For over a decade, I had been going back and forth hundreds (thousands?) of times in my head about whether transitioning was right for me or not. Or if not every aspect of it, what about this but not that? Will I ever move forward with some aspect maybe? At some point not that long ago, I seemed to come to the conclusion that no, I wasn’t going to move forward because if I were, I would have done something about it by now. And I haven’t, so I’m not. I must be lacking some internal drive, so it must not be something that I need to do. I settled on identifying as genderqueer and trans* but not planning on medically transitioning in any way. And I seemed satisfied with that. (?) But not quite, or, no, not at all actually. Because it was still on my mind. Sometimes just as whimsical musings in the back of my brain. Other times as pervasive/invasive body-dysphoric consistent ruminations.
I guess I always thought that if I did move forward with something, it would be top surgery, and not HRT. Because I never want to consistently pass as male. I want to continue looking androgynous forever. Top surgery could help with that (although I’m fortunate in that I can get away without surgery, and without binding, in hiding what I have). Taking testosterone would be going further than I want to go. So I thought.
I thought it had to be all or nothing. I thought I had to have a case ready about how I need to transition, in order to access testosterone. And I don’t need to transiton, and I really don’t like to lie. I thought I would need a letter from a therapist, and to jump through all these hoops, to access testosterone. And I wasn’t even sure I wanted it! Eventually I reached a point where I just knew that I needed to try it, at some point, just so that I could know. So that at the very least, I could think about it differently or think about it less often, as it relates to a decision about something I should or should not do.
I have this awesome therapist. She doesn’t know much about trans* identities. I’m fairly certain she had not previously had a trans* client before, although I could be wrong. I’d been talking to her about this stuff, and she’d been following along, more or less, in stride. When I would say I need to try this out, she would say, “then why not!” I asked her if she’d write me a letter if need be, and she said she wouldn’t be comfortable doing that; she doesn’t have enough knowledge about it. Still operating under the assumption that I would need a letter, I started also seeing another therapist, basically for the purpose of getting a letter.
This second therapist gave me the name of a doctor during our first session. Turns out that, apparently, I didn’t need a letter! Turns out I didn’t need to convince anyone at any point that I wanted to transition medically. I never once had to lie to get my hands on testosterone. And once I did get my hands on it, I was given the freedom to experiment with the dosing, basically use as much or as little as I wanted. Turns out I want to use as little as possible. Turns out I might be able to stay on it for the rest of my life without looking any more masculine than I currently do (this has yet to be proven, but it’s been 6 months now, and so far, so good). And the internal effects, with this super low dose, are significant and pretty much better than I could have even hoped for.
Basically, for all those years of wondering and second-guessing and processing and feeling anxious and obsessing and daydreaming and doubting myself and ultimately sort of concluding by default that I wouldn’t take any steps forward, actually doing something about it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
And in retrospect, it isn’t like there’s no turning back, to some extent. Testosterone is a slow-moving substance in terms of long-term changes… I’m really enjoying the internal forward momentum though.
I’m happy to report that outward changes continue to be extremely minimal! I’m going to focus on the most noticeable internal-experience changes, now that it’s been a good chunk of time and it feels like these changes are here to stay.
Pain: I was in quite a bit of constant physical pain, mainly joint pain in my hands and arms, probably from repetitive motions at work and/or not eating enough. Instantly, that was gone. In addition, I’m just kind of suddenly getting a little bit stronger and work is way easier. Also, I’m experiencing sensations of pain a lot differently than before. Like, it’s unpleasant! Whereas before, the constant joint pain was unpleasant, but certain types of pain (basically, self-inflicted) were pleasant and/or comforting. I’m not going to say I’ll never self-injure again, but it does feel so far away from where I’m at right now. That is so amazing to me. I hated that I did that, even very recently, quite a lot.
Hunger: Hasn’t ended up being sustainable unfortunately, but seems worth noting. I felt hungrier for about one week, early on. I thought eating was a worthwhile thing to do. Briefly, I had chemical signals connecting food with pleasure centers in my brain; It was awesome! Like, I would think about and look forward to getting to eat. I would prefer certain things over other things, by a lot. That quickly dwindled back to my normal feelings and attitudes about food, which are not very exciting. Not at all. Sometimes eating is a real chore, in fact. The one thing that feels different now is that if I skip eating at a time I usually eat at, I will feel more motivated to catch up. In that way, I will feel hungrier if I don’t eat. That wasn’t really true before. Also, I’ve gained 5 or 6 pounds, which manifests in the one externally noticeable physical change going on – muscle growth, mainly in my arms, shoulders, pecs, and abs. Really psyched about this. Can’t go wrong with more muscles!
Warm and Fuzzy: I just feel cuddly and cozy. I feel connected to my body in a way I never have before. It’s really hard to describe, but I’m sure people can relate. Like, my clothes feel soft on my skin. Like, I’m walking on pillows and clouds, yet paradoxically, I feel totally grounded. Like, I had no idea how jagged and disconnected I was before; I had nothing to compare it to. These sensations have been dwindling over time – I think I’ve been getting used to them. Like the clouds are not quite as soft and pillowy as they were at first.
Sex Drive: Having a sex drive I can relate to is awesome. Being able to have sexual thoughts and have that be connected to a body sensation. My body responding to sexual stimuli. Having totally different sensations everywhere on my body than I used to, in a good way. Clitoral growth, which means actually being able to feel and experience erectile tissue sensations. Previously, junk was so small and sensitive in a bad way, it wasn’t all that fun.
Anxiety: The biggest, most drastic change, is anxiety: totally gone! Like general anxiety just disappeared into thin air. I still totally over-think things and mentally worry way too much, but the fact that those thoughts aren’t connected to physical anxiety responses is a huge relief. I was exerting so much energy on things that don’t matter! I was feeling so drained and limited by these feelings that I couldn’t get away from before! It’s a lot of work avoiding things that might trigger unpleasant internal responses; now I don’t do that nearly so much! It is totally a brain chemistry shift – I don’t know how or why, but it’s not something I’m worrying about haha. Also, emotionality overall hasn’t changed much. I still have been experiencing the same range and types of emotions, which I’m happy for. If anything, there might be a slight capacity to acknowledge anger and frustration now, which seems positive. I’ll have to see how that plays into my life.
I’ve been on Androgel, 1%, 1 pump (1.25g) per day. I started with 1.62% for about 2 months, but I started to see some changes that freaked me out (voice dropping and body hair growth), so I asked to switch to 1%. Which I did for 2 months (voice went back to where it was, body hair growth stopped). Then recently I started alternating between the two every other day. Which has been working out so far, and I like. I just hope I can continue to alternate my prescriptions. I might be questioned on that…
I have had some other slight physical changes that seem common: I feel warmer, body temperature-wise. I’ve had some pimples pop up, particularly in places I wouldn’t normally get pimples – thighs, butt, armpit(?) I’ve been slightly sweatier (my partner would say significantly sweatier, haha).
I want to be able to use testosterone for the rest of my life, but to not change much, physically speaking, over time, if possible. So far, it does seem possible. The internal shifts are too good, I couldn’t have even imagined, or dreamed them up, in advance. I’m still just hanging out, revelling in it all. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.