FTM Miscellaneous

What is testosterone?


Testosterone is a steroid hormone derived from cholesterol and is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

Special collaboration: Alex Simon is an American-born and Montreal-based student interested in LGBTQ+ and trans realities. They themselves being non-binary, they proposed the idea to GrS Montreal of writing articles on their blog TransAvenue.

For those looking into possible steps for starting or continuing their transition, hormone replacement therapy (commonly known as HRT) might be a possible puzzle piece that will help alleviate your gender dysphoria. However, not everyone necessarily knows the effects that HRT might have on your body both temporarily and permanently.

Science-lover that I am, I would like to take the time to introduce the hormones typically involved in HRT (testosterone and estrogen) in two separate articles. And while I have a degree in biotechnology, I am in no way a medical specialist, so please contact your doctor or endocrinologist to validate any questions or concerns you may have.

Testosterone is a steroid hormone derived from cholesterol and is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. In the case of HRT, it is responsible for enabling certain secondary sexual characteristics in AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) and intersex individuals. It also increases blood cell production. It is given either as an injection or as a gel or patch applied to the skin. Testosterone (or T, for short) varies in dosage, so it’s best to talk with your doctor about the changes you wish to achieve, your current health status and certain risk factors like cardiovascular disease.

The changes that testosterone induces can be either temporary or permanent and the timeline in which these changes can occur vary from person to person. Some individuals might experience all of the changes typically associated with testosterone, while some might experience very few. Some people might notice these changes right away, while for others it may take longer.

The first changes to appear include an oiler complexion and acne, which typically appear within the first month to six months. Afterward, within two to six months your period will cease. These two changes are temporary, meaning they will revert to their initial state when treatment is stopped. Other changes that are considered temporary include facial and body hair growth (three to six months), body fat redistribution (three to six months; less fat will be distributed around your hips and will instead tend to accumulate around the waist), and increased muscle mass (six to twelve months).

Other changes induced by testosterone take much longer to reverse course, or are even irreversible. These include your voice deepening (three to twelve months), clitoral enlargement (three to six months), and possible scalp hair loss (within twelve months).

There are other risks and complications with regards to testosterone. These include weight gain, sleep apnea, cardiovascular problems (if the risk is already present within your family or personal health status), and possible increased risk of psychiatric effects if you already have an underlying condition that involves manic or psychotic symptoms.

In most cases, obtaining HRT requires an assessment from a qualified health professional. In alignment with WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) Standards of Care, the person must have well documented, persistent gender dysphoria, must be able to fully consent and make an informed decision regarding HRT, be the age of majority, and have any pre-existing health conditions under control. If the person is under the age of majority, WPATH also has a Standards of Care section for minors and must be followed by the health professional, given that at a younger age such hormones are considered “puberty suppressants”. Once the request for HRT is validated by the health professional in question, both adults and minors should regularly be followed by a medical practitioner or endocrinologist to ensure the health and well-being of the patient.

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