I considered myself a member of the transgender community for several very formative years before I underwent hormone replacement therapy in 2019. This perspective stems from my experiences and from several months of obsessive research trying to get to the bottom of why this happened to me and where to go from here. This is the fifth piece in an ongoing series.
I hope that this is somewhat helpful for those who have been mulling over doing the same, or for parents who may not know what to expect in the early stages. I won’t take too long.
So, I stopped taking spironolactone and estradiol cold turkey a little over a month ago. Needless to say, I was a little terrified to do so, and I did it in a state of panic, but I don’t regret it. I was coming off a week of near-total isolation and had just started smoking cigarettes again. I couldn’t both be on HRT and smoking, as that would dramatically raise my chance of a blood clot or stroke, and on a whim, I opted for cigarettes. That pushed my detransition timeline forward by several months, and of course, means I’m addicted to nicotine again. Oh well.
It’s been pretty hard emotionally, I’m not gonna lie. The emotional effects of estrogen are what I was most afraid of losing and a lot of those fears have borne out, but they’re not as bad as I initially thought they’d be, and testosterone works its own miracles. I’m much more irritable, less patient, anxious, buzzing with energy I didn’t know I still had in me. The light and the air feel like they’ve changed; I don’t look at them or feel them in the same way, but it’s hard to explain what’s different (other detransitioners, sound off in the comments). Within two weeks, my verbal intelligence dipped dramatically; rather than getting all manner of words mixed up and caught on the tip of my tongue, I just get a blank wall of static when I reach for a word I want to use but can’t recall. That loss has hit me particularly hard. Some personal creative projects I was working on for pleasure are now on hold, and I’ve all but stopped journaling. What I lost in verbal intelligence, I have more than made up for in spatial reasoning and physical awareness. I used to cry every day, sometimes multiple times a day, now it’s more like every week, if that. I am both more compulsive and more impulsive. My affective empathy has dropped precipitously, but on the bright side, I feel like I’m better at practicing cognitive empathy, something I’ve been working on since discovering the difference in recent weeks (probably not related to detrans).
Physically, I feel great, save for a few things. Though the brain fog of spiro is gone, it’s been replaced by a dull ache that lessens only if I orgasm or if I exercise — and I mean really exercise. I’m putting in over an hour at the gym at least four times a week, way more than at any point I was trans. I do it all: cardio, weights, core, stretches. I work out my whole body to the point of exhaustion. I’m way more sensitive to dehydration and appetite (it feeds the low-grade irritability). I feel the need to eat and drink a lot more — and I mean a lot more. At this point I’m basically back in eating disorder territory. I’ve put on over 20 pounds, and that’s despite all my time in the gym. I’m craving more of everything, especially carbs. Despite having such a voracious appetite, I’m rarely ever actually hungry. I haven’t felt like this in years. The few times I did binge while I was on estrogen were during times of extreme loneliness or stress. I’m not really experiencing either right now, but I still want to inhale my entire fridge.
My libido is back in full force, though fortunately it’s not remotely comparable to what puberty was like. It has been difficult to manage, but I’m working on it. The gym helps, and unfortunately, so does food. My senses feel dulled in some places, heightened in others. It’s hard to predict, and very frustrating for someone already struggling with the sensory issues that autism brings. I’ve been biting my nails more, been bleeding a lot more, been growing thicker callouses. My nails have also thickened, as has my body and facial hair, my nose has gone oily, my body fat has begun redistributing from my hips to my belly, my pores are bigger, I’m sweating harder, and I’m getting acne in places I haven’t had acne in years. I don’t smell worse though (yet). As for things going on downstairs, whatever worries I had about fertility and reproductive function seem to have been overblown, and I thank Christ I wasn’t on these drugs for much longer, because Lord knows things could have gone differently. Crazy to think that only a few months ago I still half-wanted to cut it all off. I’m grateful to know my body still works, even if I have to adjust to it.
Now onto the positives: that buzzing, anxious energy has motivated me to follow a schedule for the first time ever. The muscle loss I experienced due to spironolactone is noticeably reversing, in no small part because of my gym efforts. My back and joints hurt less. I feel more connected to my body overall, more aware of its capabilities and limitations and its position in space, and what’s more, I actually like using it. I don’t lapse as easily into delusion or obsess over my emotional state. Though there’s irritability, there’s also control, albeit not for everything. It is much easier to tell myself to get a grip when I feel like I’m losing it, or if I feel like someone’s manipulating me, though that might just be maturity blossoming. Asserting myself comes naturally, though I’d be lying if I said I was some sort of alpha male now; I’m not, and I’ll never be.
I don’t feel like I’m hiding anymore, or lying about what I am. I honestly feel like this is how my body is supposed to be working, binge eating and nicotine addiction aside. As scary as it’s been to confront some of these things I really didn’t miss, I’m grateful I did. They’re not as scary anymore. They’re what make me feel alive, even if they suck sometimes. Shedding this security blanket has enabled me to actually pay attention to my problems, since there’s no running away from them anymore. In this regard, I actually feel not all that different than when I started transitioning. At that time, I thought I had no excuse for being a reckless piece of shit with no future, because I believed that hormones had secured that future for me. I did start to get my shit together, for a time. I did develop a certain awareness of myself and did begin planning for the future. Doing that is what led me to obsess over whether I was “really” a woman and sent me down a year-long depressive spiral and identity crisis. Now that that’s over with, I don’t have any major cognitive dissonance in need of addressing, so I can just sort of… move on.
I still have body dysmorphia. I still don’t really relish the fact that I’m a man. I don’t really recognize my face, though I’m starting to. My features keep shapeshifting in the reflection and when I look down. I don’t actually expect this to stop, but it’s okay because I’m not obsessing over it anymore. The actual gender dysphoria, especially the distress over my gentials, the shape of my body, my fitting into the “box” of male or female, doesn’t bother me anymore. That there are still many who claim this is permanent and who impress this and other dangerous, dissociative concepts onto children makes me that much angrier. The AGP is still there, hiding behind a rock or something, but that also doesn’t really bother me. It is what it is. I suspect my gender dysphoria had much, much more to do with my queer leftist ideological commitments, a burgeoning personality disorder (I was basically Cluster B for some time), fears over puberty and becoming a man, and other largely unrelated issues (but of course, it’s impossible for them to be wholly unrelated).
Speaking of that burgeoning personality disorder, the void within me isn’t there anymore. It’s been filled. Rather than replace it with another carefully created self-image, an ideology, drugs and sex, or another person’s personality, I’ve replaced it instead with my actual life as I’ve lived it so far. All the good things and all the bad things meeting in the middle. I don’t need to project an image onto myself anymore. That doesn’t mean that I’m happy, but it does make the happy moments mean a lot more. They actually register. The bad stuff does too, but in a good way. I don’t feel like hiding it away from my conscious self anymore because I’ve experienced firsthand what that does to a person, and what it turns that person into.
I wasn’t expecting detransition to solve any of these issues, neither the ones that have cleared up nor the ones I’m still dealing with, and it’s for that reason that I’m happy to have done it. My main goal was to get off the pharmaceuticals and to stop lying to people about being a woman, and I’ve succeeded in both these goals. The after-effects are annoying, especially the binge-eating, but I will manage. If I hadn’t taken this leap of faith in trusting God’s design, I wouldn’t have that mindset. I wasn’t expecting it to be this easy, but it turns out if you just take things day by day instead of expecting to change all at once, regardless of whether you expect the change to be good or bad, things are a lot easier to deal with. It’s paying off.
Sounds like things are going well for you. Wrt to eating, of course with working out at the gym 4 hours a week, you will feel hungry and muscle weighs more than fat so might be best not to worry too much about weight and pay more attention to whether your body feels firmer in the "right" places and less flabby?
Overall it seems things are looking up! I hope you are sleeping well. I'm glad you are exercising and I believe you will get the binge eating under control.