Increasing my estradiol dosage from 4 mg to 8 mg was at first a lot to handle. I’m beginning to grasp what it means to have a different chemical balance in my brain and how to describe it. In the past I used the word “heightened,” but to elaborate more, I would say things feel a certain intensity that they didn’t before transitioning.

Just like adjusting to any medication, there was initially a period of adapting to the new regime. My body has gotten used to the high levels of estrogen coursing through my veins, and while a shift in my routine schedule had the potential to disrupt my pattern of thought, it was never something that disrupted my day-to-day functionality. Occasionally I still have off days, but when I feel this state, one of the biggest factors to handling how I feel is striving for self-actualization and self-awareness; I have to work to realize why I’m feeling this way. This alone helps in processing my feelings and emotions. Working through problems with ration and logic helps in identifying if a struggle is really because of the medication or if it’s indicative of something larger.

This is not to say the hormone replacement therapy isn’t having positive effects. In just a few months, I’ve already been visibly changing in subtle ways. April was the last show I could ever perform without a shirt, without it really changing the dynamic of the performance. My breasts are beginning to form and there’s a sensitivity in my nipples that I’ve never felt before. I swear, they’re hard enough to cut glass sometimes.

Medication helps with a lot, but my voice still needs work. Vocal chords are something that go unaffected by medication and my solution to finding a new voice is simply practice. I’ve always had a fairly midrange voice, but I’ve never had a very large range. I’m not much of a singer, and the concept of the intricacies of the voice go far beyond raising pitch. Rather than doing this alone, I’ve asked my doctor for recommendations for professionals who can help with feminizing my voice. I’m scheduled for an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist who helps transgender patients find their voice. Insurance is even covering this, which is a huge relief. I’ve heard insurance providers can be finicky to cover transition-related things, but so far the only procedure I’ve found that they won’t cover is electrolysis.

Electrolysis is a procedure that removes hair permanently. Hair growth has seemingly slowed with the increased estrogen, but to remove facial shadow completely I need these treatments. Sessions are usually an hour and are supposedly quite painful. It’s actually considered a surgery, an elective surgery. They’re also costly, at around 80 dollars a session. I found financial relief through a discount on Groupon, but that’s for a single session, and I need several hours of treatment to clear areas that would give me noticeable results. I’m in the process of saving up for that now getting treatments when I can. In the future there may be other procedures I want done and insurance may not cover those either. All I can do is cross those bridges when I get there.

The changes in my body give me an opportunity to wear clothes I previously couldn’t fill out and that didn’t look right in the past. It feels great to be able to wear what I want, and actually have the body for it. I’ve been making efforts to focus less on “passing,” and instead to just go for the best look I can. That helps my confidence on days when I don’t feel as cute. The most important goal to set is just being the best version of yourself you can be.

I run into people I haven’t seen for months, and they ask if I have been working out, or comment on how I look different. I try to fight the urge to play it off in any way, and instead to let people know what’s going on in the least awkward way I can. Old relationships can be awkward and it’s been easier with people I’ve never met as Lynette. Reactions are typically curious, but for the most part, positive. With social media today, people find out things at rapid pace. As a result, a lot of people whom I didn’t get the chance to sit down and have a face to face discussion with end up approaching me to inquire.

Face to face is only a part of identity these days. Changing your online identity such as social media, user accounts and emails is something I don’t see a lot of discussion about. I’m lucky in that I’ve never had a big presence online. My Facebook is private and my Twitter is inactive. I still need old accounts for some matters, so I still have attachments to an old name there. With some sites and apps having two accounts is really tricky; I have to remember double the passwords. Companies like eBay and PayPal make it difficult and require proof of ID change, which is still in the works. It’s just frustrating to having to deal with the ghost of an old identity immortalized in cyberspace. No matter who you are or what you plan to do with your life, I think everyone could benefit from caution in putting your name out there for all to see.