I kept fairly detailed personal diary entries when I began HRT. This is part two of my attempt to slowly move those into a more readable form - at least the ones about physical changes and my reactions to them. I'll do something else with the social/sexual posts I made during this time.
I began on the 31st of December, 2015. As my previous pre-HRT journal post noted, I intended to begin on the 1st of January, but found I was so nervous about starting I felt it best to just begin a day early.
This is a collection of my diary entries for the first month.
On the day, I wrote this:
"Took my first pill at 8am this morning. They’re blue, so there’s a twisted reversal of the red pill / blue pill thing from The Matrix.
I’m now officially going through hormone replacement therapy.
I’m correcting my sex."
It was New Year's Eve, so I suspect I'd had a few drinks.
On day two, I wrote this:
"I spoke to a few other trans women, and it’s clear I am on a crazy-large dosage compared to lots of them. Most started on 1mg per day plus an androgen-blocker. I’m not on an AB and I’m on 6mg - 3x 2mg doses per day.
I’m kinda nervous.
But especially because the more I think about it, the more the idea of a fast transition excites me.
I’m going to cautiously read the list of symptoms that are bad with the progynova tonight, just to make sure I’m familiar of what to be looking for."
Day three got a bit more complicated.
"I feel a bit off. Slightly muddled. Emotionally volatile. Physically a bit more sensitive than usual, too. But it's three days. Too early to have any real symptoms, so it's got to be psychological, right?
I've been very cautious and checked the big list of side-effects again. Everything I feel so far is on the 'known/normal side-effects' list. There are only two marked as 'stop taking this and talk to your pharmacist or doctor immediately'. Migraines (especially if it's your first, which it would be for me) or tight, recurring chest pains."
Day four was when the real symptoms began.
"Last night was a disaster. My heart would beat erratically, making me terrified something was wrong, but nope, 'erratic heart beat' / 'heart palpitations' is on the know side-effects list (just need to watch for actual chest pain, which I haven't had).
So is emotional volatility, odd cravings, and every other side-effect I’m having. Of which there are many.
Hot flashes are another fun one, but those aren't common and just feel weird, rather than actually unpleasant.
The heart thing made me unable to sleep last night. Almost at all. I felt nauseous in the morning, too.
But my favourite symptom? My breasts ache. I can’t even say ‘chest’, because there are other issues (the heart thing) which my chest is going through. So, yeah, breasts. No other way to put it. My nipples and the attendant matter behind them? Ugh. Sore as fuck."
I also came to another small realisation.
"I was discussing these symptoms with a friend.
It seems that, short of uterus symptoms, being carpet-bombed with oestrogen has basically given me a half-way between the symptoms of going on a strong contraceptive pill and early pregnancy.
Yaaaay. Cis women are fucking champions for putting up with this shit. Even knowing this is a more extreme form and combination of these symptoms, the idea of getting even some of these monthly, or doing this in a serious way because of pregnancy and then adding in all the uterus-related stuff I don't have to deal with... yeaaaah. Men have no idea how good they have it.
*cries into video game controller*"
I also began to mull over my decisions more.
"I suppose it goes without saying that this is fucking terrifying.
How can it not be? But each time I have moments of panic, which are pretty common, I remind myself of one thing:
All those fears? Of looking odd? Of being treated differently because of how badly trans people are often reacted to?
It’s all temporary. Literally. I will transition. I will become who I am comfortable being, even if it takes surgery.
As for trans treatment? How trans people are treated right now, in January of 2016, is not something I should factor in. Because, like everything else, progress gets made - I need to be thinking about this as the rest of my life. How will I be treated in 2026? Or 2036? That’s what matters.
So that is what I keep reminding myself of every time I get fearful.
This is about the rest of my life, not the present, or the near-future."
That fourth day was bad. The physical symptoms were bad enough that I was genuinely nervous. Not that I'd made a bad decision (I often questioned but never doubted my decision - all I had to do was think back to how I've felt since I was as young as 10-12 years old to remember how much I've really always wanted this) but that my body wouldn't react well. That it wouldn't 'work' or that these side-effects would continue and make my life intolerable.
But on day five, I wrote:
"Feeling better today.
A lot better. Much more mellow. Calm. No anger, annoyance. My breasts still ache, but the other shitty side-effects are gone.
So instead I just have to fight the urge to grope my chest several times an hour when I’m in public. Jeeze they are really sore.
I am having trouble finding a way to sleep comfortably. I used to sleep on my chest habitually. That's tough right now."
"I’m having trouble focusing on work, and I’m a bit more emotional than I’d like.
Random aside: I haven’t drunk anything in two days, despite being in social situations where I normally would. Partly to see if the booze may have had ANYTHING to do with the uncomfortable heart palpitations I felt (I will deliberately drink some wine tomorrow having had two days of no-heart-issues) but partly just because I don’t feel the need so much any more.
I am nervous, but I am also excited and rather comfortable with where my future is heading, at least in the long term. So drinking to numb things is no longer something I want to do."
"It somehow just hit me…
If same-sex marriage became legal at some point, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that I could actually be a bride some day.
For some reason, even though just about every other gendered role seems to have flittered through my head, THIS one took me by surprise.
The idea seems so bizarre, and yet much more 'comfortable' than the idea of being a groom ever would be."
What's interesting to me here is that I still considered myself exclusively attracted to women. To be clear, that hasn't changed in a meaningful way, but I am now at least not being dismissive at all of the possibility that I might be more bi/pan than I had previously accepted.
"Though the whole 'your testosterone levels will rise at first to try and compensate' thing I read about seems to have happened? My chest hair seems a bit thicker. I read that’ll happen before it thins out properly.
Guess my body just has to get used to oestrogen."
That was fun.
"Now on day 8 of HRT.
I’m feeling calm, mostly happy and just… I dunno. It’s good. I hope the worst of the side effects are, for now at least, over.
I guess I’m now dwelling heavily on who I am. How I will present myself, etc.
Most of this comes down to seeing how I naturally act now I’m shedding my inhibitions. I guess I act more feminine, but not hugely so. While I feel being female would be right for me, I am also almost certainly not a totally hyper-girly sort. It’d be somewhere in the middle… but more heavily leaning toward feminine than masculine.
I've no idea how this will change as my body feminises and I get used to this, but right now I guess on the spectrums of gender identity and presentation, I'd be far down the 'feminine' end for identity and a bit closer to 'androgynous' for presentation.
There's something kinda hot about androgyny, anyway.
Either way, I feel calmer. I don’t overdo things so much any more. I don’t over-act. I don’t feel the need to impress.
I am happier already."
Once things began to settle down, I spent more time thinking about the future and considering fears rather than focusing on the minutia or small discomforts / changes going on with my body.
"I haven't had these fears in a while, but it popped up again last night after a moment of fairly bad dysphoria. I began to dwell on issues that haven't happened yet - on social awkwardness or problems that might arise as I continue to transition.
I started focusing on being scared of body changes. Of being treated as some kind of ‘other’. I start mulling over, 'You know, just ‘sucking it up’ and staying male might be easier...'
But then I think more about that, and the idea depresses me so much I can’t function.
So I end up in stuck between something terrifying and something too depressing to get my head around."
Then later on:
"Things have settled down now. I guess it’s day 16 now?
I get days of being overly emotional, and it’s too hard for me to tell if there are any physical effects just yet, beyond my chest being a bit sensitive on and off.
But I feel happier, despite those melancholy / nervous days. I feel I’m doing the right thing in a way even I’m surprised at.
Not just the right thing - but becoming, really, who I want to be."
On day eighteen, I noticed something I'd somehow failed to realise before.
"So, it just struck me - my sex drive has begun to drop very, very noticeably.
For context, months ago and for much of my adult life, I've had a fairly strong sex drive, even if I had trouble acting on it due to discomfort with my body. Left to my own devices and without reason not to, I'd gladly get off a few times a day, if only to keep my head clear so I can focus on work.
I haven't felt aroused or been distracted thinking about sex for a while now. At first I thought I was just too busy or distracted by what was going on, but no, my sex drive seems to have dropped noticeably already.
I read this would happen for a while, so it's not concerning. In fact it's kinda pleasant. Fewer distractions.
My concerns started getting a bit more specific as HRT went on.
"HRT, Day 19.
Woke up feeling really crap today. Very moody, emotional and nervous about going outside. Ate lots of chocolate. I never used to enjoy eating chocolate.
My chest aches, and I can actually see breast development. Already. Like, quite noticeable to me. I am wearing a crop top under my t-shirt half for comfort and half so it’s not obvious, because my right breast is noticeably larger than my left. I wear a size smaller than would fit me normally, so it acts like a really crap binding to hide my bumps.
I read that asymmetrical breast growth early on is common. :-/ I’m just kinda scared. I’m not even a month into HRT. I heard it takes like 5-6 months before breasts are usually noticeable. What if I'm desperately trying to hide breasts while still looking masculine otherwise?"
Aside: the asymmetrical thing would pass. At least, past the point of being noticeable at all.
On day twenty-three, I began to draft my coming-out post. I would write, re-write and stress over it almost every other day until finally coming out a months later.