Here’s What Trans Men Wish They’d Known Before Starting Hormone Therapy


We asked
trans and gender-nonconforming members of the BuzzFeed
Community what they wish they had known before
beginning hormone replacement therapy, which can be a wild
and confusing ride.

We asked trans and gender-nonconforming members of the BuzzFeed Community what they wish they had known before beginning hormone replacement therapy, which can be a wild and confusing ride.

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Thinkstock

Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is the process of
taking hormones either orally or by injection. The act of
replacing hormones that your body is no longer producing
sufficiently, or adding hormones that your body does not
produce at all, is a treatment used for many medical issues
(most commonly, for treating menopause in older women).

For trans and gender-nonconforming people, it’s often the
first medical step to affirming one’s gender identity. The
supplementing of sex hormones — like estrogen,
anti-androgens, or testosterone — allows an individual to
develop physical characteristics that better match the
gender they identify as.

For this post, Buzzfeed LGBT got some extra input from
Dr. Meera Shah of the Callen-Lorde Community Health
Center and Dr. Asa Radix, MPH, senior director of
research and education at Callen-Lorde.

ID: 9509161

Let’s talk about testosterone therapy (we’ll cover
feminizing hormones over here).
Testosterone, often referred to as simply “T”, increases
muscle mass, facial hair, and deepens your voice.

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20th Century Fox

According to Shah, the full effects of testosterone usually
take one or two years to develop. “While HRT may not be
part of everyone’s transition, for those who include it, it
is considered medically necessary,” She adds.

Here’s what BuzzFeed Community members had to say about
starting T:

ID: 9570959

1. Not
everyone who goes on T has the same goal for how
“masculine” they want to look.

Not everyone who goes on T has the same goal for how "masculine" they want to look.

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“After starting testosterone, I tried to be extremely
masculine. I stopped wearing makeup, dyed my hair a dark
color, and started wearing baggy boy clothes. All I did was
make myself a different kind of miserable. Clothing and
makeup do not have a gender. I’m still valid in anything I
want to put on. I look and feel best when I’m just me.”

— Jess Winter, Facebook (pictured above)

ID: 9508843

2.
Testosterone can also affect your mood and temperament.

Testosterone can also affect your mood and temperament.

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“A lot of people think the hormones will only bring fun
things like facial hair, fat redistribution,
self-confidence, etc — but it can also disrupt the peace in
your own head and surroundings. I wish I could have better
prepared my girlfriend, and myself, for this shift in my
behavior and personality.”

— Kelsey Lagman, Facebook

According to Radix, starting on hormone therapy induces
the same physical and emotional changes that go along with
puberty — so mood swings can be fairly common. One way to
fight the highs and lows of T levels is to try transdermal
testosterone (topical gels) which are less likely to cause
such exaggerated mood swings.

“Another option is to have your medical provider
prescribe a lower dose of the injectable testosterone
weekly instead of every two weeks to keep the T levels more
stable,” says Radix.

ID: 9508949

3. There is
no universal transition timeline. Your body may not change as
quickly as someone else’s, so try not to get discouraged by
constant comparison.

“I had friends whose voices dropped after a few days on
testosterone, and for me, it took roughly 5-6 months for my
voice to drop. I started to get more body hair in the first
few weeks, and for most of my friends it took several months.
There really is no timeline to go off of.”

— Jude Ezra Goodman, Facebook

“It’s easy to look at others and compare how far you’ve
progressed but it’s not a race to become the ultimate trans
man. It’s about what makes you happy — finding that piece of
authentic happiness inside and holding onto it.”

– Jaek Avants, Facebook

“Everyone’s journey is unique, so don’t be discouraged if
changes seem to take longer than expected,” Radix says. “If
you have questions, about hormone effects or dosing, you
should bring them up with your provider — chances are that
other people have had the same concerns.”

ID: 9509040

4. Voice
changes can be a painful up and down — literally.

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“I wish someone would have told me that voice changing
could be painful. I knew hormones would cause the vocal
transition, but I kept trying to reach a higher tone by
instinct and got killer sore throats. For months I kept
losing my voice and getting really painful coughs.”

— Gabriel Davies, Facebook

“When you start testosterone it causes the larynx to
grow,” explains Radix. “When this happens you might notice
a sore throat intermittently before the voice deepens. This
can come and go over several months to a year. Luckily the
soreness eventually goes away.”

ID: 9508978

5. Getting
that right dosage can be a bit of trial and error, so listen
to your body and be patient.

“I wish someone had properly explained to me what being low-T
feels like. Doctors all describe it as being ‘a bit tired’
but that is the worst understatement possible. Being low-T
feels like what I imagine being 80 years old feels like —
your bones ache, you can’t think straight, and you constantly
feel tired. It took months for my doctor to get me on the
right dose so I would stop feeling like this at the end of my
shot cycle.”

— Jake Hammel, Facebook

Both over and under-dosing can be a problem, after all
everyone is a different size and will need a different amount
of hormones.

“It is important to have your T levels checked and dose
adjusted,” says Radix.

ID: 9508976

6. It’s OK
to be a little (or a lot) intimidated by self-injections.

“I wish I would had known how huge the needle was going to
be. When I first started testosterone, I went with injections
because shots never bothered me before so I figured it would
be no biggie. I was wrong. It was a biggie, it was very
biggie.”

— alexbyrd997

“Self injection is scary for a lot of guys,” assures
Radix. “Testosterone can be given subcutaneously (just under
the skin) instead of the muscle. This is less painful and
much easier to do.”

ID: 9534172

7. On T
your sex drive will, well, thrive.

On T your sex drive will, well, thrive.

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“I probably could have been having sex three times a day
and still be horny as hell. Thankfully, that did die down
with time.”

— marcs4404e432c

ID: 9509078

8. And
you’ll probably want to eat all the foods.

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Nickelodeon

“I wish I had known how hungry I’d be the days after each
shot. For two or three days after my shot I’m starving
almost all the time and can eat almost an entire pizza and
an hour later be hungry.”

— Chevy Whitson, Facebook

ID: 9508983

9. FYI:
Growing facial hair is itchy AF.

FYI: Growing facial hair is itchy AF.

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Getty/Thinkstock

“As far as body stuff, I wish I would have known that
beards are way itchier than my brothers made them seem. I
also wasn’t prepared for my smells and sweat consistency to
change.”

— Noah Rosvall, Facebook

ID: 9541822

10. Your
dysphoria may change as you change.

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“I wish someone had told me that my dysphoria would shift. It
would go from being brought on externally (being misgendered,
people confusing my age, clothes not fitting) to internal. I
now find I am the root of all my dysphoria.”
— Elliot Michael Snyder, Facebook

You can read more about dealing with gender dysphoria
here.

New Line Cinema

ID: 9534975

11. Don’t
be afraid to ask questions! Ask your doctor if you notice
anything unusual, they’ll know what’s cause for concern and
what’s not.

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Columbia Pictures

“I’m a trans man, and I wish I had known about breakthrough
bleeding. It’s like a period all over again — except it
lasts for weeks and it’s more painful.”

— Marcosias Harland

According to Radix, breakthrough bleeding for guys is
something that needs to be evaluated by a medical
provider.

“Infections and uterine problems need to be ruled out.
Sometimes it is just due to variations in hormone levels
and the T dose might need to be adjusted or given at
shorter intervals,” says Radix.

ID: 9508979

12. Hormone
replacement therapy isn’t a “cure all or fix all” treatment.

“In a lot of instances, medically transitioning can improve a
person’s mental health because they’re able to physically
become the person they’ve always been on the inside, but it’s
definitely not a ‘cure all, fix all’ treatment. If you go in
expecting HRT to solve all your problems, you will be
disappointed.”

— blackzephyr

ID: 9509060

13.
Sometimes talking it out with a therapist is the best
medicine.

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“HRT is not meant to replace psychological treatment.
Seeing a counselor and or psychologistfor support in ANY
life transition that can be difficult, is ALWAYS a good
idea. It may not be something you need long term, depending
on your situation and mental health history, but it is
always a good idea to have someone to talk to to help you
figure out how to cope with varying levels of stress in
your life.”

— SinnerElla

ID: 9509000

14. And,
always and most importantly, try to love yourself just as you
are.

“I wish I would have known a lot, but the thing about being a
trans person, at least for me is, it’s going to take a long
time, and it’s going to be hard, but the journey is all part
of who I am and who I am becoming and I don’t regret any of
it.”

— alexbyrd997

ID: 9526332

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