Blanket Content Warning: This blog may include mentions, descriptions, or other media with information involving menstruation, pregnancy, sexuality, breast care, abortion, and anything else generally considered relevant to inhabiting an assigned-female body, but centering a genderqueer trans male experience. I also talk about dieting a lot.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Why I Went Off Hormones


One of the fundamental parts of my life's journey is my gender transition, one which I've opted to take in an entirely different way than most other transgender men.  It started as a fairly typical transition, with a couple of months of therapy and testosterone replacement therapy, and I was looking forward to top surgery to flatten my chest as well.  But around the four-year mark on hormones I started having a lot of changes of heart.  My gender identity itself didn't change, but my understanding of what I needed in order to manifest that identity did change, along with my entire philosophy about gender and my spiritual conception of it.

Most of these will probably be explained more in-depth later in the blog when I feel like it, but this is the general essence of what happened.

If you've been in the transgender community for very long at all, you probably understand the Standard Trans Narrative as follows:  Trans men are necessarily 100% men, we are 100% male from birth, we are inherently made depressed by anything to do with estrogen, we need to get testosterone therapy as early as possible and need to be on it for life.  This can be a little convoluted at times, because any Good Trans knows that not all trans people need hormones, it's in all the 101 presentations, but it's expected still that if you do go on hormones you'll want to be on them forever or you'll be a miserable wreck who will do unimaginable bodily harm to yourself.

For me this meant years of stressing out over worsening health conditions just waiting for my doctor to finally find The One that was bad enough to take me off hormones.  This didn't happen.  My endocrinologist was a transgender specialist who would dutifully take each new health complaint as its own issue without even suggesting I go off testosterone.  But this was adding a lot of stress to my life... like testosterone was great, but it was doing some really bad things to my health.  My blood counts were so high I needed to start donating blood in order to avoid having a stroke, my blood pressure was creeping up, my anxiety started ramping up due to increasing pain from the needles and the constant worry I would lose access due to social turmoil, sudden lack of insurance or a job, or supply issues.  I was also experiencing weird sexual issues (which is a fascinating issue, but one for a different time).

Around the time I was dealing with these issues--about four and a half years on hormones--I was also evolving spiritually.  I'd attended a Pagan gathering where I had the pivotal experience of being publicly topless (without surgery) while also attending men's mysteries rituals and overall feeling really good about myself.  I started thinking about the aspects of my spirituality pre-T as well as as a woman, the things I'd abandoned or actively rejected as a man that I also kind of missed, many of which were based on physical bodily cycles I didn't have anymore.

So I was thinking about those factors in combination with the health issues I'd been having, and starting to think about whether or not giving up hormones would work for me.  I admitted to myself that there were only two things that really gave me dysphoria--my voice and my lack of facial hair--and going off hormones wasn't going to change that.  There would be lots of things that would return, but the important stuff wouldn't.

I went off hormones pseudo-gradually, switching from a 100mg dose every week to a 100mg dose every other week for about a month before stopping altogether.  The sexual side-effects subsided within weeks.  I started menstruating in a couple of months.  And overall, I'm very happy being an estrogen dominant man.  My anxiety is lower, I feel better exploring my identity, and I'm largely dysphoria-free.

I would never claim that this is for everyone, but I did find something fascinating.  A number of other trans men who were on the fence about starting testosterone, worried they would have to be on it forever or would destroy their health, were really comforted by my story.  Far from discouraging testosterone use, I've inadvertently convinced some of them to go on testosterone, knowing that there are more ways to do it than to go on it for the rest of your life.  Any any trans men I can convince to go that route rather than using sketchy bodybuilder supplements is a win in my book.

Happy Trails,
-- Jackson