I really had no excuse for continuing to make posts as text files when I wasn't traveling. Sometimes I think it's a bit of an OCD thing, to do things consistently even if that means doing them wrong, an instance of all-or-nothing black-and-white thinking. I feel especially badly about failing to make a post for my fourth anniversary of starting T. I want to catch up on that soon, too.
Anyway, I guess this is just a post to say I'm still kickin' and to apologize for the radio silence, to old friends who got worried because I'd never fallen this far behind before and to the people I friended right before falling off the internet, after promising to be a regular poster. If you want to get to know me, well, there'll be plenty of an archive soon enough. . .
I started T 7 May 2013, some 1343 days ago. I've spent the majority of that time on 1.25 g 1% gel daily, though I've also spent about a year on 1.25 g 1.62% gel daily, and I was on 20 mg weekly injections for six weeks. I've also been on E-blockers for a bit over a year: raloxifene for a couple months, anastrozole for a few more, and Lupron for almost a year. For that matter, I switched from 1.62% gel back to 1% gel two and a half weeks ago when I got back the results of my most recent levels check. tl;dr my levels were squarely in the middle of the healthy male range (T 703 ng/dL, free T 120.2 pg/mL, E 22 pg/mL) for the first time, and I'm not comfortable with that. It is also unclear to me how my levels got that high given that on the same dose of T but without the E-blocker, my levels never got very far above 400 ng/dL.
I've noticed some changes since my last update, too. I started growing a lot more hair on my face. I shave my upper lip every other week or so, and I pluck out approximately one hair every two weeks from my neck/under my chin. My legs have gotten even hairier, if that was possible -- this was something three other people commented on independently even though I didn't really notice. My voice has gotten deeper in the last year -- also something other people noticed that I did not. I think my hairline's finally changing a little, but my barber assures me I'm not losing my hair. I'm pretty happy with all these changes except for the facial hair. I don't feel up to dealing with it, but I seem to be managing anyway.
( NSFW TMI )
I haven't made one of these in a while, although I have commented on T changes in friends-only entries. Since my third T-versary three and a quarter months ago, I've noticed some changes that were probably in the works for a while. I increased my dose of T to 1.25 g of AndroGel 1.62% daily exactly one week after my third T-versary, so exactly three months ago yesterday. That's worth posting about, right? The higher dose helped with the hot flashes from Lupron, although it didn't entirely eliminate them. It's manageable enough that I'm not thinking of increasing my dose further.
Things I've noticed since my last post: I now have visible hair on my arms, incuding a stray hair on my shoulder and hair on my hands. It's strange. I still feel jealousy when I see men with hair there, so I think it's just weird to get used to it on me, even if it's something I want. Additionally, I have visible hair on my feet and my big toe. That's most of what I posted about in bits and pieces over the past few months. I'm also building muscle easily now that I'm exercising again, but my hips are very much still there in shape if not size, and my waist is still troublingly small. I have a long way to go with building up my upper body. Finally, I was able to confirm that my feet have grown since I started T. I'm not sure when it happened, but I tried on old shoes to check what the numbers already told me.
That's all for now!
The past year has seen more change than I expected, probably due to the addition of E-blockers. I took raloxifene for two months, anastrozole for four months, and Lupron for two months at this point, all in an effort to end the cycles that have continued the entire time I've been on T. Because I was on E-blockers for so much of the year (and off T for a decent chunk of the rest of it), I can't credit T for all the changes, but I'll document them here anyway. The only change I'm certain is due to the E-blockers is an increase in sex drive and a cessation of cycles, and that only happened very recently on Lupron.
My voice has continued to deepen, as measured by my recordings as well as my passing rate on the phone. My junk has gotten bigger in spurts every once in a while (and I managed to not find this to be especially problematic); I would say it's not terribly below average for trans guys, but that's based on a really small sample size of tame porn. In addition to growing visible hair on my arms and toes, I started growing a nontrivial amount of dark vellous hair on my face, which I shave every 1-2 weeks, but it threatens to thicken. The hair on my thighs has grown fiercely. Since having top surgery, I've noticed a lot more hair on my chest, but it's just long, dark vellous hairs still.
Also, my face has cleared up substantially in the past few months, for reasons unrelated to hormones. I've been on a topical retinoid and a topical antibiotic, plus a benzoyl peroxide wash of some kind, for nine years -- I had bad acne pre-T. At the suggestion of a (MTF) friend, I took a break from the retinoid and replaced it with a moisturizer containing salicylic acid, and a month later my face was back to my pre-T acne level, although the blackhead to cyst ratio is still higher on T than it was before. My face still gets super oily, but it's not leading to the unreasonably high level of acne I saw over the first two and a half years on T.
Finally, I started exercising for the first time in four years a few months ago and have seen the shape of my hips change, though I think it's more because of the exercise and E-blockers than T alone. It's the first time anything has made a dent in the fat deposits above my hip bones that make my small waist so prominent.
The plan for the indefinite future is to stay on Lupron. Since starting Lupron, though, I've struggled with low energy levels and will as a trial go back to 1.25 g AndroGel 1.62% for a few weeks while traveling to see if that improves, even though I don't want more physical changes. I'll make another public entry about the results of the experiment.
( cut for talk of you know what )
I haven't noticed any other changes. I apparently forgot to post for a while, but I was put on AndroGel 1.62% in December and then I went back on AndroGel 1% a month or two later because I started growing a mustache. It's currently halted at hairs like those on my upper arms: brown and visible but finer than those on my scalp. I was worried that on a more effective E-blocker it would pick up where it left off, but it hasn't changed since I lowered my dose. I have to shave about once a week to keep it from being visible. My sideburns are the same way, but I actually like them. They're denser than the hairs on my upper lip. I'm rambling: point is, I'm celebrating not getting changes.
As for changes since my last post, I hit some kind of turnover point in passing recently, where I consistently pass even in spaces where people know I'm ~25-30, so I'm guessing my face has changed? Or maybe my body shape has improved (probably more due to working out than T though)? A few people have commented on my voice since I started the E-blocker saga, so I'm pretty sure my voice has continued to deepen due to lower estrogen levels, which might also explain it.
Other than that, I'm starting to grow more facial hair, although it's still closer to heavy peach fuzz than terminal hairs, let alone whiskers. I shave with electric beard trimmers about once a week to keep from looking dirty, but now I have to shave my upper lip and chin as well as sideburns. As I mentioned, I've dipped my feet back into rock climbing and am not being held back by strength or endurance at all, which is different from when I first got into it pre-T. The same goes for yoga re: limiting factors, although that was never as hardcore.
Yep, that's about it. I'm still around and will post more as the Lupron does its thing.
I want to get back to yoga, ASAP. I've tried light meditation on the subway a few times and have been hella uncomfortable but still able to keep it together, so I think I'm ready. There's a queer/trans* class I can go to on Sunday -- I thought about going to general classes now that I've had top surgery, but I'm still self-conscious about my downstairs and am more comfortable playing it safe. I think I should e-mail the instructor and catch her up on what happened so she doesn't get blindsided if I do fall apart in class.
I want to return to writing regularly. Since I started grad school three and a half years ago I've taken some long breaks from posting and haven't posted regularly even when I was reading regularly. I watch a lot of TV when I come home, and I don't like what that says about my brain. I resolve to write more often, every day if at all possible. I'm going see how it works to do it before I veg out rather than after, which is when I make my daily voice recording.
I also just got back my blood test results from when I was on raloxifene. (The pre-raloxifene test results were apparently lost in some system and even my doctor never got them. WTF?) Anyway, as of two-ish weeks ago, my total T was at 228 ng/dL and my free T was at 18.5 pg/mL. Those numbers are both fine by me even though they're below the normal male range. The raloxifene apparently was doing its job; my estradiol was at 24 pg/mL, safely within the male range, but somehow my ovaries just made do. /-: That's what I remember from when I started T, that I had basically no estrogen or testosterone in me but somehow still had cycles. There were some other numbers I wasn't sure how to interpret. My dihydrotestosterone was at 55 ng/dL and my estrone was at 34 ng/dL, both squarely within the male range. Everyting was fine on the other tests, but I'm worried about what I'm going to have to pay for all this. . .
I also just switched to generic gel from AndroGel last week and it was an ordeal I'll record here in case anyone on the Internet ever finds it useful or something. My doctor wrote a prescription for the brand name gel. The pharmacy was happy to give it to me, but my insurance wouldn't cover it so it was stupidly expensive. I had a week's worth left at home so decided to fight it because I didn't have $500 to drop on one prescription. The pharmacy didn't stock the generic and wouldn't order it unless my doctor rewrote the prescription for the generic. So I had my doctor do that (which involved me making a trip to their office to pick up the piece of paper, because T is still a controlled substance for which faxed/phone prescriptions cannot be accepted) and the pharmacy ordered the generic. When I went to pick up my meds, they said it would be $200 because my insurance had denied the claim. I contacted the insurance and they said it wasn't covered because one bottle of gel was a 60 day supply at my dose and they only cover a 30 day supply, even if it only comes in one size. WTF?! They covered a 10 mL vial of T when I was on injections, and that would have been almost a year's supply at my dose! So they were just fucking with me. I had to ask my doctor fax them documentation saying I really did need it and they agreed to cover it but charged me the copay for a brand name instead of for the generic. I was sick of fighting and had already run out of T at this point (I had to use packets for a couple days, estimating my dose by eye) so just paid the extra $15. At least I won't have to do it again for another two months.
Anyone reading this is probably wondering what it is that happened that I was blaming myself for. As seems to be a recurring theme in my life, something impossible and terrible happened to me. And as of two days ago, I decided it wasn't my fault. If it had been, I would also have the superpower of prescience because some things can't be anticipated because no one has the knowledge that they could ever occur in the first place. I made progress by accepting that fact, and by not holding myself to an unreasonable standard of mistrusting others regardless of circumstances. I've still got a bad case of the "why me?"s and persistently wish I could go back and do things differently, but letting go of the tremendous guilt has already made a big difference.
I guess I really just don't want to start at the beginning because of the degree to which it involves admitting I made a big (but possibly unavoidable) mistake, which is a shame because it's usually the best place to start a story if you want it to make sense to anyone else. I don't know how much I care about getting feedback on this. So far whenever I've tried it hasn't actually led to any relief of my feelings on the matter. But a PM from a friend here made me feel a lot better than telling two IRL friends, so maybe it will help to talk with people here.
Okay, that's not quite true; there was the one day when I forgot my T but remembered the E blocker, and I had what I think might have been a minor hot flash. I was out in the cold wearing a hoody and windbreaker, and suddenly I had to unzip the windbreaker and wished I could unzip the pullover hoody. By the time I got home fifteen minutes later I felt fine, but that's my best guess at what happened. I will definitely try to be more careful about remembering my T now that it's an every day thing again. Once I get stable with it I'm going to investigate other delivery methods so I can maybe be lazy with memory again.
I'm finding it hard to get back into the routine of being on gel again. I apply it in the morning but have been showering around dinnertime/when I get home from work so I can sleep without clothes without exposing my partner to it. My hair has been derp-tastic at work because of this, but I just can't talk myself into showering twice a day. I've been having really bad dysphoria since I made my last medical transition update post and can't shower unless I turn the lights off and play really loud, complicated/engaging music. Showering is definitely the low point of my day.
Speaking of medical transition updates, there will be no more top surgery updates. Dear posterity, I apologize, but I just can't.
( overview )
Since I haven't updated in a while, I thought I'd comment on some recent changes.
( details under the cut )
At risk of beating a dead horse, I considered recapping the changes I've gotten over the past two years. I'm a little worried that in a few more years, I won't remember how things were pre-T, but perhaps I've already forgotten. Anyone who's interested in the details will have to read through my tagged posts. To the general reader I've never met, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about non-binary medical transition or just want to connect with a kindred spirit.
I got all the pre-op instructions and clarified some details. After I explained my history of a bleeding disorder, they're not going to force me to stop T but did recommend I discontinue it for the week before surgery. Normally they'd recommend stopping for two weeks before and at least a week after, and going to a half dose four weeks before (ha, joke's on them, I'm on the lowest metered dose and couldn't halve it if I tried). They were happy I warned them that my medical clearance would have that on it before they saw a red flag like that.
The bad news is that they billed my insurance for the out-of-network rate even though we went through a ton of trouble to get it counted as in-network because my insurance company is tiny and doesn't have anyone who does FTM top surgery in their network. So they quoted me three times what they should have for my contribution, which is about $1000 more than I can actually pay right now/ I have until mid-June to pay it, so that's enough time to save up some more if necessary, but I'm still hoping I'll be able to convince my insurance company to cough up the rest given the paperwork we painstakingly completed. My partner's still out of work but will probably have a job by July, so I'm hoping I'll have secondary insurance to help with whatever's left over.
I hung out with three friends from college afterwards. Two did not know about my transition, and one of them figured it out and was cool about it. But those two obviously weren't people I'm especially close to, so the stakes were low. I have a big meeting with my thesis advisor tomorrow about my qualifying exam and the status of my work (which was going really well until a few weeks ago when things kinda fell apart), so I should go to sleep. I mostly wanted to squee about how this is actually happening!