transition 101: phase three, ch-ch-ch-changes
Please note that this is the fourth post in a series entitled Transition 101.
Having laid a good foundation for transition by observing, learning, doing research, and building a network, the next phase is to start physically transitioning.
To a large extent you just keep doing what you did before – continue to work on your presentation and voice, educate yourself and work on your financial and social resources, but this is also where people’s perceptions of you will gradually start to shift. At first, as you work on your presentation and manner, people will probably start to think you are gay or something, but since it’s a (hopefully) gradual change, it’ll be a mostly subconscious shift in their perceptions. Eventually, as you start to take HRT and your body changes, people may wonder if you’re sick because they see you losing weight and muscle mass. Your skin will change gradually and you’ll have less and less facial and body hair and you’re scalp hair will gradually be getting longer and thicker. You may start to wear a tight sports-bra and baggy clothing to hide the physical changes, and people will notice, but if you manage it carefully, they’ll only pick up on the changes subconsciously, which is exactly what you want.
Get on anti-androgens as soon as you possibly can. Oestrogen is important, but anti-androgens are critical in buying you time and preventing further masculinisation. Typically a psychiatrist will diagnose GID and refer you to an endocrinologist for HRT after about 3 months of regular consultations (assuming said psychiatrist is following the current SOC recommendations), but if you can’t wait that long, or if your therapist looks like she’s going to drag her feet on it, you might consider the self-medication route. You will probably have to supplement your HRT anyway once you are under the care of an endocrinologist, since they tend to be very cautious as regards gender-variant people, and rarely prescribe more than post-menopausal HRT, which isn’t really sufficient.
If you’re going to go the self-medication route though, it is vital that you do your research first, and that you have access to blood testing, perhaps through a GP or a private clinic. You’ll also generally find, though not universally, that many doctors will make your self-medication official and try to oversee it rather than not treating you at all. Your mileage may vary though, so tread carefully.
Once you’ve been on HRT (preferably oestrogen also, but AA’s only will do) for a few months, start going for electrolysis, if you can find a good practitioner. Facial hair growth will have slowed down from the HRT, so the benefit will be that much greater.
Comparing the two main methods of hair removal, the benefit with electrolysis is that it’s permanent and more importantly GRADUAL. Laser only reduces hair, it’s not guaranteed to remove all of it, and it’s VERY visible. Suddenly going from having a beard, to having dead hair growing out two days later, to NO beard a week later as the hairs fall out – people are going to notice that. By contrast, if you go for an hour or two of electrolysis a week early in the weekend, and you ask the tech to spread the work (which (s)he should do anyway to minimise damage to your skin), people won’t notice that your beard is gradually thinning out, at least not initially.
If a good electrologist is hard to come by, as they often are nowadays, then laser is better than nothing, and it does have advantages. The bonus with laser hair removal is that you don’t have to grow your hair out, so you can keep your facial hair very short and hopefully minimise how much people notice. Also, you only need one session to clear your face entirely, and as long as you time your repeat-sessions to coincide with regrowth, you can be virtually facial-hair free for good.
Unfortunately it is fairly visible that you’ve had laser for a week or two after a session as the dead hairs gradually push out, so schedule your initial clearing before a holiday or a long weekend. That way your face can heal, so that, by the time you go back to work, school or college, nobody will notice. One has to typically get laser ever 4 to 6 weeks initially, gradually extending to around 8 weeks as the hair grows sparser and weaker, so try and schedule things in such a way that you always have a few days to recover after a session, even if just a weekend.
Like phase one, phase two can be frustrating. At times it felt like I was just marking time. It’s important though to be patient and let the HRT and hair removal do its thing, and allow the changes you’ve been making to settle in, both in your own subconscious and that of the people around you.
Up tomorrow, “Phase Four: Part-Time Lover”, where you finally start presenting as your target gender and start making the social, administrative and legal adjustments necessary to transition.