Not yet forty, he’s still a fairly young guy. Married, with two young children, and a member of a congregation in the church body where I was a minister, he longs to be a man, a husband and father, and everything else he has built over his lifetime.
He does not want to transition. No, wait. That is not nearly strong enough. He has told me there simply is no way he can let this happen. He needs to resist what he says is “the alluring call of femininity.”
This man, whom I will call Robert, contacted me last year, another in a growing list of folks who found my blog and reached out to me. He identified with me in many ways, except that he had resolved not to transition. He then told me the craziest thing. He was about to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in order to help him remain male.
Yes, he was going to use HRT as medicine—the HRT that trans women use in order to be female—as the prescription for calming the call to femininity. He was about to do that for which I had longed, but could locate no doctor who found it a possible remedy, and no information on the internet to show that anyone had done it.
Robert told me that he knew a man who was doing it, who had gone on HRT and was having success with it in his effort to remain male. Robert found a doctor who agreed to prescribe HRT for him and, in June of last year, he began taking estradiol to increase his estrogen and spironolactone to block his testosterone.
In other words, Robert set out to reverse his sex hormones, so that his higher estrogen and lower testosterone would reflect that of a genetic female, so that he might continue to live as a male.
I have chatted twice with Robert this year. He reports the good that is happening in him, along with the undesired side-effect. The good? HRT has, indeed, calmed the call of femininity. He is feeling strong, finding himself more capable of being a male. The side-effect? He’s growing breasts.
Since no male desires a flabby chest, especially one in which his breasts are obvious and might invite questions or suspicion, Robert has found himself needing to resort to flattening them. He opts for one of two options, depending on the type of shirt he is wearing. If he can get away with it, a sport bra does the job. When he needs to smooth out his chest the most possible, he binds his breasts, which is the same procedure for genetic females who transition to male.
The goal for many genetic females who transition is to have top surgery, that is, to have their breasts surgically removed. If HRT proves to work for Robert over the long term, he could find himself opting for top surgery.
This begs the question. Will HRT provide the type of relief for Robert, over the long term? Even more, can HRT do this? Does it have this ability?
How much of Robert’s situation is hormonal/physical, and how much is emotional/mental? Is sheer determination on his part a factor—perhaps even the ultimate factor—in his succeeding?
Besides the desire to physical transition from male to female, one of the hopes for taking HRT is that it will calm one’s brain. The person with gender dysphoria experiences fierce mental fighting—I always say that my brain was on fire—and if one does much reading, one learns that trans women report that HRT calmed their dysphoria, causing them to (finally) feel right about themselves.
I reached this point, but before I settled into it I experienced a calm so great that I had no interest in being a female. For the first time in my life, all feminine desire was gone.
My doctor told me to give it eight weeks before I began to feel the effects of HRT. At seven weeks, I did, with the first sign of tender breasts. At eight weeks, the calm arrived. By the third day of it, I wondered what was going on.
I found myself with no interest in being a female. I was dumbfounded. It was so extraordinary, I waited another day to tell Julie what had been happening that week.
Telling her the next day, we both wondered if HRT had gotten my sex hormones to levels which were in proper balance for my endocrine system. It really made sense to us. It’s essentially what Robert set out to do, and he even reported to me, the last time we chatted, that he found that to have his testosterone too low—where a female’s would be—did not feel good for him, so he eased back on the blocking medication, allowing his testosterone to rise but still be significantly under what it had been before he began HRT.
When I experienced the profound calm, I began researching it online. Sadly, I could find no reports of a man’s using HRT to produce the effect where he felt right as a male. Next, I reported it to my therapist. He’d never heard of it. He checked with other therapists, who work with trans folks. None of them had heard of it. Finally, I asked my doctor. He had never heard of it. He did, however, say that if I liked how I felt we could work to keep my dosage where I would feel good.
That sounded great to me.
That didn’t work.
After six weeks, I crashed. Adjusting my meds made no difference.
I went through the experience two more times. I quit HRT, not wanting the physical effects of it and determined not to transition. After several weeks, when my hormones reverted to pre-HRT levels, my brain once again caught fire. I restarted HRT and, in about a month, I experienced the same calm which had me feeling like a guy, with no desire to be a female.
Each time, I didn’t want to stay on HRT, so I quit taking it. Each time, after awhile I crashed.
Retiring from the ministry and moving to Indianapolis, I found an endocrinologist. I explained to my new doctor my history with HRT. As with the others, she had never heard such a story, and she has had loads of trans patients. I asked whether she thought HRT could be used to keep a guy feeling like a male. She was veritably blunt in her reply. “No,” she said without hesitation. “I don’t.”
Still, I restarted HRT and hoped for the calm. Sure enough, it arrived . . . and remained for exactly one day. From there, for weeks, I was in and out, until I finally settled into feeling female and, in the summer of 2015, undertaking living full time as a woman.
My Indianapolis therapist thought that my determination to remain male had worked with the HRT to provide those periods of calm, of feeling good as a male. Determination, however, was not enough to uphold me. It would be like telling a person with cancer to convince himself that his tumor no longer growing and cause it to cease.
I hope Robert continues to have success. I hope others hear of him and decide to undergo HRT for the purpose of remaining in their birth sex, if that is what they want and find that they need. I hope doctors would do more research into this, that it might be an effective therapy for all with gender dysphoria who prefer not to transition.
As Robert keeps me updated, I will report on his progress. Later this month, he passes the one year mark of being on HRT. So far, he’s doing well. Indeed, he is doing better than I thought he would be able to do. Maybe, just maybe, he’s onto something good.