One Year on T
My name is Caidin and I identify as a gay, non-binary trans guy. It took 27 years and the help of my therapist to understand my gender identity, and since then, my life has changed for the better in ways I never could’ve imagined.
The Transition Plan
I’m organized, thoughtful, and want to know exactly what is necessary to achieve a goal. I tried to plan out what my transition would look like, even though I kept hearing from people and reading in blogs online that transitioning is a process and you just have to trust it. At first my plan didn’t even include things like legally changing my name or gender, or even starting hormone replacement therapy. At the time – about 2 years ago – the only thing I knew for sure was that I needed top surgery. Besides that, my plan was to go by my nickname, Smitty, cut my hair, get new clothes, and wear a binder.
I genuinely felt that testosterone was not for me, that I wouldn’t ever want it or need it. It was really difficult to find other people who identify as trans guys who felt the same way, and I questioned my identity a lot because I wasn’t following the typical path of transitioning from female to male. The most challenging part was that I didn’t feel male; even though I related to and identified with trans guys, calling myself male didn’t feel right, so I spent a lot of time feeling very confused about what that meant and where I fit into the world.
Attending the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference helped me immensely. I went there totally alone, lying to my parents and family about where I was going because I wasn’t yet out to any of them yet. I felt so lost, afraid and depressed and had my mind made up that if going to this conference didn’t help, I couldn’t continue living.
That conference, everyone there, and all the awesome people I met saved my life. Despite not knowing anyone, as soon as I walked into the conference center, my anxiety immediately decreased to a new level I never experienced before, and for the first time, I didn’t feel judged by anyone. For the first time ever I met other non-binary folks, other people who identified as transmasculine who wanted top surgery but not hormone replacement therapy. It was so affirming and reassuring for me that if all these other people at the conference could live life as their authentic selves despite what the overwhelming majority dictates, then I could do it too.
Having top surgery last February eliminated so much of the intense dysphoria that I had been living with since I was 9 years old. As those layers of dysphoria disappeared, I started experiencing different dysphoric feelings and began thinking more and more about hormone replacement therapy.
All About T
Testosterone has so many effects on the body, but you can’t pick and choose what effects you like and what you don’t. I read about all the effects, various methods of delivery, different dosages, basically everything I could get my hands on trying to come up with a plan. Micah’s blog helped a lot because I could really relate to their experience.
I was terrified of all the unknowns that came with putting a hormone into my body. I don’t like unknowns, I like plans. So I researched relentlessly, talked to friends, my doctor, trying to figure out what the heck to do. I ended up creating a chart in which I organized all the effects of testosterone under three categories: effects I’d like, effects I wasn’t sure about, and effects I didn’t want or was afraid of.
I have always wanted to get rid of all the curves and have a harder, toned body. I wanted my work in the gym to create visible change. I’ve always been an athlete but no matter how much I worked out and how healthy I ate, I could never achieve the ripped, toned, muscular look that I hoped for.
I also liked the idea of having a more masculine face, because I was almost always being read as female and this was bothering me a lot. Even though I didn’t identify 100% as male, I knew for sure I did not want to be seen as female by others. I also really wanted the monthly cycle to stop.
There were a few effects that I was not so sure about or had mixed feelings about. One was having my voice change. The idea of having my voice become more masculine sounding appealed to me. However, the not knowing how it would change, what I would sound like, if I would like it, and the permanence of this change was very scary for me.
I also read a lot about how taking testosterone could lead to unpredictable effects on mood. Having suffered from major depression and anxiety for many years and going through many hospitalizations, medication regimens, and other treatments, I was afraid to mess with my mood now that I was finally feeling better after having top surgery. Yet at the same time, it could make me feel even better. But I wouldn’t know until I tried it, and that was hard for me to accept.
I also had mixed feelings about the increased sex drive that I read about and heard about from pretty much every trans guy I had encountered. At the time, I was actually trying to accept that I was asexual and would never experience physical intimacy the way I observed all around me. I couldn’t even comprehend why people kiss each other, it made no sense to me, and other intimate behaviors were even more confusing, even disgusting to me. On the one hand, I was curious about the potential of maybe being able to experience what it feels like to have a libido, but also terrified because at the time, all I knew was how confusing and uncomfortable anything related to sex made me feel and I had no idea how being on testosterone would effect that.
I also had a list of effects that I really didn’t think I wanted at all. Among these were increased body hair and growth of facial hair. The idea of having hair growing on my face freaked me out, and I was concerned about having to shave my face because of how sensitive my skin has always been. I was envisioning intense razor burn all over my face all the time because that’s what often happened when I was shaving my legs. I also already had what I felt was a lot of body hair for someone assigned female at birth, and was afraid that taking testosterone was going to make me extremely hairy. And like most of the other effects, I wouldn’t know exactly what would happen until I just went for it. I could be someone who isn’t even able to grow facial hair, but not knowing for sure and the potential to have a ton of hair growing on my face and all over my body was really scary.
Hair growth is also a permanent change, and that was terrifying because what would I do if I didn’t like it at all? I was also nervous about male pattern baldness happening and how I’d feel if that happened, which I think is a common concern.
Something I heard from many people on testosterone was that it caused them to get angry, even enraged to a level they had never experienced before, and that they had a much shorter temper. Many people said they often felt out of control at times because they would experience intense anger very quickly. This really scared me. I have never been an outwardly angry person, and this image of becoming very angry and expressing it outwardly was not me at all and not something I wanted for myself. I didn’t want my personality to change in what I thought would be a negative way.
The last effect that I was afraid of was the growth of a certain lower body part. Those parts had always caused me a lot of dysphoria and I really didn’t want to have to be made aware of their existence by things getting bigger or changing in some way. That really freaked me out.
I brought my chart that listed all these effects and how I felt about them to my doctor, who made a really great point after looking it over. She told me that all the things I had listed under the effects that I really wanted could only happen by going on testosterone, and they were all things that would make me feel happy on the inside. They didn’t have as much to do with what other people would think of me. Then she said how most of the effects that I was really afraid of or didn’t want were things we could deal with as they came, and had more to do with outward things that weren’t as important to my internal sense of self. Her insight made me think a lot, and I trusted her when she said she would be there for me and help me every step of the way.
My doctor and I decided that the best option for me was to start with a very low dose of Androgel. Because it is such a low dose and it’s applied daily, she said if I woke up one day and didn’t like what was happening, I could stop and take time to reevaluate or work through whatever I was feeling and then decide how to proceed.
That aspect of having some control over what was happening by using a low dose of Androgel every day was the deciding factor for me. I liked the fact that if something started happening or I was feeling unsure or uneasy or anything that made me question my decision, I could stop then and there. So I went for it!
I started on 1 pump of 1.62% Androgel every day, and after about a month I increased the dose to 2 pumps a day because my blood work showed that my testosterone levels were very low. Despite my levels being low, I felt a difference almost immediately. I don’t know if some of that was more of a placebo effect or if the hormones were really doing something but I felt pretty great. I also felt a little paranoid about wanting to notice if anything was changing and was constantly analyzing and reinterpreting different things I noticed, wondering if they were the result of the testosterone. Not knowing what effects would happen or when and how I would feel about them was a major challenge. But at the same time, the thought of going through male puberty was exciting and really incredible! Not many people can go through both female and male puberty in a lifetime. I’ve come to see it as a gift in many ways.
But then, I was hit with a sense of loss. After I started on testosterone I had this realization that there are things about myself that will never be the same. It wasn’t regret – just an acknowledgement that I had been a certain way for 28 years and now some traits that had been central to being me were going to change. I felt the need to record my voice and take some pictures as a way to “preserve” certain aspects of who I was before things permanently changed.
I also was hit with an intense wave of guilt when thinking about telling my parents that I had started HRT. In a young adult trans process group I was attending, the facilitator, who is a parent, was talking about how parents have certain expectations of their kids, that before they’re even born they envision all of these different life events and all these things they want for their kids, and I started thinking about how I had been my parents’s only daughter and I felt like I was taking that away from them. My parents won’t be able to see their “daughter” in me anymore. But I knew that I needed to do this for me, because I have the right to feel comfortable in my own skin just like anyone else.
I was starting to experience some effects of testosterone, like my voice had started to drop and I was getting more hair on my stomach, and it was very exciting for these changes to be happening. Now that I was experiencing some changes and not totally freaking out but actually enjoying them, I felt confident enough to increase the dose. Even with increasing my dose of Androgel to 2 pumps a day, my testosterone levels were still very low.
Also, my dog was losing his hair! A big part of my job involves getting into a pool, and since the gel has to be dry for hours before getting wet, I applied it at night. Well, it was getting on my bedsheets where my dog also sleeps.
So after a couple of months using the Androgel, I decided to switch to a low dose of subcutaneous injections. Thankfully, shortly after switching to the injections my dog’s hair began to grow back and he is not sick! To me, doing the injections are also much easier than dealing with the gel. I’m very comfortable handing needles since I have for years working in the veterinary and medical fields.
I started with one injection a week, and did this for a few months or so, but my testosterone levels were still very low. My doctor explained that my liver functions very well and it’s flushing out the testosterone too quickly. So she increased my dose and explained that I could do one injection a week of this increased dose, or split it up into two injections a week which could help maintain a stable level throughout the week rather than having it slowly decrease throughout the week and experiencing highs and lows. I opted for doing the injections twice a week because I was already anxious about my mood being affected and would rather do what I could to keep my hormone levels stable.
March 29th marks one year that I’ve been on testosterone. That’s the day I started the Androgel, and a year later, I’ve never been happier in my life.
The addition of testosterone has helped me feel more connected to myself, to my body, to other people. I remember saying to someone that I finally feel like a human being. It’s amazing to me how I was so afraid of many of the effects of testosterone and now they are some that I am the most excited about! I’m so happy that I did not let those fears control my decision to start HRT.
At this moment, I’m very excited to see more and more facial hair coming in, which is something I thought I’d hate. And I don’t mind all the body hair that has grown and continues to sprout all over the place. It’s become a fun thing to see what happens next. Another effect is the increased sex drive – I didn’t know how that would work for me, as someone who thought I was asexual, but it’s been great! I finally understand what it feels like to be physically attracted to someone, which is something I never experienced until I started T. This has made me feel like I can understand people on a whole new level. I’m also having fun with my voice as it’s changing, laughing at myself when it cracks while I’m rocking out to the radio in my car, playing around with how low it can get, and trying to learn what my range is as it’s changing all the time.
I really am going through puberty, but this time it’s the correct one for me, and it’s enjoyable because it does feel so right. I don’t mind being a horny, awkward teenage boy. I’ve never felt so authentically myself and it’s amazing.
After having top surgery, I didn’t think it was possible to feel even better than I did when so much dysphoria was gone, but being on testosterone has proven me wrong. I’m excited to continue this journey, because although I just turned 29 years old, I feel like I’ve only just started living my life and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me.
Caidin lives in CT and works at a canine rehabilitation and sports medicine practice where among other things they get to swim in a pool with dogs! They are in school working on their third college degree, this time to become certified and licensed as a veterinary technician. Caidin decided a few years ago to pursue the veterinary field to combine their passion for science and medicine with their love of animals. They have a 7 year old Labradoodle, who is the love of their life, named Thomas Gregory. Thomas helped get Caidin through many really tough times when he was the only reason Caidin could think of to keep going. When Caidin legally changed their name, they made Thomas their middle name in honor of their amazing companion. Caidin is also an avid sports fan and was a Division 1 athlete at the University of Delaware.
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