The low down on low dose T

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I’ve had a lot of questions recently about the mental and emotional effects of low dose testosterone. I had a bit of a difficult experience because I had a massive exacerbation of untreated mental illness while in the early months of being on low dose T but it’s wasn’t due to me being on T alone.

I was on 50mg depo testosterone every 2 weeks and I got impatient and upped it to every week because I wanted to see changes quicker but around the same time I had 3 major crises happen in my life that ended up putting me into a depressive spiral and I wasn’t coping with all the stress/depression and puberty at the same time so I stopped T for a while. I’m hoping to go back on HRT soon.

I really loved the way T made me feel. The way I can describe it is that I had a slight invisible buffer between me and my emotions.  I had to actually consciously be emotionally engaged rather than previously when I felt wrapped up in emotions that were global. I liked the bit of emotional distance, it was a welcome change to me, however I did find that I tended to be less empathetic to my spouse and more likely to fob their emotions of as less important/relevant which would be something I’d have to work on when I go back on T. I wouldn’t describe it as being less emotionally available but rather more like a half second delay in emotional response that gives you the opportunity to decide how you want to react to it.

I did get irritable and snappy and I know some of that was T and some was because of the extreme stress I was under and not getting the opportunity to go through puberty and learn my own emotional landscape before having to deal with crises. A friend of mine warned me that in his experience and the experience with other trans men starting T that 50mg every 2 weeks makes people very moody, this is apparently the starting dose that some Drs prescribe and it does cause the most fluctuation in mood. In the future I would be interested in trying 25mg weekly rather than 50mg every 2 weeks. I am also considering moving over to Nebido (long acting T with more stable hormone levels) which I would stagger a shot every 6 to 8 weeks rather than doing a weekly T shot. I’ve also been told that the moodiness does ease up after about 8 months or so.

I couldn’t cry. I’m not usually a crier and I’m more likely to cry out of anger or frustration than I am out of sadness. On T… no tears… niks… nada… fokol. One situation did make me cry but it really took a lot to override the T-tearlessness. I mean I did feel sad, I did feel frustrated, I did get angry, it just didn’t result in me ever crying.

I was finding that I wasn’t taking my shot as regularly as I should have because if I took my shot too late in the day or at night I wouldn’t sleep that night, and it wasn’t always possible to do my shot in the mornings due to life demands. I have long standing insomnia and my psychiatrist gave me a prescription for sleeping pills which means that getting my shot in the evening when it is more convenient for me becomes an option again.

I was in the process of having to relearn my emotionality and reactions within my relationships because my way of navigating emotions did change. Any sort of HRT and hormonal transition is difficult on both partners in a relationship as you have to be prepared to relearn how to relate to each other. It can often end up highlighting existing issues that you haven’t dealt with. My spouse was struggling with what they perceived as an emotional distance between us, I think this was directly related to me not having had a chance to figure out how to be consciously present in our time together as my natural reaction in crisis is to dissociate. Being dissociated was very easy on T, and considering it was an existing stress reaction, having that become even more default became obviously problematic.

If you’re considering going on low dose T but are still unsure

The whole going onto HRT is a pretty serious decision. My own personal experience is that once you’re thinking about going on T the things stopping you tend to be social/family/external pressures. If you think you can live with the physical changes within yourself then going onto low dose T would give you a good idea of whether T is for you far sooner than any physical changes will happen. If you go on T and feel that it isn’t right for you, you can always stop.

 

 Here is a bit about my experience with regards to what changes to expect

The voice changes, facial hair, hair thinning and clitoral enlargement are permanent. Facial hair can always be plucked/lasered if it bothers you. The growth of facial hair is gradual. Facial hair that grows in the first couple months of T will mostly fall out if it hasn’t had a chance to become “terminal hair” so most of the fuzz disappears when you stop T and only the thick darker hairs remain. I don’t think I have more than 3 or 4 chin hairs left and all the fluff on my cheeks is gone.

Hair thinning is entirely genetic so if your male family members have receding hairlines you might have hair thinning too, however again this reverses to a certain extent when you stop T.

Low dose T won’t result in massive virilisation so even after 6 months on low dose T I didn’t even vaguely pass as male.

The emotional changes as well as the body fat redistribution are both reversible changes. The body fat redistribution and muscle bulking happened really quickly for me but those effects disappeared almost as quickly.

My voice lowered a bit in the first couple months and one of my biggest motivators to increase my dose was to have my voice change more as I have serious voice dysphoria. A friend noted yesterday that my voice has gotten a bit higher since I stopped T too. The voice change has been my favourite change so far.

Also, unless you’re on antideps which suppress your libido, the 14 year old libido is wild! Though my one friend who is ace didn’t find much boost in libido at all so I guess it is person specific. With this, I got a bit annoyingly inappropriate at times with regards to just blurting out whatever thought was in my head but this is just an unfortunate intersection of testosterone puberty meeting ADD and my never ending struggle not to blurt out my every random thought in every situation anyway.

Other info

Some people have asked if you can skip T and just go on blockers. Everywhere I have researched says no. You can’t really go onto blockers alone, there haven’t been any studies on the effects on living with no T or E and even post-menopausal people still have low levels of various hormones. Added to this, your body needs either oestrogen or testosterone for metabolic functions. Not having sex hormones can increase your risk of chronic conditions like osteoporosis, heart disease and some cancers.

 

 

Please treat my depression and not my orange hair

TW mental illness, depression, suicidal ideation.

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It seems appropriate that today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and the theme of many of the global discussions focus on mental health and well being. This morning I finally went to my appointment with a trans affirming psychiatrist and will hopefully be getting a bit of support navigating the desolate place that has been mental landscape for far too long.

The following is somewhat of a stream of consciousness and hasn’t been proof read or edited so please bare with my ramblings as I try to get the stuff out of my head before I lose my nerve.

I have hinted at the fact that I’ve been in a bad place recently. Frankly, I’ve been too scared to even begin trying to access psychiatric care because of a really bad experience I had about 2 years ago.

I went to a psychiatrist because post partum depression had turned into a major depressive episode and that combined with a massive trauma had left me suicidal and hopeless. I waited an awfully long time to get to see a psychiatrist who had been recommended as queer friendly by a cisgay psychologist friend.

The fact that there was a TV showing the Kardashians screaming at each other at an uncomfortable volume in the waiting area should have been the first clue that this was not the right doctor for me. I was desperate enough to need to see a doctor and I just couldn’t wait any longer so I stuck it out through the hour and forty five minutes that he was running behind schedule. Finally he calls me in and I am struck by his casual appearance and that his outfit would not look out of place at a trendy club or in an R&B video. He asked me why I was there and I replied detailing my struggles with post partum depression. And this, dear reader, is where everything unravelled disastrously.

Within the space of 15min he had diagnosed me as having Borderline Personality Disorder had shamed me for being depressed and invalidated every aspect of my experience. The way he made his diagnosis by his own words is that he “reads people.”

Want to know what his diagnostic criteria were?
Blue hair – impulsive and rebellious
Deaf – self harm via music (actually degenerative calcification of the tiny bones in my ears)
Unusual gender presentation – rebellious
Tattoos – rebellious
Complained about the TV being too loud to hear the receptionist over the phone – oppositional
Experimented with drugs in my youth (15 odd years ago) – impulsive
Abusive parents – well this is the one thing that actually does fit as an aetiology.

He actually told me that my suicidal depression was irrelevant and that it would sort itself out if we treated the real problems. The real problems being my non normative presentation.

I honestly can’t decided if the issue was homo/transphobia or garden variety misogyny but this doctor had taken one look at me and made assumptions about my mental illness and then looked for things to confirm his gut feel, rather than base his diagnosis on clinical case taking or history.

I left the appointment broken and confused. I sat and cried for almost an hour before I was able to drive home. Looking back, if I hadn’t had the supportive spouse to go home to, and psychiatrist friends, who upon hearing recount of my experience, insisted that his behaviour was malpractice and negligent, I would have probably not survived that experience. I was left unmedicated and unsupported by the very person I had entrusted myself with at my most vulnerable.

Two years…
It has taken me 2 years to work up the courage to go see a psychiatrist again. Two years of battling through depression alone. Two years of clawing my self out of the dark. Two years of falling back in to the pit unexpectedly.

The last 6 months have been hard. We have had major crisis after major crisis. A failed business, financial troubles, freak accidents with our kids, my car being vandalised, a massive betrayal of trust from someone we let into our home, a terrifying health scare, and then the separation from my parents. All of this while I was going through second puberty on T. It all got too much. I stopped T to try cope slightly better with my emotional coping mechanisms no longer turbulent with hormonal changes, but by that point I was so deep and far gone in the grip of mental illness that nothing was helping anymore. Too little, too late.

In the last 2 months, my mind has been a constant litany of “you’re worthless” “you’re a burden” “your family would be better off without you” “just kill yourself” “your function in this family could be filled by a competent au pair” “do it now before your kids are old enough to remember you” “you’re invisible”

“Do it”
“DO IT!”
“WHAT ARE YOU FUCKING WAITING FOR? DO IT!”

And then new words added to that familiar dialogue.

“It’s because you’re trans” “there is no space in this world for people like you” “you’ll never make a living because you’re too weird” ” you’ll never be accepted, look not even you parents can accept a freak like you”

That constant stream of negative thought, toxic internal dialogue and internalised transphobia had me struggling to cope day to day, barely surviving at all in fact.

Finally I reached the level of desperation that was necessary to disregard my fear of psychiatry and I made an appointment.

It has been a couple days of swallowing the fear and nausea lodged firmly in my throat, days of trying to breathe past the panic and calm my racing heart. This morning I managed to walk into the doctor’s rooms, suppressed the urge to run screaming and greeted the Dr with a babbling apology about being nervous and shed a fair few tears within seconds of walking through the door.

She was nice. She used gender neutral language for my spouse and I. She listened intently, asked sensitive and well considered questions, and then after 45min sent me on my way with Wellbutrin, sleeping pills, her mobile number written on a piece of paper in case of aggravations or side effects and a glimmer of hope.

So begins my medication roller coaster. These things are never straight forward, but I hope this time I have someone in my corner to whom I can hand over some of the weight of my mental illness and who’ll carry it for a bit until I’m stronger again.

Now I’m going to nap and hope some of the panic and tention will dissipate.

Wish me luck.

What Being Institutionalized As A Trans Person Made Me Realize

I was saying to a friend today that I am completely disillusioned and wary of psychiatry as psychiatrists don’t know how to treat my mental illness and not my gender.

In a world where being trans is still seen as pathology, I have been stuggling through mental illness alone and unsupported. I still think I’m safer as I am than experiencing the violence and ignorance that trying to access healthcare has exposed me to.

It’s a pretty messed up world.

Let's Queer Things Up!

Back in the days just before I started testosterone, I used to say, “If HRT were to start causing problems with my bipolar disorder, there’s no question – I’d stop the hormones.”

I swore, over and over again, that I would never sacrifice my sanity for my transition. But this is not what I said in the psych ward, when the psychiatrist asked me, “Would you be willing to stop testosterone?”

Repeatedly, day after day, doctors would ask me about stopping HRT and my answer was the same every time.

“That’s not an option.”

My self of six months ago would have been aghast if he knew I was refusing to stop HRT despite being institutionalized.

But it wasn’t six months before. It was present day.

Present day, under a 5150 – wishing I weren’t alive, hearing voices that told me I was better off dead, and drinking more than my fair share…

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Go read LQTU – Medically Transitioning Is Not A Walk In The Park (Sometimes, It Actually Sucks).

If you wondered why I suddenly stopped blogging… I had a really hard time and stopped T for a while to try get back on my feet. I promise I will blog about it when I can find my way to leave the house and get on wifi. I have been super recluse since November last year and am still not entirely stable with regards to my mental health.

Sam could have been writing my own words in this article. Reading it I kept mentally shouting “Me too!”

 

 

Alternatively titled, ‘That Time My Hormones Made Me Lose My Damn Mind’ or maybe ‘Being Transgender Is Awful.’

Source: Medically Transitioning Is Not A Walk In The Park (Sometimes, It Actually Sucks).

Why Aren’t More Trans People Denouncing Truscum?

I have personally experienced more online harassment from truscum than any other group of people. This is a very real issue as a nonbinary person.

Let's Queer Things Up!

harassment2“I’m sorry, are you publicly asking me about my genitals or am I mistaken?” @SamDylanFinch

If you asked me where the vast majority of my online harassment comes from, you might be surprised to know that it comes from other transgender people.

Ever since I published this article on why body dysphoria is not what makes a person transgender, the pushback on social media by a small but vocal minority has been intense.

The efforts to silence me, all on the basis that I am not “trans enough,” has revealed a really dark side to the trans community that I never knew existed.

This minority has consisted of transmedicalists (also referred to as truscum), who believe that the only valid transgender people are those who experience body dysphoria, desire a “binary” medical transition, and are pursuing hormones and surgery.

All other trans people are not considered “true trans,”…

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Affirmation and validation

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I have been stuggling with feeling stuck in a society that doesn’t fit me. When people aggressively gender me I feel violated. It has felt like I’m in a downward spiral into darkness, nobody sees me as I am and being non binary trans is a fight for recognition that is completely futile. I don’t feel seen or understood by anyone, I know this isn’t true as people only ever see others in the reflection of themselves so people understand the parts of me that resonate in themselves.

Even within my trans group there is an assumption of masculinity due to me being on T which annoys me. The dude/bro/boet used to talk to me is still better than feminine focused language but as I transition I am as frustrated that people assume masc binary gender for me as I was in people assuming femme gender.

I asked a friend to describe me and my gender as they see me, their response gave me hope. Sometimes all you need is one person to get it.

This is what they said:

“The first thing I see is Peter Pan. Normally I identify as Peter Pan because I attract so many lost boys.

When I look at your face I can’t see an age. I can’t see any markers or cues to express how many moons you’ve been on this globe. You appear ageless to me. I think you and I could pass as school boys playing hooky from school. I feel as though you don’t look young though, any more than you look old. Beyond the binary of either or. No dichotomy there. You are some beyond that. Not above or below. Not here or there. Neither. Your eyes speak to me as to whisper hints of agelessness. You look like you could be a thousand years old, grinning at me from lips to eyebrows. You could be immortal and I would believe it. I think about how I want to know you for my entire life and I wonder if you’ll age anymore than I have.

Sometimes you honestly look otherworldly to me. And I don’t mean this disrespectfully, the opposite really. Reverence. Respect. Belief. Sometimes your eyes perk up at the corners and I wonder at times if you have any fey in your blood. Are you a Sprite or a fairy or an imp or a elf? Or are you something I’ve never even read about? Your skin and your wicked ways and your bright eyes leave me truly wondering where your spirit hails from, where does one get magic on their soul like yours? It’s like you found the philosopher’s stone or the spring to eternal youth. Am I saying too much? I feel like your gender expression is enhanced by your ageless appearance and your magical aura.

Honestly when I see you I can’t find any single words to describe you. I feel like the appropriate words would come in odd numbers, 3 or 7 all lined up in a zig zag pattern wiggling serpentine out of my mouth and to your mind.

In some photos I cannot tell if you’re a man or a woman or queer or… Are you a faggot? You look like one with your smirk and black flattop. Are you a dyke who likes queer bodies? Are you a freak? I feel like the answer is yes to all of the above. I see so much more than any one word.

My friend you are gender fluid to me. I guess that word works. Spectrum. Here there and everywhere else. Your expression seems to be seamless. It flows from one to the next to the other to something else entirely.

Ah. I have a word to describe! Enigma. You are a devilishly wrapped up bundle of twists and turns. You can change ONE thing and suddenly You’ve slid to looking different. It is like magic. I love how many different genders I have seen on your face. I’ve seen a sweet lost girl, beaming at me with bangs swept out of your eyes. I’ve seen a kind creature hiding behind bright colors and long hair, grinning impishly. I’ve seen a queer masculine individual with fuzz and whispers of a beard . I’ve seen so much in you. I’ve seen so many gender expressions on your face through photos. Idk if that’s what it means to be nonbinary. You look like every identity rolled into a human body with the mind of a playful trickster.

I think I said freak earlier and I want to let you know I don’t mean it rude or mean. I feel like freak as a word to empower and use blatantly. I am a freak. I don’t fit into very many boxes- my shoulders are too broad. I bust boxes at the corners because I can’t be forced into conforming. I feel like you’d bust boxes as well. I am a freak. I like to play tricks on people, make them turn around and take a second glance and ponder who or what they just spoke to. I live under a big circus like tent, I am the freak show. I am the ring master of freaks. The more the merrier. It is important that people like you and I speak up and identify ourselves as different. A transman experience is not the same as ours. A female identified gay boy isn’t the same either. I feel like it is important that we own our oddness and differences because other freaks need to know it is okay to be different. Not only are we queer different, but we are the queers of the queers. We are the sliver of left overs of the minorities. We are the olives picked out. We are the split and uneaten carrot sticks. We are the crisp pale cabbage leaves beneath the wilted dark green layers. We are the weirdos of the oddballs and honestly if people knew it were an option to be non binary I think they would pick it. Or maybe if there were more examples of nonconformity than maybe IT would pick THEM. Maybe our suffering is meant to encourage the pathway laid down and cemented by our isolated years of tears. Some people have never conceptionalized the idea of neither. Of the third. The other other. It is stellar to me to meet you and know you and love you because I don’t have friends like you. I identify as nonbinary more strongly than I ever have in my life and I give you credit for that. It makes me feel more free and fluid as my fickle heart desires.

I hope these words provide you comfort. Eli, you are not alone. Thank you for standing your ground against the overwhelmingly binary world. Thank your claiming your identity in the face of your life, your parents, and yourself. Thank you for owning yourself because no one else has the right to. You are a gorgeous handsome unique individual and I think your eyes burn differently than anyone else’s. Thank you for holding true to yourself, it gives me strength and inspiration. It gives me so much. Thank you thank you. Please carry on, for yourself and for ever other queer out there who questions the either or and finds something else.

You are fucking awesome.”

Where to from here

When I was considering going on to HRT I thought the hardest part of my experience was going to be the actual decision making and then getting a script for T but I was so very, very wrong. Transition has been a far harder experience than I ever expected.

The last month has been one of the hardest months of my life. I am barely hanging on in the maelstrom of negativity and hate, the crap I’ve had to deal with has me feeling defeated. I am left wondering if I have the strength to survive living in this world as a non binary person. The issue isn’t with transition per se but rather the series of events that I can no longer ignore and won’t go away.

My business is struggling, I can’t afford to float it much longer and as a result I am going to be looking for a job soon. This is a hard blow and while I know the issue isn’t with my skill as a medical practitioner, it seems that my unusual presentation may be a bit too weird for the conservative community I live in. So I cut my hair and dyed it black in a desperate attempt at some sort of conformity. The problem with this is that when I had blue (green/purple/turquoise) hair I could look in a mirror and like what I saw there, possibly for the first time in my life. I dislike my new haircut. It is also a tricky place to be because while my new haircut doesn’t feel right, it has had some of the effect that I wanted in that I get read as more masculine. A security guard called be boet (Afrikaans word for brother) the other day which gave me a moment of hell yeah, but that hell yeah is sorely lacking in my reflection. So either I have blue hair and struggle to find a job, and get horribly misgendered but like how I look or I have black hair, get more gender validation and possibly increase my chances of finding employment but struggle with my reflection on a daily basis.

It doesn’t help that a couple days after I cut my hair my car was keyed in what I can only guess was a homophobic/transphobic attack. I assume it was a hate crime as it happened at a place I go to 2-3 times a week and someone who might have had an issue with me would have seen me around a lot and been able to figure out which car I drive. I wasn’t parked badly, hadn’t cut anyone off or otherwise been rude to anyone there, I am on good terms with all the waiters/security staff/cashiers in the centre and greet most of them by name, and there aren’t kids hanging out in the centre who may have vandalised my car just for fun. The damage to my car was malicious and whoever did it did so in such a way as to scratch all the panels down one side of my car, there was anger and hatred in the action.

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When people used to ask me why I had blue hair I explained that it gives people a focus for the fact that they find me weird. People can tell there is something unusual about me but they can’t quite figure out what it is and being non binary is so far out of people’s frame of reference that it isn’t something they would even be able to identify. It is easier for people to go “Oh, this person is weird because they have blue hair” and thus my blue hair actually put people at ease around me and became a talking point. I can’t help but feel that my recent change in appearance hasn’t somehow contributed to the fact that someone reacted so negatively towards me as to be moved to act in a pathetic and passive-aggressive manner. There have also been a lot more slurs, name calling, hisses and muttered remarks. It is exhausting.

There has also been big issues with my family. I finally got to the point where I told them that I no longer want contact with them. The reaction was something along the lines of “blah blah blah your gender issues blah blah blah you’ll always be our daughter blah.” So my decision to cut them out is becomingly exponentially easier to accept by the minute.

Being trans is hard. I can’t go back to who I was before I figured out that I am NB, but living in such a noxious world is breaking me down. Where to from here and how will I find a way to exist that isn’t damaging and painful? I’ve even contemplated putting a hold on my transition to buy time and process but I don’t think pausing transition will actually help me in any way.

I feel so lost.