- By Laurel Kelly
Consumer Health: Hormone therapy for people who are transgender
Transgender is an umbrella term used to capture the spectrum of gender identity and gender-expression diversity. Gender identity is the internal sense of being male, female, neither or both. Gender expression involves the expression of a person's gender identity through social roles, appearance and behaviors.
Most children categorize their own gender by 3. However, because gender stereotypes are reinforced, some children learn to behave in ways that bring them the most reward, despite their authentic gender identity.
Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that can occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics. People who are transgender might experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. But not everyone is affected. Some people who are transgender feel at ease with their bodies, either with or without medical intervention.
Feminizing hormone therapy involves taking medication to block the action of testosterone, as well as taking estrogen to decrease testosterone production and induce feminine secondary sex characteristics. If feminizing hormone therapy is started before the changes of male puberty begin, male secondary sex characteristics, such as increased body hair and changes in voice pitch, can be avoided.
Masculinizing hormone therapy involves taking testosterone, which suppresses menstrual cycles and decreases the production of estrogen from the ovaries. If masculinizing hormone therapy is started before the changes of female puberty begin, female secondary sex characteristics, such as the development of breasts, can be avoided.
Hormone therapy isn't right for all people who are transgender. Both feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy can affect fertility and sexual function, and cause other health problems. Your health care provider can help you weigh the risks and benefits.