May 26, 2024

From Testosterone to Truth: Why I Stopped Hormone Therapy

The worst thing I've ever done in my life was taking testosterone for eight years. Just a heads up, this post includes discussions of medical trauma and treatment, as well as mental health.

Chasing a Normal I Never Chose
When I was 13 years old, my doctors and parents thrust me upon this path without giving me a say because I was born with reproductive and sexual anatomy that didn't fit the typical definitions of male or female. Initially, I embraced taking testosterone with anticipation and hope because of the promise to make me normal, confident, and happy. Testosterone was this magical solution to align me with societal norms.

Misleading Promises
My doctor made me believe it would normalize my genitalia, give me a sex drive, enable gamete production, stimulate hair growth, increase my height, fit me into society, and erase my femininity. Nevertheless, I was blatantly lied to, and all of those promises became empty echoes.

Eight years was a long time to invest in something that only amplified frustration. We kept increasing doses of testosterone in an attempt to force a change that never materialized. I placed so much faith in my doctors and a substance that ultimately betrayed my trust and destroyed me.

Flushing it Down
Not only did testosterone never work for me, but it also had a bunch of side effects. Testosterone fueled a storm of mood swings, aggression, irritability, self-doubt, hot flashes, and acne. Four years in, I started flushing the thing that was supposed to fix me down the toilet, so my parents and doctors would still believe that I was taking it. It was a silent rebellion – an act of defiance against a system that had failed me. As the years went by, I was more and more inconsistent in taking testosterone.

Pressures for More Surgeries
I was also asked several times by doctors to undergo more surgeries on my body to make it more normal, which would deepen my sense of shame and insecurity. It was a reminder that I would never fit in and my body needed to be fixed by surgeries and treatments for me to fit in. Also, it just felt weird receiving unsolicited advice to undergo cosmetic surgeries on body parts I never considered problematic...?

The Cycle of Despair
Whenever I stopped taking testosterone, I would feel better temporarily, but over time, not having any sex hormones made me endlessly tired, anxious, weak, unmotivated, low-energy, and moodier. Adults indeed require some sex hormone production or intake to maintain good health and well-being. It was a huge battle. I felt so empty, lost, alone, and depressed. I lost all interest in anything.

I was diagnosed with depression in 2019 and tried to end my life, yet my parents did not let me take prescribed antidepressants. It was a rollercoaster of depression and anxiety. It was an endless loop of despair – the cycle of avoiding taking testosterone yet relapsing and taking it out of desperation and the need for energy. It was my breaking point.

Journey of Self-Discovery
Moving out of my parents' house, going to university, and meeting new people marked the beginning of my journey toward self-discovery. These experiences helped me embrace my truth and reclaim my autonomy. Most importantly, they allowed me to reject society's narrow standards of normalcy and find clarity in my sense of self.

Embracing Authenticity
I realized that striving to be "normal" wasn't always healthy. Instead, I learned to live authentically, which led me to consider aligning my body with my sense of being. With this newfound clarity, I decided to explore taking estrogen, hoping for positive health changes. Given my aversion to testosterone and my body's inability to produce sex hormones, it seemed like a promising path.

The Estrogen Journey
In 2021, I began taking estrogen and making changes to be perceived as a "woman" in line with the hormone. Initially, it felt great; however, doctors gave me false hope that estrogen could resolve my ongoing health issues. Unfortunately, my health continued to deteriorate, and I still felt depressed and hopeless, with no energy or motivation.

Antidepressants: A Turning Point
The situation became awfully terrible, but eventually, I started taking antidepressants after seeing a psychiatrist. Escitalopram (aka Lexapro) brought about a miraculous change in me, stabilizing my mental state as if a switch had been flipped in my brain. After several months on antidepressants, I decided to stop due to side effects and a desire for normalcy, autonomy, and self-reliance. It wasn't fun taking pills every single day. Surprisingly, I felt fine and believed I no longer needed the medication.

Finding Balance
Reflecting on my journey, I realized that the main reason I took estrogen was to address my energy and motivation issues, which only antidepressants seemed to fix. Fortunately, even after stopping the antidepressants, my mental stability remained.

Additionally, without taking antidepressants or estrogen, I finally experienced an orgasm for the first time in my life after 23 years. I don't see myself returning to antidepressants or hormone therapy anytime soon because the ability to be in a thriving romantic relationship and experience sexual climax is invaluable to me, and I don't want to risk losing it. (That's not to say that relationships can't thrive without sex!)

The Truth
After a year without estrogen or testosterone, I find myself still asking, what am I? Do I need to keep pumping fake hormones into my body to be healthy and happy? It's a journey that continues to unfold. Perhaps, more discussions with my doctors are in order, as I navigate the path towards my truth. All things considered, I've realized the importance of authenticity, of embracing what truly works for me, irrespective of societal norms.

I've always been advised by my doctors and parents to keep my intersex condition a secret, but I've now chosen the path of empowerment and self-acceptance. My worth is not defined by societal expectations or medical interventions. Prioritize embracing your truth and doing what is best for your life; it'll make life worth living.