Trans-Masc Tuesday: My HRT journey (and why I didn’t lose hope)

Man in shirt and sunglasses smoking and blowing a smoke ring

Content warning: Transitioning, healthcare, transphobia. Some names have been changed for privacy.

I’ve been on Testosterone for 6 months. It’s been a fascinating and weird ride.

The changes are so fast that I don’t even recognise myself at times. Here are some of the changes I’ve experienced since HRT.

Starting T

When I decided to start HRT I was terrified. The NHS waiting lists were already silly so my only option was to go privately through GenderGP. I figured that if I worked pretty solidly, I could afford it. In hindsight, a lot of the fear was because I’d yet to completely socially transition.

I signed up, paid the fees, and made the appointment. That Zoom Call was stressful, and emotionally exhausting. I’d never opened up about my experiences of gender with a stranger before. 

Pre social transition picture of Alex.
Alex: pre-social transition (2022)

I remember having conversations with those close to me at the time, freaking out for fear of not “being trans enough”. I’ve been reassured by other trans people I know that this is perfectly normal.

I wasn’t in a very good place at the time, struggling with depression and other things. However the appointment went off without a hitch, and while the clinician did the yikes prying into my childhood and potential abuse, there were no inappropriate questions about my sexuality, or masturbation practices.

This was a massive relief. I’ve heard the horror stories and no lie, I was expecting to be assessed by some half-moon spectacles wearing, heavy breathing pervert. Thankfully this wasn’t the case. 

Within a week I was told that I was to be prescribed T and that I ticked all the boxes for a Gender Dysphoria diagnosis.

Alex before starting HRT but after socially transitioning.
Alex before Starting T, but after his social transition (2022)

I was elated, excited, scared, and so many other things. I bounced my way through the two weeks it took for the prescription to arrive at my door.

The First Effects

Eight hours after I’d applied the T-Gel, my throat started to hurt. I initially assumed I was getting sick until my bestie pointed out that I’d had my first dose and hadn’t otherwise seemed sick. My voice was randomly getting gravelly and cracking, and I needed to increase my liquid consumption drastically (something I still have to stay on top of).

I lost my voice three or four times during the first week. My voice is the centre of my income with my streaming. “What if I had to stop streaming for a while?” I panicked. Luckily, I didn’t.

Moving House While Taking T

My ex and I split up due to my starting T, it was an unhealthy relationship that left a lot of damage, and he is painfully straight. It was also abusive, and I had to get out.

I had nowhere to go, so I moved eight hours away to stay with the one person who had been there for me through all of it up to that point, the aforementioned bestie who is now my fiance.

Alex after one month on HRT
Alex after one month on T (October 2022)

Adjusting to an entirely new place, hundreds of miles from my children was hard. It wasn’t long before I began finding ways to meet people. I joined an online community that covered a hobby I enjoyed and covered our area. This is where I met my flatmate. My life was changing quicker than I was and it wasn’t long before I had to move again. But this time I didn’t feel like I was doing it all alone.

Another Move & Hope

I spent most of December organising working to make a home with my fiance and flatmate and by the end of Christmas we were fully moved in. A lot of my muscle redistribution had occurred already, I had to start shaving my face because I was starting to get lightly coloured and very itchy stubble on my jawline. My chest dysphoria was more obvious than ever. I started researching Top Surgery options. I knew I couldn’t afford to go private.

I found the NHS NRGDS (who takes self-referral). I considered it carefully, filled out the paperwork, and sent off my self-referral. I heard back pretty fast, and received this:

A screen capture of an email to Alex from the gender clinic saying:

"Hi Alex,

Thank you for your email.
We can confirm that you (sic) referral has been accepted and you will receive an acceptance letter in due course.
Please note current wait time for first initial appointment is 57 months from referral.

(Name censored)
Admin Officer
An email that too many of us have received.

Coming To Terms With Waiting Lists

I always knew the NHS waits were horrific, but being told I’ll have to wait for 57 months, was like having a rug pulled out from under me. I spiralled into depression, my chronic pain and ill health during winter making it worse. I could barely face getting dressed for 2 weeks.

Eventually, I dusted myself off, sucked it up (don’t ask me how), and went back to work after Christmas. Being allowed to be miserable and frustrated at the wait and being able to express that honestly, in a healthy and properly supported way helped. I had a support system now.

A picture of Alex from earlier this year.
Alex after five months on T (January 2023)

It’s March now, and while I’m not okay with the wait, I know I don’t have much choice. I’ve made sure I have the ability to maintain my T even if things go wrong, and I’ve made sure that I have done everything I can to make waiting easier. Now, we wait.

Why I’m Hopeful

There are times when it looks and feels hopeless. Yes, I have to wait almost 5 years for my first appointment, but I’m still taking T, and I have a fallback in case something goes wrong. 

Physically, just last week as I was shaving my face, the weirdest thing happened. I looked up, met my own gaze and saw the eldest of my 3 brothers staring back at me. I used to hate mirrors because I’d just see one of the umpteen women in my family looking back, and it always triggered my dysphoria. 

Alex in present day with a cigarette in his mouth.
Alex after six months on T (March 2023)

By this time I’d gotten close with a friend of my fiance and we’re inseparable, referring to each other exclusively as “brother”. That brother was the first I told about my mirror discovery and his excitement just reflected my own. It was instant euphoria, my mother even confirming the likeness when I messaged her with an up to date photo! 

I’m aware that I am incredibly lucky to have people in my life that are as supportive as they are. It’s like having cheerleaders behind me at all times. Behind every successful man, is the people who hold him up, right? 

I may not have much in the way of Bio-Family around, but I have a family again. I’m also way more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been because I can finally see the pay off. The me I’ve always seen in my head is showing on the outside more every day. And, If I feel this confident and good about myself after six months on Testosterone, top surgery must be worth waiting for.