I’ve just taken the shiny foil backing off my third estrogen patch and applied the little beauty to my left hip. It’s exactly one week and 38 minutes since I started HRT – and this is my story so far.
So it’s been something of a rollercoaster since I started this blog back in September 2015 – always wondering whether or not the experts would diagnose me with gender dysphoria and then whether or not they’d start me on HRT.
I had eons of waiting before my first appointment at the gender clinic, then my psychotherapist said it would be very unusual to prescribe HRT to someone in my position – and then my endocrinologist refused to prescribe because of the DVT risk and wanted more tests doing as my blood was slightly thick.
But the blood tests came back clear (I was even tested for cancer) and, on Thursday last week, I had another meeting at the gender clinic to sign the consent forms. The following day I began taking estrogen via a patch – something I’ll need to continue with for the rest of my days.
The appointment at Nottingham gender clinic was a pretty straightforward affair. I met with my psychotherapist, Sally Robbins-Cherry, and we had a bit of a chat. She asked how I was, how things were going with my transition, what my parents thought about the whole affair now, and whether I felt ready for HRT. Erm, yes!
She’d got a copy of my latest blood tests results, which were all absolutely fine, and basically gave me a clean bill of health in terms of the following:
- Pyschotherapist (mental state) ✅
- Endocrinologist (hormones) ✅
- Haematologist (bloods) ✅
So body and mind all OK. Hurrah! Then she reminded me of the risks and the downsides – the fact that I’ll become infertile (no biggy as I’ve frozen sperm just in case – and I can’t see me ever wanting kids anyway), the fact that things will probably go a bit Mr Floppy (or should that be Mx Floppy?) “down there” and the fact that my libido will most likely fall off the cliff.
To be honest, I’m not fussed about losing erections. I was more bothered about possibly losing the ability to orgasm, but several trans friends have told me that it’s still possible – you just need to approach matters in a different way – and then orgasms can be ten times more powerful, like a cis woman’s compared to a cis man’s. So that’s OK – more than OK.
Not crazy about losing my sex drive completely, but it’s always been a bit up and down anyway, and, over the past few weeks, it’s been really low. I think this is a side effect of the Finasteride I’m taking to stop hair loss.
When I went to the trans support group meeting in Derby many moons ago, I met with a transwoman who told me she’d gone from sexual to asexual – in other words, she now has zero attraction to anyone of any gender sexually. I’d rather that didn’t happen but, if it does, so be it.
Anyway, yes, I told Sally, I know all the risks and I’m prepared to take them – in fact I have absolutely no choice. There’s no way on Earth that I could change my mind now – after making so many massive steps over the past couple of years.
So, she dug out the consent forms, found a pen and I signed them – one copy for the clinic and one copy for me. And that was that – all those years of hopes and dreams, and the winning post was finally in sight with the stroke of a blue Biro.
I made an appointment for three months hence and then headed out into Nottingham to catch my train home. Just one thing remained to be done – and that was to see my GP and get my first prescription.
Sally had warned that my GP may not prescribe without her letter – which could take another week or so to be typed up. But I’d got my consent form, plus the letters from my endocrinologist and haematologist, so she said I might be OK with just those.
I walked to the Market Place, where I’d been only a few days before at the start of a first date. Let’s call her Yana. I asked her at which lion she’d like to meet (Nottingham famously has two stone lions in its market square, where people meet – the left lion or the right lion). Yana said we should meet at the middle lion, saying, “it’s invisible but it’s there”. I liked that.
So I headed back there, said hi to the middle lion as the good folk of Nottingham walked straight through it – foolhardy in the extreme – and got out my mobile phone to make an appointment at the doctors’. And luck was on my side. I got in at 9.20am the next morning.
I headed to the surgery last Friday and all was well – the doc had already made out my prescription, even without seeing the consent form. He took my blood pressure, which was fine, and then I headed round the corner to the pharmacy to pick up my patches – all 24 of them.
This was the final hurdle! So I popped in, handed over my little paper slip of purest green and was told they only had two boxes of the patches – not the three I needed.
I said I’d leave it as I was heading somewhere else that morning anyway, so would try there. I went to a huuuuge branch of Boots to be told they hadn’t got any – and the same story at Superdrug. Great!
I tried a fourth chemist – they’d only got a couple of boxes as well – and then a fifth, which hadn’t got any. I felt like I was J R Hartley in the Yellow Pages advert. If you young’uns haven’t seen it (it is rather old), here it is for your delectation:
In the end, I decided to head back to the original chemist, pick up the two boxes it had and then get the rest a few days later when they’d been ordered. I’d been waiting 977 days since my referal to the gender clinic and I didn’t want to wait a day longer.
So that’s what I did. I was soon holding in my hot little hand two boxes of Evorel 50 – each containing 3.2mg of estradiol (estrogen). This equates to a steady transfer of about 50 microgrammes of estrogen per 24 hours. The patches are also far safer than pills in terms of DVT risk – good for me seeing as I’ve already had one so am at greater risk of having another.
The plan is to take the patches for six months or so before my estrogen level is high enough to begin taking testosterone blockers. As well as Evorel 50, there are Evorel 25 and Evorel 100, which have smaller and larger doses of 25 microgrammes and 100 microgrammes. One chemist told me the Evorel 50 patches are relatively rare, hence why so many places didn’t stock them, or didn’t stock enough of them.
After opening one of my boxes, I then I read the instructions, which I don’t usually do when I get a prescription, but I thought I’d better to do so this time, what with the DVT risk and whatnot. I was suprised to see that there wasn’t a single mention of trans women.
Despite these patches being commonly prescribed to trans women, all the instructions were aimed at cis women, so lots of mentions of periods and the menopause. Most of the instructions were relevant to both trans women and cis women, though.
The other thing that confused me a bit was where on my body to put the patch. I’d been told by the gender clinic and other trans women that they can go at the top of the arm, on the thigh or on the bum.
But the instructions state clearly that the patches should not be placed above the waist. I got on to Twitter and asked the girls for their opinion before eventually settling on my hips. The patches need to be changed every three and four days – so Fridays and Mondays for me, left hip, then right hip, then back to left and so on.
So I popped on the first one and then just sat there waiting for something to happen. I don’t mean that I expected my breasts to miraculously start budding over the course of five minutes, but I wondered if I’d *feel* anything at all.
Part of me was worried that I’d get that hellishly painful swelling in my left calf again and that I’d instantly get another DVT. But no, no DVT, no breasts, no curves, no mood change, nothing.
And that’s pretty much how it’s been over the past week. Look on YouTube and you’ll see videos of other trans women who state in no uncertain terms that they’ve had results – even physical results – in just seven days.
Physically, nothing has happened for me – at least not that I’ve noticed. In terms of mood, I have felt really calm and really happy the last few days, but whether that’s down to the HRT or just because my life’s in a good place right now, I’m not sure.
I guess the relief of finally being able to start estrogen after so long waiting – and so long fearing I might not make the grade – could play some part in the happy feelz.
I have loads more to write – I’ve had two sessions of voice coaching, also at Nottingham gender clinic, which have been ace, and I wore a frock to Slimming World last night, before heading to the village pub for gins and grins with the girls. Brilliant night!
And I’ve been on two fantastic dates. Yana wants to see me again, so I must be doing something right. She really is lovely – and we seem compatible in many ways. She’s incredibly intelligent, funny and smiley, adorably kooky and someone I can talk to for hours on end, and that’s really important to me when it comes to dating and relationships.
But all that’s gonna have to wait because this is becoming like War and Peace. So, dear reader, have a fabulous weekend and be nice to each other!