Female to male (FTM) transsexuality has long been a marginalised issue, meaning that there is limited medical information available on the long-term effects of testosterone usage. Anecdotal evidence can chart the short-term physical changes but very little data exists for transmen about the risks of heart diseases, increased blood pressure, osteoporosis or the dangers of double dosing.
The Gender Centre and FTM Australia will each be holding information sessions this month for lesbians interested in the use of testosterone. The physical and emotional impact of transitioning will be examined, as well as a number of the health issues surrounding testosterone administration.
Elizabeth Riley, coordinator of the Gender Centre, says that despite the lack of definitive research, more FTMs are transitioning now than ever before. Riley said that information sessions, like the one being held at the Gender Centre, are a good way of generating an awareness of the hormone regime and providing a support network for transgender men and boys.
In the last five years we have seen a significant increase in the number of female-to-males coming through the centre to use the services. But the transition itself is just one area we are focussing on at the centre because the impact of the hormone treatments tends to involve much more than just what happens to one physically, Riley said.
There is often a lot of counselling needed around the impact of that transition on an individual. There are many factors that come into it, like the changes in lifestyle and how one is perceived in the world.
The bottom line is that nobody knows what the long-term health risks associated with testosterone are. However, due to the emerging numbers of transmen using the hormone for prolonged periods, the short-term physical effects can now be charted.
The impact that an individual experiences tends to be what they are seeking. The hormone regimes that FTMs go onto in order to create that transition have a very similar effect to standard male puberty, Riley said.
With the doses of testosterone, the impact would be like that of any boy that grows into manhood. That includes muscle development, deepening of the voice, as well as the growth of body and facial hair.
According to Riley, these are just a few of the complex issues that will be raised at the Gender Centre’s information evening.
Unlike the Gender Centre, which is partly funded by government health bodies, FTM Australia is a voluntary peer support network. Both organisations have the same basic aim though, which is to provide education, support and affirmation for transmen.
FTM Australia publishes a bi-monthly magazine called Torque, to identify friendly service providers and medical practitioners and to help transmen come to terms with their masculine identities.
The object of the group is to help transmen lead healthy and fulfilling lives and the board of nine people regularly meets to organise workshops and events.
This month FTM Australia have invited Leo Turner to give a talk about testosterone in relation to FTMs, transmen and others affirming their masculinity.
Turner is a clinical nurse consultant in andrology at the Andrology Unit at Concord Hospital, so there will be a number of informative topics discussed, such as the options of shots or pellets for hormone delivery and the types of medical follow-ups necessary for the treatments.
It is becoming quite clear that the numbers of transgender men and boys requiring emotional and medical support are significantly increasing. Both FTM Australia and the Gender Centre are providing a much-needed service for transmen and they also assist the partners, family and friends of transitioning FTMs in what can sometimes be a difficult but rewarding process.