There’s a persistent belief among transwomen that cycling HRT, usually with some sort of “three weeks on, one week off” cycle, may benefit the transition process. The reasoning usually offered is making the observation that ciswomen’s hormone levels go up and down with…
What a patronizing crock of shit. This is pure junk science with a whole bunch of internalized transmisogyny mixed in. Here’s why:
1. Trans women don’t just take hormones so our “bodies develop.” Many, if not most of us, who choose HRT do so because of the mental and emotional benefits of having our dominant hormone system line up with our identity as females (or other non-male identities). This is a huge part of dealing with dysphoria for me and many others, and it’s not some placebo effect nonsense- Estrogen and Progesterone have extensively documented mental effects. In that context, cycling makes perfect sense whether or not it has the remotest effect on secondary sexual characteristic development. The idea that trans women would exclusively be concerned about the appearance of our bodies rather than our internal well-being meshes precisely with age-old shitty tropes: about the artificiality of femininity in general and of trans-femininity in particular, and about the availability of our bodies to others.
2. The OP said it herself: “there has never been a clinical study done on such cycling, at least not one that has made it into PubMed.” A good scientist, confronted with a lack of research, does not throw up her hands and say “well THAT question must be worthless!” She first wonders why the research hasn’t been done (hmm, could it have anything to do with the extensive social and structural bias against trans women and the near-total lack of representation in the field of endocrinology?). Then, she actually does the research. This post is such a classic, perfect example of internalizing and re-inscribing the transmisogyny of scientific and medical establishments rather than working to undo the damage done to trans women and to the legitimacy of those fields by systemic oppression. Trans lives, trans opinions, and trans practices are priceless and invaluable, and I refuse to accept them being waved away as “anecdotal” at the same time that medical establishments routinely refuse to privilege our voices in discussions of our own healthcare.
My post has apparently struck a nerve, but your anger seems to be directed at a caricature of what I actually wrote.
First, at no point did I say that the only reason we undergo HRT is to change our bodies, and reacting as if that was what I said is a form of argumentative strawman. I said that there is a common view that cycling hormones (sometimes just progesterone) somehow aids in the development of bodies (usually breast development). And it *is* common; search many trans-dedicated forums and resource pages online and you’ll see it discussed as such. In fact, here are some examples:
These are not “shitty tropes”; these are real women who are honestly interested in the potential physical benefits of hormone cycling.
Second, you are also misrepresenting my position regarding the research and science. Nowhere did I say the question was worthless or that no one should bother testing it. I was simply pointing out that, to date, there is no supporting evidence beyond anecdote that cycling has any benefit to physical development. Is it possible that cycling has benefits to physical development? Sure. But it’s just as likely, in the absence of evidence, to have detrimental effects on physical development. In the absence of evidence, the null hypothesis — that cycling has no known benefits to physical development — is the best position to take.That’s not transmisogyny; that’s just sound critical thinking.
I would love to see more — MUCH more — research done on transgender health and science. And yes, there is a lot of transmisogyny and marginalization out there that is helping to prevent good science being done. But a lack of evidence is still a lack of evidence, regardless of the cause.
If mimicking the menstrual cycle for the emotional or mental benefit works for you, then by all means, keep at it. But if a woman is out there cycling because she’s working under the belief that it will somehow aid in her physical development, then she should be aware of the current state of knowledge on the subject.