3/16/10

Black market hormones put trans folks’ lives in danger

Cross posted from McGill Daily

A couple of summers ago, I met a transwoman in New York City who was planning on ordering estrogen and an anti-androgen over the Internet. She had conducted meticulous research and claimed to have figured out the proper dosage, given her weight, her medical history, and other factors.

My reaction: “Isn’t that dangerous?”

Hormones produce sweeping effects on the body. In addition to encouraging the development of secondary sex characteristics, hormones also affect one’s libido, alcohol tolerance, and behaviour. Testosterone affects heart functioning and can increase the risk of sleep apnea. Estrogen generally produces sterility in transwomen in under a year.

Many buyers lack the information to determine the correct dosage, which varies from person to person. And without the help of medical providers, most people either cannot or do not monitor their hormone levels – which is necessary to prevent harmful effects.

The way you take hormones can produce additional risks. Hormone pills strain the liver, which has to process the hormones that one’s body produces naturally and those delivered by the pills at the same time. Hormone injections necessarily involve needle use – without safeguards, some people use unclean needles or share them with other people, increasing the risk of spreading HIV and other infections.

The black market also leaves buyers without legal protections. Unscrupulous sellers can scam them by providing impure dosages or substituting the wrong substance without legal repercussions.

Despite all of these risks, I never had to wonder why she chose that way to transition. For her, the other options were extreme depression or suicide. When those are the alternative, dangerous choices make sense.

Continue reading at http://mcgilldaily.com/articles/28604