The concept of ‘microdosing‘, as a way of helping people to manage their gender dysphoria, has been around for decades, but seems to be being talked about again now. What is it, and what does it mean for trans people?
Historically, trans women may have obtained a ‘secret’, low dose of oestrogen and enjoyed the subtle effects in private. This route tended to be one favoured by those who, for whatever reason, were unable to come out as their true selves, and who certainly couldn’t risk any visibly physical changes that might be brought about by taking a full course of HRT.
More recently, non-binary people, who feel that their gender lies somewhere in the middle of the male/female spectrum, have looked to ‘neutralise’ their hormones. For this group of people the aim is to get their hormone levels to what might be considered a mid zone – not too much oestrogen and not too much testosterone. Our bodies need hormones, so switching off hormones altogether is not an option. However, having both the male hormone, testosterone, and the female hormone, oestrogen, can be one way of achieving a good “middle ground”.
Many trans women who come to GenderGP are clear in their gender feelings, but as they have already gone through a full male puberty – and adulthood – their bodies have experienced the full effects of masculinisation. For them, the idea of developing the breasts and curves, that would come with full HRT, can be scary but that does not take away the desire to try out the hormones. This is why some choose to start off with a small dose, to see how it feels.
Some trans men fear the strength of testosterone, it is a powerful hormone. Will it cause too much masculinisation, too quickly? Would it be better to start really slowly and see how things go? Puberty is scary for anyone, imagine if it was your second time around. In these cases, a low dose could be the preferred option.
Transitioning is no small feat
There are people who start taking hormones and then stop, and then start again and then stop. Transitioning from a birth assigned gender and realising one’s true gender identity is no small feat. If you then consider how potentially cold, cruel and unaccepting society can be, is it any wonder that some people choose to take things slowly? The journey can be scary and the desire to ‘go home’ overwhelming.
The concept of having to ‘prove’ oneself to be emphatically trans masculine or trans feminine in order to qualify for hormones, is one with which many gender variant people are all too familiar. So often we hear from people who say they feel like they have to exaggerate their experience, for fear of being refused treatment if they explain that their needs are more subtle.
Gender is a spectrum
Yet, the more we learn about gender the more we realise that it isn’t always black and white, male or female. As such, it follows that the degree to which an individual choses to experience hormones should be based entirely on their own personal needs.
Research on the impact of smaller doses of hormones is not available, all we have to go on are the first hand accounts shared by those brave souls who take steps along this path in a bid to find the peace they so desperately crave. These are people who tentatively try out their true gender, letting their family and friends come round to the idea slowly. And, through the process something miraculous happens: They find relief.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post and you would like more information, or if you would like to speak to someone, please visit our Help Centre.