We have seen in previous posts that there is a push to “diagnose” people who question their gender as transgender, and there is a pervasive narrative that the only way to treat this condition is through transitioning. In the majority of cases, this means taking hormones: For females, testosterone; for males, some type of testosterone blocker plus estrogen. This is often referred to as “HRT”, “hormone replacement therapy”. For young people who have not finished puberty, it can also mean to take drugs that block their body’s natural hormones, so-called “blockers”.
In many online trans communities, starting to take hormones is seen as a way to decide whether you are transgender or not. The idea is that if you are really transgender, taking hormones should make you feel better. If you are not, it should presumably make you feel worse, or the same as before.
In this post, a 17 year old asks for advice regarding taking hormones, mentioning this idea of the “trial period”.
Im 17 pre-everything possible mtf.I have heard that for a lot of people hormones were the factor that made them sure of their gender identity and was wondering if a short-term small dose trial period of hrt for confused and questioning people was at all common practice. Im a minor so i still need parental approval but would a doctor even give me a referral?
The very first commenter shares their experiences, saying “I did HRT as a kind of confirmation”. Notice how the commenter admits to lying to their health care provider in order to get a prescription.
There is discussion about which effects of HRT are permanent and which are reversible. The original poster, who is 17 years old and not even sure he is transgender, shrugs away the possibility of permanent infertility.
He gets encouraged to “do it” by another commenter, who also gives specific advice on which medication to take.
More discussion of the “trans test” in this post, where a commenter admits that sometimes the commitment to do something about a condition can trigger a placebo effect. However, in the same post they claim that the effects from estrogen couldn’t have been placebo because they “surprise[d] me every single time i injected”.
This commenter attributes a sudden liking of taking care of their hair and skin and being able to “feel colors” to hormones:
More praise for hormones:
We see the idea rehashed again and again that taking HRT is a way of confirming your trans-ness, together with the constant praise of how great hormones can make you feel. In fact, the people in these communities are often quite quick to suggest hormones to young questioners.
This poster asks: “am I trans?”
I’m a 17 year old gay human of the male variety. That is, I’ve got a schlong. And that’s where my maleness stops. My behaviour as a child could be seen as a gender identity issue, or just plain old gayness. I used to play with my sister’s toys and dress up in her clothes. I’ve never identified with guys, I hate most male related activities. (Sports, cars, etc.) Through my preteen years I constantly dressed up, always assuming female roles in play. As a teenager, I have dressed in female clothes a few times, and it felt much more natural to me. I’m fairly “straight acting” in that I don’t flap about much when I talk and I’m not too sassy, I’m not like the gay stereotype. Around close friends however I am extremely flamboyant. Anyway, back to the question, am I trans? Reasons why I think I am: •I feel more comfortable in female clothes. •When I visualise my future, I see myself as a female. •I feel like I identify more with females.
Reasons why I don’t think I’m trans: •I don’t have the stereotypical hatred for my male body, sure I have had issues withwith self confidence etc but I’ve never felt like my junk was alien. •These feelings don’t overwhelm my brain. They’re subtle, niggling at the back of my mind.
This is a gay male who is extremely preoccupied with stereotypical gender roles. What do people suggest to him?
The problem with using any kind of medication as a diagnostic tool is that there is no way of knowing how much of the effect is due to placebo. And especially problematic is the tendency for online trans communities to advice people to start taking hormones completely on their own, without medical supervision. Since you usually can’t “just try” prescription medications, they give each other advice on how to circumvent the medical practitioners and obtain the medications on their own.
Watch as they tell a suicidal 15 year old how to obtain hormones without his parents knowledge and without medical supervision:
They tell him to omit mentioning his suicidal thoughts to counselors:
When a 14 year old posts wanting advice on becoming more feminine, this is the advice they get:
(note to readers: we are not linking directly to this post to protect the poster’s privacy).
“If you really want them there are ways of getting them”:
They get told they’ll pass once they start “DIY” (do it yourself) hormones:
A fourteen year old kid befriending adults for favors. What could possibly go wrong? Taking prescription medication without medical supervision, what could possibly happen?
HRT is seen as not only necessary treatment for transgender feelings, but it is also a diagnostic tool, and one that people are encouraged to try out on their own. What happens when HRT does not make someone feel better though? Does that mean the person wasn’t really trans?
This poster reports feeling worse since they started taking hormones:
Before I started I felt dysphoria but now it’s in overdrive.
Apparently this is normal according to the replies they get. “The further you get in your transition the more dysphoria you feel”.
It gets harder before it gets easier:
I’m a couple of months into HRT, and I’m feeling almost worse than I did before I started. I look terrible, I hate everything about myself. People keep telling me that I look good, or that they love my eyes, or my hair, or whatever the fuck else, and I don’t believe them, and not believing them makes me feel worse than if they said nothing.
It gets better, right? I’ll stop crying and snapping at my friends? I’ll feel good about myself maybe at some point?
At no point does anyone suggest to any of these posters that maybe they are actually not trans and that maybe HRT is the wrong choice for them. It’s always “wait”, “try more”, “change your dose”, “hang in there”.
This is the huge problem with using a medication as a diagnostic tool without medical supervision, and it’s a recipe for disaster. First you create a narrative where any sort of questioning of your feelings about gender roles or your body means that you are trans. Then you plant the idea that being trans is something that needs a specific type of medical treatment, and you actively encourage people to experiment with this medical treatment to “see if it’s right for them”. If you’re truly trans it will make you feel awesome! Then when people feel worse instead of better, suddenly that’s not proof of not being trans at all, it’s just proof that they need to take HRT longer or adjust their dose.