIV, and it’s going to be our wedding day too. Sure, it sounds cliche as all heck getting married on Valentine’s Day. Our original set day was much earlier, but we lost it moving from Hyperion to Excalibur. The party will be on the following day, as Saturday affords more people more time to attend such an event. I’m happy beyond the proper words to be taking this next step with the love of my life.
I’ve always seen life as a puzzle, y’know? She’s the perfect piece for the puzzle of my life. And hey, we fit together just right when cuddling too. That’s a truly amazing bonding experience, even if we’re just watching vine compilations together. No matter how my day went, seeing her and talking with her restores my heart meter to full. And a hug? Fully buffed, ready to challenge the day!
I’d imagine most people who start taking HRT do it so their body starts to align a little better with their identity. Unfortunately, the results of HRT are incredibly variant and rely most heavily on your genetics and how well you’re taking care of yourself. And even then, for those who don’t quite fit the binary, some aspects might be awesome and others just a whole new nightmare to deal with. I’m not a doctor! I don’t know if HRT will be right for you or not, and I’ve absolutely got friends who’ve tried and didn’t find their answer there.
For me, it’s definitely been the right answer thus far. At just thirteen months in, I’d like some things to be faster… but I understand that puberty is a marathon and not a race. My chest often hurts with an indescribable pain, sometimes from a dull throb all the way to what feels like a burning pinch. My nipples and areola have absolutely gotten bigger, and quite often are too sensitive to touch. The nurse who sees me at Planned Parenthood is often most concerned with my chest growth, given I readily rave about my good mental state. I still haven’t had my size measured yet, mostly because I’m worried about the result and feel that ignorance is bliss may help? I dunno.
While chest growth can take upwards of two to five years, or even longer given maturity just happens as we get older, likely the most surprising result for me has been my feet. While I really should remove those pictures from Twitter given the pervs online, I also don’t want others to simply hear about it from pure conjecture. Your feet shrinking isn’t generally on any charts of HRT effects over time, and I’ve lost a whole shoe size and a half! It wasn’t readily apparent until I wore last year’s sandals this summer and… just wow!
I’m also probably shrinking in terms of height? Last I remember being measured I was 5’9″, and our roommate claims to be 5’8″. She’s a bit taller than me, so either the measurement was off for either of us, or maybe I’m shrinking. I dunno! There’s shrinking in other ways too and all I’m going to say there is, those who take feminizing HRT should really consider finding ways to keep it in occasional use. The pain of skin tear is unreal and easily avoidable.
My facial hair hasn’t stopped growing, but it is mostly growing in clear now. That’s a wild experience the first few times, because visually I’ll think I won’t need to shave and then I go to feel my chin and welp! However, my body hair is thinning out and growing way more slowly than before. And my hairline is returning! Little baby hairs are growing to fill in basically all that I had previously lost. It’s a comforting feeling, even if I know that’ll take time to return completely.
On the same note of hair, if you’re growing your hair out please remember to take great care of it. I never really understood the point of getting regular trims. Why get my hair cut shorter if I want to let it grow? It doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t help that people around here will always hear “trim” and cut off all of your progress because clearly you don’t want to look too girly. We’re looking into having a friend’s relative who does this work handle both of us in the privacy of her own home. My split, dead ends are awful… so I guess it’s a good thing that I want shorter, Ryuh-length hair now!
I’ve always had uh… a bit of a “seat” as it were. It never really bothered me, and I never paid attention to it. Occasionally it’d be called out and I wouldn’t think much because, hey, that’s what I sit with. However, under HRT apparently my hips have only gotten more powerful. I’ve started to walk a little differently than before… more readily noticed in that it’s fixed what used to be a slight limp to my step. I needed different jeans to accommodate and shape, rather than just picking out what my folks used to think worked. Buying new pants is getting more tough as what fits around my waist may not around my hips. And there’s a squish to the feel as I sit now. 😅
Eventually, if we ever start working out again, I’d like to focus on my core and glutes the most. Lookout when that happens… goodness. Of course, toning my arms will help a lot with routine burning while idle. And I sure wouldn’t mind doing the sexy flex thing, y’know?
Comfortable in My Skin
Next up, there’s my skin! I don’t normally think much on this either, but I’ve been really fortunate with my skin in life. Only some minor problems with acne, and I’ve never really had to work hard with it. But again, with how I grew up such things also fell into the “girly” category so I tended to stray away from them. Everyone should care for their skin properly! The things I’ve learned. Anyway.
According to Nikki, my skin has become softer since starting HRT. I think it’s difficult for me to tell as, well, I’m always in it. But I have absolutely noticed freckles appearing on my face and that was, at first, a terrifying concept. I never used to have them! Now I’ve got some on my face, more on my arms… yeah! Oh, and I bruise crazy easily now. I’d rarely wake up with an unknown and random bruise before, but now they’re quite often and usually a little more painful than before. I’m trying to be so careful, too. 😥
Now, I’ve never really had an intolerably high libido or anything. Whenever I did something about it, the process was more out of boredom than anything else. Taking HRT has nuked whatever I had left, and whatever I didn’t think I had, from orbit. However, it helps that my mental processing for intercourse, in my experience as an ace/demisexual person, has made me see it as an expression of my feelings for them. When I tell Nikki that I feel great by making her feel good, that applies to even like, general massages too.
I’ve heard all sorts of stories that, for many, the libido comes roaring back into focus maybe between year one and three. That many transwomen especially become “headpat sluts”, among other terms. I don’t know about that, and if it does ever happen to me then I guess we’ll be at the computer less…
Finally, there’s my voice. I’m grateful to have been in choir for most of my life–from the time when I was about three years old or so. Even though I’m super rusty, I’ve got a great amount of control over my voice and the various components that make it work. While I do need a fair bit of experience with accents to handle my voice acting properly as a D&D DM, it was relatively easy to begin practicing by singing along with female vocalists soon after coming out. This was really my only available time to practice though!
I’ve got a pretty big mental block around using my muscles in the way that creates a more feminine version of my voice. It’s a mixture of thinking that people won’t like it, that I might sound off or annoying, that it might sound like I’m trying too hard, and that if I do try and get gendered male it’d hurt worse than not trying at all. In addition, I don’t really dislike my current voice and Nikki very much loves it. So it’s just one of those things I have off to the side, practicing only on occasion, because it’ll be easier for some occasions and people.
Nikki and I both feel that adjusting my voice shouldn’t be necessary. Especially given that, according to a few, my voice is fine as it is. Even though I know how I sound to myself when playing back my stream VODs, they still had me crying in happiness over those comments. When calling my own Grandma, I have to remind her of who I am. She handed the phone to my Mom once thinking I was “some girl selling something”. Then again, she had a hard time recognizing me in person earlier this week too so… eh.
When discussing about her family coming up for the wedding, she noted that we might need to do a few things to help them along with adjusting to me. Not only have they barely seen me, or rarely in some cases, but quite a few of them have grown up pretty deeply in established standards of feminine and masculine. So to make that a better time for us and them, as well as to help with the safety aspect, it might be alright to have another voice I can access at the ready. And besides, it’s quite the joy to hear a PUG who joins voice chat for the first time address me correctly without knowing otherwise. Small victories.
From a good year, onto a better one
The first year and a bit more of HRT has been excellent. Most of the changes have been slower than I would have liked, but that also gives me time to step in carefully with telling people. I can stay presenting masculine and get away with it at work without worries. More importantly, the mental changes have absolutely been an incredible boon to my happiness and well-being. I’m glad I took this step.
And finally, seriously y’all Nikki has been so good to me–both prior and during. I’m looking forward to our future together, protecting and encouraging each other as we live our lives, enjoy what this world has to offer, and hopefully give it back something great in turn. I love her so very much, and hope that she knows she lights up my world like the sun. Y’know, ’cause I’m a Sun Seeker.
Anywho, happy adventuring!