My First Year on Estradiol
This post was originally published on /transtimelines on Reddit.
Long time lurker, first time poster. This subreddit honestly changed my life and I feel extremely lucky and grateful to be posting here.
I was born in 1992, I'm 27 now. I've accepted that my gender identity is female since I was 18 or 19. In all sorts of ways, I "knew" before I accepted it. I've been calling myself Nora since I was 16, when I started making cassette tapes of my weird music for my friends. It's amazing to me now to look back at those tapes and see my name. I wish I could reach out and help young Nora.
I had this vivid moment when I was 19 — while I was belaying my uncle, rock climbing in Boulder, CO — that I'll always remember as a turning point. I stood there, feeling his weight on the rope, and said to myself, "It doesn't matter what I look like. I know that in my heart, I'm a girl." I had shaved my chest-length hair off for the second time a few days before that.
It took a third cycle of growing my hair almost to my waist, then shaving it all off, before I got to the point of being able to identify as trans. I kept denying that up until early 2017. I told a few friends then, but I didn't have any plans to do anything. No hormone therapy, nothing. Ignorantly, I didn't believe it could actually help me.
My girlfriend of three years left me at the end of 2017, and in the midst of that grief, my friend Cameron, always an angel and a positive force in my life, texted me a link to this subreddit. To quote Craig Finn, it's like they "always said about the angels, how they show up when you never expect them." Shortly after we broke up, with my ex in the other room, I sat broken in the bathtub drinking a Hamm's while looking at all the angels on transtimelines. That was the moment I realized I wanted to start taking E.
I spent the next couple months in my new apartment with no furniture, reading trans theory, history, and biographies. I was scared to deal with gatekeepers here in my hometown, Bismarck, ND, where I've lived almost all of my life. In late winter 2018, a Google search led me to an article written by Faye Seidler, a trans activist on the eastern edge of the state. I learned that an informed consent clinic, Harbor Health Clinic, had recently opened in Fargo, ND, a three hour drive from my home.
I started E in fall 2018, after working up the courage and getting a handful of logistics squared away. It's been a tough, exhausting first year. I'm so happy I finally started taking the idea of healing seriously. I really don't know how I made it this far.
tl;dr Life is still a terrifying struggle but at least i have lil boobs now
I started oral estradiol on August 3rd, 1:23 AM, age 26. The photo on the left was taken on August 7th, 2018 at 1:25 PM, last shave was 12 hours plus or minus about 4. The photo on the right was taken on August 17th, 2019 at 9:00 PM, I think about 5 hours after shaving. My facial hair grows somewhat less quickly and thickly than it did a year ago. I don't expect I'll be happy with it until I laser it off, but that's probably not for another year or so.
I've only been taking estradiol. I feel lucky that my testosterone made its way to cis female range without antiandrogens. My doc told me I could try progesterone if I want to, but I haven't seen enough research one way or the other yet. (Advice very welcome.)
Oral estradiol wasn't effective for me for some reason, despite my diligence in taking it three times a day. I switched to injections in November, 2018. My hormone levels were not yet in cis female range, but amazingly I was still getting breast buds by my first checkup 3 months in.
I've had muscle loss, but not enough at this point to really affect my life. I don't like carrying a zillion grocery bags up three flights of stairs too much anymore, but I can still beat the shit out of drums in my punk band. My butt feels slightly fatter, and I'm starting to notice my thighs changing. I'm roughly the same weight in both of these photographs, a little bit over 115 lbs.
I'm still constantly in boymode outside of my friend group and music community, and plan on staying that way until I move out of the state next year sometime hopefully. It's nerve-wracking. My boobs are small but pretty noticeable if I'm only wearing a t-shirt (which I basically never do, especially at work) but funny enough, my long hair kinda conceals them. I'm starting to male-fail more again lately, but I've had long hair off and on since I was a child, so I've been occasionally male-failing since forever. Back in the day, it was simultaneously euphoric and also triggering. When it happens now, it just feels scary.
I've always been a crier, especially when music is involved (see: me at a Spirits of the Red City, Joanna Newsom, or Sigur Ros concert) but I suppose the combination of E and reduced self-hate have made crying a much more common and generally enjoyable experience. My brother, my only sibling, died when I was fifteen and I feel like I'm just starting to be able to actually go through that grieving process. He was eight years older than me, and not only did he not get to see me grow up, which was one of the reasons he said he stayed in Bismarck until he was about 20, he also never got to know that he had a sister. He was a sweet, feminine, gay geek and would have been so proud of me. I'm sure we would have talked about virtual reality and the McElroy brothers together. It makes me so sad. On a, I guess, lighter note, I was driving to my appointment in Fargo the other day and I saw a dragonfly on the highway which I promptly killed with the car I was driving. My pacifist vegan ass immediately started weeping. Crying's fun.
I know that some folks have worries that their brain or personality will change on E, and I really have no changes like that to report, unless you count the part where I'm actively getting involved in leftist politics — joining DSA, volunteering for Bernie Sanders, getting annoyed when he's not as left as I want him to be, etc. — but I've been on that trajectory for a long time. You know what they say, "If you're not a social democrat by the time you're in your twenties, you have no heart. If you're not a hardened Marxist by the time you're in your thirties, you have no brain." Not all trans people want or need HRT — we're all unique — but Medicare for All would completely transform our society here in the U.S., and provide healthcare justice for each of us.
I am very very excited for the changes that will happen over the next year!
If you read this wall of text, omg, ur amazing ily!! Where should I move btw? I was thinking about moving back to Minneapolis, but cities kind of make me sad.