Ok so I have debated with myself about to what extent I want to make this blog reflect my personal journey as I transition and experience HRT or whether I want it to stay more academic. I decided though that sharing my journey and photos of my “transition timeline” might be of interest to other trans people. I know I continue to draw inspiration from others and have an enlightened self-interest in learning how HRT affects people differently so consider this an exercise in self-documentation.
I can’t promise I will always do monthly updates but it might be fun.
I had then just moved to St Louis with my at-the-time fiancee to start my PhD. I was reasonably happy. Wasn’t troubled by gender identity stuff. Just thought I was a run-of-the-mill crossdresser with a secret life of dressing up that I kept private from pretty much everyone. It was just some thing I did, often for sexual reasons to be perfectly honest. I mention that because I see many trans women overanalyze things and think that because their crossdressing started sexual they aren’t “really trans”. However what can start as a “fetish” can definitely transform into legitimate gender issues later -early sexualization does not invalidate one’s identity – it just has nothing to do with it – it’s a side effect and also could be an effect of circulating testosterone levels. But for me, over time, my crossdressing had less and less a sexual component and became something I did because I found it the most comfortable way to exist in my house. I just enjoyed wearing’s women’s things.
Still deeply in denial about being trans. I had talked about the possibility of transitioning with my ex-wife but I always told her that was not something I was interested in. She seemed to accept that answer. So did I. Little did I know….
This is probably the last picture that was ever taken of me with a beard. This was still before I realized I was trans. My wife and I had split up back in October, 2014 for reasons unrelated to my gender identity. Things just felt apart – it’s a long story. But needless to say that after getting divorced and going through another brief relationship my crossdressing returned with a vengeance. I shaved my entire body shortly after this picture was taken and began crossdressing more seriously, expanding my wardrobe, and going out in public dressed. At some point I even came out on Facebook as a crossdresser. Funny – only a month after coming out as a crossdresser (to much consternation from my family I might add) I realized I was trans and had to do a second coming out.
This is the picture I used to come out on Facebook as a crossdresser. I received a lot of support …and a frantic phonecall from my mother. But it felt good to come out of the closest as a gender-nonconforming person. It still took me awhile to be comfortable presenting feminine around people in my department though I was starting to present feminine around my friends. Baby steps at first. Like nail polish. And then a bit of makeup. And then highly androgynous clothing. Eventually tilting toward the feminine. It takes time. As I learned the hard way at a bar one night with a friend early in my adventures of crossdressing out in public, presenting totally femme when you are not ready to present totally femme can be a really terrifying experience – make sure you can escape if you need to. Go at your own pace and preferably in safe, LGBT friendly places.
After struggling with my identity as a crossdresser and a feminine man I finally came to terms with myself and accepted myself as a trans woman for the first time. My life suddenly took a new focus. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I startling googling “transgender” etc and I stumbled across horror stories about murder rates and suicide and depression and all this scary stuff about how awful it is to be a trans woman. Honestly I was scared shitless. But after calming down I came to do more research that put some context around the statistics and significantly helped me see things with a clear head. Being trans wasn’t going to be this terribly scary thing. I had a lot of privilege in my life. I started to see how transition could work and I began to plot my social transition.
When I first accepted myself as trans I was not sure how far I wanted to go with hormones or surgery. I was pretty sure I did not want “bottom surgery” but I was less sure about hormones and growing breasts and losing my sexual function. I briefly toyed around with the idea of a bigender identity and presenting ambiguously and not going totally full time. I think this brief foray into bigenderism was really just my own internalized transphobia working against me, pulling me back from my true identity, which I have come to realize is a binary trans female. I had to learn to accept myself totally as a woman in order to reject my history of male-identification. It definitely did not happen over night. I struggled to see myself as a woman because I did not conform to the typical trans narrative of being made fun of as a “sissy” growing up. I always fit in the with the boys – I loved being a boy (albeit one who secretly was obsessed with wearing pantyhose). My lack of femininity in my gender expression as a young boy and my comfort as a married man in society made me question if I was “trans enough” to really identity 100% as a woman. What does it even mean to “feel” like a woman? I struggled with the idea that I have “always” been trans – for me being trans almost felt like this radical choice I was making – albeit a radical choice to be true to my authentic self but a choice nonetheless – which defies the standard narrative of trans being innate and biological. I felt like I was just going through another phase – until it wasn’t – until it started becoming real. My social transition and dating as a woman really helped provide some much needed validation. Also healthy amounts of therapy. I started seeing a gender specialist.
I got bangs! I actually kind of regret this haircut now. But oh well. Live and learn. Cis women have had decades to learn from their mistakes – I am compressing an incredible amount of trial and error into a short period of time!
This picture was taken in the lobby of my endocrinologist the first day I started Hormone Replacement Therapy. To say I was incredibly stoked would be an extreme understatement. I was SO happy. Oh I should mention I really tried to femme it up because I wanted my endo to think I was “serious” about transitioning and “trans enough” (aka passing according to Western cisnormative hetero beauty standards), which is of course utter BS. But whatever. I still ultimately do it for myself and myself only but in this case I did feel the pressure to conform to standard trans feminine expectations in order to maximize my chances of walking out of that office with a script in my hand. This paranoia and counter-productive mindset is ultimately a function of the problematic gatekeeping system in trans healthcare but that’s a post for another day…
A thrilling moment sitting in my car outside of Walgreens. For those who are curious, my my doc started me on: 2mg estradiol X 1 day, 50mg of spiro x 2 a day, and 2.5mg finasteride x 1 a day. I should be getting my estradiol bumped up to 4mg at the end of October – I’m excited about that.
Did not notice any real physical changes my first week of HRT. But I did have increased anxiety about passing and became really interested in researching all things HRT. I had trouble sleeping the first few nights because I was so excited about waking up and taking my next dose. It was like waking up to Christmas every morning getting to take my pills. I have since calmed down as to where my sleeping patterns are back to normal and I am getting good sleep again. It’d still say I’m pretty preoccupied with trans-related thoughts though.
At this point I had just had my third session of laser hair removal. Still working on removing residual facial hair – I still have a noticeable shadow though it’s not nearly as bad as when I first started.
It’s been 31 days since I started HRT. Probably the biggest change I have noticed is my skin is a lot softer now. My body hair seems to be growing in slower and less thick and dark – I shave less frequently and shaving is much easier. My sex drive has diminished. Erections are harder to get, sensation is minimized. Ejaculate is pretty much dry (this happened only a couple weeks in surprisingly). Not much development breast-wise. No sensitivity or pain or breast buds yet. Things look slightly flabbier and puffier but that’s about it – unless I am imagining things because sometimes I slightly maybe see some breast development but it’s so subtle I don’t want to say for sure. Appetite has increased. Not much in terms of mood swings or mood changes. Fairly happy and content. Bouts of dysphoria here and there, especially after laser wrecked my face for a good week. But dysphoria seems to be getting better all the time. I seem to be starting to get gendered female more often even when wearing androgynous clothing. I feel like I am passing a little bit better. I’m also getting better at makeup and my gender presentation. My awful bangs are starting to grow out so my hair looks a little better. My current goal is to grow my hair as long as possible as quickly as possible.
Stay tuned for next month’s update!