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My Year as a Biohacker

My Year as a Biohacker

Photography: Zak Krevitt

How Hormone Replacement Therapy rewrote my body's code & rebuilt my mind.

Science is wonderful and terrible in equal measure, but the fact that we can hack into a body's code and literally rewrite the way it operates and presents is nothing short of a marvel. Trans people undergoing hormone replacement therapy are, in a way, cyborgs, hybrids, a testament to the power of both personal identity and medical advancement.
I started chemically transitioning exactly one year ago. Living in New York City, access was easy: I made a trip to my local queer health center (they exist), talked to a doctor about my experience with gender dysphoria, and moments later had an appointment to begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
For trans women, hormone replacement therapy consists of blocking testosterone production with drugs, such as Spironolactone, and inducing estrogen through intramuscular injection, pills or patches. I chose to be a shot girl because there seemed to be something punk about shooting up with estrogen once a week, plus I'm a bit of a masochist. My first shot was a magical experience; as I sent up a prayer of gratitude to the Goddess and aligned my spirit with a wavelength of feminine energy, the balding nurse told me to "take your pants off, man." Tears welled up in my eyes as I finally communed with the physical embodiment of divine femininity and the nurse exited as quickly as possible. After three weeks of administered shots, I was given a tutorial and started administering them myself.
It took a month or so before I was really able to measure the changes in my energy, mental processes and emotional landscape. Blockers left me lazy and lethargic, unable to do anything more ambitious then walk the two blocks from my apartment to Popeyes. Estrogen made me moody one day, ecstatic the next. The day or two after I took my shot came with an incredible high; I felt vibrant and feminine, food tasted better, the world seemed brighter. As the estrogen slowly leached out of my system, I'd be white knuckling it until I could feel human again. I was an emotionally unstable, irritable bitch the day leading up to my next shot.
My sex drive disappeared almost immediately after beginning HRT, my body no longer producing testosterone. It wasn't only that I didn't feel like having sex, the absence of desire was total. Gone was the aimless need to hunt for Dick. I deleted my hook up apps and suddenly had hours, days, weeks where I never once thought about sex - or men at all, really. The testosterone-driven desire to hunt down prey had evaporated. But as the weeks wore on I had new desires: recurring dreams of someone stroking my hair in soft candlelight, the need to cuddle with and show physical affection to my friends.
After two months, the physical changes really started to kick in. My nipples became so sore that some days even the weight of my t-shirt was unbearable. I had sex one day when I was bored and remembered that fucking was a thing and when the boy suckled at my budding breasts I whited out in agony. Once, a car door hit my nipple and I almost passed out from the pain.
The changes to my body were subtle, but shocking over time. As the months went I visibly softened; my face filling out, my body curving. My skin literally became thinner. My back hair disappeared and my body hair turned light, growing more slowly. The more my body changed, the more I finally felt like my body was finally mine. But that also meant that when people still looked at me and assumptively gendered me as male, it hurt so much worse.
Being misgendered causes you to question your entire reality. I'd walk out of your apartment tits out, full face of makeup, feeling full cunt and my Uber driver (confession: I re-downloaded Uber after I ran out of Lyft credits, sorry) says "Where to, sir?" This is doubly annoying because the whole point of Uber is that your driver already knows where you're going, but your whole carefully-constructed sense of self takes this humongous hit and you think, "Am I the crazy one?" Things I'd never been dysphoric about started to drive me wild: my dad told me the reason he had trouble with deadnaming me was that he'd expected my voice to change and it hasn't. Now my voice is something I obsess about, and it's the thing that makes people clock me more than anything. I'd never wanted FFS (Facial Feminization Surgery, essentially having your face cracked open as to no longer look like a dude), but after a few friends got it and I saw the equally subtle and dramatic ways it changed them I was dying to go under the knife.
As the months went on my sex drive returned, altered as it was. Sex isn't just about my dick anymore, and orgasm isn't always the ultimate goal. My body is sensitive in different places, and being held or kissed or told I'm pretty can do wonders.
After a year undergoing hormone replacement therapy, I believe I have enough objective insight to make some generalizations about men and women, or at least about people with predominantly estrogen in their system versus people with predominantly testosterone. Testosterone made me feel predatory and impulsive, but I was also more easily able to separate myself from emotion and operate with cool logic. Estrogen has made me more empathic and emotional, which has also meant that strong emotions have the power to completely overwhelm me until I literally cannot deal with the world around me.
HRT has irrevocably changed my body, my mind, and the way I see myself and the world. I'm more present in my body than I ever have been before, more engaged in the way it responds to the world around me and more aware of the way the world responds to it. It's incredible how merely altering the chemicals coursing through your veins can disrupt the way you operate. Most days I feel like a biohacker, having altered my body's code so that what was once a stream of numbers I had no way to comprehend has become something beautifully, viscerally real.
And my tits are incredible.
Rose Dommu is a New York-based DJ, writer, queer party promoter and co-founder of The Culture Whore. Follow her on Instagram @dreamgrrrrrl.
Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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