Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy (HT), also called hormone replacement therapy (HRT), for transgender people involves taking estrogen and testosterone. Hormones are produced by the endocrine system, which is made up of glands that release chemical hormones into the bloodstream.

Among other functions, hormones control sex characteristics, like breast development, facial hair, and reproductive systems. Both men and women produce these hormones, but biologically, women produce more estrogen while men produce more testosterone.

Transgender people use hormones during the anatomical and psychological transition to another sex and gender. Hormones allow transgender people to look like the other sex and to feel comfortable; they improve their functioning and limit the potential for depression and anxiety.

Effects of Hormone Therapy

The feminizing effects of estrogen and the masculinizing effects of testosterone may appear after the first couple of doses, though it may be several years before a person is satisfactorily transitioned.

Requirements for Hormone Therapy in Adults

The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association provides the following eligibility and readiness criteria for transgender adults seeking hormone therapy:

Eligibility

  • Legal age of majority (age 18 in the United States)
  • Demonstrable knowledge of what hormones can and cannot medically do and hormone benefits and risks
  • Either real-life experience of at least 3 months living in the desired role or a period of psychotherapy (usually at least 3 months) specified by a mental health professional

Readiness

  • Real-life experience or psychotherapy has further consolidated gender identity.
  • Patient has made progress in improving or continuing stable mental health (implies control of sociopathy, substance abuse, psychosis, and suicidal tendencies).
  • Patient is deemed likely to take hormones responsibly.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Jul 2001

Last Modified: 08 Oct 2015