At first I thought I was crazy. It was probably just in my mind or something to do with the hormones. I am no stranger to the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS); I live in a house with four cisgender women. One of my daughters also experiences premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and many of us could certainly identify with the dysphoria part of that equation. That time of the month usually comes over a period of two weeks, as all the women in the house fall like dominos in some crazy game of tag. They all experience the bloating, cramps, nausea, headaches, and so much more.
As transgender women, our cisgender sisters often tell us how lucky we are that we don’t have to go through this process. As much as it perplexes them that I wish that I could have this experience, it is true. I want to have the same experiences that most other women are able to have, both the good and the bad. The truth is that I will never know what it is like to go through the pain and trauma of shedding one’s uteral lining and the bleeding that is associated with it every month. I don’t want to diminish what my wife and daughters go through, there is a big difference. However, as my journey with hormone replacement therapy progressed over time, I began to experience some symptoms that I really didn’t understand. With the fear of having everyone thinking I was delusional, I decided to keep it all under wraps.
“IT WASN’T UNTIL MY WIFE HAD NOTICED THAT I WAS EXPERIENCING THESE SYMPTOMS DID I EVEN ALLOW MYSELF TO ENTERTAIN THE IDEA THAT IT WAS REALLY HAPPENING.”
It wasn’t until my wife had noticed that I was experiencing these symptoms did I even allow myself to entertain the idea that it was really happening. It was like I was queued up as one of those dominos in line with the other women in the house. My wife would continue to point this out to me every time it would happen. After about six months of it, I seriously began to wonder what was going on. We jokingly began to call it my monthly question mark. I would experience the bloating, nausea, breast pain, and cramps, along with some serious bouts of depression and dysphoria. What I once had thought was impossible and all in my head was now a reality. The rest of my family was noticing it. Still, I thought it was something that only I was experiencing, so I never discussed it with anyone other than my wife and kids.
It wasn’t until one of my transgender friends came out and asked me. “Do you get it?” she said as I gave her a strange look. “Get what?” I said. “Your period. You know that time of the month. I get it,” she began to explain. I was amazed to find out that someone else was having this experience. Eventually, many other transgender women would tell me they were experiencing it as well. Now armed with this new revelation that I was not alone, I decided to see if I could find some answers.
We know that the menstrual cycle is driven by hormones. We also know it is not just about having the right parts. Many transgender men who are on testosterone cease to have their periods after a prolonged amount of time. Many have also reported less cramping along with other diminished symptoms that are normally associated with PMS, though it varies from person to person. Menopausal women can also continue experience their period if they take estrogen. It certainly does show that hormones play an important role in all this. Next, I found a message board where women who underwent a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes) were still experiencing PMS symptoms after being on HRT. Now some attribute this phenomenon to possibly having left over tissue from the procedure, but it seems prevalent only in women who are taking estrogen. Again, there is a hormonal link, but it is certainly something that hasn’t been studied enough in depth.
"WHAT I DO KNOW IS THAT THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN ABOUT HORMONES AND HOW THEY AFFECT THE HUMAN BODY."
What I do know is that there is so much more to learn about hormones and how they affect the human body. If the medical community actually cared about treating transgender people, I am sure there would be a wealth of information that could be learned about how hormones work in the human body. A better understanding would help not only transgender people, but cisgender people as well. What I can tell is that hormones are in some way responsible for many but not all of the symptoms women experience when it comes to their cycles.
Though I wish there were more data on this particular subject, it does appear that there may be something to this. Now I can certainly be going crazy, I won’t argue there, but the fact remains that I am experiencing something if other people are noticing it happening. There are also the other transgender women who say they are experiencing it as well. What I do know is that even as I write this I have been feeling these symptoms for the last two days. Has it been about a month already?
I would love to hear from all the other transgender women out there who take estrogen in the comments below. Is this something that you experience?