Working 9-5

Last Wednesday, I asked my supervisor if I could work from 9am – 5:30pm for the rest of the summer, and he agreed. And then it struck me all over again that I’ve never worked this standard shift before in my life – I’ve worked almost everything except, spanning from super early to super late (excluding overnights). I’ve been with this school district for 19 years so far, first as a painter, but mostly as a janitor. It’s a full-time job, Monday-Friday, but my times have varied greatly.

I’ve joked with people before that my job is the antithesis of the 9-5 office job, and I like that about it. Generally, I work a B-shift, which I am a big fan of. But when kids are on break from school, including over the summer, I have to come in super early, and it is extremely hard for me to adjust, every time. My current supervisor is aware and he’s been accommodating for the most part. He set it up so I can come in at 8am instead of 6am like everyone else.

But this summer has been extra stressful in a lot of ways. We have lots of contractors in the building doing renovations. And my supervisor is leaving for a month, soon. And I have trouble working with my co-workers, since I’m used to the solitude of the job when school is in session. Oh also, lots of questions about how we will be adjusting to the pandemic coming up this fall. Lots of unknowns.

Due to all this stuff, I had a hypomanic episode earlier this summer, including being on the brink of a break from reality. I caught myself in time and course corrected, but recovery has been slow. I was out of work for a week and a half, and coming back has continued to be a struggle.

In talking to my therapist, she suggested I ask for a change in hours. Coming in later has always helped me feel like more of a person, but I didn’t want to ask for something too late – it wouldn’t make sense right now. She said, why don’t I ask for a 9am or a 9:30am start time. I laughed and told her we don’t do that. We don’t work 9-5. No one has. We do everything but. But then I let it sink in… Why not though?!

So, in talking with my supervisor, I was more upfront with him than ever before, citing that I need to take time off for therapy appointments, and that I am on medication that makes it difficult to get up early. Prior to this, I was always evasive as to WHY, exactly, I needed time off and why I hated mornings, only saying, “I have an appointment,” and repeating over and over again, like a mantra, “I don’t like mornings.” He was accommodating enough, and because of long absences due to hospitalizations, he probably had more than a clue about it. I just never said it out loud. It felt good. It felt like I was advocating for myself, and I was being accepted for this aspect of myself.

So in two days, I get to wake up at like 7:30am, which isn’t my favorite but seems actually do-able, short-term. Gonna join the masses, gear up for rush-hour traffic, enjoy a happy hour or two. Until school starts, that is, and I get to return to my favorite shift of all time, 1-9:30pm. That shift fits me like a part of my identity.

Edit: I only got to work 9-5:30 for one day! Blah! My supervisor wanted to negotiate further, and we agreed on 8:30-5pm. The 9-5:30pm shift remains elusive.


Tried testosterone for the first time 8 years ago, today

Eight years is a long time! Trying T, even though I wasn’t at all sure I was going to like it, but positive I needed to at least see what it was like, was one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself.

For the first few years, it was a very fine line between feeling very connected to what it was doing for my inner world, versus not wanting any physical changes. I was microdosing, but even still, was on-and-off of it a few times. Later on, I did want some changes, but only up to a certain point, which led me right back to that pattern of being on-and-off. This is still the case – I’m currently off, with plans to go back on at some point (maybe summer?)

I continue to find myself right where I want to be, more so as the years go by. Here’s a description of an interaction I had yesterday that highlights how I’ve hit that sweet spot of in-betweenness:

I was trying to print out some photos at a store. One person started to help me, and then another person also came to help. The two co-workers were talking amongst themselves, referring to me, and one person was using, “he/him/his” and the other person was using, “she/her/hers.” Finally, the “she/her/hers” person got confused and just said, “Who?!” And the other person gestured toward me and said, “Him!” and simultaneously, I just said, “Me!” And no one did any back-pedaling, questioning, or apologizing, which was pretty much perfect.

Ideally, I’d like for everyone who has known me from before I started my transition, to get on board with my nonbinary identity. I realize this is a tall order, so for those people who can’t grasp the nuances, I’d prefer they defaulted to male, “he/him/his.” This isn’t the case across the board, but one can dream right? And then for those who are just getting to know me, I hope they’ll all get that I’m nonbinary, as much as there is space to have those conversations. And then as far as strangers go, I really revel in the mixture / confusion. That’s the best state for me to exist in.

To many more years!


Back off testosterone again

The last time I injected testosterone, for the time being, was December 8th. I like to keep tabs of when I go on and off it – I’m back around to off again. The first thing I noticed that was new / different happened today: my co-worker made microwave popcorn downstairs while I was upstairs, and even though she does this on occasion, I actually could smell it today. And as I sit here typing, I can smell my smelly feet, which is so weird! I forgot I’d been missing out an a whole other aspect to our world – things smell strongly, strangely, pleasantly, pungently, amazingly, and everything else amongst those adjectives. It’s pretty bizarre how much hormones affect our sense of smell!

Things I am not looking forward to, based on what has happened before:
– getting my period again
– feeling cold
– losing my happy trail
– diminished sex drive

Things I am looking forward to, also based on what’s happened before:
– less oily skin
– hair growing back
– some minor fat redistribution reversal
– I guess the sense of smell thing? Honestly, I’d forgotten all about that until I was hit with it today!

My prediction / guess is I’ll be back on it by July. Last time I was off it and then back on, I lasted from April 2019 till November 2019. So I’ve been back on for a whole year (my prediction had been 6 months). I went through most of my old, expired stockpile, until I realized why am I doing this when it could be less effective than getting new stuff, which I could easily do now through Planned Parenthood? So I called this past July and got an appointment within weeks (this was all through telemedicine, as many things are these days). I got my prescription the same day. I was on 60mL / week. I was injecting intramuscularly. My period didn’t fully go away until October – note to self: don’t mess around with expired stuff. There is not a scarcity / difficulty in getting more, as I have always feared!

Despite what I just said, I still do plan to do my next appointment with Planned Parenthood in about a month and get my prescription filled so that I have it on hand for the very moment when I want to go back on it. Once I’ve decided, I want to be able to inject that very moment, and not wait around to get more (even though, like I said, it is a quick turnaround.) I guess you could say I don’t want any middle people between me and T, once I’ve made up my mind… Just enough to get started, and then I’ll connect with Planned Parenthood again to get more…


Incorporating a traumatic event into a narrative

On this day, 21 years ago, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for 19 days. I was 17. I’ve observed this time of year, every year since starting this blog 7 years ago, by revisiting the events surrounding it, in one form or another. This year, it feels like not a big deal at all. This hasn’t always been the case, but it’s felt less and less traumatic as the years have gone by. Processing it in therapy has helped tons too.

One way I do know it still has some sort of grip over me is, I’ve been working a lot on long-form autobiographical writing this past year and a half. At first, I wasn’t sure what my “story” was. I assumed part of it would include this hospitalization, but then I rejected that and focused on other times in my life. After floundering around with what to focus on, I finally told my therapist, “Even though I don’t exactly want it to be true, ‘this’ is the story.” (‘This’ refers to my senior year of high school, including the hospitalization, and my first year, more or less, of college. Maybe other stuff too; I’m not sure yet) She smiled at that. It felt momentous, as if I’d been on a journey and then found my way back home and declared, “here I am.” Something to that effect.

But I’m still avoiding this part in particular…

As a Freshman in college, I was taking a class called Personal Essay. I ended up writing roughly 8,000 words about my hospital experience as my class project. It was disjointed / not chronological. That’s the way I had to approach it, in order to get as much down as I could remember. My professor, who ended up telling me he had been in hospitals / treatment centers for addiction issues, was super supportive of me pursuing this. That felt good. I was really proud of the final product, and I ended up sharing it with a bunch of friends and family members, at the time. Since then, I’ve glanced at it here and there, but it’s been rough. When writing about my life around that time, I’ve skipped over that completely, rationalizing, “Well, I already have that part down.” And I do. But, I’ve gone back and revised and changed and tweaked everything else. That remains untouched.

I don’t really want to touch it. Maybe it’s good enough as is? I doubt it though. At some point, I will have to get past this, and face it down, if I want to include it in a larger piece. As for now, I’m doing everything but. Which is working out for the time being, but not for forever…


What cleaning looks like at school during COVID-19

Today was the kids’ first day back, and boy did things go differently! I’ve been a school cleaner for 16 years, and, interestingly, I’ve never before had less to do than I do right now. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s actually a testament as to how well-planned out things are to account for what’s going on. No amount of planning is going to stop the spread completely, but… well, we’ll see how it goes.

In the district I work for, the elementary level kids are divided into AM and PM groups. That means no more than 12 kids are in a room at a time. Desks are spaced out accordingly. All area rugs, pillows, fabrics are in storage. I suddenly have barely any vacuuming to do. Also, when kids are only there for 2 hours, they make way less mess. They’re there to learn, and not a whole lot else. No recess, no art, no music, no wandering down the hall to get a drink because they are bored / antsy. They generated roughly half as much trash. They went to the bathroom way less. The bathrooms looked like they’d been barely touched.

Also, there are less rooms being used because some teachers are working exclusively remotely.

All this “less” frees me up to focus on disinfecting, which we’re taking very seriously. But it’s not just me and my co-workers. We now have an army of disinfect-ers: teacher aides plus any teachers who want to clean. Anyone who wants to clean things is highly encouraged and we suddenly have a ton of supplies to make that happen.

We have stations set up for any adults to grab stuff to clean. There’s hand sanitizer everywhere you look and signage for kids so they remember how they now have to be, while they are here.

Things are always in really good shape after the first day of school. Kids are on their best behavior and don’t mess up much stuff. But this year, it was to an extreme. We’ll see what the next few days / weeks / months bring…


Getting asked about surgeries

In general, I’ve felt relieved about how few times I, as a trans person, have been asked things I don’t want to answer. Variations on this scenario have come up twice in the past 2 months though. Blech!

#1: I’m taking part in an experimental study trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. At the end of May, I had a phone interview where they screened me to see if I was healthy enough to participate. Nothing came up about medications I’m on (other than specifics they were asking for), surgeries I’ve had, or anything else gender related. They assumed I’m male based on name and voice and didn’t ask about reproductive health. I did not disclose that I’m trans, and it didn’t come up. I really enjoyed that; it felt refreshing.

The in-person screening a few weeks later, was a totally different story. I was pretty prepared for that though, for having to explain that even though I have a uterus and ovaries and all that, I won’t be getting pregnant despite not using any birth control methods (that has more to do with who I have sex with, and less about being trans – I could be trans and still get pregnant…) I was prepared to do a urine test to screen for pregnancy, despite appearing male. I was prepared to talk about my hormone replacement therapy. I was not, however, prepared when the nurse followed these questions up with, “Have you had any surgeries?” because she asked it in a way that was totally different than how she would ask about any other category of surgery. It was in a sideways, sly, under-the-table kind of way that put me completely off. I replied, deadpan, “Is that information needed for the screening?” She replied, that, yes, they did need to note any major surgeries, to which I replied that I’ve had top surgery. She asked, “What is that?” and I replied, “A double mastectomy.” She wrote it down.

#2: My co-worker, after working together for 2 years, decided to pop the surgery question. She asked it completely out-of-the-blue, apropos of nothing. I guess, at least, she prefaced it with the ominous, “Can I ask you a personal question?” I replied that she could definitely ask, and I’ll decide if I wanna answer. Then I added that I probably would answer, because although I’m extremely private with stuff, at work, I am willing to open up if people are putting in the effort. When it was THAT question, however, I told her I wasn’t going to be answering it. I am glad she asked though, and told her as much, because it led to a long conversation in which I talked to her about a bunch of other things that have been long overdue for her to know about. Such as, I don’t actually identify as a man. She did not know this. She wanted to assert that she did know my identity and that it is a boy. I told her I don’t feel like I am either a man or a woman. Pretty sure that sank in for her. I also told her that my spouse is my “spouse” and not my “wife,” as she assumed, and that they use gender neutral pronouns. And that they also now look male, but don’t identify as such either.

We talked about what people assume based on appearance and a bunch of other stuff. She compared me to a temporary co-worker we had last summer, also trans, and how he was so open and friendly and he answered all her questions including her surgery questions. I bristled at this, but didn’t let it get to me. He and I have since become friends (although I didn’t say as much). He’s gonna be how he is, and I’m gonna be how I am. Although it was uncomfortable and difficult to steer her in the directions I wanted to go in, overall I feel like we got to a new place in our dynamic. I got to tell her that surgeries are actually not that important (or at least not important for others to know about) and other things are much more welcomed, in terms of questioning. Such as, how do you feel about ___________, and whatnot. She semi-argued about what was and was not important, and she also relayed information about her friend who is now named Susan. While talking in graphic detail about Susan’s body and how it is so much more stunningly vivacious than her body, she kept using male pronouns. I did not like where she was going with this at all. I just cut in to ask, “Wouldn’t Susan want you to be using “she” and “her” for her?” She replied that since she’s known Susan for forever, Susan doesn’t care. I’m really hoping it sank in, even just a little bit though.

I feel like I held my ground in both cases and stayed true to myself. Feels good to know these things can come up and not throw me way off, anymore.


The Out Alliance Saved My Life

Around this time, 20 years ago, I was experiencing suicidal ideation and debilitating depression, after being hospitalized for mania and psychosis.  The #1 stressor in my life was my sexual orientation (I hadn’t yet gotten to the gender identity part).  Two things saved me:  therapy, and regularly attending the youth group at the Out Alliance (called the GAGV – Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley, at the time).

Learning, yesterday, that the Out Alliance was folding and laying off all its employees hit me hard, both in a community-forward kind of way, and on a personal level.  We need the Out Alliance and the services it provides.  The board stated,  “We hope that this cessation in our services will be temporary and that, after reassessing and restructuring the organization, we will resume our vital mission, stronger than ever.”  Let’s hope this happens sooner than later.

I went to the youth group for the first time on March 15, 2000.  I was a painfully shy, sheltered, awkward, naive 18 year-old.  I wrote about it immediately afterward, in my diary:

“I was really nervous about going, but felt like it was something I had to do.  I got mom to drive me.  While I was there, I badly wanted to leave, but in retrospect, it doesn’t seem so bad.  We talked about dangers on the internet and stalkers.  I had nothing to contribute.  Dr. [Therapist] says that’s OK.  It was my first time.  Next Sunday might be better anyway.  There’s going to be pizza and a guest speaker on relationships.  Also, I noticed many bookshelves filled with books.  Maybe next time all the kids are outside smoking, I’ll go check them out.”

And it did get better.  I remained painfully shy and awkward.  I never did connect with the other kids or make any friends, but I went every single week from then until I left for college at the end of August.  At the time, the age limit was 19, but I asked if it could be extended to 22 because I still wanted to keep going.  The age got changed in the “rules of the group,” and I was so thrilled I had been heard.  I went sporadically when I could throughout my college years.

Gay Pride Parade, 2003

To back up, I started writing in a diary a year before attending the group, and my first entry starts out with a fantasy scenario in which I come out to a support group, 12-step style.

” ‘Hello.  My name is Katie.  And… I am a lesbian.’  ‘Hi Katie.’*  I’ve gone through this scenario hundreds of times.  I wish it were that easy.  I’d just walk into a gay / lesbian support group and come out.  I just can’t do it though; I haven’t told anyone.”

So actually attending and being around other LGBTQ+ people was HUGE for me, even if it was hard.  Probably largely because it was so hard.  Schools did not yet have Gay Straight Alliances.  The internet was, well, you know, it was the internet of 2000.  Which is to say I didn’t / couldn’t use it to find like-minded friends or look up information about sensitive subjects.  I was too ashamed to take out any books about LGBTQ+ topics from the library for fear of the library clerk looking at them and deducing that I was gay.  The information I would have found in those outdated books might have been more detrimental to my sense of self anyway.  I was most certainly internally homophobic.

To know that there was an organization that was out and loud and proud was a revelation.  I attended the Gay Pride Picnic that July, and was blown away by the number of people.  Who knew?!

It took a while, but the sense of belonging and the normalization of the gay experience grew on me.  I learned so much about safe sex and sex-positivity, LGBTQ+ portrayals in media, history, just a ton of feel-good stuff.  We watched movies, we went on outings as a group, and yes we even got to eat pizza.

Marching with youth group, 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huge shout-out to the facilitator at that time, Patty Hayes.  She changed my life.  I was so psyched to find that this 44 minute interview with her is out there on the internet!  (Interview conducted for the documentary, Shoulders to Stand On.  She has about 3 minutes of screen-time in the final product; here is the full interview):

Interview with Patty Hayes, former Youth Program Coordinator

The Out Alliance was there when I needed it, and I can honestly say it saved me from my own self-hatred, homophobia, and loneliness.  Now that there are so many more options and ways to learn and connect, so what?  It’s still very much needed.  Every city needs something like this.  It was a place to connect face-to-face and find role models and local resources.  A place of hope for kids in surrounding rural areas who could drive in and find out they’re not alone.  City and suburban kids too, of course.  Older people just coming out.  People who have been out for forever.  SOFFAs and allies.  It does, however, need to change with the times.  There were times where I railed against it, for being too normative, too playing-it-safe, not diverse enough.  

Hopefully their return will be swift, and well-thought out.  The former staff have laid out some demands:

  • Diversification of the board’s executive committee. They point out that the board is diverse but the executive committee members are all white and cisgender.
  • Selecting a person of color to serve as the next executive director, “to reflect the necessary changes the agency still needs to take.”
  • Making all board meetings open to the public and the minutes from those meetings accessible to the public.
  • Including dollar figures, not just percentages, in all future annual reports. The annual report for 2018 showed a dollar figure for contributions, but nothing else.
  • Changing agency bylaws to give the board greater oversight over the executive director and “veto power” over major spending and investment decisions.
  • Creating a mechanism for agency members and community members to weigh in on who sits on the board.

Sources:  CITY News article by Jeremy Moule
               Shoulders to Stand On, documentary film

*At the time, I thought my name was Katie and that I was a lesbian.  Now I know it’s actually Kameron, and that I’m a queer person.


Getting back to work

This has been the longest stretch of not posting since I started this blog – something that would have freaked me out not too long ago, but so many things have changed lately, it feels like some of my priorities have shifted.  Which isn’t to say I’m going to stop writing here!  Just that I’m not going to force it.  I have instead been writing frequently in a journal about daily life and what I’ve done to fill my time, since I stopped going to work on March 13th.  Those entries are too boring for the public, haha.

photo by Jess Kamens, @jesskamensphotography

I went back to work yesterday.  That was 75 days out of work!  So far, it’s been totally fine.  We are only doing 4 hour shifts, and I am staggering it with my co-workers.  So, in a job where I’m almost always alone, I am even more alone now.  We’ll see if that changes when teachers have a chance to come in, which will start next week.  So far I’ve just gone around and flushed all the toilets since it’s been so long since any water has been running.  I went ahead and cleaned them while I was at it.  (Some hard water buildup on the porcelain.)  Then I flipped over area rugs, vacuumed them while upside down (gets a lot of sand out of them – I work at a school that is basically on sandy bluffs.) and moved them into the gym.  And now I’m on to cleaning cafeteria tables.  I wear gloves and a paper mask.  Sometimes I take off the mask when there’s no chance of other people approaching me.  It’s hot.  Also, I wash my hands with the gloves on pretty frequently.  I’ve never heard of that as a thing, but I don’t know why not!

It’s comforting that everything was right where I had it when I left.  And that we are all in the same boat.  There have been other occasions where I’ve been out of work long term (after top surgery, after psychiatric hospitalizations), and in those cases, I had no idea what I was coming back into, or sometimes even who would be there.  This time, it feels like there is no pressure at all.  We might not do everything we normally do during the summers.  We will just wait and see.

I’m trying to feel out if I like working these short shifts better than not working at all (the added structure is nice, and the built in physical activity) for future reference.  It’s hard to say at this point.  I’m still transitioning.  Other than this though, everything else is still the same, in my book.  I’m still only going to the store every 2 weeks.  I’m still only seeing people in outdoor spaces, at least 6 feet apart, with a mask on whenever possible (like obviously, not while eating or drinking).  I’m recording my radio show from home, doing telehealth appointments, spending lots of time biking, hiking, and sitting in the nice weather staring off into space.  It feels like others are suddenly less cautious, as the weather got nicer and as restrictions eased up.  That doesn’t make much sense to me, so I’m gonna just keep doing what I’m doing, which now includes working M-F, 11:30am – 3:30pm (loving this shift!)


Lambda Literary Award Finalists

I found out a few weeks ago that the anthology I contributed to, Nonbinary:  Memoirs of Gender and Identity, is a finalist in the “LGBTQ Anthology” category!  Although there won’t be a “Lammy Awards Ceremony” because of COVID-19, the winners will still be announced in early June, for 24 categories, through a format TBD.  The finalists were selected by a panel of over 60 literary professionals from roughly 1,000 book submissions from over 300 publishers.  I didn’t even know this anthology had been submitted / it didn’t occur to me, so finding that out through social media from one of the editors was a fun surprise.

I’ve read a few of the other books from other categories this year; here are some mini book reviews:

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (LGBTQ Nonfiction) – The author captures a year (more or less) of her life in which she was consumed by an emotionally abusive relationship.  She also weaves in myths, legends, and historic examples of lesbian abuse through the ages.  It ended up being much harder to get through than I anticipated, but it was highly rewarding.  I was particularly impressed by the way she kept her ex-girlfriend at an extreme distance from the readers and simultaneously submerged us in the chaos.

A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham (LGBTQ Nonfiction) – This also was the story of one year, but presented in a much different way.  They do a particularly good job of examining the mental health struggles that can result from the uncertainty of gender dysphoria and what to either do or not do about it.  From what I can gather, they come from affluence, and they don’t mention how this plays into their experience at all (it is HUGE), which bothered me, but that might not be quite a fair assessment.

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (Gay Memoir / Biography) – One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.  In his blurb on the book jacket, his background is in poetry, and that makes perfect sense (although his language is not overly poetic).  I was absorbed fully in his experiences, specifically the ways sexuality and sexual acts became dangerously subverted for him, over time.  And why the culture at large contributed to that.  He also handles family dynamics deftly, painting portraits of each family member fully, so we can see and understand why they are doing the things they do and being the way they be.

Death Threat by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Ness Lee (LGBTQ Comics) – I gotta admit I can’t remember much from reading this, and that was only 3 months ago.  So I just now went to go find more about it, and here’s a quick synopsis from goodreads.com:  “In the fall of 2017, the acclaimed writer and musician Vivek Shraya began receiving vivid and disturbing transphobic hate mail from a stranger.  Using satire and surrealism, Death Threat is an unflinching portrayal of violent harassment from the perspective of both the perpetrator and the target, illustrating the dangers of online accessibility, and the ease with which vitriolic hatred can be spread digitally.”  From what I remember, the story was disjointed and difficult to follow, but the alarming nature of the situation definitely did shine through.

Looking forward to June to find out the winners!


Questions about microdosing testosterone

A few days ago, I got a message from a reader.  They wrote:

Hi…thanks for taking the time to help others have the advantage of your experience to answer our own questions. I’m non-binary…I had top surgery 3 years ago, but I’m interested in remaining in the middle. I’m interested in a more masculine body structure (less curvy, more masculine fat distribution, stronger jaw line), but wanting to keep my feminine traits like smoothness of skin/not markedly increasing facial hair and not wanting to make the changes to my disposition that it seems can happen with a standard dose of testosterone. I’m interested in being able to build muscle (just definition) for both look and to be strong and healthy. I’ve hit 50, so not so easy with menopause underway. I’m also interested in how this could support my libido.

I’m thinking that microdosing may be a good way for me to do this, but interested in your thoughts. Also, to whom does one go to get this? I’m going to be living in NY/NJ area and it would be great if you could provide any medical professionals in that area. I’m finding that some MDs don’t know much about this and aren’t incredibly willing to discuss. Does one have to have a prescription for this? I’m assuming so. In any case, any info you could provide or point me to would be greatly appreciated.

We messaged back and forth a few times and decided this could be the good basis for a post.  Here’s an attempt to answer their questions, and elaborate on some thoughts they put out there:

Thanks for reaching out!  I started microdosing T so long ago that that word was not yet in use – at least not in this context, haha!  We called it “going on a low-dose of T,” which is clunkier, and it’s cool there’s a more straightforward verb now, even if it brings to mind people taking small amounts of acid for therapeutic purposes, more than anything else at this point.  I’m sure that’ll change over time.

I too, had (have) a list of things I do and do not want from testosterone.  Most of those things have worked out for me, even in the long term, which is mostly based in genetics, but I still feel like I lucked out.  (It can feel like a crap-shoot, especially when you want some, but not all, of the effects that testosterone may cause.)  I haven’t sprouted that beard that I never wanted.  I gained a more masculine body structure.  I still have smooth skin.  It’s helped my libido.  Also my voice is lower, my disposition shifted for the better, it was a real game changer in many ways.  It helped me grow into myself, for sure.

Testosterone is a controlled substance, which definitely means you need a prescription for it.  My journey to actually getting the stuff was bumpy.  Initially I went through a primary care physician who I found to be smarmy.  I put up with him so I could keep getting my prescription until I decided I could do better.  My next physician was hesitant and I really had to advocate for myself super hard.  She conceded for a while but ultimately referred me to an endocrinologist.  The endo wasn’t great either.  I hoarded it as much as I could so that I was not beholden to medical professionals, and so I had the freedom to start and stop when I wanted to, as opposed to when I could get access.  I still do this.  It’s not recommended, but anyone who knows me probably wouldn’t be surprised.

Things have improved vastly in some regions of the US, but of course not everywhere.  Many Planned Parenthoods now offer gender affirming care and hormone replacement therapy on an informed consent model.  Generally it’s a matter of weeks, not months, to get in and get your prescription.  I just did a cursory search, and, by region, here are just some of the places where this is possible:  Southwest Florida, Southeast Pennsylvania, Washington and Northwest Idaho, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, all throughout Illinois, Western NY, Massachusetts, NYC, Reno Nevada, one tiny town in Arkansas.  Some of these places are not surprising.  Others are.  What makes a specific Planned Parenthood offer HRT or not?!!  One day, eventually, I think they all will.

If anyone has any specific information about providers or options in the NY / NJ area, please leave a comment.  Hope this helps, and good luck!