Sex hormones are the chemicals in our bodies which are responsible for our secondary sex characteristics - the features of our bodies, other than genitals, that make our bodies socially understood as 'male' or 'female'. Trans people may take hormone replacement therapy to change their bodies more with how they feel they should look or how they wish to look.
Endocrinology is the study and treatment of hormones and endocrinologists are the people that study and treat people around their endocrine and hormone needs. This is a wide and varied practice and treating trans people will only be some of the patients that they see.
Hormone blockers are sometimes prescribed to young trans people before or during puberty. The purpose of hormone blockers is to temporarily halt the effects of puberty, until the trans person has either met the criteria for a cross-sex hormones prescription, or decides to resume 'natural' puberty. The effects of hormone blockers are temporary, and therefore puberty will resume when they are stopped if no other intervention is chosen.
This can give young trans people appropriate time and breathing space to ensure that they are sure about the permanent effects of cross-sex hormones, without the adverse effects of an incorrect puberty.
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for masculinisation (also known as 'virilisation'). It can be prescribed to trans men or non-binary people to induce masculinising changes to their bodies. These prescriptions are made after diagnosis of gender dysphoria by the health practitioners at a Gender Identity Clinic or Gender Identity Development Service
The most common forms of testosterone involve either an intra-muscular injection, or are applied topically. Some people choose to a testosterone that will be a IM (intra-muscular) Injections, which can be self-injected or administered by a nurse. Others will opt for a topical testosterone is designed to be self-applied. Brands of testosternone include Sustanon 250, Testosterone Enanthate, Nebido, Andropatch, Testogel, Testim
Oestrogen is the hormone responsible for feminising the body. It is often prescribed to trans women as part of medical transition. These prescriptions are made after diagnosis of gender dysphoria by the health practitioners at a Gender Identity Clinic or Gender Identity Development Service.
Commonly prescribed oestrogens are Oestradiol patches, Oestradiol gel, Oestradiol / Oestradiol valerate tablets, conjugated equine oestrogen, ethinylestradiol
Self-medicating is when people choose to take hormones without a prescription. (This is not the same as injecting medication prescribed by a doctor yourself at home.)
There are a number of reasons why people may choose to self-medicate:
• They feel the process of getting hormones prescribed legally is taking too long but are unable or do not wish to pay for private consultations
• They may have had a bad experience with doctors or been refused a hormone prescription
• They are not fully informed about the process of obtaining hormones legally and are unaware of their options
However, self-medicating is not advisable. Many hormones, particularly testosterone, are illegal to possess or sell without a prescription (unprescribed testosterone is a Class C illegal drug). This is because taking hormones without being monitored properly by a doctor can cause the body serious harm. Hormones bought illegally are usually more expensive and may be of a lower quality than prescription medication. If you have decided to self-medicate you should at least ensure you take blood tests to ensure you are healthy for the duration of the treatment. Without this, you could be causing yourself serious damage.
CliniQ offer blood tests for people who are self-medicating with hormones to ensure they are staying healthy. They can't test your hormone levels for you, but they can check vital things like liver function to ensure you are not doing damage to your body.
For further reading on hormones you may wish to look at A guide to hormone therapy for trans people