By: Lorelei Erisis/TRT Columnist-
It’s column time again folks!
Normally for these things I use your standard advice columnist format, tried and true since the days of “Ask Ye Olde Village Idiot.” But one of the biggest dilemmas associated with being a columnist and a highly accessible trans-lebrity is that folks often just march up to me and ask things directly. I’m like Visa, I’m everywhere you want to be. So it’s easy.
As it happens, I’ve just returned from the Transcending Boundaries Conference in Worcester, at which I was an entertainer, presenter and emcee. I was pretty busy, but it was a great time and also a good chance to meet all kinds of folks, many of whom had questions.
Over the last few days I was asked repeatedly about the nuts and bolts of my transition. What meds do I take? How does it affect me? What can I tell them about the physical and emotional effects of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). I get asked this a lot actually, so I thought it would be an appropriate thing for me to address here.
To be absolutely clear, I’m not a doctor, not even kind of, though I could play a Doctor on TV. I’m an actor and a columnist, neither of which professions involves much medical training.
I am also, a transgender woman, a fact you may have gathered from the name of this column.
What I can share is my own story and experience.
I began HRT about 3 ½ years ago, while living in Los Angeles and had made the firm decision that I was done trying to deny who I was. I came out to my family and friends about my decision to transition and signed up for both single and group therapy at the LGBT Center in Hollywood.
I did not really want to be labeled with the “Gender Dysphoria” diagnosis, but I did feel it was prudent to talk to someone about such a big decision who didn’t have a vested interest in my life or gender. The experience was enormously helpful, but I still refused the diagnosis.
Fortunately, I was acquainted with a Doctor who specialized in Transgender Health and who was a transwoman herself. The fabulous Dr. Maddie Deutsch.
Dr. Deutsch was willing to start me on HRT using what is called an “Informed Consent” model. Basically we had a discussion about the risks and benefits associated with HRT, and then I signed several forms stating I knew what I was doing and was choosing do so from an educated and healthy position.
I was started on a daily oral tablet regimen of Estradiol, an estrogen; and Spironolactone, a testosterone blocker. Basically what happens is that you go through puberty a second time. The changes that happen are essentially what would have happened if you had gone through puberty as your “chosen” gender the first time. And it takes about the same length of time for all the changes to run their course-anywhere from 5 to 8 years.
Right now, as an adult in my mid-thirties, I’m hormonally a 16 year old girl, which is quite a ride let me tell you! My body has been changing, my skin softening, breasts, a$$ and hips growing. I also cry all the time, often for no readily discernable reason.
I even went kind of boy crazy!
Soon though, I ended up having to return to the East Coast for a while to take care of my dying Grandmother.
Basically I went back to the neighborhood I grew up in to begin my transition! An odd choice to say the least. Unfortunately, due to the difficulties associated with having a Doctor who was 3000 miles away, and the stresses of taking care of a dying family member, I ended up losing my Doctor.
When I returned to LA I had been on HRT for more than 6 months and had no intention of stopping. I soon lost my job though and could not afford a new Doctor, so I did what I had to do to: be who I was.
I would take the Greyhound bus from LA down to Tijuana, then walk across the border to buy my hormones at one of the many “farmacias.” “Yo nessecito Estradiol en dos miligramos tabletas por favor! Y Spironolactone, también.”
I would get my hormones, then get carnitas tacos, and Negra Modelo at my favorite “Taquería” and spend the day wandering around in another country. Then re-cross the border, praying that the border guards would not ask to look in my bag.
Eventually I returned to Massachusetts. Once back in the land of healthcare for all, I was able to find a new Doctor at the Fenway Health clinic in Boston. I was supremely pleased to be back under proper medical supervision.
HRT is pretty radical thing to do your body and mind.
In addition to being the doctor who oversees my HRT, my new doctor also takes care of my health as a whole woman, which is wonderful. She’s new to trans health but is always learning, keeping up with the latest information, which she shares with me. She answers my questions clearly and is not afraid to tell me when she either doesn’t know or there is not enough research to tell.
My hormone levels recently reached that of a normal, cisgender woman and so the dosages of my meds were adjusted down, to maintenance levels. I also, switched to injectable Estradiol, which is, arguably, safer and easier on my poor overworked Irish liver than the oral meds are.
So that’s where I stand now. Three and a half years down the path and still changing. Isn’t life grand?!?!!!!
*Lorelei Erisis, former Miss Trans New England, can be contacted at: [email protected]