Some emotional effects of HRT

by Zinnia Jones — April 16, 2013

domestic-lowlife asked: Sorry if this is offensive (and feel free to not answer it), I was just wondering if you noticed other changes to your body since going on hormones besides physical ones (as in, does the estrogen have any impact on your mood?) I’m just curious because I know of a trans guy who said he has nearly stopped crying entirely since going on testosterone and I wasn’t sure whether that was predictable in hormone therapy or just a placebo thing.

Actually, yes! Before the physical changes really kicked in, the emotional effects were what most stood out to me. Because they’re awesome. Even if it had no physical effects at all, the overall improvement in mood would be completely worth it.

For my entire life before now, it always seemed like there was something subtly wrong about me. I was often stressed out in everyday life, for no apparent reason. Day-to-day activities didn’t come easily to me. I was mildly anxious and irritable a lot, and even the littlest things just seemed like such a burden. I was always tense, and never relaxed. I often wished that there could be something, anything, that would help me loosen up and just relax for once.

I frequently felt out of place in my own life. Sometimes, things seemed less than fully real. It was like I was just going through the motions, doing what I was expected to do. When I talked to people, it felt like I was acting, like I was reading off a script.

I could barely even feel anything. I couldn’t cry when it seemed like I should be crying – it was like being estranged from my own emotions. Or, when I rarely did manage to cry, it was so overwhelming that I would completely lose it and then, for the next day or so, my head would feel so clouded and heavy and just dead inside. Like I had simply exhausted my supply of emotions.

This was my entire life until 7 months ago. Childhood. School. Having no friends because I didn’t feel like it and I didn’t know how to relate to them in any case. Adolescence. Dropping out. Spending years as a hermit and barely leaving my room.

Life felt pointless. Nothing was all that fun. Nothing seemed very enjoyable. There was no accomplishment that seemed worthwhile, nothing that would really seemed like “what I wanted to do with my life”. Why bother? What was the endgame? There was nothing that made me feel good.

I just assumed this was the way that I was – a tense, irritable person who didn’t see much point to things. I assumed that was simply my nature, and I would have to get used to it, live for a while, and then die, and that’s pretty much it.

But that wasn’t it. Even before hormones, transitioning helped. Becoming more feminine (2009-2010) made things somewhat better, even if I didn’t consider it to be part of transitioning at the time. Being feminine helped me be a little more comfortable, and care about my appearance and myself – before, as someone who was “masculine” or at least neutral, I never really saw the point to that.

Finding Heather helped (2010-forever). I had never dated before. I didn’t think there was anyone out there for me – and then I found someone who was so much like me, who understood me and I understood her and we never got tired of being around each other. We made each other feel better. She opened up my life – she opened up the world to me. She made me her girlfriend. She’s the reason I found love, a family, and something in this world worth living for. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

Hormones are the runner-up. Things really did get better once I became more feminine, fell in love with Heather, became a girlfriend, a stepmom, and had people to love and care for. Still, I had emotional problems: the tension, irritability, anxiety, and general lack of feeling were still evident and difficult for all of us to deal with.

Once again, I thought that was just my natural disposition and something I’d have to learn to cope with – I figured it was my own mood issue to deal with. I figured I was just… a person who was missing some pieces. I guess that was actually kind of right – more right than I ever knew at the time.

Before I started, I knew that hormones would have some kind of effect, but I had no way of knowing just what they would do. I jumped over into the unknown other side anyway, out of curiosity. I did not expect that it would do so much for me. Not in a million years.

This fixed me.

Everything – the distance from my own feelings, the alienation from my own life, the unreality of it all, the inability to cry, the dead feelings, the tension, the irritability, the pointlessness of life – everything that had been suffocating me since I was a child just melted off me and then I was actually, really ME for the first time ever in my ENTIRE LIFE.

There was really, truly a REAL PERSON in there and I never even knew it. If there were missing pieces, I got them back. I can feel everything now. I can cry as much or as little as I want and not have it overwhelm me, and never run out of emotions, and even laugh at the same time. I can feel good as my baseline, natural state. Hardly anything stresses me out as much as it used to. The tension is gone. Everything seems brighter and more real. Life isn’t an ordeal anymore – it’s worth living now!

I used to feel like there was some ever-present invisible skin that enveloped me and kept me from ever actually touching the world or letting the world touch me. Now I’m there. It really feels like I’m truly part of the world now. Things are just plain normal and natural and easy for the first time ever. I used to marvel at how everyday people could just go about their lives so easily, at how nothing was a big deal to them. Now I know what it’s like.

I’ve been dealing with that anxious and awkward hell for as long as I’ve had a shred of conscious awareness and recollection. It’s been going on since I was 4, at least. I had no idea it had anything to do with gender. There was no indication that this was a matter of gender at all. For most of my life, I didn’t have any clear, unambiguous, or frequent urges to be a girl. It wasn’t something I even thought of often.

The idea that becoming a woman would fix everything that was wrong with me would have been just about the last thing I expected. But here we are.

It’s clear that I have some sort of biochemical or neurological anomaly that made me feel awkward and generally terrible for most of my life – and replacing my testosterone with estrogen was what fixed it. I never thought there was anything that could do that. But this is it. This is the answer.

Other people do have different results from hormones. Some have different changes in how they feel, or few changes at all. But for me, this was not a placebo. It was my holy fucking grail.