Learning About Testosterone Hormone Therapy for Gender Affirmation

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What is it?

With testosterone therapy, you take the hormone testosterone to develop more masculine physical traits. It also suppresses feminine traits. It may be a part of gender affirmation for some people. Hormone therapy can help you change your body to better reflect your gender identity.

How is it done?

Testosterone is given through a shot or through a patch or a gel placed on your skin. For people who need higher testosterone levels to meet their physical goals, the shot may work best.

What changes can you expect?

Hormone therapy can trigger physical, emotional, and sexual changes. It can be like going through puberty. The changes you experience and how soon they happen can vary.

Physical changes may include:

  • Acne.
  • Changes in where fat is stored.
  • Stopped menstruation (usually within 6 months).
  • Growth of the clitoris.
  • More hair on the body and face.
  • Male pattern hair loss.
  • More muscle mass.
  • Thinning of the skin in the vagina.
  • Voice changes.

Some of these changes will go away if you stop treatment. Others (like growth of the clitoris, hair loss or gain, and voice changes) are permanent.

Emotional changes are also common. You may find that you feel some emotions differently than you did before taking testosterone. Or you might find that your tastes and interests change.

Many people have an increase in sex drive after starting testosterone. Some people have changes in sexual desire or who they're attracted to.

What are the risks?

Testosterone therapy is safe for most people. But there are some risks. For example, the treatment can cause your body to make too many red blood cells. This can cause blood clots and other problems.

Taking testosterone may make you infertile. But it may not. You may still get pregnant while taking it, and it can cause serious problems with the fetus. So use birth control if you have sex with someone who makes sperm. If you think you may want biological children at some point, talk to your doctor about your options. You may be able to preserve eggs and store them for later use. It's best to do this before starting testosterone.

Your doctor will monitor you to see if testosterone therapy is changing your risk for other health issues, such as heart disease, liver problems, and diabetes. You'll be watched closely after you start therapy and then monitored at regular checkups.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.