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Matching your body and your gender identity is an emotional and sometimes overwhelming process. Hormone therapy allows male to female transgender women to transition from the identity assigned as male at birth to live more openly as their authentic selves. But, especially in the beginning, it’s hard to know what to expect from gender-affirming or feminizing hormone therapy. 

What is feminizing hormone therapy?

The Mayo Clinic explains that feminizing hormone therapy uses medication “to block the action of the hormone testosterone.” In addition to blocking testosterone medication, transgender women receive the hormone estrogen. Estrogen adds to the testosterone-blocking plus induces more feminine physical characteristics and may aid in reducing gender dysphoria. 

What to expect from the gender affirmation treatment

Physical Differences

Because of reducing testosterone while adding estrogen, patients experience physical changes like a difference in their fat distribution (fat appears in different areas) and breast development. In addition, it often causes a decrease in facial and body hair growth. 

The fat distribution creates more physical changes than just breast development. For example, thighs and hips may thicken, while other areas, like arms and legs, may become less defined. Plus, many people feel weaker as their strength deteriorates from the treatment. The fat changes also create physical changes on the face, with most noticing a softer, more feminine facial appearance. 

It’s essential to recognize that even though facial and body hair usually slows down and thins out, it will not disappear entirely without extra treatments like laser treatments or electrolysis.

Emotional Differences

Everyone is different and their response to treatment varies. In fact, it may feel like you are going through puberty again or even menopause. Adding medication to the mix may trigger unexpected emotions and challenges, along with the fact that the gender affirmation journey itself is an emotional process. 

Depending on how the treatment is administered (pills, injections, patches, sprays, gels, or creams), your response to the treatment may vary too. For example, the medication may cause weight gain, mood swings, increased anxiety, or more. 

Speak with your doctor about the possible side effects and monitor the impact of the medication. Of course, after gender affirmation surgery (removing the testicles), estrogen dosage lowers, and testosterone blockers are no longer required. 

Matching your physical appearance with what you know is your true identity as a woman with hormone therapy can make your transition more manageable, help reduce your gender dysphoria, and promote an improved quality of life.