It will be five years of continuous estrogen therapy* for me on the 6th of February 2019. Over that span of time my body has changed shape to follow ancient pathways set by evolution, my emotions have shifted like sandbars in a river, my thoughts move in different ways like light entering a medium, and I have been left with dual questions I meditate upon: did transition change my life or did I transition to change my life?
There is the physical; I have grown breasts, my skin is softer, muscle has atrophied and in some areas been replaced with fat, much of my body hair has thinned and lightened, and I am overall less angular and more round. Besides the obvious breast changes, which took about a year to accommodate in physical space before I mostly stopped banging them on things, the musculature changes have effected me the most.
Loss of muscle mass means I’m not as strong as I used to be and I have had to become more practiced at balance and force to move heavy objects. Opening jars and packaging is sometimes a study in letting go of ego and reaching for scissors and patience. My stamina and recovery time seem to have inverted, even accounting for age. Overall, its main change to my life has been to breed acceptance and gratitude for assistance when I need it.
My emotions, for so long bottled up and stored away like so much nitroglycerin waiting for a hard jostle to explode, are decanted daily for sips of feeling. Indeed, the steady background hum and clinking of emotional energy spent on bottling I worked hard to tune out has been replaced by the not-so-strange attraction of babbling brooks and ocean waves.
Where there was once a grayscale, wintry, rocky landscape suffused with much darkness and pooled black voids of anger there are now a riot of spring colors where purple iris flashes its yellow and white tongues in laughter while the cerulean sky vibrates in the warm, yellow sunlight falling upon viridescent leaves. Tears, once relegated to weeping from cracks in stolid granite rocked by un-ignorable impacts now bubble freely from reservoirs tapped by caresses or bumps of joy, sorrow, and myriad other emotions ephemeral as clouds.
My previously unassailable thoughts, which often rushed along in their certainty of shape and form, now more willingly pause and linger for probing, deconstruction, and reassembly before delivery. More emerge as hypotheses open to revision than incontrovertible facts.
I consider other people much more in my calculations, which express themselves as explorations towards multiple outcomes balancing my and others’ needs than a rigid algorithmic process towards a single conclusion tilted in my favor.
Across all of these areas I am still the same old me though. I’m still prone to clumsiness, still stubborn to ask for help, still struggle to understand what I feel at times, I still too often jump to conclusions, and I still have blind spots around being considerate and kind to other people.
But after five years I think my biggest takeaway from taking estrogen is that I continue to choose to use it and have it maintain its effects on my body and my life. I do worry about the long-term use of it with regards to things like stroke or blood clots though.
While it is for all intents and purposes a vital maintenance medicine for me, I will not physically die if I don’t take it** and like all medicines, I have judged the real, positive outcomes to be greater than the potential negative side effects.
Why? My answer is the same as the answer to my dual questions above about transition: yes, why?
* Also known as HRT or hormone replacement therapy, estrogenic therapy often includes an anti-androgen to counteract testosterone. In my case, I’ve only taken estrogen. See my post A Brief Overview of Feminizing Hormones for general information about estrogen hormone replacement therapy. I kept a weekly online journal of my changes, which you can explore by searching for the HRT tag on my blog.
** What that might do to my mental state and how that might effect my depression is an open question I’m not at all interested in exploring.
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