Whether you?re MTF or FTM, seeking a fundamental change to your identity can add up to a whole range of choices to have to make, over a lengthy period of time. Each of these choices can involve a degree of struggle and even pain, and require levels of support from friends, family or allies in the community. Hormone therapy is one of the most important choices because it can prepare the way for the full realisation of your transition.
How Do Hormones Change the Body?
MTF hormone therapy increases oestrogen levels to effect internal and external physical changes. On the other hand, FTM hormone treatment involves boosting testosterone levels.
For MTF transitioning, oestrogen creates subtle feminising effects, including distribution of fat on the hips, reducing the male genitals and muscle bulk, weakening body and facial hair growth and possible increase in size and tenderness of breasts.
The use of testosterone in FTM transitioning promotes beard and body hair growth, increases muscle bulk, deepens the voice, increases the size of the clitoris and halts periods.
You should be aware that most of these changes are quite gradual, and, like puberty, spread themselves over a few years. Different people will have different responses to hormone therapy and for some the effects of treatment are unhelpful, or unpleasant.
It?s important, therefore, to consult your doctor about your hormone therapy, to ensure that it is going to benefit you and that the treatment you?re taking is on the right track.
Be Aware of the Risks
Hormone therapy should not be taken lightly, which is to say it?s very risky to take a DIY approach. As mentioned earlier, individual responses to hormone therapy can vary greatly, so you should ensure that your ongoing treatment is properly, professionally monitored. Also, with the effects being gradual, being patient is really important. Don?t be tempted to up your hormone levels to try and hurry things along.
Your hormone therapy may require adjustment, and additional medication to help your body cope with it. Age can be contribute to different reactions, so for example, people over 40 may be better off with hormone patches for a more gradual release of hormones.
There are medical risks associated with hormone treatment. For MTFs taking oestrogen these include deep vein thrombosis (DVT), stroke, pulmonary embolism and altered liver function. For FTMs taking testosterone the most serious risk is polycythaemia, the over-production of red blood cells.
Generally, providing your general health is good, the risks of developing complications are relatively small. The most widely prescribed hormone for trans women nowadays is oestradiol, which has far fewer risks of thrombosis.
Throughout hormone treatment you should try and live a healthy lifestyle, taking regular exercise and limiting your alcohol consumption, so as not to undermine the treatment you?re undergoing. Recreational drug-taking is not a good idea, and smoking can reduce the feminising effects of oestrogen.
Hormone therapy is a serious choice, so take the treatment seriously.