5 questions about hormones and gender dysphoria. (Answers welcome!)

by Transcend Everything on June 3, 2015

This article is a response to Cheryl’s blog post on her experience with hormones. She is the founder of Tranisa films. You can access her article via the crossdreamer forum. Her response to this article is below.

QUESTION HORMONES

ATTENTION: Like all my work on transgender psychology, this article is for older readers with a history of male to female crossdreaming.

1. Are the positive effects of oestrogen universal?

Something we need to know about hormones is not just what effects they have on transgender male to female patients, but the effects they have on men with no history of gender variance. This is because many of the supposed benefits of oestrogen for transgender people may be just benefits of oestrogen in general.

In other words, if we took a control group of 100 stressed out cisgender (male) executives with problems expressing their emotions and other mood disorders, how many of them would report that they felt calmer, more in touch with their emotions, more centred etc. after a few weeks on oestrogen? It is unlikely that the benefits of oestrogen are universal, but they may certainly be universal for certain types of personalities, neuro-chemistries and affective mood disorders, and these benefits would be felt irrespective of gender variance.

2. Does it make sense to talk about the narcotic qualities of hormones?

Hormones are chemical keys with the power to block or release a whole series of biological processes with far reaching implications for the mind – everything from sex to mood to concentration to connectedness with the world and people. This is exactly the same as drugs. Different drugs – whether serotonin manipulators (anti-depressants) or dopamine stimulants (cocaine) have the same ability to affect mood, libido, energy etc.

An important question is – to what extent do foreign hormones work as a narcotic? Does the patient eventually need more to require the same feeling? Is there a buzz simply from the novelty of new chemicals flowing through the body? If we took a transgender woman who had been taking E for ten years and started giving her testosterone shots, would she start feeling energetic and invigorated and euphoric with the novel chemical changes wrought by testosterone?

3. To what extent do hormones distort a transwoman’s perception of her own appearance?

It is sometimes said that transwomen exaggerate to themselves the degree to which hormones feminise their appearance. In some cases, a process of intense inner feminisation floods their entire being and they presume that they are almost exuding female energy and that others respond to this. In other words, perhaps hormones lead to over confidence about ‘passing’ which leads them to make decisions about SRS and transition which they might later regret when they realise that they actually look much the same as they always did, and that the effects of hormones are mostly internal.

4. Do hormones create an inevitable slide into transition?

Is the reduction in obsessive crossdreaming that results from male to female hormone therapy a question of feeding the beast to stop the beast feeding? For example, the thing I most hate when I try to go on the wagon is the way I obsess about alcohol and endlessly debate whether I should have a drink or not. The greatest thing about falling off the wagon is not just the euphoria of getting drunk, but an end to all those obsessive thoughts about alcohol. Clearly, however, there is a defect in the logic: I stopped obsessing because I fed my obsession with the source of my obsession.

In other words… does hormone therapy in transgender male to females represent a deepening of their obsessive crossdreaming? Is it a temporary respite which will, once the hormones wear off, only continue to be a respite if they go for a harder, more drastic step towards feminisation? Basically, do hormones push them further down the rabbit hole towards full blown transition and surgery when, had they never taken hormones, they may have just learned to be happy in their male body?

5. Does oestrogen really lower the MtF libido?

It is commonly believed that oestrogen lowers the MtF libido and this fact is often used in different debates. For example, persistence of the desire to transition despite the removal of testosterone is often cited (by me, amongst others) as proof that a crossdreamer’s motive for transition cannot stem from a paraphilia. The logic is that the sex drive comes from testosterone and the decimation of their testosterone level must, therefore, kill off their libido. So if they still want to transition with no libido then they must genuinely be transgender and not have a paraphilia. (I said ‘this is the logic’ not what I believe.)

However, although they have removed testosterone…they’ve added the female sex hormone, oestrogen. I’m well aware that testosterone is a key factor in libido but the idea that female sex hormones are not going to stoke up sexual desire is contrary to common sense. As a University of California study showed in 2013 (James Roney) it is oestrogen, not testosterone, that boosts libido in a woman’s natural cycle. In other words, the idea that oestrogen lowers the libido may not be true. It just changes it.

Cheryl writes in reply…

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Dear Felix & Jack

Thought you might be interested in my comments to the five questions regarding hormones from my experience.

1. Are the positive effects of oestrogen universal?

Answer: I have often wondered this myself. One case to look at for examples is the Alan Turing feminization punishment issued by the UK Government. It did not agree with him very well, clouded his thoughts and made him depressed. Estrogen did cloud my thoughts to some extent and my memory was not so good. I would find myself being a little forgetful with short term memory. However I experienced the traditional feel good high for most of my time on E.

2. Does it make sense to talk about the narcotic qualities of hormones?

Answer: I found after a while on low dose 25mg patches I lost the high feel good effect. This occurred after about six months. I found I could only obtain the high again by upping the dose to 50mg. The high came back and I felt good about myself. However after about a year the same thing happened, the high was not as good. This was the tipping point I guess and I went cold turkey. Many have started on a low does with the idea of simply feeling better with no transition required. After a while the dose is upped and eventually the ‘hormones without transition patient’ does transition. I wonder if the push is the maintaining the high which is addictive and before you know it you’re female. Many have told me hormones are addictive and I feel they are.

3. To what extent do hormones distort a transwoman’s perception of her own appearance?

Answer: I saw changes in my appearance, but it seemed that others saw a greater change. I was often taken as a female dressed as a male without any intention of appearing female. I began to feel if there was really a point to transitioning if I did not see this great change myself but only others seeing it. Strange situation. The little changes I saw in myself did give me a rewarding high when I studied myself, which all tied into the reward system of the brain together with the feelings of estrogen. A great feeling that I was achieving a life long goal which was very pleasing. An autogynephilic reaction separated from sexual overtones.

4. Do hormones create an inevitable slide into transition?

Answer: Hormones were indeed pushing me on a conveyor belt down the rabbit hole. Sometimes I told myself that the hormones on one hand were helping me and on the other making the crossdreaming obsession actually worse.

5. Does oestrogen really lower the MtF libido?

Answer: My sex drive became more body focused and more enjoyable. The sex drive was less urgent, but it did seem as if E was helping sexual pleasure to become greater. I wonder even after SRS the reward system still allows you to maintain the high, but when T levels drop even more post op by many years perhaps that’s when regret sets in. The complicated reward and pleasure system is now no more. No matter what you do the complete crossdreaming experience has gone. Retransition with T then brings the feelings back and you can never settle. See Anne Vitale T poisoning piece.

Hope this helps

Cheryl xxx

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