Hello my darling readers. As promised, I have finally gotten around to posting my entry about my one year anniversary on estrogen!! And I’m only doing it a week late, =/ (Pictures are at the end)
Yes, on February 20, 2015 I took my first real step into the transition that has changed everything in my life. I’d been on Spiro for about a month prior to that date but blocking hormones and starting new hormones hardly compare to one another. As some of you may recall, I started estrogen with the patch and almost immediately had some medical concerns flair up resulting in me heading to the ER out of concern that I had a blood clot in my leg. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and the swelling I experienced eventually subsided, but my problems with the patch were not over. The swelling was quickly replaced by awful and itchy rashes that would hang out for days on end wherever I placed my patches. They eventually got so bad that my doctor and I decided that an alternative means of getting my estrogen dose was necessary.
I believe it was around May, so about two months after starting the patch, I decided to switch to the pill form of estriadol. I could have gone with the shot method because it would have fewer potential side effects on my liver, but I didn’t really revel in the idea of giving myself a shot once a week. Plus, the idea of having a regular and consistent dosage each day of estrogen felt like it would be more natural to my body. As opposed to getting a huge dose at first that eventually fizzles out by time the next shot comes around. That sounded too much like a hormone pendulum to me, so I opted for pills; I definitely do not judge anyone who goes the shot route or the patch route, but they just weren’t for me.
Towards the end of May I started my full dose of Estriadol (6 Mg) and have been at that ever since with little to no physical problems (unless you count mental health issues, in which case there were many, but more on that in a bit). Shortly after that I made the decision to transition my life to living as Emma fulltime instead of just at home and on the weekends. I was tired of living a dual life and was particularly tired of going to work dressed like a guy. I hated being seen as a boy or being called Robert, and I was so ready (and terrified) to start my new life as Emma the (mostly) woman. Going back to male clothing and being seen as a male after spending days in this lovely place of authentic femininity was excruciating and fucking depressing. I remember crying (thanks estrogen) whenever I’d have to remove my nail polish Sunday night in anticipation of going to work as Robert on Monday. I remember cringing every time one of my attorneys would says, “Thanks, Robert,” to me when all I wanted was for them to see the real me, the true me.
By time I came out at work and started living as my true self all the time, I was ready to never look back at my life as Robert again. Sadly and thankfully, that wouldn’t be the case. It was sad that I still had so much work to do with my family and my wife around my transition, and despite my distress living as Robert the man, there was a certain comfort in that life. It was, for lack of a better descriptor, an easy life (who would have guessed that living as a straight, white, cis, married man came with some social privileges that made life simple? But I digress…). Yes, living as Robert had always carried a certain invisibility and ease to it. No one stared at me unless I was doing something ridiculous. No one treated me like I was lesser than them (unless it was an older, richer, manlier white man, of course) and no one ever really harassed me. I remember how scared I was to walk away from that.
Then add to that fear the grief of losing a part of myself (or so I thought) that had always been there with me and you can see how it was distressing. I was Emma, but Robert was always there to protect me. That personality that we were forced to display for the sake of conformity and safety had always been the smokescreen that blurred our true nature. Sure, people often remarked about how effeminate or sensitive we were, but they still saw a boy. Sure they often wondered secretly or not-so-secretly if we were really just a gay boy stuck in the closet, but our legitimate attraction to women (and them to us) stifled those concerns. On the surface, we were Robert, the heterosexual guy, and that protected us from the harsh realities of the world and our society’s view on gender-nonconformity.
Thankfully, we didn’t really have to give up that part of ourselves, even if we would never again use that masculine guise as a means of protecting ourselves. No, Robert never went away and in that discovery came the realization that had convoluted our sense of gender for so long. We didn’t know we were a girl from a very young age in the same way as the oh-so-common narrative of what it means to be a transwoman because we were both male and female. We did know that we were a girl from a young age, but we also knew we were a boy too. Imagine how confusing that must have been when society says you must be either one or the other, and dammit you better be the one you were assigned at birth!
It wasn’t until Emma took over the pilot seat of our destiny that it became truly apparent to us that we were a we, not an I. There was such joy to discover that I (Emma) would never truly be alone because Robert would always be there with me. I was afraid he, my protector and friend, would die and be gone forever when I took over. Thankfully that has not been there case. In fact, there have even been times during the past eight months or so that Robert has played a pivotal role in ensuring our survival. I (Emma) am definitely still new at this thing called socially-recognized-personhood and there are times when it is too overwhelming. It is in those moments that Robert temporarily takes over the controls of our life in order to give me a momentary break from the trials of surviving the cruelties of this world. Together, we are Emma, and our fates are bound to one another.
Despite this twin-spirited existence we live, always having one another to lean upon, our life became horribly lonely after our transition to full time. While the estrogen was making miraculous and exciting changes to our physical body, it was also wreaking havoc on our mental health, not to mention our marriage. As our Saturn return came into its full influence we felt ourselves crack under the constraints we had placed upon ourselves. Our marriage to our wife, while amazing and so necessary to our transition, was no longer serving us the way we needed it to (I’m sure our ex-wife would agree it wasn’t serving her the way she needed it to either), and a contingency of that marriage agreement was our continued employment in a profession we despised.
The haphazard choices of our youth were catching up to us. Our decision to marry before truly processing and dealing with our gender dysphoria coupled with the general lack of direction we’d had as a result of not knowing who we were, weighed heavily upon us and we fell into a deep depression. We loved our wife and we needed the money from our job to help pay for the schooling we were embarking on, but it felt like we had been reborn as a new and vibrant being, only to find ourselves trapped in the ruins of a decaying life.
We wanted to be a lesbian, yet our marriage was so hetero. We wanted to help people find their true and authentic selves, yet our toil went towards the bottom line of billion dollar companies. We wanted so much to explore what it meant to be a girl who loved girls! We wanted to connect with those who were like us and who could understand us. We wanted to not simply be tolerated by those who claimed to love us, but to be accepted with open and affectionate arms because we were who we were.
We made the difficult decision to go onto anti-depressants after years and years of trying every other method to balance our mental health issues and depression. Our situation would not permit us to grow the way we needed so desperately to grow, so the only option we had was to find ways to tolerate the constrained conditions. We know now that these constrained conditions were of our own making, and they were constructed by our fears. We didn’t want to be alone. We were so afraid that if we left our wife and set out on a new adventure as a trans-lesbian that we would forever be alone. We were so afraid that no one would ever want us, and so we clang to our marriage like a life preserver believing we were adrift at sea. The truth was that we were in a kiddie pool and were we just willing to put our feet down and let go of that life preserver we would find there was nothing to be afraid of.
As Saturn so often does when it returns the first time, it cleared away the things that were no longer working for us. It destroyed my childish notion that I’d be alone forever by forcing me to be alone. My wife cheated on me and we divorced. While this was horribly painful (again, partially of my own making by not simply deciding to end the marriage when I knew it was over) it cleared the way for the life I have wanted to live for so long. If you’ve been reading any of my recent entries over the past few months then you know my life has gone from being a predicable (and somewhat boring) hetero sitcom to a romantic drama of queer proportions!
Shortly after the divorce the next big blow would come. That job I hated and despised having to do was also swept away. No more would I be a paralegal, painfully holding up the pretentions of overpaid lawyers as they kissed the asses of companies that profited from instruments of death (I’m not proud of every patent I helped prosecute, let me just say). No, I would be freed to pursue other interests, to make my life one of meaning both to myself and to others.
True, all of that has very little to do with the actual effects of estrogen, but I believe it was worth noting that making a (not-so-simple) decision to start hormones has set my life on a completely new and sometimes quite unpredictable course. Enough of that, though, let’s talk about physical changes.
The brain is definitely a part of the physical body and I can attest firsthand that hormones effect the way you think (at least it has for me). I am a completely different person than I was a year ago. Reading over my 2-23-2015 entry about estrogen almost feels like I’m reading the words of a stranger. I hardly recognize the person offering their perspective, and yet, that person was me. How I think, what I think about, what I like, what I want, how I want to be seen, what I’m interested in, and what I’m no longer interested in have all changed over the past year. I know estrogen had a big part in those changes.
For one, I believe I am much more empathetic and compassionate towards others than I used to be. Maybe that’s simply a result of living a genuine life and wanting others to find the same happiness, or perhaps it is because I’ve developed different neural pathways because of estrogen. I think it is probably both. My emotions, while a bit easier to regulate than when I first started estrogen, are still much more amplified than they were as Robert. Simply put, I cry, a lot… all the goddamn time. I’m not sure I’ve gone an entire day over the last two months where I didn’t cry at least once. It’s not simply because my life has been somewhat of an unpredictable roller coaster either (although, jesus it has been). I will cry over the silliest things, like a picture of an adorable kitten, or someone saying something really nice or profound to another person.
I was at Target last week and I heard an older black woman in a wheelchair tell her (I’m assuming) granddaughter (who was probably like 6) that she shouldn’t get down on herself when things don’t go her way because sometimes that’s how life is. She then went on to say that it was always important to stay positive, even when things don’t work out the way we want. Yep, I cried in aisle 7. In fact, I’m getting all misty-eyed right now just remembering these profound words from this older woman to her little granddaughter. A year ago I would have been touched but not so touched as to be overcome with emotion. And, perhaps it is simply my changed perception of living as a woman, but to hear an older woman bestow her wisdom (probably obtained from living a difficult life) to a younger girl just gave me all the girl-empowerment-feels. In some ways I was jealous of that little girl’s relationship with her grandmother. I will never know what it is like to be in those shoes. My only living grandmother still calls me Robert and we have yet to actually talk about my transition. My mother barely thinks of me as anything but her son (who has lost his mind, I’m sure).
I also believe that the increased crying is actually necessary. There are so many emotions that arise during any given day in my new chaotic life that were I not to break down and cry sometimes, I’d probably go crazy. It’s almost like I have to open the pressure release valve and when I do, tears come out. Maybe I had a hard day. Maybe I had a great day with amazing experiences. Either way, there are so many emotions that unless I cry in sadness or happiness, I won’t be able to function.
***NOW!! Do not mistake this as a commentary on how women are more emotional than men. This is simply my experience after being on estrogen for a year. Estrogen effects people (cis and trans) differently and my experience is not necessarily universal. I know so many women who are far less emotional than I am and I know many men who are quite emotional. It should be noted that I’m a water sign (Scorpio) and water signs are almost always the more emotional of the birth signs (whether they show those emotions or not is a different thing altogether).***
So what about the rest of my corporeal form? Well, my darlings, I have boobs. Yes I do, and I love them!! They still aren’t all that large, at least not on my frame, but they are not insignificant either. When I wear a tank-top/beater, it is quite obvious that Emma has boobies. When I wear my B cup bra, I don’t really need to “enhance” my chest with socks anymore. There is definitely still some room to take up in that B cup bra, but most of it is now inhabited by me and just me. When I stand in front of the mirror without a top on, it’s like I’m looking at a girl (if you ignore that whole lower half issue).
In addition to boobs, my fat storage patterns have changed quite a bit and I now have a much more hourglass figure than I used to. My extra weight is primarily inhabiting my thighs and love handles instead of the gut like it used to. This has been really great to see change because in many ways, I look a lot thinner than I did before, yet I still weigh pretty consistently within the same 10-15 pound range I have over the past 6 months. This change has not only been noticed by me either, it’s definitely been noticed by other girls too. I can say that with some confidence simply because I get hit on by gay girls WAAAAAYYY more often than I did even just 4 months ago when I first started going out to the bar. I suspect there are other reasons for that as well, but I am passing as cisfemale a great deal more often than before.
If you read about my dating snafu over Valentine’s weekend then you know I’m not exaggerating my ability to pass as cisfemale (not that I care if people know I’m trans*, especially while dating; in fact they sort of need to know). I even had someone yesterday confirm that they didn’t think I was trans when they met me (and hit on me, AND bought me a drink at the bar). This is happening more and more as my face and body continue to change from HRT. I also think it is helpful that I am wearing my natural hair these days as well, so nothing really seems “off” about me when people first meet me.
My skin continues to be as soft as silk, my facial/body hair growth continues to be stunted although I have to pretty consistently shave my chest and stomach areas every week or two if I don’t want to start looking a little too fuzzy for comfort. Thank the heavens the hair I had on my back has not grown back since I started HRT. I count my lucky stars for that one all the time.
What else? Hmm… well estrogen doesn’t effect one’s voice but I have been training my voice for many months now (more so now that I can do it at home when I’m alone) and have made a great deal of progress on that. I still often slip to a lower-than-desired range unconsciously but I can easily correct it if necessary. I even had a friend last night tell me that she was amazed at how much my voice has changed (in a good way) since she first met me in November.
Well… that’s it really. Nothing truly groundbreaking except that as each week goes by (now on week 54) I feel more and more like myself. My body finally doesn’t feel so foreign and wrong to me. I still have dysphoric moments with my genitalia but for the most part I am able to minimize those moments with effective tucking strategies and body-mindfulness. As my progress continues I really have started to look forward to the day when I can have SRS. I think I will finally feel 100% at home in my body when I no longer have my boy-bits, but that’s still a distant goal.
So, without further ado, here is my one year picture timeline:
Dear god, is that what I used to look like?
Feeling like a princess! >_<
Estrogen starting to take minor effect.
New Wig! No more boy hair!
Natural Hair is getting long, longest it had ever been.
What's a selfie without a bored-looking cat?
New wig, like this style way better!
All the new clothes!!
Going out on the town looking like a foxy-lady!
Hair is getting so long! Need to get it styled!
Last picture with the wig!
Wearing my natural hair to work for the first time!
My first Tattoo!
Second Tattoo, on my chest along the right-side collar bone
New haircut and nose ring!
Naturally curly locks!
Taken last week. Don't even look like the same person really.