From Girl, To Boy, To Bear

Testosterone: Day 377

This post has been a work-in-progress for over a week now. It’s more personal than previous posts because it’s more like storytime than trying to teach readers about transgender people and transition, though I’m sure it will help other FtM individuals and the people around them. So please, bear with me.

 

I started Testosterone on September 9th, 2013. I remember the day vividly. I was awake before my alarm was supposed to go off at 7am, I leaped out of bed and all but ran to take a shower, treating myself to a chance to use my “for special occasions only” body products. I shaved for the first time using a 2-blade ladies’ safety razor and conditioner in place of shaving cream, even though I had no real visible facial hair at the time. I carefully styled my hair in an attempt to look more manly, but ended up opting to wear my favourite wool flat cap (that I lovingly refer to as my “fancy dancey chuaffeur-pantsy hat” because it makes me feel like a dapper taxi driver when I wear it) instead because I couldn’t make my hair look the way I wanted it to. I put on my normal sports bra, followed by a slightly-too-small one, then my compression shirt, and finally my favourite black polo shirt on top. I pulled my packer strap up over my hips, carefully nestled my packer into it, stepped into my boxerbriefs and pulled them up into place, rearranging the packer carefully to make a natural-looking bulge instead of looking like I was “pitching a tent”. Grey tweed-patterned shorts on top, and my brown Hush Puppy sandals that I’d searched all over the city to find in my size (size 6, not a common size, most shoes seems to only go down to a 7, and youth seem to only go up to a 4 or 5). I carefully packed my vial of Depo-Testosterone (testosterone cypionate suspended in oil), a Scooby Doo bandaid for after the injection (I specifically looked though the box to find one that was Scooby’s dog tag because it made me smile the most and felt like a badge of honor to put on my thigh after the shot), and I headed out the door. I was well over half an hour early arriving at my appointment, but I waited quietly, albeit excitedly, in the waiting area for my name to be called. Not just my name, my preferred name. The endocrinologist was the first doctor to ever ask me what I go by, instead of assuming I identified with the name on my care card/ID.

Shayne?” I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard my name called. My wonderful endocrinologist (who will referred to as Dr V from here on out) greeted me with a smile and a wink, and I think I sprained my face with the grin that came next. We reached her office at the end of the hall and she asked if I was ready, and I choked back tears as I said “I was BORN ready!”. I hopped up on the table and pulled up the leg of my shorts while she explained how to do the shots. I didn’t really take much of it in because we had gone over it in our appointment the week before and I’d repeated it to myself over and over since. Heck, I had already versed my mother and best friend (who would be doing the shots for me as I knew I didn’t have the confidence to self-inject with such a large needle) in how to properly do it! My best friend has done most of my shots over the last year because she’s good at doing them painlessly; my mom, I think because I’m her kid, tends to make it partway into my leg and then has to push a second time to get it in properly and it always hurts and leaves a big bruise, but at least she’s willing to try! Anyways, I drew the Testosterone into the syringe, got the air out, prepped the injection site on my thigh with an alcohol swab, and then handed the needle to Dr V. By the time I realized she had jabbed me, she was done. Quick and painless, a far cry from every darn vaccination I’ve had to have (I always bruise really badly and have severe muscle pain wherever I get vaccinations done, so I was expecting similar with the hormone shot. Pleasant surprise for sure!!!)

As Dr V carefully put the bandaid I’d brought over the poke mark, I burst into tears. For a few minutes she simply hugged me while I sobbed some of the happiest tears I’ve ever shed. I finally felt like my life was on track!

That day, and every time I’ve seen her since, Dr V makes me feel absolutely wonderful about myself. I can have the worst day ever, but I go in to see her for a check-in, and I leave feeling like I’m on top of the world. I will never be able to express my appreciation for her and her kindness and respect for me as an individual. When I first met her and she performed a pre-hormone physical, she came across some old self-harm scars. I braced myself for criticism, as I’d experienced from other doctors previously, but she simply ran her fingers gently over them and said that she was sorry that I felt like that had been my only option. Then she hugged me and told me that if I need anything, to let her know. A year later I DID need something, a referral to a psychiatrist, and she gladly did that for me, even taking time from her busy day to call the psychiatrist I asked to be referred to while I was still in the room so that I could trust that she had actually done it (my family doctor is notorious for claiming to have made referrals for me and not actually doing it, hence my needing to ask Dr V to make the referral instead). I dropped off a card the next day to thank her for doing that for me.

 

I began to feel some of the effects of the Testosterone within the day. About an hour after my injection, I felt amped-up, like I had energy to burn and the only thing that would make the feeling go away was to go do something physical, so I went out and worked with my pony.

A few weeks into it, I realized that injecting every other week as originally prescribed led to severe mood swings at the beginning and end of the period. I called Dr V and she said to half the dose and inject weekly instead, and it made a huge difference in the mood swings. I still found that I had restlessness in my muscles, so she also suggested to take a combination calcium/magnesium supplement, and that also helped! I still take the supplement daily to be safe, but if I miss a day here and there (if I run out of the pills and can’t get to Costco to buy more right away, usually) I don’t feel like I’m crawling out of my skin.

My voice started dropping around Christmastime, and as I felt things starting to rumble when I’d speak, I also developed a bit of a cough. It lasted about a month but has since gone away for the most part. The cough did come back recently when there was a sudden drop in my voice again, and my throat feels scratchy when I talk. Dr V says it’s due to my vocal chords thickening. Week 53 I noticed that I have a slight adam’s apple forming as well. People started noticing the voice change in early February.

I started getting hairy thighs about 2 months into the hormones. My mom (who had to assist me in getting in and out of the shower after I trashed my ankle in October) started laughing when one day in December she noticed I had “a hairy butt crack” (she then proceeded to inform me that I get that from my dad. Gotta love my family’s openness about things like that! Haha!). Shortly after Christmas I started getting a “treasure trail” (trail of hair down my stomach leading to my pubic area) and since then it has gotten darker/thicker. Over the summer I started growing chest hair, and at the moment it’s localized to my cleavage, apart from a few stray hairs elsewhere on my chest.

Facial hair started coming in sometime in May. I only had to shave once a week for the first while, but now I find myself having to shave every few days. The hair is darkest/thickest around my jawline, but I have a light mustache starting, and random hairs coming in on my throat. The hair on my throat and under my chin is itchy if I’m sitting in bed reading, and I tend to use that as the signal for when I need to shave again. I currently use a Gillette Mach 5 razor with same brand sensitive skin shave foam. I think I’d like to switch to shaving soap and badger brush instead of the canned foam though, because I find it really dries out my skin. I also have a bit of a thing for old fashioned safety razors and am thinking of asking for one for Christmas. Part of the reasoning behind this is that the replacement blades are CHEAP, especially compared to the replacement cartridges for the Mach 5, and the design allows for an even closer shave when shaving with the grain which means less ingrown hairs (something that my father and I are both prone to, but he says he doesn’t have a steady enough hand to use the safety razor, so he alternates between the Mach 5 and an electric razor). There’s also something about old fashioned safety razors, bars of shave soap, and badger hair brushes that feels really sexy!

 

I’ve also noticed a dramatic change in my body shape. The fat around my middle is shifting and has started to smooth out my female curves, making my torso look straighter rather than slightly hourglass. My butt has flattened slightly and my pants are fitting me better in the butt/thigh area, but are now too big in the waist. I still need a slightly larger waist size to make pants fit my rear, but I’ve lost about 4″ around my waist.

My breasts have “deflated” and are about half the size they were pre-hormones. On the flip side, they now sag more! But this has proven to be a positive thing for me; the “deflated” shape has made them a lot easier to arrange in my compression shirt and have them look natural and masculine. I’m less confident without my compression shirt on, but I’m far more confident when I’m wearing it and feel that I “pass” easier.

I have gained a fair amount of muscle and have lost some fat as well. I have noticed that I am stronger than I was, but I tire more easily because while I have improved strength I lack endurance. I am sitting at approximately 220lbs and while some of it IS fat, the majority is muscle. Most of my fat in around my middle and is partly caused by PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome). The goal is to have a hysterectomy and oophrectomy (remove my uterus and ovaries) at approximately the same time (if not at the same time) as my top surgery.

 

As far as surgery goes, Dr V made the referral (and wrote the letter required) to Dr Cameron Bowman in Vancouver so I can have my top surgery. I am VERY lucky to live in BC because BC Medical pays for top surgery for FtMs! All I have to pay for is the travel to/from Vancouver, the post-surgery compression vest, and any medications I am prescribed pre/post surgery. Depending on Dr Bowman’s schedule, I’m looking at 3-9 months before I get to go over for a consultation, and then 6-12 months after the consultation before I have surgery. I REALLY hope to be able to go for surgery by this time next year, but I won’t know until I hear from his office.

At this time I am NOT looking at having bottom surgery (genital reconstruction) but AM looking at hysterectomy/oophrectomy. Surgical procedures for FtMs aren’t the best right now, and the outcome isn’t what I’m looking for. I would prefer to keep my working-but-not-aesthetically-pleasing genitalia and be able to strap on whatever equipment I or my future partner prefers, rather than go through a REALLY intense surgery and have equipment that’s flesh-and-blood but doesn’t necessarily work the greatest. I would gladly have bottom surgery in the future if the outcomes look better, but for now it’s not something I am interested in pursuing.

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