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Extraordinary Short-term Benefits of starting Therapy and HRT

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(@tauriel)
Active Member     South Africa, Gauteng, Alberton
Joined: 2 years ago
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In my previous article, I wrote about the cost of living your truth as a transgender man or woman. I also spoke about the impact on one’s family and relationships, and how it still scares me. After two months it surely has been a rocky road for my spouse and me. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that your spouse has come out as transgender.

I believe, like many other trans women, that I have been patient, and tolerant of my spouse’s anger, confusion, reprimands, and unwillingness to accept my truth. We all have extended families, children, and our circle of friends. What if most people in your extended circle of friends and family are unwilling to accept the truth and allow you to be your authentic self. I find myself in the unforgiving maze of cultural, religious, and societal taboos that directly oppose who I am. It is these taboos and social expectations that cause so many of us to hide or even take our own life, let alone fall into a deep dark pit of despair and depression. I learned that we could hide until eventually reaching the breaking point, and I never want to feel broken again.

I came out to my spouse 20 years ago. The pain it caused her, and the tremendous shame I felt served as motivation to keep on trying to be a so-called normal husband. Thirteen years ago, I came out to my parents, again with rejection and subsequent pain for everyone. I kept on hiding. This process has been repeated over the last 10 years. In the end, I broke down and couldn’t live in the shadows of my mind anymore. My family still refuses to acknowledge the truth about me. I take part of the blame. Each time I became overcome by shame and guilt. I continued pretending to be okay and happy to be a man. I created the impression that being transgender is something we can switch on and off again.

Despite rejection and dehumanizing comments and assumptions about trans people, I moved forward with counseling and gender-affirming treatment (HRT). I started therapy with an open mind and promised myself that if at any point I felt factors other than me being born this way, I would seek a course of treatment that would help me to continue functioning as a man in society, a husband to my wife and father to my children.

After starting HRT, I presumed that the hormones would clear things up and help me decide where I stood in terms of how my future treatment should proceed. My thinking was that if my gender-identity problems had an external source (like unresolved issues from my childhood) then introducing oestrogen and testosterone blockers would make me feel horrible. That would confirm that my problems were all because of past trauma or other past events from childhood.

I am now in month three of HRT and continue to see my counselor weekly. I have an open relationship with my doctor and this small support network along with my interaction on TGH has proven to be more than helpful, it has become a lifeline. HRT has, however, yielded unexpected results. At first, I thought it could be bad, and I would resolve to find a way of being what was expected of me in my family and society. And it could also be reaffirming, making me feel more like a woman.

I was wrong on both counts.  With testosterone almost shut down completely and much higher oestrogen levels in my system, I have realized two especially important things about myself:

  1. I don’t feel more like a woman. I feel exactly as I did previously about my gender identity.
  2. HRT has not only disproved the fact that I had other unresolved issues in my life that caused my gender identity as a woman but proved that I now have the correct hormones in my body. I am and always have been a transgender woman.

It is like reaching a point of clarity that cannot be refuted any longer. In addition to the two truths, I became aware of so much more after the second month on hormones. My transition so far has been purely emotional, cognitive, and psychological. My body has responded to HRT extremely well. I have experienced only benefits on all levels of my personal transition. Let me put this into perspective by referring to emotional, cognitive, and psychological benefits first and then the physical benefits:

Emotional, Cognitive, and Psychological

I am grouping these together under one umbrella because for me they are all connected.

In the first three weeks, I had a sense of euphoria I believed was psychological. My body still had too much testosterone for me to experience anything but a placebo effect. This was caused by a sense of being proactive and for me, it was a victory in finding out who I truly was.

Then I noticed my mind and thoughts became clearer. It was like the fog of depression and anxiety lifted and my mind started functioning like it has never truly been able to in the past.

I felt almost no anxiety by month two even though I have had lots of opposition from my spouse concerning my course of treatment.

I started smiling and experiencing true inner joy for the first time in many years.

I became much more focused and grew in confidence daily.

This week, I was asked about a poem. I could easily recall the name of the poet and even the year I first encountered the poem (1991).

I am not aware if other transgender people experience similar effects after starting the transition, but I can honestly say that by far the benefits of my emotional, cognitive, and psychological transition are much more than I could have ever imagined possible.

Physical Transition:

My body has responded in positive ways just like my mind with the start and duration of HRT. I am grateful and sad for the fact that I had denied myself the right to transition for far too long. My body responded very well to all the expected changes within the brief time I’ve been on HRT.

At first, my libido crashed.  This relieved a ton of my dysphoria and anxiety. What I would like to focus on however is the unexpected changes I didn’t think would be possible.

I have been on medication for hypertension for over ten years already and received anti-anxiety chronic medication in 2018, but within two months of starting HRT, I have been able to stop taking my chronic medication. I have lost weight although I read that I would gain weight. I also developed cravings for food I never used to indulge in. My diet now consists of less meat (although I still love meat), but I now eat salads and vegetables daily. Therefore, I have been losing weight consistently over the past few months.

This article is not merely an account or testimonial of how I experienced and responded to treatment so far, but there is a clear conclusion in it for me. After trying to deal with being transgender for many years by simply denying it, staying in the closet, taking anti-anxiety and depression medication, withdrawing from friends and family, and at times even unable to function properly at work, I now cannot imagine ever going back to a state where I deny myself what I now regard as a basic human right to try and live my life as my authentic self. I still face daily opposition to my transition, and I must deal with all the difficulties life throws at us, but I feel better equipped to deal with everyday problems. Most of all, I finally made peace with myself. I fully accept that I am indeed a transgender woman. What is left is a journey that will lead me to finally living my life as it is meant to be.

I am sure I am going to lose people and things that I hold dear in my current life. I am strengthened by what I said when I first started therapy and HRT. I told my counselor that I regarded treatment, despite the opposition from family, as a matter of survival. What started out as such has evolved into me wanting to live a full life where I can truly reach my potential and make a positive difference in this world.

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Posts: 23
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(@kb)
Eminent Member     United States of America, Florida
Joined: 3 years ago

Michelle,

I can relate to your experiences. I have been on HTR approximately a year.

For all my years I had this internal anger and frustration I didn't understand, I didn't know why or where it came from. It was an effort for me to socialize and a smile was always force, never genuine, fake. There was even a long period of time when I felt I was looking out of a Halloween mask with a yellow smiley face. Outside everyone though I was this wonderful person while inside it was the farthest thing from the true.

Once I finally realized, excepted, and admitted to myself that I was a transgender woman, did I start to realize what I had denied myself for all of my adult life.

Starting HRT was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. The internal anger that plagued me for all those years has finally subsided.  🙂  And I now understand it's cause. It's like the first time in my life that I can actually live with myself. I still experience gender dysphoria from time to time, however it's nothing like before.

I think, for me, the biggest thing HRT has done for me is when I can not be my genuine, authentic self I no longer feel "male", I just feel androgynous.

For the first time in my life I have actually experienced what it is like to be happy and I not only smile but I also laugh. All first for me at 60+!

I am happy to say that my wife, of 48 years, and I have made it through my coming out to her. I must say it was very difficult and I am glad that it is behind us.

I wish you the best in your journey,
Kelly

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Posts: 11
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Topic starter
(@tauriel)
Active Member     South Africa, Gauteng, Alberton
Joined: 2 years ago

Thank you Kelly. It is very difficult for our families, especially our spouses. My spouse made it clear that she won't accept me transitioning. So I put off transitioning for 20 years, hoping to find a solution to my gender dysphoria. In the end I needed to transition and what began as a matter of survival evolved to me now looking forward to living a full life. I will always love my wife and if she can make peace with my gender identity and accept me for who I am, I won't hesitate to be with her. If she still continues to have difficulty accepting me as a transgender woman and decides to leave me, I also want her to be able to lead a happy and full life. In spite of all the hurt and anger, I really do want the best for her and if it isn't me in the near future, I want her to do this on her terms. This is damaging to our spouses, even if it is unintentional. I must therefore always try to understand her point of view, even though it is no longer an option for me not to transition.

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Posts: 1
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(@aletheia)
New Member     United States of America, New York, Kingston
Joined: 2 years ago

I am 66.I decided to find out why as my wife as said numerous times,Why do you have so much anger? Well after Lexapro,cymbalta and huge quantity of Zoloft not to mention alcohol sex addiction and other issues.I am now in therapy and after 1session my physiologist addresses me as Aletheia.I think I know where this is headed. I hope my wife participates in the journey.......

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Posts: 53
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(@marianne65)
Trusted Member     Sweden, Sweden
Joined: 6 years ago

Living in Sweden, hormone theraphy is nothing I can choose to have for the benefit of itself. It is only provided on a need basis as a tool among others to help someone in their transition. l see no use for the whole package at age 57 and 10+ years with Parkinson's disease, so the team at the clinic came to the conclusion that l did not need it bad enough. To be honest I have been successfully presenting female in public since 2014 and also at my work place since two years back, but it is now getting almost impossible for me to put on a full makeup because of the growing lack of control of my movements.

Marianne Tornander

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Posts: 86
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(@misstranslation)
Trusted Member     United States of America, California, Granada Hills
Joined: 2 years ago

Thanks for this very informative article, Michelle! I am on blockers now (spironolactone). Due to my age, my doc wants me to be on those for a few months before we do an "orchi." Then after the testosterone is well purged (about mid '23), I can start estrogen.

I can reIate to the "euphoria" thing. I've kind of felt it since I came out to family and friends in July. But I went to a whole other level when I popped that first blocker tablet in August!! I've settled down (a bit), but there have been so many new experiences over this short time that I'm still sort of walking on air. Can't imagine how I'll feel when that first estrogen dose goes in!!!

I haven't had (at least not yet) the social trauma you've related, except with respect to my wife. Otherwise, friends and family have all been pretty much thumbs-up on my big reveal. As for the wife, she found out about my femme self back in the '90s - after we'd been married about 16 years (and had 2 kids). She was none too pleased with my behind-the-scenes crossdressing, but we didn't separate. I toned down my dressing -- even grew a beard at one point as a self-inflicted disincentive. It worked . . . for a while. But during that abstinence period, I finally faced up (to myself) as to who and what I truly was. Still, I took my marriage commitment seriously enough to swallow my dysphoria and soldier on as dad and husband. Two years ago, my wife was diagnosed with Lewy Bodies dementia (Alzheimer's nasty and fatal cousin). She hasn't recognized me as her husband for about a year now - I'm just "the staff" or the nice person who helps her around the home. It was at that point I started to realize that transition might really be possible. (So far, I have simply become the nice lady who helps my wife around home; we talk about girl stuff all the time - as much as she can even orally communicate these days -- and its like we're best girlfriends.

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(@tauriel)
Joined: 2 years ago

Active Member     South Africa, Gauteng, Alberton
Posts: 11

Hi Dana
I am so sorry to read about your wife's dementia. It is never easy either way, but I can honestly relate to how you soldiered on for your wife and kids. I have tried for so many years, but finally couldn't pretend anymore. My wife refused to accept that I am trans for many years, but has recently acknowledged it and is doing her best to accept the new version of me, but I can see how much she is struggling to make her own peace. When I wrote the article I thought she would eventually leave me and our marriage would end badly, but just a few weeks later and I now have hope that there will still be some sort of relationship. As much as I need to be me...I really also want her to be happy. Our story is still unfolding.
Michelle.

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(@angiela)
Active Member     United States of America, Florida, Orlando
Joined: 2 years ago

Such a wonderful article, Michelle, very helpful for anyone contemplating HRT. I really appreciate your honesty. Very well written. Were you perhaps an English major?

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Posts: 1
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(@kittyamorosa)
New Member     United States of America, New York, Staten Island
Joined: 7 months ago

This article made me feel loved and beautiful. Thank you so much.

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