Thursday, 5 November 2009

Email to Dr Alice Roberts

I'm fascinated by the external changes happening to my own body. It's going on at a snail's pace, but as the months pass, there's unmistakeable progress. I love the way limbs have slimmed down or fattened up, and rounded off. I could swear that my hair colour has changed from 'going pretty grey' to 'alluring ash blonde', and that my eye colour is intensifying.

But what's happening inside? Is my liver getting less tolerant of alcohol? Are my other organs changing? I mean, if you alter your body chemistry with feminising hormones you won't grow a womb but surely each organ, including the brain, is going to be affected?

I tried looking up specific research into all this on the web, but found nothing. And yet I couldn't believe that there was literally no research done or going on. So I decided to contact Dr Alice Roberts, who has done so much in recent years to bring anatomy to the attention of the UK public. I think she lives in or very near Bristol, incidentally, and maybe Dru knows her.

Anyway, this is the email I sent off to her yesterday evening:

(Email to Dr Alice Roberts, sent on 4 November 2009, and entitled 'Long-term anatomical changes in male-to-female transsexuals')

Dear Alice

I am a transsexual woman, aged 57, retired, who is some months into hormone treatment. I may if fortunate enjoy some thirty more years of life, all of it under the influence of feminising hormones, because of course these must continue life-long.

The external changes induced by feminising hormones are well documented, but nobody seems to have conducted any significant research (that I can find) into how the internal organs and their behaviour might be altered by prolonged exposure to oestragen when there is little or no testosterone present.

I am seeking some expert advice here. If my internal systems might change to resemble those of a woman rather than a man, then I really ought to know how this impacts on such things as diet, alcohol intake, exercise, endurance, mental capacity, likelihood of bone fractures and so on. I have much living to do once 'sorted out' surgically and ready to catch up on what I really wanted to do when younger - strenuous activities perhaps.

I know that transsexuality is a salacious topic in the media, but the reality is much more down-to-earth, and each person who undergoes transition faces long-term physical and health consequences that ought to be well understood, but in fact seem not to be. That is not good. If there is research going on, I need to access the preliminary findings. If none has yet been carried out, then surely the deficiency should be looked at? Adverse findings, or none at all, are not going to affect the need to transition, but it would be highly beneficial to know what might be in store. Insurance companies, for instance, seem not to know what the risks are, and this adversely affects getting cover.

Naturally I have thought of yourself as a good starting point. Can you assist, please, or at least point me in the direction of a colleague who can?

I do have an Internet presence at - obviously a blog, but at least you can check me out through it.

[Contact details given]

I do hope you can assist, or get someone interested in this, if nothing is happening as regards research.

Yours sincerely

Lucy Melford

It'll be interesting if she does reply. If you have never seen her on TV you've missed out. Medical topics tend to be special-interest to a degree, but she makes body parts, dissection, and old bones dug up by her archaeological circle seem compelling viewing. And yes, she's very attractive, which obviously helps to get some people watching. Have a look for instance at the interview at

It would be great if she takes a personal interest in trans anatomy. I think she's more likely to pass my enquiry on to some research group who have not yet published anything that can easily be accessed. But you never know.


  1. That is really interesting. A lot of research gets locked away out of the public view ( my daughter is working in a university library at the moment and knows who can and who can't take documents). I used to have conversation lessons with marine biologists and they loved talking about their work, so I can understand her transmitting her enthusiasm. I'l be interested to read what you discover.

  2. I don't know her, Lucy, but I do know Andy Levy, who is an endo based at Bristol University and is very hot at trans endocrinology. He's published some stuff on the subject, but I can't remember where it is at the mo. Just saying...


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