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Thursday, October 3, 2019

I'm Going Back On Hormones

I talked a little about this on my YouTube channel, but it was less certain than what I'm writing now... I've found that my "thing" is apparently I have questions about whether or not some part of my transition is working for me (top surgery, bottom surgery, hormones) and question it for like... two days before I realize my decision.  Since I have a habit of filming myself or writing during the "maybe?" phase, it looks a lot like "Ehhhh maybe I really do need this after all oh yeah I definitely need this."  Which it kind of is.

For a little under three years now I've been off hormones.  Most of that experience has fallen into two main categories:
  • Relief
  • Status Quo
What that means is that  I did not have that many negative side effects... nothing like most people seem to think happens off hormones.  My beard didn't fall out.  My voice didn't crack or increase in pitch.  I didn't zap back to a stereotypically cis female shape.  I was just as able to go stealth as before.  I lost some muscle strength and my sex drive dove, but that was mostly it.

There were also some huge advantages to being off hormones: Not needing to deal with intramuscular injections, a couple health issues were resolved, I didn't need to travel to get checkups from The Hormone Doctor, and I like not having to buy testosterone and needles every few months.

This is pretty common... during writing this blog and YouTube channel I have met a lot of other trans men off hormones.  While a lot of them aren't necessarily happy about it (since many of us are forced off it due to medical and financial problems), they're all perfectly functional individuals.  I've met people who have been off testosterone over three times longer than me, they just don't talk about it to avoid the parade of truscum.  They're all generally doing fine.

So why am I considering (although it's pretty much already decided) going back on hormones?  There are basically three reasons, and one of them is getting super frustrating.

First, I'm probably going to seek bottom surgery in the future.  I have already talked about this on my YouTube channel (which is honestly more popular than this blog ever was and I tend to update there more often anyway), but I have mostly grown out of the "I don't want medical intervention unless absolutely necessary" phase of being a hippie (and have advanced to the "I want to get medical intervention, I'm just selective about what kind I get because I'm worried everything will go to shit" kind of hippie).

Now, bottom surgery doesn't necessarily require being on testosterone... and a large part of me was looking forward to seeing how easy it was to navigate the hassle of acquiring bottom surgery without them.  In addition to several bottom surgery doctors being very un-open to people who are "in-between" in any way (although my two top choices right now are), "must be on testosterone for at least a year unless medically contraindicated" is a common requirement for insurance, which I will definitely need if I'm getting a procedure like that, and in a year or two when I'm seriously seeking that I don't know if I'll have the energy to advocate for myself in that way.  Plus, although I'd love to be able to report those experiences, I need to look out for myself first before I look for blog content.

Second, I'm planning on losing a great deal of weight (which is related to seeking bottom surgery, which is very risky at my size) and as I shrink I'm anxious about my body fat patterns and whether at my goal weight I'm going to have a very feminine figure.  As a borderline morbidly obese person who stores fat mostly in my midsection, it really camoflages my figure more than I expected.  This alone wouldn't have caused me to go off hormones, probably... but testosterone also grants advantages to muscle growth and other stuff that will help me a lot in that particular part of my journey.

Third--and this is the big one--I'm learning that I have inherited a low sex drive on estrogen.  Admitting this was mortifying, because before testosterone I had a very high sex drive.  My sex drive on testosterone was extremely high often scary, so when my sex drive just started tanking off of testosterone I was expecting it to go back to being high but not scary and it was one of my favorite side effects of going off T.  It isn't that sex isn't enjoyable or that I don't find people sexually attractive, but that it's really hard for me to work up the "oomph" I need to want to actively have sex rather than just think about having sex.  So I'm in this awkward position where I'm having very regular sexual fantasies without having much motivation to do anything about them, even though I have an attractive partner.

My sex drive started trending upward compared to the beginning, but if I do have the same kind of sex drive I've discussed with some relatives of mine, it's eventually going to get worse, and that's really fucking me up.

There is some stuff I'm worried about.

One of my motivators for going off hormones was health, notably that on it my blood counts get really high.  This is typically resolved by donating blood, which I can do right now because I haven't had a male partner in over a year, but my goal is to acquire one and so I'm worried about the prospect of having to choose between lying or having very awkward conversations.  It'll be the first thing I talk about once I talk to The Hormone Doctor my primary care physician informed me about.

I'm worried about my blood pressure, too, but less so... that's been going down due to lifestyle changes anyway, and I feel that at worst I'll just have to stay on metoprolol longer, which is not a big deal.

I also really hate intramuscular injections, but it's very unlikely I can afford gel, patches, or any of the other non-injection forms of testosterone.  I'll be asking about subcutaneous injection, instead.

Do I regret going off hormones?  No.  I probably also won't regret going back on them.

I think I've provided a lot of good information for people and learned a lot about hormones in general, and I've really valued not needing to give myself shots for three years and just being a guy.  It's also really helpful to me for the same reason it's been helpful to a lot of others:  A lot of us worry about going on testosterone because we're worried we're going to have access issues in the future or that we won't want to be on it forever... I and the people I've met who are also off hormones have shown that this isn't something you really need to worry about.  If I really do have trouble in the future, I know that I'll largely be fine without them, which is a big stress relief.

Anyway, that's my update for now.  Until next time, Happy Trails,
-- Arrow

Thursday, April 18, 2019

My First Shirtless Event (in the General Public)

So I've been publicly shirtless before... at clothing-optional Pagan events it's normal for me, and I have been out in my yard and my household, but yesterday I had my first time shirtless in public.  I didn't get any smiling photos feeling titillated at the beach with all my friends... instead, I was told to start swimming to get exercise, and got a Y membership.

It was anxiety-inducing... I reverted to some of my older behavior, holding my arms in strange ways over my chest and draping a towel over my shoulders in the locker room.  Since this is such a highly populated establishment it wasn't like at Planet Fitness where I had very little issue changing in the group changing area even without surgery... if you know the Y, you know it's stereotypically populated by hundreds of naked old men all the time, and it turns out that stereotype is pretty accurate.

People stared at me, but I suspect it wasn't the scars, it was just that I am new there.  My scars are actually somewhat hidden as long as I keep my arms down... they tuck into my chest rolls.  I've found generally that because I have a large beard cis people tend not to read me as trans no matter how many clues I give them, so if they do notice the scars, they probably think it's something else.

Once I got out of the locker room?  Then I was fine.  Maybe a little awkward, but I was able to have a conversation with somebody telling me the lap swimming etiquette without feeling like I had eyes on me, and I was able to get my laps in.

Now that I broke that seal, it'll probably just get easier to go there, which is good because I really need that exercise... and I really like swimming.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Three Month Top Surgery Update

A while ago I had my follow up for three months post op (I kind of expected them to schedule a six month but apparently I don't need to go back until my one year).

Healing is going pretty well... well enough that I actually forget that I had surgery.  When I look in the mirror I don't really notice the scars, even though they're quite obvious, or really any of the flaws that I would have expected to bother me forever.

According to the doctor, there is still a lot of swelling, and I can see and feel it.  My activity level is starting to go back to normal and although I wouldn't say there is "pain" most of the time, moving certain ways (especially if I haphazardly lean on my armpit) reminds me that there's still pretty fresh surgical work down there.

Because my brain has turned it into "this is just how it is now" it's a little hard for me to remember to do scar care, so they're probably a bit bigger than they would be if I was diligent about it, but again, as far as my own feelings about it?  So far they aren't a big deal at all.

The surgeon does have some plans for flattening it out more if (the way he talks, "when") I lose weight (he didn't even once bring up my weight before surgery but keeps bringing it up after, as if he's bewildered that getting my breasts removed didn't naturally result in fat loss elsewhere).  I'm also pretty sure he forgets I'm not on hormones every single time we meet because he talks about it as if I'm still going to be experiencing regular changes to my body that reverted years ago.

Although I'm happy with how the surgery turned out, I'm wary of actually recommending this surgeon to anybody without a lot of heavy disclaimers, because so many people in the top surgery forums I've posted in were specifically looking for doctors who weren't going to fat shame them.

I haven't taken my shirt off in public public yet, although I have a YMCA membership now specifically so I can swim so we will see how that all turns out.

Anyway, not a huge update today, but wanted to get what did happen in there.
Happy trails,
-- Setkheni