Sunday, July 31, 2011

Looking Strange and Enjoying It: Two Months of HRT

Big Schloss, GWNF
Nearly two months ago, on June 5, I sat atop Big Schloss, a rock outcropping at the top of Mill Mountain in the George Washington National Forest on the Virginia - West Virginia border.  This is one of my favorite places, a place I go to every few years, most often at important moments of decision in my life.  I have cried here, I have viewed the Leonid meteors here, and I have just sat and watched as hawks climb in lazy circles on thermals and dart from one summit to another.  I almost lost my son near sunset when he was not even ten years old, letting him run ahead on the trail with a friend, so sure I was that no one could miss that well-worn path, only to find myself bushwacking through the underbrush as the Sun was setting, crying his name in terror that I had lost my son in the forest.  It was my son and his friend, not me, who saved the day.  They figured out their mistake and stumbled, trembling, into the campground parking lot as the last rays of the Sun were disappearing through the trees.

On the afternoon of June 5, I wrote this note to myself as I sat on Big Schloss: 
Just moments ago I began the process of turning back time.  As surely as the time traveler with his hand on the controls of his time machine, so did I begin to turn back time when I swallowed my first tablets of spironolactone and estradiol.  I am going back to the mid-1960s.   The Beatles are playing on the transistor radio, the Gemini astronauts are orbiting the Earth, and Vietnam is still a vague, distant war.  I am a young girl looking with wonder as her breasts begin to swell.  This time I get to choose the path.  My life is still ahead of me.
I have been on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for nearly two months now, and I thought it was time for a progress report.  So how has it been?  Do I look any different?  Do I feel any different?  The answers are, "Wonderful," "Not really," and "A bit."

Like anyone who starts transition, I expected dramatic overnight changes.  I expected them even though I had talked with others and had read enough of the literature to know better.  "But surely I will be different, won't I?"  Well, it turns out I'm not.

There have been changes, but they are subtle and may exist more in my mind than in reality.  I have, blessedly, been sleeping much better than I have in years, but I can attribute that as much to the end of "my life in law" -- legal battles that ruled my life for four years -- as I can to hormones.  Still, when I drift off to sleep, it is with a smile at the thought that as I sleep, my body is changing.

I was warned to expect a wider range of emotions.  In the first month of HRT I did experience a greater range of highs and lows, usually for no particular reason.  Since then I have come to rest at a nice place where I seem to smell the flowers more than I did and can get teary-eyed over a poetic phrase.  As my therapist likes to remind me, however, I have always been more emotional than the typical male, perhaps because of having only 10% of the testosterone of males my age.  Perhaps HRT is only a mild but pleasing and comforting spice to an already emotional nature that sat just behind the analytical exterior of an attitude analyst.

When I look in the mirror, I can half convince myself that I see my body fat starting to move, but that's probably a mirage.  I took some measurements at the start of HRT and will take more in a few months, but right now I'll just let the comforting mirage remain.  I smile now when I look in the mirror, whereas for most of my nearly 57 years I just ignored my own reflection, not wanting to acknowledge it as mine.  It was something to be endured, not enjoyed.

And now, two months older and wiser, I can add my voice to that of my older MtF sisters and say that looking for dramatic differences two months after the start of HRT is about the same as looking for dramatic differences in an adolescent two months after the start of puberty if, in fact, anyone can identify when puberty begins.  The joy is in knowing that a second puberty is possible even in one's mid-50s.

This is a time of looking strange and enjoying every minute of it.  I am betwixt and between, able to present myself in either gender or just leave everyone guessing.  During the work week I am still in "guy mode" at the Embassy, but I am a "guy" with earrings and long curly hair who gets plenty of sideways glances.  On the weekends I switch 180 degrees, putting on a skirt and doing my hair as best I can.  I still get some looks, but they are fewer than during the "guy mode" week.

The most dramatic physical change has nothing to do with HRT and everything to do with Mirela, the Miraculous Electrologist of Bucharest.  I last put a razor to my face on July 4, not even suspecting that I might never put blade to skin again.  I'm not a pretty face by any means, but never in my most extravagant dreams did I imagine that an electrologist could work as quickly and as well as Mirela does.  She completed the first clearing of my face two weeks ago, and this week she started on the second pass.  She told me to put the razor away, and it now sits unused on the top shelf of my medicine cabinet.   My face tends towards lumpy and bumpy after each electrolysis session, but scarcely the slightest hint of a beard shadow remains.

Last night I spent a wonderful, cool Bucharest evening sipping Margaritas with friends on their terrace, accepted fully as Robyn and feeling more natural than I have felt in over forty years.  An official announcement of my life change is scheduled for October.

"Looking strange and enjoying it."  That is my Bucharest summer of 2011.

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