One Year On: My HRT and The Passing Paradox

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October 2nd, 2018, otherwise known as the first day I got a shot of testosterone in my system.

My friend (and at-the-time roommate) drove me down to the local Planned Parenthood a little before noon, and together we sat inside while the doctor went through every single step of the injection process, which ended with her giving me my first shot. And it has officially been one full year since that moment, and I definitely have a lot to reflect on.

Being transgender is something that you think about all the time, because, let’s face it, you have to. Being transgender, I can’t just go to a public bathroom or even have a one-on-one with a stranger without considering my mannerisms and how they’re perceiving me. And as I’ve been medically transitioning for a year (socially, a little more than that), my relationship with being transgender has shifted about as drastically as the general public perception of me.

And what else would I do but write about it? The other day I was interviewed by a friend, and one of her questions was what I’ve done to advocate for my community, and I answered writing as one of my largest accomplishments. The more I document and discuss this aspect of myself into the void, the more information is out there for others, cis and transgender alike.

So, one year out from my first shot of testosterone, I want to talk about some more changes that have come into my life as a result, and how I’ve been grappling with my gender in the past year, in part because I feel the need to document everything, and in part because foremost, I want to be that learning tool for others.

A quick disclaimer: I am in no way a medical professional. My writings here are about my own personal experience, and, as any doctor will tell you, everyone’s experiences and timelines on HRT are different. Please don’t read this with the expectation that I speak for all transgender men or general people taking HRT for testosterone.

To prep for this, I reread the blog post I made when I was six months on, back in March 2019.

At that point, a lot of significant changes had already taken place. My voice was noticeably and considerably deeper than it’s original pitch, my skin completely lost its mind and was in a constant state of breaking out, and new areas of body hair had started coming in, mostly around my stomach and thighs.

A lot of that can be quietly copy and pasted over into this recounting. My voice is still deep, and has continued to deepen slightly over the past few months. The body hair is still just as drastic, although I’ll state again that I believe it’s 75% HRT, 25% my dad’s genetics. Acne, while still undeniably a problem, is finally starting to lighten up.

Perhaps the largest change over the last year has been that social aspect, that I am rarely, if ever, mistaken for a woman by passing strangers. That, though, is a bag of worms.

In my own head, it’s still very hard to gauge if I “pass” well, if at all. Starting a new job has been a really interesting experience in this, and it’s actually ended up proving that passing is sometimes harder for trans people than not.

The main problem is that legally, I’m still a woman and have the name of one. However, I also have significant facial hair, an incredibly deep voice, and nothing physical to signify really being a woman. And this has caused a lot of interesting interactions with co-workers and supervisors; I once watched two women talk about my documents (completely unrelated to my gender), one using masculine, one using feminine pronouns, and neither adjusting as the conversation went on.

More than one co-worker has asked who my dead name is or why I’m not listed as Logan, often in front of customers, and I’ve had to scramble to explain that it’s just my middle name or a goof in the system. I’ve absolutely cried because somebody made a well-intentioned but deeply hurtful joke about me “having a girl’s name”. Early in my transition, people stepped on eggshells around me because they couldn’t quite figure me or my gender out; now that I pass, that caution is gone, because cisgender people really don’t assume transness unless it’s “obvious”.

I don’t think I thought that passing would become a solution to all of my problems, but I definitely didn’t think about the new problems that would crop up as a result. And that isn’t to say I don’t love being able to pass — it’s incredibly euphoric to be perceived as who I am, I’m incredibly lucky to pass like I do, and it gives me privilege that I’ve never experienced before.

But passing means that I have an act to keep up, and that’s stressful. I wrote a few weeks ago about my internal debate on whether or not to reveal to my roommate that I’m transgender, and that involved a lot of examination of the “deceptive transgender” trope and how we as a community view passing as this gold standard to achieve. Actually the same day I published that, my roommate and I talked, and she mentioned having a trans male friend, and that she hoped it would mean she wouldn’t unintentionally be offensive to me.

And that situation was a unique point for me, because it became the first of many times I had to choose whether or not to come out to somebody. Since then, I’ve kept relatively quiet on being transgender in social contexts, save for online, where I’m much more vocal. But because of my relative silence, it’s lead to a lot of internal debate about myself, about how I pass, about if I’m doing the right thing or not.

My interaction with my roommate opened up a lot of new questions for me. How did she know I was transgender without my telling her? Did she happen to get lucky in looking me up? Did someone from the school tell her? Or do I not pass as well as I assumed, and she could just tell?

Assuming that people can “tell” has been a major anxiety of mine from the start, but it’s become increasingly more exacerbated in the past few months. In the start of this new semester, many of my transgender friends are no longer here, and I rarely if ever see the ones that still are. And feeling like I’m the only transgender person for miles is isolating; my network of transgender friends online is fantastic, but online messaging just isn’t the same as face to face communication.

I’ve always felt considerably isolated from the transgender community as a whole- because I have this weird gender impostor syndrome, because I have awful social anxiety, because I feel like my experiences and feelings are so much more different than everyone else’s- but I’ve really been feeling it recently, and it’s been difficult to grapple with.

But for all that blur of anxiety and stress, I want this thing to be positive. Because I’ve been doing this for a full year now, and I’m further than I ever would’ve thought myself capable of, and I’m unbelievably proud of myself for it. I truly think that my ability to be vocal is making a difference, even if only in small, individual ways. But that’s not nothing either.

While drafting this, I got recommended an article about the importance of transgender people writing, and it struck at what I’m really trying to strike at here:

Writing and journaling is indispensable in deciphering the trends of our feelings, but it can also be used to integrate the complex changes trans people go through… It doesn’t matter if you’re just beginning your journey, are are decades past your social transition, whether you pass or not, whether your family supports you or if you’ve lost everyone. We all have thoughts and feelings about this wild and unique experience. There is far too much emotion and experience to internalize. We all need some type of outlet. — Ryan Emily Sereno

Transitioning is an inherently scary and isolating process. Everyone transitions differently, and so what information is available is often generic and unhelpful. And reaching out to a community so vast and varied is scary too. More often than not, you feel completely alone, even with the knowledge that you are obviously not.

So I want to end this with concurring with Sereno; regardless of where you are on the spectrum of transition, write about it. Put personal experience out there for other transgender people to come across and learn from. I wish that I had had someone like me around when I was first starting out in this, and I owe a lot to the people over on Reddit for their patience and answers in those early months where I thought everything meant I had accidentally poisoned myself and was dying. When more information is more widely accessible, everybody benefits.

I look forward to the milestones still ahead of me, and to one day be at a point where I can look back on these writings with more world and personal knowledge than I can currently anticipate having. This is a lifelong journey, but it at least feels like most of the bumps have, at last, smoothed out.

20, he/him transsexual. Questions, comments or requests at kredino@gmail.com — Selected works at loganashley.contently.com

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