14 April 2014

What Do We Become? Some Medical Effects Of Our Transitions

Anyone who has taken hormones can attest to the changes they make in the body and mind.  Our doctors (for those of us who get our hormones through legitimate means) tell us about some we can expect.  For example, those of us who are male-to-female are advised that our breasts will develop (usually, to one cup size less than our mothers'), the hair on our heads will grow more rapidly and become finer while the hair on our faces will grow more slowly, the lines of our faces will soften and fat will re-distribute itself in our bodies.  Females-to-males learn that they will grow facial hair, their voices will deepen and their faces and bodies will fit into straighter lines.  

I also learned that I was at greater risk for breast cancer and osteoporosis, though my risk for either would probably be no more than for most women who were assigned the female gender at birth. I was also advised that I might gain weight and have a harder time losing it (Did that ever come true!) because estrogen causes the body to store fat more than testosterone does.  As a result, my reactions to some medications and other substances might be different from what they might have been when I lived as a man.  (I say "might have been" because I very rarely took medications--even the over-the-counter kind.) And then, of course, there were the emotional changes.  

Now I've come across an article saying, in essence, that women process alcohol differently than men, so the effects on their bodies are different.  Of course, any woman who is, or plans on becoming, preganant has to be concerned with the effects of drinking on her child-to-be.  Perhaps even more important, women are at greater risk of liver damage and other diseases associated with excessive alcohol consumption because their bodies break down alcohol more slowly and store it for longer periods of time.  That is related to a fact I mentioned earlier:  We store more fat, as a portion of our body weight, and keep it for longer, than men do.  That same fact is also one reason why women are at greater risk of heart attacks and diseases as a result of drinking.

(Of course, there are other hazards women face, such as an increased risk of experiencing sexual assault, as a result of alcohol consumption.)

Any time I read or hear about the medical differences between women and men, I can't help but to wonder how I will be affected.  I share some of the same medical and psychological difficulties--and rewards--of being a woman that cisgender females experience from the time they're born.  But, in other ways, my body still acts and reacts like that of a man.  The reverse of what I have just described holds true, of course, for female-to-male transgenders.

Now that we have three or four generations (depending on how you count) of people who've made medical gender transitions (as opposed to earlier trans people who lived or merely dressed as the gender of their minds and spirits), I think we're just starting to learn about the ways  in which we become and don't become--medically and psychologically--more like the gender in which we live than the one we're assigned at birth.  Also, the fact that hormone treatments and surgeries are different from those available to earlier generations, and the fact that more of us are living longer, will reveal more about the degree to which we take on the hazards and the benefits of our true, spiritual genders.

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