Testosterone 101: The Low Down on T

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Testosterone 101:  The Low Down on T

This article is not meant to be any type of medical advice, but rather an over view for folks who identify on the FTM, trans masculine or gender queer spectrum and are considering starting testosterone.  We covered how to find trans* competent medical providers last week; now we will get into the effects of testosterone and some nuances of hormone treatment.

Transition can look and feel differently for everyone and there is not one way to move forward.  It can sound hokie, but providers some times use the word "journey" because trans* medical care should not be approached with a cookie cutter mentality.  Like most life ventures, we are talking about a spectrum and in this case a spectrum of changes/outcomes can occur.  Some folks want to grow facial hair and increase muscle mass, while others may simply want to halt their menstrual cycle, etc.  There is no “right” way other than what feels appropriate for you and is safe.

For younger folks (under 18) there are some temporary treatments that can be considered with the consent of your parent/guardian.  Some adolescents are able to start on a pubertal delay, which is essentially an anti-androgen that pushes back the onset of puberty, thus delaying secondary sex development associated with their birth gender.  This means for someone who identifies as male, but was born female that they can delay further breast growth, fat distribution around the hips, thighs, etc.  Treatment will not have a masculinizing effect, but will slow/prevent further feminine characteristics from developing.  This can be a temporary treatment, as providers will also want to discuss bone health and growth potential.  

Little known fact is that testosterone can aid in essentially sealing up (not a medical term) the bones and reducing the potential for gaining height during your teen years.  For folks who are 14 or 17, this is something to think through and talk about with your medical provider, as tests can be done to assess bone density, which can tell you how much potential for growth (read: height) your body still has.  The down side is that pubertal delays and bone density screens are not likely to be covered by your health insurance unless you are working with a very crafty endocrinologist.  Another option is working with a birth control method that can at least stop your menstrual cycle while you wait or decide on how to proceed.  Your medical provider can explain your options, side effects, etc and this will be covered by