It’s that time of year again: Some notes for the guys starting T

For some odd reason every year starting in late September and running until early November there seem to be an influx of guys starting T and asking questions.  Maybe it’s that the guys away from home for college can start the process when the school term does or something, I dunno.  In any case, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. No, you probably aren’t growing more facial hair after your first shot.  I’m sorry guys, but the chances of that happening are so small that you have a better chance of seeing a dolphin in Missouri.  I want you all to look at your younger brothers or cousins or whatever tween to teenage boys might be around.  Look at how long it takes for the more visible parts of puberty to hit them.  Trans guys in the US usually take less time because our doses are higher and more constant than the natural levels a cis guy would get during puberty, but two weeks is way too short a time to see changes like that.
  2. Correlation does not equal causation.  If you start T on Monday and feel like your throat is sore on Tuesday that does not mean the T caused it.  Maybe it did.  Maybe you’re experiencing one of the preliminary signs of a voice drop.  More likely you spoke too much/too loudly or are getting an early season flu.
  3. T does not magically turn you into an asshole.  This is what I consider to be one of the most dangerous myths of testosterone.  T can do many things, including lowering your anger threshold and making you more impulsive.  However, those things are still your responsibility to deal with.  If you lash out at your boyfriend that is not the T making you do so, it is your own inability to control your temper.  I said and did many douchey things when I first started T, but that doesn’t mean the T made me aggressive.  It simply means I needed to learn to channel my frustration into more constructive things, something I should have learned regardless of my hormone levels or gender identity.  Take some responsibility for your actions instead of giving the trans man’s version of “boys will be boys”.
  4. You will not die if you miss a shot.  Around March there will be emails coming in from guys asking what will happen if they miss one shot because they think their prescription will run out before the refill comes in or they can get to the doctor.  The answer is most likely very little.  You might feel a little tired or run down or emotional.  You might also feel the same as you always do.  The reality is that damned near every guy on T will miss a shot or two over the course of his lifetime.  Prescriptions don’t get filled on time, life gets hectic and you forget, some surgeons require time off T before they’ll cut you open, it happens.  Try to be as calm about it as possible (I know, the first time is a bit scary) and the time will go by faster than you think.
  5. Take pictures.  Many of us are uncomfortable with pictures, but trust me on this one, you’ll want them later.  Even if you never want to let anyone else see them, being able to look at how different you were ten years or a year or even six months ago is amazing on those days when you feel like you’re never going to be done with transition.  So take a ton.  Develop a secret relationship with your webcam if that’s what makes you most comfortable.  Just make sure you’re documenting it somehow.
  6. Advocate for yourself to the very best of your abilities.  Ask your doctor questions.  Know why they’re making the suggestions they are.  Ask to see your lab results and what they mean.  If you’re uncomfortable with a decision ask if there are any other options.  If your doctor wants to take you off T for some reason ask about risks and if it’d be possible to do whatever cis guys with the same condition would.  Often doctors just don’t know what to do with us so their response to everything is “it’s the T”.  Educate yourself so that if something like that comes up you can at least ask questions and make a more informed decision.
  7. At the same time, do not endanger your health for the sake of T.  I have to admit to my own faults on this one.  When I started T I experienced an increase in problems with my asthma and eczema, two things that only bothered me once or twice a year after I was 14.  I was wheezing and itching all over the place, it was awful.  I spent months trying to convince myself it was just a coincidence or something else that had happened around the same time.  I finally did tell my doctor, but not before torturing myself because I was afraid he’d force me to stop therapy.  Worst part?  It turns out the compounding pharmacy I was going to added a mild scent I hadn’t noticed to their gels and I was having a reaction to that.  I asked them to stop adding it to mine and suddenly I was back to normal.  All that for something that was so simple to fix.
  8. Everyone changes at a different rate.  Some guys start T and within three months everyone thinks they’re a cis guy.  Others are still being called “she” after several years.  It all depends on your personal body chemistry and genetics.  Look at the guys in your family.  If they’re hairy you’ll probably be hairy.  If they’re all lean muscle you’re probably not going to look like the Hulk.  Try to be patient and avoid comparing yourself to anyone else.  When things get hard pull out that set of pictures I told you to keep so you can see that you are different, even if it’s not as much as you want.
  9. Doubling or tripling or otherwise adjusting your dose without supervision will not make you change any faster.  This is part of why you need to know about your lab results and educate yourself about what’s reasonable for a guy around your age.  If you are consistently getting T levels within a male range upping your dose is more likely to hurt than help.  Never forget that after a certain point T converts to estrogen.  If your levels are low and your doctor doesn’t want to talk about changing your dosage then that’s something to debate, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more = better.  I know guys on lower doses than I am who are seeing much more visible results in a shorter period of time.  Once again, it’s all individual.
  10. Don’t be afraid to take a break.  This is one of those things that is more common to do than it is to talk about.  If for any reason at all you feel like you need to reevaluate taking T or transitioning then take a break.  Stop and think about it if that’s what you need.  Sometimes we need to get away from something in order to figure out it’s what we want.  Some of us may think we want T only to find out that we don’t really.  There is nothing at all wrong with needing time to understand what’s right for you.  Even if what’s right for you is not taking T or deciding not to transition.  Other people may not understand that, but their opinion is not nearly as important as you feeling comfortable in your own skin.

One thought on “It’s that time of year again: Some notes for the guys starting T

  1. Awesome tips and pointers! Having been on T for just over a month, I can second each and every one of the numbers on your list. Everybody who is considering T or who just started taking T would benefit from reading this.

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