Transitioning to your true sex isn't easy; it's a long, complicated process that can stir up a wide range of emotional and physical issues. But, for the majority of transgender individuals, it is also a process that can be incredibly healing. One of the most common ways medicine augments the transitioning process is through the use of hormone replacement therapy. If you're just starting on your journey with hormones, this article will help you to better understand how and why medication can help.
How Can Hormones Augment Your Transition?
Hormones can often help you to feel more comfortable with your appearance, and may relieve dysphoria. The ultimate goal of this type of therapy is to help you feel more comfortable in your own skin. Whether you identify as female or male, hormones can help you to change your outer appearance to better match who you are.
Medical transition is achieved by boosting or blocking two main female and male hormones--estrogen and testosterone. Your endocrinologist may prescribe from a long list of medications to achieve these goals.
When unwanted sex characteristics are blocked at the same time desired sex hormones are given, patients tend to see more dramatic results. For trans* women, this results in less body hair, a softer jaw line, and the development of breast tissue. For trans* men, this results in more body hair, a reduction in breast tissue, and more masculine features--including the development of muscle tissue. In the case of trans* men, weight training and working out is often paired with hormone therapy to boost results.
The level of adjustment each patients require can vary widely; what works for one patient may be too little or too much for another. Ultimately, results and goals are determined individually by a gender therapist, endocrinologist, and patient.
Can Hormones be Reversed if You Aren't Sure?
Whether or not the effects of hormone replacement therapy can be reversed depends on the type of therapy your endocrinologist chooses. In the case of very young patients, or if you are going through the initial stages of your transition, GnRh agonists may be recommended instead. These are responsible only for blocking undesired sex hormones, effectively preventing or reversing puberty without permanence. Halting therapy with GnRh agonists almost always results in full de-transition.
If you choose supplementation as well, results may not be reversible. This is especially true if you remain on hormones well into adulthood, as the effects of puberty cease. Side effects like sterility or the development of breast tissue are often permanent.
What is the Best Age to Start Hormone Replacement Therapy?
If hormone replacement therapy is started early enough, before puberty even begins, there is evidence that the development of undesired sex characteristics may be prevented. In fact, the University of California advocates that, "Ideal treatment for transgender youth is to get them onto cross sex hormones prior to the development of unwanted secondary sexual characteristics."
For children, social transitioning or non-medicated transitioning is often preferred until physical signs of puberty can be identified. Individuals who begin hormone replacement therapy at this point are likely to achieve the best results, but using hormones is possible at almost any age beyond this, too. While early use of hormones is ideal, you shouldn't feel that it is "too late" or that you won't achieve results if you're already well into puberty or into adulthood. Good results are still very possible.
According to a survey by the CDC, nearly 3 percent of Americans identify as transgender or gender fluid. If you are in the process of transitioning, or you are considering exploring what it means to transition, you should know that there are plenty of options to help guide you on your journey. Through the use of therapy, hormones, and social support networks, the majority of trans*-identified individuals are able to achieve the results they desire. For more information, contact an endocrinologist today or visit Genemedics Health Institute.
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