Boob update

2 years and 1 month into hormones and my boobs are still growing! At this point I’m solidly a C-cup but they are pretty conical and haven’t rounded out so I don’t really have cleavage yet. Other than the shape and distance from each other, this is about what I was hoping for. It makes me so happy to see them in the mirror or my peripheral vision!

For my fellow trans health nerds who are wondering, I started by ramping up to 6 mg of oral estrogen sublingually spaced throughout the day and eventually backed down to 4 mg where I am now. I never added spironolactone (an androgen blocker) because my testosterone disappeared and never came back. In February this year, my estradiol level was 139 pg/mL (cis woman range is 12-498 depending on cycle) and serum testosterone was only 13 ng/dL (cis woman range is 8-48).

A new life

It’s been a little over 10 months since I shaved my beard and almost a year since I started using my new name everywhere and already it feels like another lifetime and another person. I’m still getting photos from a year ago popping up in my Facebook memories and it is hard to even recognize them as myself. I can see that the person in (some) of the photos is beautiful but it isn’t me anymore. I have moved so far beyond who I was in that moment.

The first few months after shaving were definitely rough with having to face my dysphoria around my chin and stubble. But now there is so little hair left that I don’t have to think about it 90% of the time and I often forget to shave the few stubborn hairs around my lips. I feel so much more feminine now without the shadow on my face.

It also helps that I can really visibly see the changes that estrogen has made in my body. My facial structure has been changed by both rounding of the edges from hormones and from a pretty distinct cheek structure change created by the first jaw surgery. Many acquaintances I see think I have already had the feminization portion of the surgery which feels great. At this point I’m feeling more excitement than dread about the second surgery and the final results I’ll have. Especially since I can finally get this annoying metal out of my mouth and feel confident smiling again.

There are still a lot of hurdles to cross. I’m trying to get the letters from the psychiatrists that I need for surgery and the hair removal on my genitals to prep for that. I have appointments today and next week that should hopefully cover those barriers.

I also started vocal feminization lessons last week. While my voice has subconsciously raised a few degrees already, estrogen doesn’t automatically bring your voice back to where it was before testosterone (yet another reason to support hormone blockers for trans teens). I have to do a lot of conscious work to expand my upper range and retrain my muscles not to create the masculinized resonance my vocal cords are used to. Someday it will hopefully be second nature but for now it is exhausting work.

However, I do seem to have crossed some magical threshold now where many people in public recognize me pretty quickly as a trans woman. Whereas before with my beard I would get stares of befuddlement everywhere I went, now I mostly get recognition, at least in liberal Seattle.  Which has meant that I get a lot more “ma’am”s and “she” either automatically or from self correction.

I tried using she/her pronouns before just around my chosen family but it still felt grating at the time. Like I was too far away from that reality and the pronouns just reminded me that no one would automatically assume that. But now I have decided to use them again as another option in addition to they/them and it feels wonderful. Especially when it is coming from strangers who I am first meeting.

In the moment, progress can feel so slow but it is nice to have these moments where my head comes out of the water and I feel like I can breathe again.

PMS sucks – HRT week 10

I know this isn’t news to anyone who’s had an estrogen-dominant system but PMS really sucks. Apparently I’ve already settled into a monthly cycle because I am SO grumpy today and ready to burst into tears over little things. When I look back at my messages this happened almost exactly a month ago. And surprise surprise, it matches my spouses cycle. Also my boobs hurt way more than usual. Maybe the bra shopping trip I was planning for tonight will have to wait…

HRT Week 8 update

I just got the results back from my first checkup post-hormones. My estrogen is twice the maximum for recommended male range and on the low end for women (90.5 pg/mL). My testosterone is almost nonexistent (21 ng/dL). I’ve been swinging pretty radically between extremely depressed to extremely euphoric throughout the course of the week and my breasts continue to grow. I talked to my doc about the mood and she said that there is a 50/50 chance that more estrogen will make that either better or worse. So tomorrow I start with 4 mg in the morning and 2 mg at night (currently 2 twice a day). We’ll see what happens!

PS – I’m not taking spiro to suppress my testosterone because my T levels were already below the male range before I started and clearly I don’t need them now.

Hormone update – week 5

Potential TMI warning ahead!

I’ve been taking estrogen orally for 5 weeks now and last week I definitely started to see some changes. Last Wednesday I noticed one breast was tender and even though I couldn’t really perceive it, others agreed that it was getting bigger. What I did notice last week is that there were a couple times I was talking about emotional topics that I found myself on the verge of tears far more easily than before.

This week I can definitely see a change in the shape and size of both breasts and the areas under the areolas have been tender on and off. I really didn’t expect to see this much change so quickly but I’m very excited! Some friends have already mentioned being able to see the changes through my clothes. I guess it’s nearly time to go bra shopping.

In the meantime, I highly recommend silicon nipple covers for anyone with prominent nipples. Even before hormones I needed them with femme clothes since they are often made of thinner material. I’ve found the Nippies brand works great for months of use.

More thoughts on identity

I’m still struggling with knowing whether I am nonbinary because that’s who I truly want to be or as an artifact of the barriers I feel stand in the way of being a woman. I don’t necessarily feel like my brain is composed of part-masculine, part-feminine aspects. I very much feel like I was born with a girl’s brain in what was perceived as a male body. Most people these days understand that femininity is broad and can encompass tomboys and people who don’t wear makeup every day. And with the right body I think I would have made a great girl, although not one that could live up to the expectations of the cult I was raised in.

And I’m definitely a femme. I’m perfectly happy to put on jeans and a tshirt when I’m getting dirty or doing something outdoorsy. But I’ll always opt for very feminine clothing whenever it’s not extremely impractical. I’m not someone who puts on makeup every day but I certainly love doing it when I have the time and I am very particular about my appearance. In other words, a fairly typical woman in my appearance preferences.

So that just leaves my physical body. I’m tall and I have a large frame with wide shoulders and huge feet and hands. So I feel like I could never fit into culture as a woman which is mostly why I don’t try. It’s the fear of rejection from other women that keeps me stuck in this in-between place. Not that women can’t have that kind of frame either; my mom and my aunt certainly do although they often times get questioned in bathrooms about whether they belong because of it. They are 6 foot and 6′ 2″ respectively and my aunt has size 13 feet as well. So if they can do it, why can’t I?

As I’ve said a few times before, I keep my beard mainly because it covers up masculine features of my face that I really don’t like. Somehow the facial hair gives me less dysphoria than the underlying face. But I wonder if I also keep it as a signal to the rest of the world that I’m not trying to pass as a woman so they won’t judge me by that unattainable standard. I guess I’m scared of the ridicule trans women so often get so I try to avoid it by doing my own thing.

So then is nonbinary just a phase I’m passing through on the way to becoming a woman? It’s hard for me to say at this point. And just because it’s a phase doesn’t make it any less valid. It’s where I’m at right now and that’s all that really matters. I’ve found that no matter how much I try to plan, life seems to throw a wrench into the gears and redirect me. So I’m just going to take this one step at a time. I’m starting estrogen in 20 days and I’m curious to see what that does to my brain and my body to shape how I relate to them.

Who knows. One day I may need to rename this blog. But for now I remain your Bearded Genderqueer.
PS – I mostly maintain this blog as a way of shaping my own thoughts. When I start to have big gender feels I often come here to write about them before I’ve even fully thought them through. I wasn’t consciously aware of half the things I just wrote before I got there. So thanks for following along in my very confusing journey.

A Trans Woman in a Nonbinary Body

A year ago today I wrote a difficult post asking myself “am I really nonbinary?” This week I find myself asking similar questions as I’m preparing to start hormonal transition. And I think the conclusion that I’ve come to, at least for now, is that I’m essentially a trans woman in a nonbinary body.

I have felt for a very long time that there was a mix up in the womb and my brain went one way while my body went another. I should have been born a woman or at least I would have liked to figure out I was trans when I was young while there was still a chance of doing delayed puberty. But since I didn’t, I have a body that has gone through changes, some of which are irreversible. No amount of surgery is going to reduce my 6-foot-2 frame or make my hands or feet smaller. I could go through the whole process of vaginoplasty, facial feminization, hair removal, and tracheal shaves but for me it doesn’t feel worth it. Nothing I do will ever allow me to pass, and at this point I’m not sure that trying is going to accomplish anything.

I’ve learned to accept and even love a lot of things about the body I’m in. My beard has become a part of my identity and while I might hate my testicles, I’m pretty ok with my penis at this point. So instead of trying to reverse the last 30 years, my current strategy is to change the little things that make a difference like the amount of leg and chest hair, the size of my breasts, and my gender presentation through clothing. I’ve created my own mix of characteristics that reflect not only who I think I should have been but how the years have shaped me.

My strategy certainly wouldn’t work for everyone and I am not trying to criticize binary trans women in any way. But for me I suspect my dysphoria would be worse if I was close to passing as a woman but unable to gain that last 10%. Who knows how I’ll feel in 5 years or even after estrogen begins shaping my brain. But for now, my plan is to take hormones and if my brain responds well, to have an orchiectomy to remove my testes so I don’t have to take androgen blockers forever.

Gender is complicated and so are the ways in which we choose to cope. There’s no easy way to describe my gender but hopefully this gives you a little more insight into one path.

Fertility and Hormones

The thing that I’ve had on my mind a lot lately is the question of when to begin my hormonal transition in relation to what to do about having a child. I’ve known I wanted a baby since I was pretty young, though in more of a maternal parenting role than a paternal one. The only times I’ve questioned that were when the pressures to be a father made me feel inadequate to the task. And especially since learning that induced lactation is possible, I’ve known that starting from infancy is definitely what I want to do.

But the thing is, I’m not in a place yet where I’m ready to start a family. Part of that is personal – I think I need to do more growth and self work before I am ready to devote that much time and attention on a mini human. And part of that is situational – my spouse doesn’t want to be a primary parent and I don’t have anyone else to co-parent with in my life right now.

The part that gives me pause is what to do about my sperm. Once I start hormones it is fairly likely that I will quickly become permanently infertile. There aren’t a lot of studies  about what happens when you stop hormones but the advice is to assume that it is a permanent change. I’ve looked into freezing my sperm but that is a very expensive procedure with no guarantee of success, and frankly, I don’t have the money right now dues to other high medical expenses. It also requires me to have good sperm count and motility to begin with and I’m becoming less and less sure that is the case. When my hormone levels were checked recently, my testosterone was low (no surprise) which doesn’t bode well. I also have many habits that tend to lower fertility such as wearing tight clothing, smoking pot, and taking ibuprofen.

So even if I was ready to make a baby right now, there is no guarantee I could do it without major changes that don’t really seem possible. I don’t want to take testosterone supplements because that’s the opposite of what I’m trying to do. It would be very difficult to wear loose clothing with my current style and wardrobe. And cannabis is the only thing I’ve found that makes my chronic pain even tolerable.

As I’ve come to accept that, I’ve realized that I can’t keep waiting on starting my transition. It’s harming my mental health to be stuck in this limbo waiting for a sign. So I’ve setup an appointment with my primary care physician, who luckily specializes in trans patients, to talk about starting hormones. I am going to have to trust that if the universe wants me to have a child, destiny is going to have to meet me halfway.

There are other options for the future. Being nonbinary and nonmonogamous with a nontraditional family structure means that adoption would be difficult, especially through an agency, but there are local places friends have recommended where the birth parent gets to make a choice. What I’m really hoping happens is that I find someone to co-parent with who has a working uterus and possibly another partner with sperm. If not there is always artificial insemination or surrogate parents.

Right now I need to focus on beginning my transition and hopefully along the way find the right way to build a family. If anyone is interested in starting conversations about co-parenting, platonically or otherwise, please let me know.

Am I really Nonbinary?

gender-questioningIn between all the politics, I’ve been spending a lot of mental energy lately thinking about the most difficult question in my life so far. Am I nonbinary because that is who I truly feel like I am or is it a compromise because I don’t feel like I can access womanhood in the way I want?

At times I definitely feel a very strong sense of a gender that is clearly not masculine or feminine but exists as a tangible middle ground. Very genderfull instead of agender. And as I’ve said, there are things I like about being in the middle such as having a beard.

But there are definitely parts of me that at times can feel very strongly that all I want to be is a woman with everything that goes along with that. Since I was a teen I’ve consistently wished I could just snap my fingers and make that happen. But the reality is that I need to make a choice. Do I want that badly enough to accept all the costs, challenges, and risks of medical transition?

What I do know is that I have a lot of fear about the path towards that and still not feeling like it is enough once I’ve gone as far as money/science allows. What I want more than anything is the ability to bear a child. But even assuming they were willing to do uterine transplants on trans women, that still would require a C section and a whole lot of money. I want to have breasts and the kind of chest that I can be proud of in the mirror. And I want a vagina and a clit and the ability to have multiple orgasms. But every time I think about what it would take to get there, I question how badly I want those.

First of all there is the money part. How can I justify spending that much money on myself when there are so many urgent problems that need solving? But I know that is a double standard because when it comes to other people I’m all for helping them get that surgery. Secondly there is weathering the awkward part of transition where I haven’t gotten there yet but it’s too late to turn back. And then of course there is the social risk because I’m pretty sure I could never pass even if I wanted to. And now more than ever that is becoming a dangerous thing.

A few months ago my plan was to start a hormonal transition in the next couple years after having a baby with my anchor partner. That would permanently give me feminine breasts as well as at least temporarily allow me to see how I like my brain on estrogen along with the softer skin and more feminine distribution of body fat (less belly, more hips). But now I feel very unsure about doing that until a certain demigogue is out of office. I still have the ability to hide as pass as male if I need to which would be much harder once I start down that path.

Part of why this is weighing on my mind more is because of politics certainly. The world is a very unsafe place at the moment for a trans person and it feels like a lot of doors are starting to close making me feel more claustrophobic and without the options as accessible to my explorations. And part of that is probably my upcoming wedding. When I imagine myself in a wedding dress I have a hard time imagining that in my current body. That moment more than any is where I wish I was less hairy, had a smaller frame, had hips, and most of all, some cleavage to speak of.

This weekend I’m going with some trusted friends to try on some wedding dresses. I’m trying to brace myself for the dysphoria that is almost certain to arise. I’ll try to report back how it goes and maybe even share some photos.

For now I know I don’t need to have answers to these questions. But I sure am getting tired of shedding tears over them so often.