Posted by: Emily | 21 June 2012

Fifty days: regaining some perspective

Today marks fifty days since I took my first dose of hormones. It’s the start of my Week 8. (I like how my weeks begin on Thursdays—I am rapidly getting the hang of Thursdays.) This won’t be my most coherent post ever. I really just want to write down some of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my mind to celebrate, I suppose, this Shavuot of my life, seven full weeks from the date of my first prescription.

Part of the fascinating thing about transition, or being trans* in general, is just how personal the experience is, and how variable individual experiences can be. The flip side of this, though, is that it’s really difficult to separate out causes and effects, that is, effects actually caused by hormones and things that might have happened anyway, in some form or another, as a product of transition. When I started hormones it was super easy to get fixated on the physical, tangible effects, the changes I could expect to see, when I could expect to start seeing them, and so forth. Getting caught up in that, it was consequently easy for me to get caught off guard by the emotional effects, which hit me like a ton of bricks, and of course are where the uncertainty in what actually is and is not an effect lies.

You can’t test this kind of thing scientifically: you can’t take the same hundred people and transition them all the exact same way, and you can’t transition the same one person a hundred different ways. So the best we can do is to perceive everything empirically through our own individual eyes, and trust our lived experiences. I am only able to speak to my own experiences here, and not to anybody else’s. My narrative is my own. And we have to recognize and trust that just because any one individual’s experiences may not match up with a set of preconceived expectations, that person’s narrative is not any less valid.

So as to my own experience, the first thing I noticed, within days of going on hormones, is probably best summed up by this excerpt from my diary:

I went in for some blood work early this morning, and came back via the post office. Outside the post office was a clump of tulips. I looked at the tulips for a solid thirty seconds, appreciating their shapes, their colors, the way they moved in the breeze. Each one seemed to contain a world of meaning, an entire universe of thought wrapped up inside those petals. I lost myself in those flowers. It was as if they existed only for me. They became my life.

Things seem brighter, more vivid, more full of life than ever before. Not in a “whee, I’m on drugs” way, but in a “how come I never noticed before” way.

And this kind of experience hasn’t dissipated. That’s been the single strongest, most noticeable, and most persistent change I’ve experienced over the last fifty days. There have been other emotional effects too, and part of what’s scary about all of this is that I really don’t know how I’m going to react to anything, with what emotions, and with what intensities. Is all this a direct effect of estrogen? Maybe; who can say? Is it related, and not just correlated? Without a doubt. Ultimately, does it really matter? Not really. It’s happening just the same.

It’s hard to have the kind of perspective I know I ought to have at this time in my life. I’m caught between wanting it all now, on the one hand, and paralyzing indecision on the other. The paralysis was what kept me from even getting my feet wet for a long time. I have always been the kind of person who dislikes doing things that won’t be perfect. From a very early age, I never particularly liked to exert myself at things that didn’t come naturally to me, to challenge myself, to do hard work, even knowing what rewards lie at the end of that work. So I have thought that I know, already in advance, that my transition will not be perfect, that the result may not be positive. This is the kind of attitude that kept me in the dark for so long about what I needed.

But now that I’ve figured out what I need, the next step for me has been figuring out that I want what I need. And that self-love is a crucial prerequisite to getting the things I want. Does that make sense?



  1. The bit about stopping to look at the tulips and recognizing how vivid details and colors are now is interesting. I’m having the opposite experience–I used to be very visually aware of the world and now I don’t seem to be. I can focus better, though. Very strange all this business.

    • Transition is such a beautiful, individual experience. I’ve found that some of the things that I’m experiencing are completely different to how other people work, but some of them are the same. The crucial thing for me is to realize that just because my own experiences don’t match up with another individual’s, that doesn’t mean I’m “doing it wrong”. Hard to keep in mind, though, as easy as it is to say…

  2. “…I’m caught between wanting it all now, on the one hand, and paralyzing indecision on the other…”

    Beautiful post, Emily. I’m struck by this passage, especially in light of your comparison of this “week of weeks” to Shavuot. It sounds like the changes you are going through are really opening you up in some beautiful ways.

  3. Hi, Emily. What you shared about the tulips –I loved that. It reminded me of how I was able to appreciate things like that once I was treated for my anxiety and depression. Before, I was just putting all my energy into getting through the day. Trying to be the person on the outside who could function well, not raise any red flags that might let on that there was something very different going on inside. Once the anxiety and depression abated, those rare and fleeting moments of happiness I had experienced in the past became much more frequent. I *wanted* to “stop and smell the roses,” whether they were roses, tulips, the clouds (I just spent about 3 whole minutes watching the clouds through my skylight), the pattern of leaf shadows on the wall or just about anything else. And I do!

    The common thread here might be the feeling of being able to be who we are, a feeling of more congruence. I don’t know. Maybe it *is* related to hormones. There’s still a lot we don’t know about all the chemicals our bodies produce and how the presence of one could even trigger the release of another. Maybe you’ve got more endorphins flowing around. Maybe your brain’s dopamine is being recirculated better. Who knows?

    I’m so glad you’ve gotten to this place in your process and in your state of mind. I hope things continue to go well for you and that we’ll have the chance to meet sometime in the not-too-distant future!

  4. Hello Emily, I’m glad that I’ve come to your place. It is good to know that each of us is not alone. Your post is wonderful. I also have a sense of being more aware of things about me. I’ve realized that in the past, when I was avoiding all this, I was also avoiding life, which is sad, and yes, I overlooked things like flowers. The big win in transition, is that I get to be myself, which is amazing. 🙂

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