Words by Max @theyrequeer (they/him)
Each year, Transgender Awareness Week serves as a time of reflection and celebration to raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people to shed light on issues the community faces. This year, TAW takes place November 13 through November 19, culminating with the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Wednesday, November 20 to observe and honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost to anti-trans violence.
Follow along on social media to learn more about what you can do to advocate for the visibility, protection, and human rights of transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive people both near to you and around the world.
*Please note, this article uses the words vagina and vulva to refer to relevant body parts. These words are being used for reference and clarity purposes, and do not relate to a Trans person's gender identity or preferred language for their own body*
Why do people take testosterone?
Testosterone therapy, or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is used for a wide variety of reasons by people who are assigned female at birth (AFAB). Commonly, Trans or non-binary AFAB individuals will take testosterone as part of a medical transition, often to encourage more traditionally masculine features and bodily changes, like a lower voice or facial hair. Cisgender AFAB people have also often been proscribed testosterone as part of HRT to treat the symptoms of menopause, peri-menopause or conditions caused by hormone imbalances.
My experiences with testosterone as a Trans Man
My experience with testosterone started in November 2020 after coming out as a Transgender man. For me, testosterone was a necessary part of the process to allow me to present as male. I was experiencing intense gender dysphoria from my physical attributes as an AFAB person; my hips, facial features and voice, to name a few. Despite being able to cut my hair short, wear “men's” clothing and use a different name, I knew needed the physical changes of testosterone therapy to help me feel more comfortable in my body. A year and a half on and I find gender euphoria in every small change my body goes through; my voice has deepened, my shoulders and jawline have broadened, and my body hair has gone from non-existent to almost untamable. Testosterone has allowed the body I show to the world to match how I perceive myself internally, and allowed me to develop a level of comfort and confidence in myself that I did not know was possible.
Max receives Trans flag colored flowers to mark the first step to HRT
The side effect of testosterone that no one talks about
Although the majority of effects of testosterone therapy are welcomed by those taking it, a common yet rarely discussed side effect is vaginal atrophy. Defined as the decreasing resilience of vaginal tissues due to the lowering in estrogen levels. Vaginal atrophy results in the skin of the vagina and vulva becoming more prone to tears or micro-abrasions, especially for those engaging in penetrative sex. This can result in pain and irritation both during sexual activity and even day to day movement. Atrophy also increases the likelihood of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and conditions such as bacterial vaginosis(BV). Although common, these conditions can be incredibly uncomfortable and difficult to successfully treat for people undertaking testosterone therapy.
It can also be difficult for non-female presenting people to advocate for topical estrogen or medication for these conditions. Speaking to a doctor can often require an uncomfortable conversation where a Trans person has to out themselves, and refer to their body parts in ways they do not feel comfortable with. These experiences are worsened by a lack of understanding of gender diversity within the medical field, where healthcare providers are frequently undertrained on the needs of their Trans patients.
A side by side comparison of Max before and after he medically transitioned
How can Momotaro help?
As a Trans man experiencing many of the unpleasant side effects of testosterone, I started using Momotaro products to reduce instances of UTIs, BV and irritation. I was uncomfortable with having to frequently use the gendered and over the counter products, which were expensive and contained harsh chemicals. Queuing in busy pharmacies to try and quietly tell the staff what I needed, only to be loudly questioned about the why and how was always an overwhelmingly negative experience. Not to mention when those products either didn’t work or worked for a small period of time before the side effects of testosterone started again around my shot schedule.
For me, the self-advocacy required to engage with healthcare professionals is incredibly dysphoria inducing, adding stress and discomfort to an already painful experience. I found myself feeling defeated and perpetually uncomfortable. I even got to the point where I was avoiding intimacy because even if I wasn’t already experiencing symptoms, I knew most forms of sex would result in them.
Scrolling through Instagram one day I came across Momotaro (via the incredible Ask a Sub). Intrigued and frankly at this point, a little desperate, I bought the Salve and Tonic and tried using it a couple of times a week. I found that the instances of irritation and infection I was experiencing reduced significantly, and I was able to feel more comfortable both physically and mentally. It also helped that all of the Momotaro range is ungendered, leaving behind the dreaded “femcare” in favor of vulvovaginal care for all bodies. Momotaro Apotheca products allowed me to focus on my life and transition without frequent discomfort and trips to the pharmacy.
I always say that the real end goal of Trans Activism is simply for Trans people to be able to exist without constantly thinking about being Trans, and for me, this was a small step in that direction.
Regardless of the side effects, testosterone has saved and improved my life in so many ways. If you’re also experiencing side effects, or are thinking about testosterone therapy, check out the resources below for advice on self-advocacy and gynecological care.
Max (pronouns: They/He) is a Trans content producer and activist based in London. Max works with brands to help them reach the LGBTQ+ community on both a personal and professional basis. They believe that representation and authentic voices are the keys to advancing LGBTQ+ rights, especially for the Trans+ community. With that in mind, Max is currently sharing every step of his medical transition journey on his Instagram, whilst supporting brands and organizations to better serve, support and empower the Trans community.
Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.