HRT

One of my main concerns about starting HRT was going through puberty once more, but many of the effects I was dreading haven’t affected me. Mood swings and aggressive behavior was the things I was most afraid of, but my mood have been stabile and I’m not more angry or aggressive than before.To me it seems like your second puberty in most aspects is a repetition of your first one. The first time around it was hardly noticeable that I went tough puberty (mood wise) and so it has been this time around too. People that reacted strongly on HRT seems to have had a rather though puberty in their teens too.

When it comes to the physical changes, I’m more than happy about the results so far. I’m still looking forward to some more facial hair and an even deeper voice. My voice still tangents the female range and I think it would help people around me to gender me correctly if my voice was more undoubtedly male.

Until recently I hadn’t noticed any psychological changes at all, but a recent crisis made me realize that there indeed had been changes over the last couple of months. I’ve struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for a very long time but all of that has been cooling down lately. I’m not suggesting that HRT on its own “cured” me. 17 years of therapy did it’s bit and believe me, the anxiety is still there. However after I started HRT my anxiety has changed.

Normally it would go something like this; stress factor – anxiety – realization of stress factor – anxiety easing off. Now it’s either a lot of stress factors without anxiety or anxiety without stress factor. I haven’t checked this with my endocrinologist yet, but the latter I suspect is due to an overload of hormones in my body. My latest lab works showed normal levels of testosterone and continued high level of estrogen.

Being exposed to extreme stress this last week without having any anxiety or panic about it is such a relief. However it also made me realize another change, albeit connected to the lack of anxiety.

I was really sad and hurt when an acquaintance started to act like a maniac, lying about things and purposely misunderstanding everything I did or said. This madness escalated over a week without causing any anxiety. However I was still very upset about the situation and felt like I couldn’t really talk to anyone except my wife about it partly because it’s extremely difficult to articulate the whole thing and partly because no one would believe me if I managed to do that.

I knew that the only thing that would allow me to let go of the stress was a good cry, but I just couldn’t manage to produce any tears. I was sad, angry and hurt enough and six months ago I would cry uncontrollably for an hour or two to get rid of all the emotions I had, but now – nothing.

Historically I have a tendency to suppress my feelings and my anxiety has been a way to not being able to ignore those feelings. I’m concerned that this incapacity to release emotions will cause me to start suppressing my feelings again and I’ve worked way to hard and long to let that happen. I feel I need to be even more attentive about my feelings and maybe talk them through rather than acting on them now. I do not want to become a stereotypical emotionally numb man!

Actually, I don’t want to become anything stereotypical. I’m way to used to pave my own way through the bush for settling down for the main road.

A trip to USA

I wrote this piece in what seems like a long time ago. So much have happened since and a few of those things are the reason it never reached the published state before it became outdated. I want to publish it anyway, it’s filled with fond memories that I want to keep close at this moment. It’s like a nice flashback to when there was still hope, warmth and proper daylight.
I’m just back from a visit to USA. The timing couldn’t have been better as we were able to celebrate Halloween in the states! Halloween isn’t a big thing here in Sweden, it was first introduced in the 90s by retailers. Swedish kids dress up, sing songs and receive candy at Easter and Lucia (December 13) already and even though costumes are not as diverse as they are for Halloween, this new tradition hasn’t caught on yet. A few families celebrate Halloween and go trick or treating, but most people celebrating Halloween are teenagers throwing Halloween-parties, taking this as a great excuse to dress up, make “haunted houses” and get drunk. 

The thing is that you never know when to celebrate Halloween and when to expect trick-or-treaters here. In the rest of the world it’s easy – October 31, the day before All Saints Day. All Saints Day do exist in the Swedish calendar on November 1, but we don’t celebrate it. We have “Allsaintsday” instead and it’s always placed on a Saturday October 31-November 6. But being a Lutheran country we don’t like to celebrate saints, so the celebration really takes place on All Souls’ Day, the Sunday after “Allsaintsday”. That’s when people go out to decorate family members graves.

However we traditionally celebrate our beloved ones and decorate their graves during Christmas (Yule) so the whole celebration in October/November is utterly confusing and somewhat redundant. Some people decorate graves on All Souls’ Day, but others do it on Christmas Day. Some do it on both occasions, but I think most people view that as overdoing it.

When it comes to the trick-or-treaters you have some of them knocking on your door on October 31, some of them come on Friday before “Allsaintsday” and sometimes some even come on “Allsaintsday”. But mostly they don’t come at all. In total we get 0-3 visits by dressed up kids per year and their year most people stayed at home due to stupid people running around dressed up like clowns scaring people (apparently it’s a “thing”).

Being able to participate in “real” Halloween celebrations this year was really, really fun! We walked in a Halloween-parade as Pippi Longstocking accompanied by one of the sailors from her fathers ship. Our daughter LOVED IT and loved all the attention the bystanders gave her. She even acted out like Pippi, jumping and climbing all over the place. After the judging he was thrilled to receive her very first lollipop!

On Halloween we went trick or treating in a neighborhood that really takes this celebration serious, even for American standards. We brought a trick-or-treat bag with us from home for the occasion but apparently it was the smallest bag our friends had ever seen. They laughed out loud when they saw it, but I was still amazed that we actually had to empty the bag in the stroller half way. Especially considering we only went down one street and only stopped at 1/4 of the houses.

Our daughter sat in the stroller with a very serious face the whole time and I was concerned it was too much for her, but every time I asked her if she had fun she nodded quickly, still with an expressionless face. We drank apple cider, hot chocolate and finished the evening with ice cream and one exhausted daughter. Apparently she thought it was real fun because the very next day she pulled out her little bag, took my hand and walked towards the door with a smile on her face…

I’m utterly fascinated by USA, the culture is so different from ours and I often have a hard time understanding it. I know not all people in USA are extrovert, but there sure are plenty of them! An introvert like me was exhausted after just a few days of involuntary interactions with people commenting on how adorable my daughter is, wondering where I’m from, what I think of the upcoming election and wondering of the status of stem-cell research in Sweden?!? Everyone is so outgoing it left me feeling rude whenever I was unable to contribute to the conversation with anything else than short answers to their questions.

I also felt like a horrible parent for not paying enough attention to my child. Everyone is so attentive to kids, giving them a lot of attention in different ways. They encourage them, talk to them, play with them and so on. For Swedish standards we are very attentive parents, but in the states I often felt guilty when I realized I hadn’t spoken to or interacted with my daughter for over an hour.

I think this might be a reason why so many people in USA are outgoing, they learn to be so from the beginning interacting with a lot of different people.

Swedish parents don’t like it when strangers interact with their children and everyone is relieved when the child’s outgoing phase, when they interact with anyone they get eye-contact with, is over. Swedes are trained to leave other people alone from the very beginning, creating a nation of introverts.

We’re so introvert we really like the concept of drive-through. Not necessary all kinds of drive-through, but all that means you don’t have to interact with people. At any fast food restaurant you will see long cues by the drive-through and hardly none standing by the counter. They’re not opting for the drive-through because it’s quicker, or more efficient. It’s not because the restaurant is noisy or uninviting, not because the parking is full, inconvenient or because it’s a long distance to walk. Neither is it because we’re in a hurry. We simply prefer making our order to a machine (albeit a human speaking through it), pay for it in silence, park the car at the parking lot in front of the restaurant and eat our food in solitude. Yeah, we’re really that introvert.
A few fun fact about our journey:

Our daughter was swabbed in the security check at the airport and tested positive for something (drugs or explosives, they never told us).

At the airport a dude stopped in the doorway to the men’s room and did a double-take when he saw me before entering. Otherwise I was “sir-ed” the whole time.

The only thing our daughter ate on the 8 hour flight was the Brie cheese. 

American men’s rooms lack changing tables, leaving me no other choice than to sneak into the women’s.

Everything is big in America. Everything. Like, for real, everything.

All foods are sweeter. Including bread, apple juice and bran flakes. 

The area we visited is so beautiful with all the leaves changing colors and we had such nice weather the whole time. Maybe to make up for last times visit when we arrived to New York at the same time Sandy did.

New York felt more like home than the countryside. I still don’t know why, we live in the countryside and I don’t like cities.

Shopping food is fun in America, the choices are endless, surprising and wonderfully weird.

Our daughter was confused by the string cheese we bought for her. She was like “you say it’s cheese, but they have images of the Frozen characters like a toy. Do I eat them or play with them?”

Our hosts live in an old mill, with a pond and draw-bridge indoors among other things.

My wife managed to get some big bug on her way back home resulting in the worst case of pneumonia she’s ever had. Two weeks later on the third version of antibiotics she’s finally getting better.

We had a great time, but there’s no place like home. Especially not for introverts like us.

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Friends

This have been a tough year. It started with my two best friends getting a divorce and one of them moved all the way to America. The loss is huge for me, she’s the only person apart from my wife I can talk to about hard and sad stuff. I tend to keep other friends at the level of acquaintances, where you just share the fun and happy stuff and keep the darkest moments to yourself.

I guess it’s always been like that, I didn’t even discuss hard and sad stuff with my parents, and they didn’t talk to me about it either. That combined with bullying in primary school and then getting burnt by my “friends” from secondary school hasn’t really helped me to open up to others. I’m actually rather impressed that she managed me to open up the way I have. Her move has left me feeling very lonely. Initially I thought I would be able to talk the same way with my other best friend, but it just doesn’t work. 

A few months down the line we lost another two friends, our daughters donor and his husband. Both I and my wife are still frustrated and furious at them for leaving the way they did and don’t really mourn the loss of their so called friendship. If you can’t take not getting your way all the time , you’re not being a true friend. Still we’re very sad and upset for our daughters sake, for her it’s a huge loss not being able to have any contact with them. Thankfully we still have some contact with one of their mothers, so when our daughter’s old enough and want to establish a contact she will have a way to do it.

Last week we lost yet another friend. One of my wife’s closest friends and coworker is going through a rough time and is taking it out on my wife. It’s at that point where there’s no going back or finding a way to remain friends in the future. My wife’s taking it really bad and had to stay at home from work a few days with severe anxiety.

I can’t really fathom that we lost so many “friends” this year. I say “friends” but should really say acquaintances. I’m not sure you can call it friendship when it seize to exist after a single “no” or lack of small-talk during a stressful time. We use to comfort ourselves by saying they will be very lonely in the end if this is how they treat their friends, but after this year it looks like we’re going to run out of friends before them. I just wish that were not the ones being unreasonable towards our friends…

At the same time I’m not sure I want friends like that. I want friends I can meet with, curl up in the sofa and then fall asleep without having to talk a lot. I feel that when you have that kind of friendship, you can also talk about most things when you want that. And then I feel like I have too high standards, that I ask too much, that I will end up alone. Still, we do have friends like that. One across the pond and another we don’t see so often due to her busy schedule. And to be honest, two really good friends combined with a few really good acquaintances is plenty. At least for introverts like us.

The wonders of hormones

Before I started my hormone replacement therapy I was a bit apprehensive towards the changes that would come. All the expected physical changes felt right, but the possible psychological changes were intimidating to me. My fears were needless, so far I’ve almost all the changes I wanted and none of the unwanted!I got my first injection of Nebido six weeks ago and my second one today. Usually FtMs in Sweden are first prescribed a testosterone-gel to be applied daily, but I have a young child that the gel might smear of on so both the endocrinologist and I felt it were safer to start on injections straight away. 

To get you an idea of what has changed for me thus far, I’m writing you a list based on the expected changes for FtMs on testosterone, published by the Swedish medical government. Note that all changes with testosterone are individual and that treatment with hormones should be managed by an endocrinologist.

Deeper voice

My voice is noticeably deeper, but not yet in the male range as I still get misgendered a lot by people who don’t know me. The change probably started right away as my wife and I could detect changes after only a week. I’ve read about people feeling the change starting just a few hours after the first injection, but it’s been very un dramatic for me. Over all I haven’t felt anything changing, I’ve just woken up one day to realize things has happened after all.

Increased hair growth, facial and body hair
The only thing I’ve detected on this front is that I might have more armpit hair. This is one of those changes I know will take a long time. Most people will say that it will take the same time for a FtM to get male facial hair as it takes for a boy going through puberty. So I’ll look at 7-10 years until I can grow a proper beard. On the other hand I’ll be happy just to be able to produce a “5 o’clock shadow” and hopefully that won’t take as long.

Defaulted menstruation

Unfortunately not yet. According to the endocrinologist this can take roughly three months, and for some it never stops…

Enlarged clitoris

Well, yes. Quite a lot to, at least compare to what I was expecting. My estimate is around 1/2 inch of growth. The funny thing is that it’s starting to look more and more like a penis as it grows.

Decreased mammary glands

Definitely, I’m starting to look more and more like a man with manboobs that used to be overweight. And I’m happy about is. So happy actually that the idea of going topless in the garden has passed my mind a couple of times this summer. And then I remember how many people that have a direct view of our garden, like the people in the apartment complexes on three sides of it.

Redistribution of body fat
Yes, I’m loosing a lot of fat on my tummy, hips and face. However I can’t see that it’s redistributing somewhere, to me it just looks like loosed body fat at the moment. However my genetic heritage grants me a nice bear-belly when I turn 50 weather I drink bear, eat healthy and exercises or not. There’s a nut for me to crack; how to break this trend dating at least three generations back on my fathers side. Let’s hope I’ve got more of the better genes from my mother’s side!

Decreased proportion of body fat to muscle mass

Well, more like plumping up like a bodybuilder (well, a slight exaggeration, I still look scrawny). When I was younger I was a dancer and had phenomenal strength in my legs – and like most female dancers none in the arms. It’s said that the muscles you build as a teenager are easier to rebuild later on in life and that has certainly been the matter for me, until now. Suddenly I have these arm muscles that I couldn’t even dream of when I was working out, lifting weights etc. as a female. And I’m not even that athletic these days, I walk the dogs, carry around our daughter and keep the household, and that routine hasn’t changed since my daughter was born! I’m in love with all of my muscles and I can see why so many people are tempted to use it as doping.

Oily skin and acne

Hard to tell, I do have slightly more acne but that might be due to the warm summer weather too.

Increased perspiration

Not noticeably.

Male decreasing hairline

None yet. There’s a genetic factor playing in this one too, and it looks like I’m going to keep my hair for a long time. But either way, I don’t mind. It’s MALE hair loss after all!

Long erections
Nope.

Vaginal dryness

None.

The governments list of possible changes with testosterone treatment does not include psychological changes but some people describe it like going through puberty a second time and that they experience the same emotional state as they did the first time. Some people describe psychological changes that our society claim to be typically manly, like not being in touch with ones feelings as much and have anger outbursts. 
For me it’s been… Just like usual. I don’t feel any different at all and people around me doesn’t notice any changes either. My fear of becoming a hormonal monster (like an angry teenager or pregnant woman) has not come true. At least not yet.

I’m still here

Well, almost anyway.

I have a few posts in pipeline, but so far I’ve not managed to finish any of them. I’ve wanted to write all spring and started to write a little on something but couldn’t finish it and then the next time I took to he pen I started on something new that I couldn’t continue on…

I know it’s been a stressful time for me, a lot of big things have happened but I’m not able to write about them in detail just yet. But here’s a few things that has happened over the last few months.

We have a toddler now – and she let us know it! Yikes, it’s hard to keep up with all her curiosity and creativity!

We started to make room for two more dads in our life (he donor and his husband), just to try to heal from their deceit and the lost friendship eight weeks later. Apparently our child wasn’t important enough and our friendship wasn’t strong enough for us to say “no” to an overnight stay 500km away without me or my wife.

I’ve started hormone replacement therapy with all the excitement and anticipation associated with that. Thus far resulting in a slight voice drop and some minor growth downstairs. I didn’t expect much to happen, but I’m disappointed that the changes plateaued out after just two weeks. So I’m currently looking forward to my next shot and  the changes that will bring.

We have a big project at work that has a deadline coming up soon. And we know people will be just as unhappy with it when they return from the summer holidays as they were before. On the other hand our team has worked our asses off all summer in a basement with no sunlight or possibility to crack open a window. No summer vacation for us this year… We’re also loosing one of our team members due do downsizing in four weeks. Work is by far the worst stress factor in my life right now.

Due to all the colds and other illnesses this spring I haven’t been able to take my arthritis medicine for six months – the time it takes for it to leave my system. So of course my knee swelled up, had to be drained and injected with cortisone (it hurts in case you wonder. Almost as much as it hurts to walk around with an inflamed and swollen knee for over a month. I’m not quick to see the doctor…)

Due to all of this my anxiety has worsened and I’ve had a few panic attacks too this last couple of weeks. I’m really trying to take care of myself so it won’t progress into depression as it tends to do. 

So I’ll continue to stay low for a while until I’ve healed a bit, but I’ll be back here on the blog eventually.

With love, Fredric

My best friends 

At this months support group meeting there was a new face. To me anyway, he attended the group for the first time last month when I was unable to. We said hello when hanging our coats and when we were seated he wanted to introduce himself/make me introduce myself more formally. Apparently that included shaking hands, presenting name and then state gender expression (transvestite, “but still happy to be a man”) and time being so (came out six months ago). In that order. Then it was my turn and I stated my name. Since I wouldn’t give him information easily he then proceeded by asking me “so you’ve known you’re a guy your whole life, right?”I mean, whoa! I just met the person! I’m not comfortable charging that information with anyone. Mostly because I’m not entirely sure myself. Have I known my whole life that I’m a guy? If not – when did I realize? Like most other trans* people I have no clue, and that is just fine. Well, maybe not with this dude, but still, it should be fine and people should stop ask that kind of questions! Especially to strangers, even at support group meetings…
But the question remains. For how long have I known? It’s not an easy question to answer for anyone, cis or trans, since you can know these kind of things without having words for them. And then knowing and accepting is quite different…

I grew up in a time when AIDS still was an epidemic that only affected gay men. Given that perspective it doesn’t take a brainiac to figure out that our parents and other grown ups tried their best to keep us kids form acting on anything LGBTQ+. I don’t blame them, I would’ve done the same thing as a parent. But the result was that we were never exposed to people or images from the LGBTQ+ community. We didn’t know it existed! 

When you don’t know something exist it’s really hard to know if you identify like that. If I was 15 years younger I could have searched the Internet for answers when I felt I didn’t fit in. I could have seen LGBTQ+ people in mainstream media. Maybe then I would have had a fair chance to know.

One part of the GIC assessment is a social investigation. In order to allow me to make changes, if my counsellor misunderstood anything, she called me to read what she had written.

It’s really, really weird to hear the story of your life, written by someone else for a third part. I know the story. I know it so intimately that I could repeat it in my sleep, but then I’m always me. I’m in charge and I have a genuine positive view of my life. But hearing someone describing your lived life using he and Fredrik make it more unfamiliar. Suddenly it could be about someone else and if it were, it would be an exceptional and hard life that I wouldn’t want to live. If it were about someone else, I would’ve felt very sorry for him!

One interesting aspect of the story was that suddenly all my friends were male. I’ve always thought that I mostly had female friends, but when we talked the counsellor asked about friendships that truly mattered to me, an sometimes she asked specifically for how my friendship with boys looked like growing up.

It dawned on me that all my “best” friends were male even though I haven’t kept contact with them since it wasn’t socially acceptable. There’s especially one guy that I still miss a lot. We were in the same class and spent most of the breaks together, playing pool, cards, floor ball or just chatting. I can honestly say that he was my best friend!

Officially I was best friends with a group of girls and in hindsight I guess most people around us must have thought he and I were an item (due to the opposite gender thing) but I still mourn the day he and his family moved away half away across the country. Since we were opposite gender at the time there were no natural or legitimate way for us to keep in contact. Instead I stalked his male friends hoping to be able to make them my friends, which probably creeped them out a bit.

I knew. The only thing I didn’t know was what word to use.

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Summertime

Well, summer just arrived. At the same time winter ended. This is the year spring forgot to appear.Last week we had snow, hail and blistering winds. This week it’s clear sky and summer temperatures! I know this is summer because I just got the first sunburn of the year and we’re having picnics and excursions every day.

Swedes are funny that way. We literally hibernate during winter. Everyone is dressed in black, or if you’re daring – navy blue, and move quickly through the streets between work and home. We stay indoors, watch movies and drink hot coffee, tea, cocoa or glögg an munch on cookies and sweets. 

Occasionally we leave the comfort of our home to do Christmas shopping on the first of advent, search for bargains between Christmas and New Year’s Eve or ski/skate/walk in the snow for a week in February during “sport break” aka winter break. But that’s basically it. We rarely meet with friends and we don’t spend time outside our homes.

But the moment the sun appears cloudless on the sky the towns are suddenly filled with people in t-shirts, shorts, flip flops and sunglasses. Regardless of the temperature. Like my friend who won’t take out the long legged trousers again until September. Everyone is munching ice cream and enjoy lunches with friends and colleagues on restaurant patios that suddenly fill the streets. Every one of them have blankets on every chair for guest to use and if it’s more than a lunch-restaurant they also have outdoor heating.

And, let’s face it, it’s needed. All to often we have the same temperature at Christmas Eve as we have on Midsummers eve. The only difference is that on Midsummers Eve we all sit outdoors in summer-outfits, trying to have meaningful conversations with (or as) wasted people while we’re shivering so much our teeth are chattering.

There’s one more difference; we have sour cream with our herring, don’t eat pork and we have strawberries for dessert. Honestly, that’s the only difference food wise. Swedes eat the same food at every big celebration during the year: Christmas Eve, Easter (Eve) and partly Midsummers Eve! It consists of herring (of 101 different flavors) with either boiled potatoes or a potato casserole with sardines (tastes better than it sounds), eggs in halves garnished with mayonnaise and rom, ham, sausages, meatballs, bead, butter, cheese, snaps and a sweet, carbonated, spicy version of coke called “must”. For dessert we usually have a cake of some sort. For Midsummers Eve we only have herring, potatoes, sour cream and chives followed by strawberries and whipped cream. Period. And no, I didn’t forget to mention the veggies – I did write down potatoes and chives didn’t I?

Since summer arrived so quickly without warning I didn’t check my summer wardrobe properly before I needed summer clothes. It turned out that all my shorts are too big. As in will-fall-of-my-hips-even-though-they’re-buttoned-up-and-have-a-belt. Apparently I’ve lost quite some weight since last summer.

So, on my shopping list on an already strained budget I have to put down two pair of shorts, swim trunks, swim t-shirt, linen shirt (to cover up when it’s sunny, I burn really easy), cap/hat (for the same reason), garden shoes and polo shirts (I can fold up the collar to protect my neck from the sun). And that’s just the things I NEED, not the things I want.

What I really want is to start on testosterone, preferably yesterday, so I can have some body changes done and over with so I can buy my new wardrobe. Everything is a bit too big at the moment, too worn out or too washed out to be good looking. I need new underwear, shorts and trousers, but since I know there will be some changes on T I don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes I won’t be able to wear for more than half a year. I think I’ll prioritize shorts, polos and a new belt and wait as long as possible with everything else, my appointment for the endocrinologist should arrive in the mail soon.