Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The joy of hormones

21 July 2004 was an auspicious day for me; because on that day I began hormone treatment. Which represents the first medical step on my journey. But not the first actual step; I had been living socially and professionally as a woman full-time for over nine months at that point, and went through a lot in the months and years leading up to that point. But that's not a subject for today.

So, hormones… I began with an initial dose of 50 micrograms of Ethinyloestradiol daily for the first eight weeks. I had numerous blood tests prior to that, to provide a pre-treatment baseline, and those tests were repeated after eight weeks. Since all was well, the dosage was then increased to 100 micrograms daily; and, subject to more blood tests after another eight weeks, may be further increased. The blood tests are important because female hormones can have unwelcome side-effects in women; introducing them into a male physiology can also have side effects (strain on liver function, increased risk of thrombosis, for example). I don't want to succumb to something of that ilk, so I'm happy to take it steadily.

I'm also taking a medication called Finasteride, 2.5 milligrams daily. This has been prescribed to help reverse my limited male-pattern baldness. Personally, I don't feel particularly disadvantaged in that area; certainly not in comparison to my brother Russ, for example! But, I'm more than happy to see if there's any benefit from taking them.

Having taken a fair variety of prescription medication over the years, particularly anti-depressants with an alarming array of potential side-effects, I'm quite keen on reading the information leaflet that comes with prescription medication. It can be perversely amusing! Ethinyloestradiol seems to be primarily designed for women for the purposes of HRT, so the leaflet is written with that in mind, but it does say that "Men may develop breasts, their testicles may stop working, they may look more female and become impotent during treatment". And this is bad, because…? ;-)

Although Finasteride is primarily designed to help men suffering prostate problems (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) it has a secondary use in reversing limited male-pattern baldness. As for side-effects, these may include "impotence, or less desire to have sex; changes or problems with ejaculation, such as a decrease in the amount of semen released during sex" and "breast swelling and / or tenderness". So, nothing for me to be particularly concerned about, although one of my colleagues who expressed interest on the hair regrowth front may choose to think again…

One thing I'd like to gain from these posts is an indication, over time, of how hormones affect my emotions and mood; particularly when I compare how I feel with what my friends, colleagues and loved ones tell me about how I've actually been! Nearly three months on, I can say that I am pleased with the physical effects and, overall, with the emotional effects. But (and it is a big "but", and I'm not referring to my increasingly rounded butt)... I have experienced side-effects which I really wasn't expecting, and could quite happily do without. My concentration and ability to focus have declined markedly, while my memory has been decimated. After the initial amusement factor (at understanding what it means to become a "dumb blonde") wore off (and, for me, it really *has* worn off), this is proving a significant challenge, particularly at work. Whole areas of knowledge have been closed off. In some areas, I know that I *ought* to know something, or feel that I used to know something; in others, I've no recollection of having ever known it. Taken together, everything is taking much longer than I'm used to, and I find it very upsetting, to put it mildly.

My colleagues have been incredibly supportive, and I really appreciate that, but that doesn't stop me feeling incredibly guilty that I'm not as productive as I should be, as I used to be; especially since this is a very busy time for us, and inevitably my colleagues have had to work harder to cover tasks which ordinarily I would probably have done. This has been going on for nearly two months now. I hope (oh, how I hope!) that this will settle down and subside, and soon.

At least one bright spark has suggested that the simplest solution would be to stop taking the hormones. Hmmm... I politely informed them that a suggestion like that betrays a lack of understanding of what impact Gender Dysphoria has on someone who has it. I'm not doing this on a whim, or because I get a kick out of wearing women's clothes. I spent years trying to live with the condition without pursuing gender reassignment surgery, and failed miserably. Just how miserably I'll probably record here over the next few months. For now, let me say this; gender reassignment surgery and legal recognition of my status as a woman represents two things to me. The chance to live the last years of my life with the contentment that was denied me up to now; and the last chance of avoiding the end result of Gender Dysphoria in someone who doesn't (or can't) deal with it. And I choose the possibility of life rather than the certainty of an early grave, thanks all the same. If the memory problems persisted, and I had to choose between hormones (as a precursor to gender reassignment surgery) or regaining sufficient faculties to work as I used to, it wouldn't really be a choice.

Bleurgh... not a very upbeat conclusion to this post. Onwards and upwards, I say!

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