Okay. I have a tough question and please forgive anything that is not PC and I do not mean anything at all offensive by this post. This is out of genuine concern for the health of a family member. My step-sister has been taking testosterone and is going to get gender reassignment surgery in the next few months. Her entire family supported her decision to come out and is trying to understand this more recent decision, so this isn't a question of acceptance of a lifestyle or anything.
I am very worried about the health implications of this. She has been a vegan for the last few years, and I don't think she's been very vigilant about keeping a healthy balance of her nutrients (definitely an excess of soy and sugar and crappy vegan junk food). When she started taking testosterone, she rapidly gained weight. She has a history of obesity, lost a lot of weight initially when going vegan, gained a lot back and then gained much more back when she started with the testosterone. She is undiagnosed, but I strongly suspect she has Asperger's. She's struggled with some serious depression issues (some of which is definitely situational since she has led a very difficult life). I feel like the Asperger's, the depression, veganism and obesity all point to a strong possibility that there are some serious hormonal imbalances and I am afraid those are possibly impacting her decision in this matter.
I am afraid this is going to do horrible things to her body, health and longevity. I am not passing judgment on the decision. I am just scared that this is going to throw her body completely out of whack. Does anybody have any experience with this? Please educate me if I am being ignorant. Will this increase her chance of getting cancer, heart disease, etc? What will a lifetime of taking testosterone do to her body? Any help is appreciated, thank you.
asked byMarcy_1 (4181)
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on June 03, 2012
at 03:27 AM
I have a transgendered FtM sibling in college who has been taking hormones since he turned 18. He told us he was a boy even as young as 4 or 5. Thank God my parents were open minded, enlightened and supportive enough for him to start getting help when he was a teenager.
Unfortunately we live in a binary gendered society with no room for "in-betweens." There is a great legacy of transgendered people even among hunter gatherers like American Indians. Such people were recognized as their preferred pronoun and sometimes even spritually revered.
That said, so far there isn't a whole lot of research showing adverse effects of the female to male hormones besides the risk one already takes just being male. Transgendered men take on men's increased risk of heart attacks, blood pressure, acne, balding and presumably a lower average lifespan. I've seen anecdotal evidence of possible bone density problems, but I wonder if this is a problem because people doing the hormonal transition are not advised on how to handle the increased nutritional needs of going through a second puberty. Bigger muscles, and even slight height changes occur if you start hormones early enough. If you're fueling that with cereal and skim milk you aren't going to get what essentially a growing teenage boy needs (even if you are already in your early twenties.)
Another thing to consider is that in our society, transgendered people suffer from one of the highest rates of suicide and depression in any other minority group. Sometimes that has to be taken in to account when deciding if the risk is worth it for the unknowns of playing around with our biology. In the case of my brother it was either go to gender therapy, get hormones, and bind his chest or go back to his earlier years at age 13 and cut himself and suffer from extreme anxiety attacks and depression. For him and our parents, it was a no brainer. The gender therapy was worth every risk. He is now in his third year of college, working a part time job as a cook, getting straight A's as a finance major, and is probably the most well adjusted pleasant person in the family. My sister and I have convinced him to at least eat WAPF style as best he can on a meager budget. He even called me tonight on bone broth advice.
I know it's REALLY hard to go through the paradigm shift of recognizing someone you love and are close to as a different gender but this is who they always were. They were just afraid of it or too repressed to share it with anyone. Consider your knowledge of their transition as proof that he trusts you and wants to share his inner being with you and the rest of your family. Be supportive and above all remember... this is not about you and your lens. It's about him.
I suggest if you are close to this family member joining a support group for friends, spouses, and family members of trans people. My mother found it very helpful to go to these meetings when she was still wrapping her mind around the change. http://community.pflag.org/Document.Doc?id=202
on June 03, 2012
at 02:19 AM
As your family member is making this decision, I am assuming they prefer male pronouns, so I will refer to him as "him", "his" etc. I have not experienced this personally, but have many friends who have. Taking testosterone is safe. Yes, he will change a lot in the coming years, and you and your family will need to adjust to these changes.
I understand your fears and concerns. It is a huge, life-altering decision; however if it is his decision, you MUST respect that. THE MOST SUPPORTIVE THING YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW IS REMIND HIM THAT YOU LOVE AND CARE ABOUT HIM, AND THAT YOU WILL BE THERE FOR HIM THROUGH HIS PROCESS. It is bad enough to be at odds with society, but it will be infinitely worse for him to be at odds with the people he thought loved him because of who he is.
Educate yourself and your friends and family. Ask him respectful questions ("What pronouns do you prefer?" "Will you explain to me the effects of testosterone? Does it feel safe and healthy" "How can I support you?"). If you are truly concerned that he is making the wrong decision and will regret it later (which is not your call, only his), maybe suggest he talk to a good therapist who is savvy in trans issues and will not belittle him.
Be kind, be kind, be kind.
on June 03, 2012
at 02:09 AM
I know that there is a scientific way to check whether or not she really needs this gender-reassignment surgery. People who need this surgery have their brains wired differently. If she does a brain scan (MRI) she will know it for sure.
I have learned about from Robert Sapolsky's lecture on Human Sexual Behavior. It is on Youtube, under Stanford University. I believe it is the second one. I wish I knew more but this is all I know.