I figured that this site is probably the most safest and inclusive place for a trans skeptic, so hopefully you can confirm my suspicions!

I’m a FTM that’s sorta in the closet, and is even still on the fence about “formally” transitioning with T [testosterone] and surgery at the moment. However, I heard a lot of fellow trans guys talk about transitioning “naturally” with the help of diet, exercise, and supplements. While I know such a thing will never replace some testosterone, the idea of lightly transitioning to see how I like it is rather lucrative.

However, all I’m seeing is a push to buy a book, which seems rather sketchy. (The book is sold here.) But I did find a forum post where they detail the supplements.

This is a bunch of quackery and a placebo for confidence, right?

Y

Dear Y,

I bet you expected to hear from Amy. It’s me, Debbie, instead! I haven’t tackled one of these questions before, but since Amy’s been kidnapped by pirates I thought I’d step in. Before I start, I should say this: I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, and I have no formal training in medicine, nutrition, or psychology. (From the look of it, the authors of the book you linked to don’t either, though.) I can weigh in on your question, but if you’re asking for solid medical advice, you should talk to a trans-friendly doctor.<end disclaimer>

You may wonder why I’m answering your question at all. Long story short, I considered transitioning when I was in my early 20s. I researched everything I could; subscribed to relevant newsletters; attended trans-themed lectures, events, and (sadly) memorial services; and participated in the WeXist Support Group, a “[f]riendly, non-political support group for transmen, female-to-male transexuals (FTM), and anyone who was assigned female at birth with gender identity issues or questions.” Good times. At some point I realized that I’m personally more interested in breaking down the gender binary than in jumping from one side to the other. (When websites ask me for my gender, I answer based on how I feel at the moment — unless it’s for the TSA, in which case, I’m a woman! Don’t touch my junk!)

I also did bodybuilding and was into supplements for a while. And my sister is a bodybuilder and former personal trainer.

      
She may be a bodybuilding crossdressing pirate with superpowers, but she had nothing to do with Amy’s kidnapping, I swear.

This isn’t about us, though. When it comes to gender identity and transsexualism, where you want to go, who you want to be, and how you want to do it is up to you, of course. But since you asked, here are some of my thoughts on the links you sent.

So there’s a book, Natural Transitioning: an FTM alternative:

Natural Transitioning™ was founded by Tristan and Sicily Skye and is what they label the process of transitioning from female to male (FTM) by raising the testosterone levels your body naturally produces, without injecting testosterone or other methods. This book contains years of research on the 3-step NT plan: supplements, diet and weight training.

Good, “Natural Transitioning” is trademarked. Wouldn’t want someone else using that phrase illegitimately. Let’s take a closer look at what they’re peddling.

Transitioning “naturally”

When advertisers use the term “natural”, my skeptic-sense tingles. This plan involves “supplements, diet and weight training.” Diet is natural; lifting heavy things is natural; let’s see what kinds of supplements they’re recommending:

FOURTH 6 WEEKS & BEYOND:

1. Animal Cuts OR Lipo 6X OR Hydroxycut OR Meltdown – or other similar fat burner: Rotate/Cycle fat burners every 6 weeks – do not take the same one for more than 6 weeks or your body will become immune to it.
2. Novedex XT OR Anabolic Signal OR Animal M-STAK OR CryoTest — Adding and cycling in these T boosters will have greater effect, but you will need to monitor yourself closer. You MUST cycle/rotate every 6 weeks. Like the fat burners, do not take the same one for more than 6 weeks. If these “xtras” are proving to have a negative effect on you, stop using immediately.
3. L-Glutamine: Add 1 tbsp. of powder to your drink you take with you to the gym
4. ZMA (or) B-6, Zinc, Magnesium: 3 capsules of ZMA OR 15mg of B-6, 450 mg of Magnesium and 30mg of Zinc — take before bed for best results (or you can choose to split up between lunch and before bed)
5. Tribulus Terrestris (with 40% saponins): 250mg each capsule – take 1 after breakfast, 2 after lunch and 2 before bed
6. DHEA: 50 mg after lunch, 100 mg before bed
7. Milk Thistle: 2 capsule after lunch
8. Dandelion: 2 capsule after lunch
9. Fish Oil: 1 capsule after breakfast, 1 after lunch, 1 before bed
10. Flax Seed Oil: 1 after breakfast
11. Allicin Garlic *if you don’t eat much garlic*: 1 capsule after your meal of choice
12. Multi-Vitamin: 1 capsule after your meal of choice
13. Animal FLEX — esp if lifting heavy in gym
14. Creatine — take as directed — take for 6 weeks, then do NOT take for 6 weeks (cycle on and OFF of this)

Wait, what? Wow. The list includes fat burners, muscle builders, testosterone boosters, estrogen blockers, diuretics, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins. Sure, dandelions and garlic are natural (although I’ve never seen them in nature in capsule form). But taking fourteen different capsule and powder supplements multiple times a day is pretty far from what most people would consider “natural”. Also, since supplements in the U.S. aren’t as regulated as I wish they were, it’s hard to know what you’re actually taking.

It looks like their advice is to diet like a professional bodybuilder, work out like a professional bodybuilder, and take supplements like a professional natural bodybuilder (while paying attention to your kidney function), and in a few years, you could have a lower voice, some facial hair, and a more masculine appearance — naturally!

So the line they’re drawing between “natural” and “not-natural” depends on whether or not you’re putting the hormone testosterone directly into your body — which is weird, considering that DHEA is a powerful hormone too…so I’m not sure why a twice-monthly shot of T would be considered less “natural” than sticking to this list.

I mentioned natural bodybuilders. Decades ago, some bodybuilders who recognized that there was almost no way they could compete fairly with steroid-using bodybuilders created the natural bodybuilding movement. At their competitions, participants are tested for steroids and other substances that would give them an unfair advantage (although I’d still consider those fake tans to be pretty unnatural).

The transmen in the forum you linked to had their doubts about the effectiveness of Natural Transitioning™ too. Curious about whether the program would even work, I called Denise James, co-owner of United Fitness. She’s an experienced natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, and registered nurse who has been involved in professional bodybuilding for about 30 years.

When I shared the supplement list with Denise, she expressed surprise and suggested that a careful diet and exercise plan would render many of the supplements unnecessary. The list includes bodybuilding standards like L-glutamine, an amino acid often recommend pre- and post-exercise for muscle building and repair; and creatine, which also assists with muscle-building. For natural bodybuilders, DHEA intake is generally limited to 50 mg/day, less than the 150 mg/day listed above.

I asked her if following the prescribed routine would result in masculinization: a deeper voice, increased body hair, etc. She said that women who are natural bodybuilders don’t generally experience those effects, but she’s seen a lot of virilization among women who take steroids.

Hm. So what does Natural Transitioning™ have going for it?

Natural?

Debatable. Why describe the recommended supplement regimen as “natural” in contrast to testosterone injections? (Some argue that transitioning isn’t “natural” anyway…) And consider that some FTMs undergo hysterectomies, which lowers estrogen production. Some, including Tristan Skye (one of the Natural Transitioning™ authors), choose to undergo “top” surgery (bilateral mastectomy) — does that count as natural? That line between “natural” and “unnatural” is arbitrary.

Cost-effective?

Eh. Some transmen have medical insurance that will cover at least some of the cost of T, which would certainly be cheaper than purchasing all those supplements. Perhaps lacking insurance would make NT more worthwhile as long as one has a membership to a good gym?

Easy to do?

An injection into the buttocks every two weeks might be a pain in the ass (ha!), but taking up to fourteen supplements multiple times a day while living the regimented life of a bodybuilder requires a heck of a lot of motivation and a crapton of willpower. Most of us don’t have the ability to commit to that.

Avoid being diagnosed with a disorder?

In order for many U.S. insurance companies to cover the cost of testosterone therapy legitimately, a person first has to be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, which some transmen might want to avoid. (I don’t know much about the guidelines in other countries.)

Change over time?

You mention in your question that “the idea of lightly transitioning to see how I like it” is attractive. The big changes from testosterone therapy aren’t instantaneous (although many experience oilier skin and acne, a quicker temper, and increased libido relatively soon). Although results vary, three months of testosterone could lead to a slightly lower voice, a bit more fuzz on the face, some longer darker hairs under the chin, and more muscles if one is working out. For many FTMs, the changes from T can’t come quickly enough! And one can always stop injections at any point (although as you know, some of the changes aren’t reversible).

Natural Transitioning™ may effect some major changes over time if you follow the strict regimen, decrease body fat, build lots of muscle, etc. That’s years of commitment to reach the point of possibly having some chin hair and a moderately lower voice.

So as long as you don’t have kidney, liver, or heart issues and can deal with taking testosterone, DHEA, or the other supplements listed, the direction you choose depends on what you want to try to be. Do you want to go through the teenage-boy process very slowly, or get through it as quickly as your body allows? If all a transguy requires is for his friends, family, and coworkers to treat him as a man, but he’s less concerned with passing in public, he might choose not to do hormones or surgery at all — he might just want to make sure that the people close to him use male pronouns, basically. If he’s looking to pass in the wider world as much as possible and as soon as possible, testosterone is a good way to go. If he wants his body and appearance to be as masculine as possible, with facial hair, more body hair, a lower voice, and a more masculine figure, testosterone is again the most guaranteed way to get there. But if, say, you don’t have insurance but have a good chunk of disposable income, or if you’re not in a hurry about transitioning and can be diligent about working out and dieting, then natural bodybuilding with supplements — I mean Natural Transitioning™ — might seem appealing. (It’ll also make you super-buff!) However, it’s my view that engaging in a pricey long-term supplement experiment on oneself, especially without checking in regularly with an endocrinologist, seems too risky and unnecessary if better alternatives exist.

 

 

Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.

DebGod

DebGod

Debbie is keenly interested in secularism, skepticism, magic and deception, LGBTQ issues, language and perception, and general geekery. She works at the Center for Inquiry as director of outreach, director of African Americans for Humanism, and intro-doer for Point of Inquiry. You can find her on Twitter: @debgod.

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47 Comments

  1. Avatar of rjblaskiewicz
    September 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm —

    Is it just me, or do bodybuilders always look profoundly uncomfortable?

    • Avatar of DebGod
      September 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm —

      They have to be! Relaxed muscles don’t look as defined.

  2. Avatar of TheNerd
    September 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm —

    Wow, I had to double-check that I didn’t submit this question and forgot, since I posted almost the exact same question to a few skeptic boards. Glad to see someone else sent it in while I was thinking about it!

    I’m genderqueer, and I don’t want to go on T for two reasons: one, no health insurance; two, I’d rather not go “all the way” in my physical transformation. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a third hormone besides testosterone and estrogen (assuming I could afford it). I had the same thought of popping other supplements, but to be quite honest, that long list scares the bejeebus out of me.

    My personal solution is to get really good at cross-dressing, and to make sure to surround myself with supportive friends.

    • Avatar of Natalie
      September 26, 2011 at 4:14 pm —

      The fun thing is that nowadays with the whole Gatekeepy system gradually breaking down, there’s no longer a specific, required road that you’re forced to go down. You could take very small, weekly shots of T… like enough to stimulate some facial hair and muscle growth, but not enough to totally drop your voice or give you the acne or the crazy uncontrollable libido. You could elect for top surgery but not bother with lower surgery (this is actually pretty common). You could even change your name and “socially transition” without bothering with any medical aspects at all. And if a particular doctor starts pushing you to go “all the way” or do anything you’re uncomfortable with, you just go and get a different doctor.

      One thing I absolutely love about the trans community is how incredibly diverse it is. You have people of multiple genders, different age groups, different end goals, different HRT regimes, different desires and needs regarding surgery, different concepts and views on identity and what gender is and means, etc. Sometimes it makes it a bit hard to find people I can wholly “relate” to, but it makes it an interesting and dynamic community. Just 15 years ago there was an extremely specific set path you HAD to follow. You HAD to be attracted to the sex opposite your identified sex, you HAD to be passable, you HAD to fit the stereotyped social conventions of your identified sex (like mtfs having to wear heels to their psych appointments), you HAD to have been more or less asexual due to discomfort with your assigned body, and you HAD to want the surgery. The fact that that’s been opened up is terrific. Now we’re all able to simply work out for ourselves who we are and what we want from transition, and what will make us feel happiest.

      Anyway…as regards the original post… I think the overall idea of “natural transition” sounds extremely, extremely suspect. Transition is already PRETTY DAMN NATURAL. What you end up taking are the *exact* same hormones that are produced in the human body (especially in the case of trans men, since you don’t have to take synthetic anti-androgens like spironolactone, cyproterone acetate or finasteride). They produce totally normal physiological reactions that are encoded into your body and genes already. All a hormone does is send a signal to a cell saying “activate that gene now!”. It’s not really adding something new to your body, it’s just changing the “programming”, so to speak. It’s just saying “hey, we’re going to be a girl now!” (or boy). Some of those reactions aren’t going to be totally awesome (my breasts hurt A LOT those first few months) but you deal, because what you’re getting is a body that matches who you are, a body that is your own and feels right, congruent.

      If you have doubts, I absolutely promise that they will either disappear or be confirmed long before you’ve hit any kind of “point of no return”. You can start off with a very low dose, and then see how you feel. Transition doesn’t have to be a big all-at-once leap, and you can back out at any point. You take it one little step at a time. Like… take a step. Does it make you happier? Good. Take another step. Does it make you happier? Good. And so on. If anything feels “wrong”, you don’t do it, and if anyone tells you have to do something to be a “real man” or a “true transsexual” or anything like that, you tell them to fuck off. Or that I tell them to fuck off. Or whatever.

      The ultra-cynical skeptic in me is thinkning: the people peddling “natural transition” sound like they simply saw a group of scared and vulnerable people (those who want to transition but are scared to do so), and saw a business opportunity. They are also tacitly saying “transition is unnatural”. They’re failing to acknowledge that the hormones trans people already take are already completely natural. And their products probably don’t work very well. I don’t think they’re our friends.

    • Avatar of DuWayneB
      September 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm —

      Good, that long list *is* rather scary (assuming you’ve seen the same sorts of crap as I have). There is no evidence that any of them actually work and many of them contain herbs that can be dangerous. The problem with using plants that increase testosterone or estrogen require rather high doses (generally – there are exceptions) and of course we don’t know a hell of a lot about what these plants might do at such high doses, nor do we know what any of them do at *any* dose, over the longterm.

      • Avatar of Natalie
        September 27, 2011 at 7:40 pm —

        I’ve heard both really good and really bad things about plant-derived progestins… but one thing that I always think of when the subject of hormones derived from other species is that, back in the day, one of the main hormones given to trans women was Premarin, which was derived from the urine of female horses. Hence the name: Premarin = Pregnant Mare’s Urine.

        Anyway, the thing was that the horse hormones didn’t work quite the same way as human hormones. One of the really common “weird” effects was that the women taking the drug would develop unusually shaped breasts, typically somewhat “conical” or “pointy” in their shape. It didn’t look very good or natural, and end up being a bit of a “tell” that someone was trans in certain circles.

        So I sort of keep horror stories like that from the “dark ages” of transition in mind when considering things like this. And to me, using the same hormones that occur in the human body seems a lot more natural than any other method.

  3. Avatar of Amy Roth
    September 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm —

    Excellent post, Debbie!

    Ps: Aaargggh! The pirates are treating me well, they even let me hold the booty!

    • Avatar of mrmisconception
      September 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm —

      While you’ve got ahold of it, give it a shake.
      .
      C’mon, shake, shake, shake….

    • Avatar of DebGod
      September 26, 2011 at 11:01 pm —

      Thanks, Amy! Glad to fill in while you be playin’ with the booty, arrrr.

    • Avatar of anonentity
      September 27, 2011 at 9:46 am —

      The Chiurgeon Admiral warns that pirate booty may contain unsafe levels of lucre which has been proven to be filthy. Please take precautions when handling all booty.

    • Avatar of genjokoan
      September 27, 2011 at 7:46 pm —

      | The pirates are treating me well, they even let me hold the booty!

      Amy, YOU are the booty!

  4. Avatar of shiranejlo
    September 26, 2011 at 3:51 pm —

    I’m posting this under my penname to prevent my identity being spilled over to my traditional username…given I’m US military (those I work with know, and yes I kept my job) and I am male-to-female transsexual as well (transitioned on hormones and lived full-time for 18 months before giving it up).

    Natural transition methods are FRAUDS and DANGEROUS. I know this as I attempted it before coming out to my closest friends and relatives…plus not knowing about the dangers of herbal supplements, especially those sold online. I took them for four months…and outside of the slight increase of nipple sensitivity, I saw no effects during that time following the regime I found.

    I went on hormones after coming out and seeing the proper therapists. One day of hormones, which with student insurance, were cheaper than the herbal hormones by 500% easily and had 500% the effect in ONE DAY than four months of herbals. Therefore, this regimes might help the appearance, but the effect of the this natural methods, from experience, is minimal. let’s not even get into the dangers of herbals as well…yes I was crazy, but yeah D:.

    Overall, take it from someone who’s been there, and will be going back there once their enlisted is up…see a therapist and go to the doc’s. Better results and safer overall.

  5. Avatar of Natalie
    September 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm —

    P.S.

    Thanks for being a safe and inclusive site for trans skeptics!

  6. Avatar of Crip Dyke
    September 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm —

    I appreciate this discussion, but I have something that might seem like a quibble (I think it important however).

    It’s not really possible to understand trans lives without making a distinction between sex and gender. Yet, it’s extremely common in the community to use “male” and female” when we mean “masculine” and “feminine”.

    In this article it comes up in terms of “male pronouns”. Now, again, this gets said all the time in the trans community, but that doesn’t make it right. Pronouns don’t have genitals or genes or chromosomes or hormone levels.

    I’m not trying to be mean, but merely point out that it doesn’t help us over the long haul to re-confuse sex and gender, so I advocate using male & masculine (and female & feminine) intentionally and not just use them how we’ve always used them, how we’ve inherited them from non-trans culture. If we are intentional about how we use those words, “male pronouns” sounds just a tad ridiculous.
    …….

    and again, thanks for the serious discussion of a serious topic.

    • Avatar of AstroCJ
      September 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm —

      Though I agree in theory and am similarly persnickety about correct grammar, I disagree in this instance.

      As a transwoman, the last word I want anywhere near me is ‘feminine’. I’ve got a whole bunch of bad associations with that word. See Natalie1984’s comments above about the Gatekeeper system – where doctors until recently decided that if you aren’t feminine enough, you don’t receive life-saving medical treatment – or the writings of “feminist” Julie Bindel and co, who say that you should be bullied and encouraged to die for being *too* feminine.

      So, although my grammar head wants to agree with you, I shall continue saying and writing “female pronouns” when I mean “feminine pronouns”.

  7. Avatar of jen331
    September 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm —

    I commend Y for being skeptical about these claims and seeking other opinions and ideas. Be skeptical of all claims. Question and research and learn and then do it all again. The referenced site/book reeks of quackery to me but be skeptical of the medical doctors and procedures too! Not every doctor has your best interest at heart. Whatever decision you make, be sure you make it with all the information you can find. I wish you all the best!

    • Avatar of Natalie
      September 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm —

      That’s a pretty good point, actually. As a general thing, I think it’s much wiser to trust actual medical doctors than to just decide for yourself or DIY or anything. But I have the luxury of living in one of the most trans-friendly cities in the world. Transgenderism is extremely rare, widely misunderstood and very socially stigmatized. It often ends up being the case that doctors (actual, licensed, medical doctors) will be biased, misinformed, have no idea what they’re doing, or even when trans-friendly and supportive, still require LOTS of education as to how best to treat you. It’s really important to do lots of independent research and know the facts and what’s best. If a doctor says something you know is untrue or biased (like… “1 year of therapy and 6 months of RLE is required before I can prescribe you hormones” or “estrogen will raise your voice” or “its very common for trans people to end up regretting their decision”) GET A DIFFERENT DOCTOR.

      We’re not a very well understood group, and people, even educated, licensed doctors, are VERY prone to projecting their own assumptions and biases about gender onto us, and sometimes will try to cling to those assumptions and biases at the expense of our well-being. So its important to be very well informed and keep an eye out for people who aren’t looking out for your best interests. You have options and you have rights.

      Of course, it’s not just doctors, pyschs and gatekeepers you need to watch out for. People peddling “Natural Transition” are a terrific example of people who probably DON’T have our well-being and best interest in mind. And sometimes even people WITHIN the trans community will feed you misinformation or their own agenda, for motivations other than what’s best for *you*.

  8. Avatar of Hanna
    September 26, 2011 at 11:26 pm —

    Debbie, I just wanted to say that, based on the photos you posted, your sister is made of awesome.

  9. Avatar of Christianne
    September 27, 2011 at 11:53 am —

    My first reaction to this: Debbie Goddard is genderqueer? Oh, HELL yeah!

    Second reaction: This sounds suspiciously like those herbal hormone scams that don’t work worth a damn that target trans* women. These are often accompanied by quack devices like breast pumps and whatnot. Nice to see equal opportunity transgender quackery. Or not, actually.

    Also: Yay for a safe space for trans skeptics (of which I am one).

    • Avatar of DebGod
      September 27, 2011 at 7:28 pm —

      Haha, yeah. (I hope they don’t take away my Skepchick card!)

      The Skepchick community is the most supportive I’ve seen for trans skeptics. There are skeptical bloggers out there who are allies and write or speak about LGBTQ issues with some frequency (I’m thinking Greta Christina and Blag Hag) — awesome. Here, I think there are more openly trans commenters contributing regularly, which really does make it feel like a safe space.

      • Avatar of Natalie
        September 27, 2011 at 7:58 pm —

        Maybe instead of Skepchicks we can be Transkeptuals? :P

        *lamest pun EVERRRR / Natalie dies of shame*

      • Avatar of Christianne
        September 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm —

        I like commenting at Blag Hag and Greta Christina’s. Awesome spaces, both of them.

        I regret not saying hi at Skepticon last year now. Next time…

  10. Avatar of slignot
    September 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm —

    Glad to see this discussed; medical woo is pervasive everywhere, but it’s particularly hard to get accurate data on a topic like this.

    I do have one quibble about your disclaimer, though. You say “nutritionist” but mean “dietician” which is the regulated term. All sorts of woo is packed and marketed by people legally allowed to call themselves nutritionists. (Cue the requisite reference to Dara O’Briain’s “toothiologist” vs. “dentist” distinction.

    • Avatar of DebGod
      September 27, 2011 at 7:16 pm —

      My parents are both nurses, and I know that dietitians are regulated in the U.S., but I meant “nutritionist” because I wanted include sports nutritionists. I figured whatever their perspective, they’d probably have a good amount of knowledge about many of the supplements listed. But maybe I have enough knowledge to be called a nutritionist too, ha.

  11. Avatar of DuWayneB
    September 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm —

    While I am neither trans, or a woman, I really don’t care for identifying as a man either. Genderqueer has been the label that seems best to describe who I am. That is not to say that I do anything to foster gender ambiguity. I have a beard* and dress…er…let’s just say I dress like me (which occasionally means wearing skirts and scarves and other fun things). But I am extremely “feminine” in a great many ways – not the least being I am the only “mother” my two boys are likely to have anymore.

    This issue of supplements is extremely near to me (not big on outing her experience in her name), because someone I care a great deal for – the person who first ever explicitly encouraged me to think outside gender binaries – nearly died because of those damned things. Before and after her surgery, she was getting her hormone shots and was augmenting them with estrogen supplements. She started them with her original doctors knowledge and encouragement, but when her records were transferred to her surgeon, they said nothing about the supplements.

    I don’t know exactly what supplement she was taking, but I know it contained blue cohosh. Had he known she was taking it, her surgeon would have instructed her to discontinue it. Not only was the supplement adding to her estrogen intake, which her surgeon wanted tightly controlled, blue cohosh can contribute to (though is unlikely to cause) depression. The first few months post-op are often rife with sometimes rather extreme depression. Too much estrogen at that point generally will exacerbate the problem. Adding something that also tends to increase depression was extremely dangerous (yes, I am aware that it may not have actually impacted it on that level – but it is likely and the additional estrogen certainly did).

    Thankfully I was one of her housemates at the time, along with someone else. She ended up attempting suicide twice, once coming very close to succeeding. Even at the time she expressly didn’t want to die, she just felt that she couldn’t handle being alive anymore. And of course in the depths of her depression, she began internalizing all of the slights and exasperated looks from people who were supposed to be her friend over the years – and especially leading up to her surgery.

    Finally, the second time she was committed to the hospital psych ward for depression, the psychologist on duty when she came in thought it might not be a bad idea to contact the surgeon who had performed her surgery. She quit taking the supplement immediately and they scaled back her estrogen to the bare minimum needed for that point in time. She was still very depressed for several more weeks, but it was manageable and steadily improved from that point on.

    I am somewhat less familiar with testosterone supplements, but am aware that they can also cause a whole lot of problems – not the least being that several of them are extremely hard on the liver. The list posted above is rather less than healthy by all appearances. With few exceptions, you are taking pharmaceutical quality supplements anyways – why not just get what you know is safer?

    All in all, I have a hell of a lot more faith in doctors who are practicing science based medicine, than I do in quackery.

    • Avatar of slightlymadscience
      September 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm —

      For what it’s worth, the liver toxicity is primarily with orally-delivered testosterone, which is why it’s not recommended for any long term use. Gels, injections, etc, do not carry that risk at least.
      I can provide sources if you like, wasn’t sure if the comment would get auto-moderated if I did, so I hadn’t.
      Note: Not a doctor, nor someone undergoing any transition, just doing a crap-ton of research since I was recently diagnosed as being heavily testosterone deficient.

  12. Avatar of genjokoan
    September 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm —

    Natural … Arsenic is natural.

  13. Avatar of davetoepfer
    September 28, 2011 at 12:00 am —

    I would like to know why one would want to take a fist full of supplements, which only exist as a category to avoid the need to prove medical claims and safety, that claim to mimic the effects of testosterone but likely have not been proven to do so safely in any scientifically rigorous manner. The effectiveness and safety of testosterone is well understood medically. I would say to anyone just what I say to my wife when it comes to any medical concerns, “You should talk to your doctor about that.”

  14. Avatar of jakexx
    September 28, 2011 at 2:37 am —

    I run a tumblr about “natural transitioning” – transtribulus.tumblr.com there’s quite a few guys who contribute to it with their experiences and changes, there’s heaps of information on there too (and for free!). I never thought much of tristans’s plan of taking that many supplements, especially the fat burners! However, most of the guys that contribute to the blog have just been taking tribulus, some take DHEA as well, and everyone has had some results, it’s obviously not the same as taking regular T but there are definitely noticable benefits to trying this out

  15. Avatar of tristanskye
    September 28, 2011 at 11:31 am —

    Glad this was posted so I can personally address this. “Natural” refers to the process of increasing the testosterone levels your body naturally produces. Men and Women both produce estrogen and testosterone. The list of supplements you posted is not the list in the book. I spent the last 3 years basically being a lab rat, testing everything and I do not recommend that list. There is A LOT more information in the book that truly explains the process more than what you have been able to research online. Sicily Skye, the other co-author, is a natural bodybuilder who has competed for a decade and that is certainly where this originated from. Does it work? Putting myself aside, many guys have had results and this is truly a wonderful solution for guys who are waiting on their testosterone script or guys who have some medical disadvantages. Speaking of medical, we first and foremost tell everyone to see their doctor before starting. Your health is #1! Never take anything before consulting your physician. This list has been approved by numerous physicians and health professionals. We actually just did a seminar on NT with Dr. Chelsea Derry from Toronto, Ontario at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, GA. All proceeds of this book go to fund the social network, TQ Nation. We do not personally profit from it. We had most of the information online for 3 years, recently compiled it in a book and also an online version to sell to help keep the website and all it’s 8,000+ members happy and running full speed ahead. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. The last thing I will say is that everyone has their own unique journey and it’s up to you what you decide is best. “T” is definitely faster, yet “NT” has also helped many guys get to where they want to be, or serve as a stepping stone to something else. Just for your research, note that T shots are generally every week, not two. Thanks again for the post! It helps us educate more on what this truly is about! :)

    • Avatar of javatimes
      September 28, 2011 at 9:56 pm —

      Testosterone shots can be every week, every two weeks or even a much longer interval depending on the type of testosterone used. Sustanon is used more often in Europe and can often be injected monthly.

      I personally don’t understand the line you are drawing between supplements and (say) esterified testosterone. If the supplements work, the become bio-identical testosterone in the body, just like injectable testosterone becomes bio-identical testosterone in the body.

    • Avatar of Natalie
      September 29, 2011 at 1:01 am —

      I’m sort of interested in that definition of “natural”… I don’t mean to say that I think it’s bad definition, or a wrong one, I just find it interesting. It’s different from how accustomed to defining the term.

      Like… my HRT regimen has three different meds. The two main ones are Estrace (micronized oestradiol B-17, a feminizing hormone) and Androcur (cyproterone acetate, an anti-androgen). The third supplementary one is Finasteride.

      I always thought of the Estrace as being the most “natural” because it’s chemical that already naturally occurs in my body. I’m just adding more of it to get my levels in the female range. The cyproterone doesn’t naturally occur in the human body. But how it works is by binding to testosterone receptors and blocking the T from affecting those tissues…and, more importantly, my body gradually stops producing as much T because the cyproterone causes it to “think” that I already have plenty.

      (quite effectively in my case, too. As of my last blood test a few weeks ago, my T level is < 0.5 nmol/L. For reference, the average female range is 1.0 – 3.5, and the average male range is 10.0 – 30.0. Awesome, yeah? And I'm only taking a mild dose of 50mg a day!)

      So…under the definition you've put forward, the cyproterone is actually the more "natural" of the two because it decreases the amount of testosterone my body naturally produces.

      (btw, for anyone who's interested or a bio-chemistry geek, the finasteride inhibits production of 5 alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to its beefier, more powerful cousin dihydratestosterone. It's particularly effective with hair issues -both loss and growth- because DHT is the main factor in that rather than regular T)

      Anyway, yeah, I don't mean to say "you're way of defining natural is wrong!", just that I found it interesting because it's quite a different way of looking at the issue than I'm accustomed to. Like, I've usually thought of it in terms of "what is this chemical? does it occur in the human body?", and you seem to focus your definition more around "how does this chemical work? is its effect based around natural body processes?". Seems like something interesting to think about.

    • Avatar of Natalie
      September 29, 2011 at 1:07 am —

      Also… I wanted to say I appreciate your outlook and recommendations. The idea of this being offered as an alternative to testosterone and normal transitioning for those who are simply waiting for their script, or are in a bad situation (like living with disapproving parents), or can’t find a supportive or trans-friendly doc, or have medical reasons why they can’t take T, is something I can totally support and agree with. and I appreciate you recommending to do this with a doctor’s support.

      Um… I kind of feel a bit bad for being so quick to speak ill of this. I was assuming at first that the main selling idea was “do this instead of ‘unnatural transition'” or “this is better than T” or “T is bad for you!” or simply preying on guys who are scared or nervous about transition. But simply offering it as an option for people who, for whatever reason, can’t take the usual road is something I can totally get behind. So… sorry / thanks!

      • Avatar of javatimes
        September 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm —

        I would be as cautious with this as I would be with any testosterone if I had health concerns stopping me from using pharma testosterone preparations. While there are some concerns particularly with injection based depot testosterone, if this program does what it’s purported to do, I think a lot of the health risks would be the same. Personally, I think hormone access in the harm reduction mode of easy access and followup care is probably safer in practice than this is. Because I doubt someone is going to do this and have a doctor monitor it. those would be my concerns.

  16. Avatar of ailas
    September 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm —

    #1 for anyone dealing with this kind of thing is definitely GO TO THE DOCTOR. Self medicating with anything (even if it’s “natural” – which sounds like a red flag, but might not be in this case – I just don’t know), especially long term, is a really bad idea.

  17. Avatar of tristanskye
    September 30, 2011 at 11:04 am —

    @Natalie1984 – Since my wife is a “Natural Bodybuilder” that is where it originated from. Are the supplements all natural? No. NOW, Dr. Chelsea Derry is a Naturopathic Doctor and that is who we did our NT seminar with last week. Her methods ARE natural. I include mostly the same supplements, with a twist here and there. BUT, truly “natural” refers to increasing the testosterone your body naturally produces since cisgendered females naturally produce testosterone already. “Natural” shouldn’t be a red flag once you understand what it means. This isn’t a product we “SELL” to anyone. We are non-profit…we don’t pocket any of the money…we use it for the TQ Nation website to pay for the platform and everything to keep it up and running and the rest of the money is used for events and also to help other transgender organizations.

    • Avatar of Natalie
      September 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm —

      Yeah, I understand. Like I said, I didn’t mean to say you’re definition of “natural” (as in, “increases the body’s natural production of testosterone”) is wrong, I just found it interesting.

      I am curious, though: if you’re labeling this as “natural transition”, do you feel that the usual method of transitioning (T injections and perhaps top surgery / hysto) are not natural?

      As you pointed out, the body already produces both testosterone and estrogen, regardless of one’s anatomical sex. For me, that’s exactly why I regard T and E as being very “natural” medications.

      But as I said, I can completely support this being offered as an alternative to guys who can’t, for whatever reason, take T (and as we all know, there are LOTS of potential obstacles that can prevent someone from pursuing HRT, not least of which is the gatekeeping within the medical establishment itself), and I’m sorry for my earlier negative assumptions. I also appreciate you advising that this be done with medical supervision.

      Also, I’m sorry if it seems like I kind of hopped all over this topic. I don’t want to be guilty of the kind of monopolization of the discourse that trans women often engage in at the expense of trans men. It’s just that homeopathy and trans issues are both things that I’ve got really strong feelings about, and when you have a topic that combines the two… well, I can get a bit zealous.

      Cheers! And thanks for coming by to explain this a bit better.

  18. Avatar of Benny
    September 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm —

    I wanted to toss in one other option here: Low dose testosterone. Injections are not the only option, and a lot of FTM guys start with using the patch (which is a MUCH MUCH lower dosage) every day or every other day for awhile. Most of those guys then go on to switch to injections because the dosage is so low that they don’t get as many of the effects of T as they’d like, but some stick with it, enjoying a lower level of physical masculinity.

    I’m a transman myself and I’ve been on T for 9 years, having tried several different methods and dosages before settling on one that works well for me. The patch was much too low of a dose for me, but I have friends who are quite happy with it.

    Anyone who refers to testosterone as “unnatural” amuses me. Changing nothing but adding T into your system is pretty much the most natural transition option possible, and a whole lot more natural than many other things we do to our hormone systems. The effects CAN BE really major (they were for me, and I’m thrilled about it) but they don’t need to be.

  19. Avatar of Cabbageman
    October 7, 2011 at 3:14 am —

    Y, I would like to say that I am proud of you for being suspicious of this. I would suggest going the “non-natural” route… if that is clear.

    There are a few good reasons, but the big one is your health. The “natural” route deals with compounds and methods that, if misused, can wreak just as much havoc as the other options out there and with the others (that you get through qualified medical professionals), you get the more reliable advice of somebody who’s been to college and studied the endocrine system for years.

    Going for the natural T, you don’t have that inherent benefit and in the event of a complication, any health professional (even a good one) will be more poorly acquainted with the situation than a doctor who prescribed the stuff themselves and has been with your case from start to finish.

    I may not be steeped in experience about transitioning (though I have a few very good friends who inform my opinion), but I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that real medicine will trump onion juice and dandelions every time.

    Times spent considering potentially life-changing decisions can be tough ones so I thought I’d close on saying that your going about this calmly and rationally is admirable to the max. Good luck to you! :]

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