When you start HRT, and it is something you really want, it can put you on a self-induced high. You become convinced things are happening every time there is a little change. You have visions of your body transforming and being one of those girls who has to out herself at seven months, because people constantly gender you female. It is the thing dreams are made of, and so you stand on the mountain top higher than everything around you.
The funny thing is HRT rarely works that way in the best of circumstances, and so such things are merely the dreams of someone who has yet to come back to reality. Coming back to reality is a shock to the system as you struggle to accept it, but it is a positive if you look at the future with realistic expectations. I have spoken with enough girls to know most of us go through such a phase, and even girls who go full time out of the gate have said to me, a year or two in that they don’t know how they did it because looking back they were terrible in the beginning.
To expect drugs to physically change my body, a “male” body of 43 years, overnight is ridiculous. Expectations ranging in several months to a year are also not very realistic for most. Realistic expectations for full HRT feminization range anywhere from 18 months to 36 months, if being honest. Reputable surgeons won’t touch you until around 18 months at the soonest, and GCS surgeons want you on hormones at least a year before they will perform surgery. There are reasons for these things, but one major reason is that evidence shows most trans women hit their peak development around the two year mark, and still there are many who see significant changes between 24 and 36 months. This knowledge actually helped me break out of a self-induced funk that I sank into shortly before Christmas. It also helped me to look to the future with a renewed hope that was grounded in realistic expectations, rather than simply naive dreams.
So what was the source of my funk? I had my two month checkup and blood work in mid-December, and shortly before that I was feeling like my testosterone was fighting the HRT I was taking, While it doesn’t quite work like that, I felt like my development was hitting a wall. This was confirmed to a point by my blood work which revealed that while my testosterone was down 100 from 450 to 350, but it was still well outside the range of female levels. In addition, due to the high testosterone, my estrogen was only at about 50, which was still significantly lower than natal female levels. No trans woman wants to hear such news (almost always a trigger), because we all know others who’s bodies snapped to almost right away, and their first bloodwork showed them to be within the natal female range. However, for most of us it doesn’t work that way. Things take time to happen.
As a result, my doctor doubled my spironolactone, so I now take daily, 200mg of spironolactone and 6mg of estradiol. My doctor said that we should definitely see a significant decrease in testosterone and this will allow my estrogen levels to rise up to where we want them. Again, this gives me hope, but as someone who has waited over 40 years, I want it all right now.
Adding to my funk was the fact that my weight loss had kind of plateaued, and while I looked elsewhere to blame, I also knew that this was my fault. As a result I began tracking everything I ate to get a handle on where my issues were, and soon came to realize it was mostly evening snacking, and that snacks throughout the day can really add up. With the start of the new year I enacted a new diet plan, and it seems to be working as I’ve dropped seven pounds so far in 2018, and there is no doubt this also has added to my renewed spirit.
Now, I say all of the above to stress that as a trans person I can choose to dwell on those things I perceive to be negative about my transition, my body and my mental state, or I can choose to see the good things that are happening, even if those things are only slowly evolving. So let’s look at those positive things, beginning with measurements on Day 1 of HRT to my measurements on Day 1, Month 4 of HRT:
Day 1, Month 1 measurements:
- Weight: 244lbs
- Chest: 42.5 inches (underbust: 41 inches)
- Waist: 38 inches
- Pant/male waist: 40 inches
- Hips: 43 inches
- Neck: 16 inches
- Bicep: 15 inches
- Wrist: 7 inches
- Ankle: 9.5 inches
Day 1, Month 4 measurements:
- Weight: 235 lbs
- Chest: 40.5 inches (underbust: 38 inches)
- Waist: 35 inches
- Pant/male waist: 37 inches
- Hips: 41 inches
- Neck: 15 inches
- Bicep: 14 inches
- Wrist: 6.25 inches
- Ankle: 8.5 inches
Now, if I were to look at the above numbers only from Month 3 to 4, then I would see almost zero changes…half an inch on a couple measurements, or no changes in several, but from day one these changes are huge, and that’s what I have to remember. I have only lost nine pounds from Day 1, and yet I have lost 2-3 inches in many places. Things have been happening. It’s just often I don’t see them, or they get overshadowed by things like the start of breast development, which as a trans woman is always a moment of joy for all of us.
People also sometimes ask about other things that I’m seeing, and some I’ve talked about and others I haven’t, because it is hard to pinpoint what some changes are. I have yet to talk about my face, other than to say it has thinned out some and that my skin is softer. I can say now, without a doubt, that there is something happening around my eyes and my chin. With my eyes I can’t say for sure what is different, just that there is something that is making me look younger? It’s the best way I can describe it. As for my chin, it’s almost like it is emerging from wrapping, as if the tissue around it is reconfiguring. These things don’t happen overnight, and so I often think maybe I’m seeing things because I want to. However, looking at older/before pictures I can say there is definitely something going on. My head is becoming less blocky, or putting it another way my head is going from looking like a circle to more of an oval. At least that’s the way it seems to me.
I mentioned ankle and wrist measurements because joints are a great way to get an idea for just how “bulky” your bone structure might be, and seeing mine drop into natal female ranges for a woman my height makes me realize that my bone structure might not be near as broad or thick as I thought it was. My underbust measurement is also further confirmation of this fact. At 38 inches, it stands to reason that with continued weight loss and time on HRT I should continue to see my measurements head in the direction I want.
My breast development seems to have slowed down the past month, but I know from others that it comes and goes in cycles. They remain sore, but that soreness has retreated to just behind the nipple where the bud is. I’m ok with that as well, as the bulkiest muscle on my body is the muscle of my upper torso. Knowing how it affects appearance, boob growth can slow down to match what I hope will soon be a noticeable decrease in the muscles on my back and chest.
Mentally, I’ve written before about how HRT has given me access to my emotions, and I still tear up at the dumbest things, and I’m ok with that. It’s all good. However, I’ve also come to realize that HRT doesn’t change who we are. I am still the same person I was before I began it. I’m just happier now, and the dysphoria has lessened. This might be the biggest lesson of Month 3…and I can’t stress it enough…HRT doesn’t change who you are on the inside. It might let you show the real you, but that person on the inside is still there. If you hope that it will change you, then you will be sorely disappointed, except to say it frees you up to be yourself.
Relationship wise, my wife and I are good, and my family life is better than it’s been in a long time. The nature of my marriage has changed, and I’m not sure if it will ever go back to what it was before. Here, too, I must also take the long view. We have children who would be devastated by a separation, and my wife and I both know this. We know the children are the number one reason we are trying. We are still best friends, and we still love each other. As to if we are still in love? I don’t know. My attitude about sex and romance has changed. I’m more apathetic about both at the moment. You could say I’ve put that part of my life in limbo, along with so much of my life right now (Will discuss this feeling of limbo in my next blog post as it is something I want to talk about).
Talking about my parents, they still need time, and they can have it. Right now, they’re still fixated on themselves. They’re dealing with their own issues on my transness, and are incapable of giving me what I want from them right now. I am still talking to them, and they love and support me, but they’re really not available to me right now, and I can’t say for sure when they will be. My brother also falls into the same boat. I know they can’t picture me physically female, and that has to be part of it, heck I can’t picture myself physically female much of the time. My hope is that physical change will help them accept a little more and to alleviate their worries as to how the world will see and treat me.
Overall, I am happy to put month three behind me, and I have moved into the new year with a renewed hope for what the future has in store. I will focus on those things I can control, my diet and health, and I will let HRT do its thing in its own time. How we take care of ourselves can effect how we transition, and so from here on out I intend to maximize that in any ways I can. No matter what I am moving in the direction I want to, so can take heart in that.
I always end my monthly updates with any changes I’ve noticed sexually. And I can say I’ve noticed a few things since doubling my blocker. The first is that my sex drive has decreased more, meaning I care about it even less than I did before it was doubled, and it had already dropped before that. I’ve also noticed an increased sensitivity to the underside of my penis. The use of a vibrator is pleasurable now, meaning that with time and relaxation, it might be enough to do the job alone, which brings me to the third point, and that is, what turns me on is shifting. Visual stimulation can still start me off, but often I find greater intensity when I simply close my eyes and let my mind focus on the building feeling/pleasure. Mental imagery seems to be taking over from the visual one I’ve existed with most of my life. There have been moments in the last couple weeks where for me to reach orgasm I simply had to relax, close my eyes, and focus on the pleasure, otherwise the building sensation would keep dropping, but I couldn’t get over the hill. I also want to say that those orgasms were different, as a heat or flush would build up and wash over me near the point of climax. This was also new. I look forward to see how this progresses in the next few months, but also can say while it feels good in the moment…I’m finding it necessary to talk myself into it more often as it is nowhere near a priority for me like it was pre-HRT.
If you follow me on Twitter or are a friend on Facebook then you know that the last week or so haven’t been the best for me mentally. I can readily admit I started sinking when I found out that my hormone levels really haven’t moved much the past two and a half months. I did rationalize with myself that my body and mind have seen changes, many of which I’ve discussed on this blog, and if I’ve seen such changes with my levels where they are at now then once they get to cis-female levels I should see some even bigger ones. That, of course, is my rational mind speaking, and most of the time I let it run things, but every once in awhile when the dysphoria demon creeps in, and my emotions take over, I start to feel “mannish” and things head south for me mentally.
Nobody, I don’t care who you are, can be happy and positive 24/7. Humans aren’t built that way. I consider myself a strong and positive woman. I like to think that most of the time I look forward to the future, excited at what it has to offer. The past few days this has been difficult as I fixate on the questions of, “what if things don’t get better? what if I will never get to where I want to, where I need to be?” I realize that this is dysphoria fucking with me, but I still need to get past it, and so I thought I’d look back at the past year and see just how far I’ve come.
2017 began with me deep in taking care of name change stuff for my daughter. I had already begun delving deep into information on trans women, but was still more focused on trans children and their needs. My closet door was starting to buckle, but the skeletons where still locked away. I can remember throwing myself into work and the idea of starting to backpack with my daughter. The prospect of hitting the trail with her had me excited, and the need to buy her gear and to update mine consumed most of my free time. We even managed to get out for an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail in January, and she was a trooper considering the terrain we had to hike. I can remember how happy I was when she finished in tears, but ten minutes later started talking about “when we go the next time”.
The rest of the winter continued much the same. My daughter’s name change became official at the end of February, and we got her passport about a month after that. Late March saw my daughter suffering from some pretty bad dysphoria and so we went for another backpacking trip, as being out in nature always seems to help her. It was on this trip that my closet exploded and I realized that I also suffered from dysphoria, although I wasn’t willing to admit I was transgender yet. Instead, I still hedged with the idea that, just because I was sometimes jealous of women and wanted what they had, well, that didn’t make me trans. However, the door had been opened, and my online searches now centered on trans women and not trans kids. Subconsciously, my brain had shifted, even if my conscious awareness was still battling or misdirecting.
Late May saw my daughter and I go on a 7 day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, and we had a wonderful time. It was great just being alone with her on the trail, and it made for some good bonding. Looking back I can say that it was the peace before the storm, and in many ways I approached the hike as if I was saying goodbye to something. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a moment near the end of our hike where I was walking along listening to Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” and tears just started to stream down my face. I was thinking of my family and my kids, and how things might change. I still had yet to make the connection, but the memories of my past had been hitting me harder, and I just had this feeling that things had to change. I just had no idea how much they were about to.
The summer was my biggest summer of discontent ever. My father-in-law came to live with us just as my closet completely imploded. So many memories were coming back to me daily. I began forming friendships with trans women online, and spending most nights researching anything and everything about transition. I know now that I was trying to talk myself into the idea that transition was possible, but at the time my self-hate and loathing were at an all time high. I was going through a nervous breakdown of sorts and taking it out on everyone in my house. In many ways, I was mentally in the darkest place of my life as I realized that I could not continue as I had, and that something had to change.
Three girls, all of whom I met through Twitter, were instrumental in helping me to figure out that I was trans. By this time I knew I was also intersex, but was playing around with the idea that I might be nonbinary. However, after talking with one girl, and giving it greater consideration I realized that nonbinary did not fit me, because it didn’t mesh with who I knew I was on the inside. I needed more, and nonbinary wouldn’t give me that.
Discussions with the other girls made me realize that I could transition, because it was about what I needed. I began to realize that if I didn’t I would end up killing myself due to neglect or by my own hand. Late July saw me telling people I was nonbinary, as I was hedging still and it was a baby step towards me admitting the full truth. Local friends convinced me that I needed to tell my wife, and at the same time I finally accepted that I was a trans woman and needed to begin gender therapy. With those admissions my life began to drastically shift for the better.
I came out to my wife in August, and again hedged that I thought I might be nonbinary, but I also admitted that I may want to transition. I already knew the truth, and as I began therapy, in the very first session I admitted verbally that I wanted to transition fully. With each admission, the weight that had been crushing me began to lift, but there would also be some low points as I began to set the path I planned to walk.
I learned how close I had been to losing my wife and kids, due to my self hate and loathing during the summer. Coming out to my wife and beginning therapy kept my family together. Although the nature of my marriage has changed, as a family we are better than we’ve been in a long time. Accepting who I am and having some hard conversations with my wife has allowed me to put my anger and self-loathing behind me for the most part. I won’t say things are perfect, but they are much improved.
I have made some good friends for the first time in a long time, and now count several trans and cis women as friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be friends with people who only know me as Allie. It is truly a gift to feel comfortable enough to simply express as the woman I am. I am even out to two girlfriends at work who are supportive, and one of them will be my new boss beginning with the new year.
October 9th, 2017 will forever be important to me because it was the day I started HRT. My mind and life have simply become brighter since starting it. I have seen changes, which I discuss every month in a post, and while not drastic, those changes are enough to keep me moving forward, along with having lost 40lbs in an effort to work towards a more girlish figure. I don’t know how I navigated life for so long without estrogen, but I’d rather die than give it up at this point.
Overall, I’d have to say that 2017 is ending on a high note. The blip I have experienced the past week was the realization that I have moved out of the mountain top phase and into one of realistic expectations. I’m still excited about my future, but that excitement is tempered by the reality that physical changes take time and will happen when they happen.
When I think about where I was on January 1, 2017 compared to now, there is no comparison. My mental state is stronger than it has been in years and I can’t remember ever being so in touch with my emotions. I don’t want to dwell on the past too much as I believe you learn from your past, live in the moment, and look to your future. 2017 will forever be one of the most important years in my life, but it isn’t the best or the most important. I believe those years have yet to come. For the first time, I look forward to the future with hope and excitement. In the mean time I will take each day as it comes with the knowledge that even if bad, tomorrow is always a new day that takes me one day closer to living full time as the real me.