I would like to start out by saying that everyone is very unique in their experiences. Everyone’s dysphoria is different so I will talk about mine. Just to be clear I’m not talking about body dysphoria but gender dysphoria.
I’m sure most have felt a big disconnect between your body and brain. When cisgender people ask me what this feels like I tell them it’s hard to explain so with that in mind I ask them to do a few things. First I’ll ask them to switch their shoes so the right one is on the left foot and the left one on the right. Then I ask them to walk around for a few minutes. They will usually tell me that it feels strange and I’ll ask if it’s uncomfortable.
Then I’ll have them write a sentence using the opposite hand than the one they usually write with; they will tell me that it’s hard. I’ll ask if they feel in control like when they use their dominate hand; they will usually say no. The last thing I will I ask is have you ever watch a movie where the sound and the picture aren’t in sync with each other. Kind of like watching those old Kung Foo movies with the voice dubbing. Well that’s what my dysphoria is like when talking about my mind and body disconnect.
To further explain I tell them that I never recognized the person I saw in the mirror every day. It’s like someone took away my mirror and replaced it with a pane of glass and there was a mime on the other side mimicking my every move. All of this never went away. Day after day, year after year and there seemed to be no way to fix it. I felt like I was in a bubble all the time and could move through reality but I couldn’t interact with it. This left me uncomfortable, scared, anxious, nervous, angry, depressed and stressed. Everyday was an effort to do even the smallest everyday mundane things. Every little thing I was asked to do… always felt like too much. Even though there was no situational cause for this stress, nothing would ever came easily to me. I was always mentally fatigued and everything was a constant burden and a struggle. It’s like there was a constant quarrel between my mind and body. I was emotionally dead, I couldn’t feel anything because all my time was consumed with this disconnection. I thought everybody felt this way and I had no idea that the rest of the world didn’t feel the same way I did. My mind was constantly thinking and talking to itself without any interruption, I was over-analyzing everything around me. There always seemed to be a second, parallel universe that seemed to be running alongside my direct experience of consciousness: an inner monologue of sorts, and it was extremely toxic and detrimental to me. There was this loud voice in my head that kept me from simply existing in the moment.
I needed to find a way to be as happy as everyone around me seemed. There was a connection they were feeling with each other that I neither understood or felt. I longed for what they felt, I longed for feeling anything but disconnected. Most of all I longed to be understood. This is what started me on a path to finding the help I was looking for and needed. This led me to seeking the help of a therapist. After six months of therapy it was suggested by my therapist to see a gender therapist and after almost two years of weekly therapy and a tremendous amount of soul searching I came to the conclusion that I was born in the wrong body and told my therapist I think I have gender identity disorder.
To which she told me “I could have told you that at or first appointment but you needed to find this out yourself.” Now came what to do about it…..
What do I do about it? I asked of her. She told me my next step would be considering if transitioning was what I wanted. I searched and scoured the internet looking for everything I could possibly find on Transgender and transitioning. (For reference from this point on when I refer to transitioning I use unmasking because I’m not transitioning to a female. I’ve always have been a female just with a different body than most other females. I’m just unmasking her.) I looked for how to start my unmasking and what to expect. There are countless stories and articles out there about unmasking. I spent hours upon hours reading everything I could and joined some support groups. I trolled on these support groups for a while before taking the step and actually posting something.
I thought I knew everything about what to expect. Was I ever wrong….!
After receiving my letter from my therapist, I was off to see an endocrinologist. She prescribed a low dose of estrogen to start off with. I read that you will know in a very short time whether or not this was right for me. I’ve learned that a diagnosis of gender dysphoria isn’t something that a therapist can really diagnose with absolute certainty without treatment. In other words it’s really a diagnosis by treatment situation. You really won’t know until you start treatment for gender dysphoria. So here I was all excited about finally having my first prescription for HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY or HRT.
I read all about the physical effects of HRT but there was little out there about the mental effects. The first thing I felt on my second day was a feeling of AHHHH…! Sort of like my body was saying it’s about time. At about the three week mark I noticed that I felt calmer. I felt everything with such intensity all of sudden and all the feelings of being uncomfortable, scared, anxious, nervous, angry, depressed and stressed were subsiding. I was feeling more relaxed. Day after day I was feeling better. After about five weeks is when I started to notice the disconnection was starting to go away. I’m no doctor nor do I claim to be an expert but I think this feeling was due to a combination of things. First the stress from going to all the doctors and getting letters and the initial worry about my endocrinologist thinking that I wasn’t transgender enough were past me. So my mind was at ease. Second was the lowering of my testosterone levels in my body third was knowing I was on my way to bringing my body in congruence with my brain and soul. Let me be very clear here…. My gender was predetermined before I was born and is a very deep innate primordial sense of who I am, this is not a choice.
I started to notice that my taste in music and television shows was shifting. No longer was I watching the action shows and movies. I found myself watching the lifetime channel a lot with a boxes of tissues. I was thinking even more like other women.
Now let’s talk about the physical changes. I will go through the physical changes that most MTF transsexuals go through. After I will talk about what surprised me while on HRT. So about a month into my HRT treatment I stopped having spontaneous erections which did add to my relief. At the two month mark I started to notice breast buds starting and shortly afterwards the breast tenderness started. I started to notice that I was having to urinate a lot more than was normal. Probably do to the Spironolactone that I’m on. At the three month mark my dosages of HRT were increased to my current levels. And it was at this time that my skin was starting to get noticeably softer and more translucent. My body odor changed to a sweeter smell like other girls. By the fifth month my body hair was changing. I was having to shave every other day before but now I could go a week. Currently I’ve gone just under three months without shaving my chest and abdomen. My back hair I could never reach and now it’s very fine and a real light blonde color just like any other woman. My testicles and penis have shrunk. My breasts are continuing to grow. At the eight month mark Progesterone was added to my HRT regiment. My breast are starting to round out. My skin is even softer and there have been noticeable facial changes. All of the above are the usual Things most of you will notice when you start your unmasking.
Now for the things that were a complete surprise to me and some of my friends.
My senses became heightened and sharpened. My vision changed sort of like when Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz opens the door and everything is in color. Colors are more vivid and now I can see the differences in subtle changes in color where I couldn’t before. My sense of smell has gone hyper. So many more things smell good, and well……. bad. My sense of taste has even changed. I can taste all the spices now in my food and can tell when something is missing. All of a sudden I Love spicy food especially hot peppers. I cannot get them hot enough. The cravings for salt is out of hand and I crave olives, pickles, candies, orange and grapefruit juice.
Then bout a week after starting on estrogen I started having a discharge from my penis. It’s a clear slimy substance like a pre-ejaculate. This is from the estrogen according to my endocrinologist. Some have had a discharge from their nipples as their breasts started growing. My skin and hair was always very oily before starting my unmasking but now both would be considered normal to dry. Others have reported having extremely dry skin and scalps which have cleared up. My ability to comprehend language and spelling has greatly increased. To write something along the lines of this article never would have happened because I would not have been able to put more than two thoughts together at one time.
One of the changes that really has caught a lot of people of guard including me is after starting on progesterone. It did not take long for a clear cycle emerge. I experience regular monthly (more or less) symptoms of PMS, but as I have no uterus, they are most likely entirely emotional. Every fourth week or so, I’ll have about three days of mildly increased irritability, and greatly increased emotional volatility. One to two days later followed by three or four days of cramps. Self-awareness helps the most with all of it; just knowing what it is makes it easy to discount things that I think or feel that seem distorted in any way. It’s never very hard for me to enjoy the giddy happy parts, and to feel and fully experience the more deeply sad or upset parts without having them linger or take over after they’d run their course. I always told my girlfriends that I was jealous of them because I wanted to experience a period. My girlfriends would tell me you don’t want one trust me. Well they had a good laugh when I told them what I was feeling. They’ll tell me now you better be careful what you wish for.
When I started my unmasking I considered myself straight. I was very much attracted to women. Four months into my unmasking I was watching a movie when all of a sudden I noticed that the lead actor was very attractive. I never even looked at a man that way before and here was the first time I noticed myself attracted to a man. This really shocked me. I’ve talked to many people since I started my unmasking and I’m finding the same happening to others on a regular basis but not everyone. Coming from where I did emotionally I assumed I would be more emotional but wow…! I didn’t expect to cry over some of the silliest things or have attachments to things like I do. I have a stupid little plastic flower that’s actually falling apart but I won’t get rid of it because it was the first flower I was given. I cry watching television or if I go to the movies. The last movie I went to see was Creed just last week and I cried four different times and to tell you the truth there really wasn’t a reason too. Watching the movie Frozen….. Forget it…! I needed a whole box of tissues. I cry so much my best friend tells me she’s never seen anyone cry as much as I do and calls me her cry baby.
One of my transsexual girlfriends actually had a false pregnancy. She started to feel queasy every morning. She went to see her endocrinologist and had a positive pregnancy test. Her abdomen became bloated. Her breast growth went into hyper drive. Yes her doctor confirmed that she indeed was going through a false pregnancy. One things that seem to reoccur with everyone I talked to was a sense of an overwhelming feeling of hope and happiness. Just walking around with a smile on their faces. This I believe is due to the constant quarrel going on their heads. It was silenced and that feeling of being out of sync has been drastically reduced. As I mentioned in the beginning these are my experiences and everyone’s are unique. Just because I experienced these and your not does not mean anything is going wrong with your unmasking. Your doctor is the best guide you have on your journey.
I would like to thank all of my friends that helped me with some of the content of this article. My life is enriched because of all of you.