Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can play an important role in both male-to-female and female-to-male gender transition. When a person’s genetic gender does not match his or her true gender identity, hormones can be administered to produce changes in the sexual characteristics of the body. Estrogen is administered to MTFs and testosterone to FTMs.
Dr. Alexander Sinclair of Beverly Hills Transgender Surgery is a general plastic surgeon with more than three decades of experience, and a practice focused on transgender surgery. He serves transgender patients in the greater Los Angeles area and throughout the country, and he understands the positive effects hormone therapy can have on the quality of a trans person’s life. If you are considering transgender HRT, he can explain the benefits and risks and answer any questions you may have.
Male to Female Hormone Replacement Therapy
Feminizing HRT (male-to-female hormone replacement therapy) uses estrogen produce more feminine sexual characteristics in trans women. Although the effects may vary from person to person, typical responses to feminizing HRT include:
- Breast development: As it does among the genetic female population, breast development will vary greatly with HRT. It generally takes approximately 2 years to reach maximum breast development and MFTs rarely achieve a cup size larger than a B. Small buds or nodules will develop behind the nipples within the first few months of hormone therapy. The area will become tender and sensitive, much the same as it does among genetic females during puberty. This happens because the duct system behind the nipple increases with hormone therapy. Tenderness and sensitivity will usually normalize within a few months.
- Skin changes: Your skin may change dramatically with hormone replacement therapy, becoming softer, finer, and more translucent, with smaller pores and less oil production.
- Fat distribution: Changes in the subcutaneous fat (located just under the skin) may be expected over a period of one to two years. More fat will likely be distributed in the hips, thighs, and buttocks, with somewhat less in the stomach. Larger hips and a smaller waistline can give your physique a more feminine appearance.
- Body hair: With MTF HRT, body hair may decrease significantly over time, and may be entirely diminished in certain areas after a period of several years. Hair on the arms, legs, chest, shoulders, and abdomen can be expected to lessen greatly and disappear altogether in some cases. However, HRT will not have the same dramatic effect on the hair in other regions — armpits, pubic area, around the areolas, and the face.
- Muscle mass: Much of the male upper body muscle mass will diminish over time with feminizing HRT.
- Genitals: The testicles will become significantly smaller, and the penis will likely also diminish in size. Erections may become less frequent and shorter lasting and ejaculation will lessen considerably. It is important to note that the ability to orgasm does not depend on erections or ejaculation.
Female to Male Hormone Replacement Therapy
The beginning of hormone therapy can be an exciting phase in the transition for transgender men. The extent and rapidity of biological changes will depend in part on the method by which testosterone is administered. Different methods of administration include:
Taken orally, testosterone may not be fully effective for stopping menstruation. Transdermal administration is as effective as injections for producing masculine characteristics, but it may take longer to stimulate facial and body hair growth and to stop menstruation.
Many changes occur in the body over time with FTM hormone replacement therapy:
- Intramuscular (injected);
- Transdermal (skin patch or cream); and
- Oral (taken in pill form).
- Sex drive tends to increase within the first 3 months of therapy.
- The vagina becomes drier and the clitoris increases in size by 1 to 3 cm in the first 3 months, reaching up to 5 cm after one year and beyond.
- Chest and facial hair begins to grow and arm and leg hair becomes coarser. After a year or more on HRT, head hair loss and male pattern baldness may begin to occur.
- Breast fat decreases and muscle mass in the chest increases, along with an increase in upper-body strength.
- Body fat redistributes over time from the hips to the waist, producing a more masculine physique.
- The voice begins to change, cracking and deepening, generally after 3 months of hormone therapy.
- Menstruation usually ceases within 6 months of beginning HRT.
- The feet may become larger, and urine and body odor may change after one year or more of hormone therapy.
Compassionate Transgender Surgeon
Hormone replacement therapy can play an important role in gender transition, alone or in combination with transgender surgery. Dr. Sinclair at Beverly Hills Transgender Surgery has the skills, experience, and compassion to custom-tailor a comprehensive treatment plan for your unique gender transition. Contact our Beverly Hills office to schedule a free consultation.