There are so many steps in transition: changing your name and documentation, counseling, surgery, hormone therapy. They all are part of a process to help reach a place where you are more comfortable in your own skin. Transition means something different for everyone, and it is important to remember there is no certain set of things you need to do to transition. Whatever you feel you need to do for yourself is what you should do. Do not prescribe to the concept of being trans* enough. Your identity is your own and no one else can tell you what you need. Whatever decisions you come to, though, it is important to research all of these parts of transition so you can be informed of your options. One of the things I have been struggling with the most has been the thought of testosterone (T). So what do you need to know about T?
T can be taken by injection, as a patch or gel, or by pill. Injection and gel tend to be the most common methods of application, with gel being the more expensive of the two options. But gel does also provide steadier hormone levels, eliminating the peaks and dips seen with injections which can cause aggression and irritability respectively. Dosages need to be discussed with a doctor. Everyone has different natural levels, and as you and your doctor work to find the correct levels for you, there will be a lot of lab work to keep track and maintenance labs thereafter. It is important to take any medicine as prescribed, but if you take more than T than prescribed, it can actually be detrimental to your transition, stalling effects, and heightening health risks.
Hormone therapy works differently for everyone, some people experiencing certain changes and not others. Keep in mind, T will work at a different pace depending on how sensitive you are to the hormones and what method you are using: injection or gel. The general changes you will see with T include: growth of facial hair, increased thickness and growth of body hair, growth of the clitoris, greater muscle mass, redistribution of fat, voice changes, the stop of menstrual periods, and increased sex drive.
There are several health risks and possible side effects to taking T. A pamphlet from the Trans Care Project lists them as such:
Make sure to check out the pamphlet for more detailed information as well as this page from Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide. It is important to investigate these risks and to discuss them with your doctor as some people will be more disposed to them based on overall health and genetics. If you have any questions, you can always leave them in the comments or message me here or on tumblr.