The decision to start hormone replacement therapy which entails weekly intramuscular testosterone injections into the thigh, was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.
In the beginning, especially without new language to describe gender, it was hard to explain what being trans felt like. Paralyzed by the conundrum – if I couldn’t even understand how I was feeling, how could I possibly articulate my identity to others, let alone articulate it well enough to gain their full understanding?
It felt like I acquired the wrong hormone at puberty and had been operating on the wrong hormone ever since. Picture this: if your body were a bicycle with a set of gears, having the wrong hormone is like trudging up a hill in the wrong gear- the bike moves forward, the wheels spin, but without the gears being perfectly aligned, the ride is bumpy, jagged, slightly askew. You move through life yet something is just always “off”.
A foggy resentment towards estrogen pestered my subconscious in the beginning as an elusive feeling that was hard to put my finger on. Everything estrogen did to my mind and body, I hated- breasts, womanly hips and fat in the wrong places, periods, emotions and hard-to-control crying. I watched trans guys who had started testosterone develop deeper voices, grow facial hair, undergo body fat redistribution to a more “male pattern”, and gain muscle. Those changes, I craved.
It’s impressive how capable the mind is at concocting a million reasons not to do something. I worried about regretting my decision. What if I regretted the changes to my body from testosterone but there was no turning back? Even though many of testosterone’s effects are in fact, reversible, the risk of having to admit I was wrong about my gender identity(and the skeptics were right), seemed scary enough to not even try in the first place.
Always an intuitive and compassionate person, possessing an emotional depth through which I perceived this world, I feared testosterone could steal that gift from me, reducing my ability to feel.
Testosterone has in no way reduced my ability to feel emotion. I still save wounded birds and feed stray cats. I smile at homeless people on the corner just to make them feel human. I cry when nobody is looking. Testosterone only makes it easier to not cry.
The suffering of the world continues to affect me on the deepest emotional level and in fact, the challenges I’ve faced being transgender, have created an even deeper sense of empathy.
On a similar note, I feared testosterone would turn me into a totally different person, either I’d look into the mirror and not recognize myself or my personality would undergo a metamorphosis. Would I become an aggressive, macho-mutant, who was unable to feel? I wanted my body to transform, but not beyond recognition. I wanted to exist as a son instead of a daughter, a brother instead of a sister, a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend, a man instead of a woman; I did not want to lose the essence of my unique personality. What a terrifying unknown it was to think of my mind and body mutating in awkward distortion instead of becoming more refined but every change has been immensely worth it. A more authentic version of myself stares back at me in the mirror.
The decision to start testosterone was one interwoven with excitement, longing, fear, reservation, and uncertainty. I’d like to impress on anyone contemplating hormone replacement therapy that, when facing a huge decision, a hint of uncertainty will probably always exist. If you wait for the moment to feel 100% sure, that moment may never come. Uncertainty in a decision does not make it a wrong decision and blindly taking a leap into the unknown can bring the greatest reward.
In the end, I knew if I did not try testosterone, the idea would plague me for the rest of my life. That potential burden weighed greater on my heart than any list of fears my mind had invented. I grew facial hair, gained muscle, developed a deeper voice, my facial shape changed, my Adam’s apple became more prominent and I am consistently gendered as male. Able to show up in this world, confident that people see the real me means I metaphorically skip through life rather than tread water now. My outside matches my inside. Most importantly, my mind feels at peace.
Testosterone makes me feel that my body and mind are running on the correct fuel.
Perhaps testosterone correctly re-wired my brain but I believe beyond all doubt that my genuine self is no longer hiding.