Sunday, 23 October 2011

Getting younger - and shorter!

All my older trans friends have remarked on the rejuvenating effect of feminising hormones. We are all ready to say that, yes, we look ten years younger than anyone would expect.

Tired, sagging burnt-out fifty-somethings have morphed into energetic, interesting, forty-somethings with a facial glow, and fit-looking bodies from which the more obvious blemishes have vanished. And those still the right side of forty can get away with a sweet, fresh twenties look - and behaviour to match!

Tsk. I don't know how that last picture got in. And I wanted to keep this serious.

It's not surprising. We are all on permanent HRT prescribed by specialists in the field, specially tailored to our individual needs. It's unremarkable that the good effects are optimised. I'd go so far to say that we react to our treatment better than most natal women receiving HRT from their local GP. There's also something else. We are starting a new life - and want to look good. There's a big incentive for trans women to take geat care of themselves, with careful diets, an eye to exercise, careful drinking habits, less smoking (or none at all), attention to hair and skincare and all-round personal grooming, and to wear the kind of clothes that suggest an alert and active lifestyle. And it all makes us seem younger.

I regularly get pop-eyes and disbelief from people I encounter if my real age comes into the conversation. This is gratifying and, yes, something to be enjoyed; but in the future I may not be quite so keen to disclose my senior status. There are potential difficulties. If a younger person presses to know exactly how old I am, and what sort of lifestyle I enjoy, then a frank response may well be disappointing to them. Perhaps offputting; even alienating.

A typical question that crops up is 'what do you do for a living?' - in which case, I have to admit that I'm retired, and have been for some years, and live on a pension. And that immediately makes for awkwardness if I'm speaking with a young person who has no regular job, or if in work, has no chance of retiring (let alone on a pension) for another forty years or so. Or with an older, mid-career person with heavy family responsibilities, caught up in the commuting rat-race and strapped for leisure time, who'd love to get out and relax. Even with people who, like me, have already retired, there is a problem in bringing it up because we are not all on adequate pensions.

'Are you married?' or similar enquiries generally lead to an admission that I have been married and divorced, all long ago, and have a forty-one year old stepdaughter with a husband and kiddies of her own. More goggle eyes. And maybe, if you were being chatted up, the chat ends forthwith.

After all, who makes a 'pensioner' or 'grandmother' their first choice for an exciting date?

So looking 'ten years younger' can actually turn life into a minefield. The truth does not match the appearance, and the truth will out. Never mind. When not actually being quizzed about our lives, we older trans women can move through the world with confidence that we are still visible, still stylish, and do not yet have to wear the grey shroud of old age.

But there is another issue. You shrink! Now everyone loses some height as they get older. It's something to do with the contraction of the skeleton, and may of course be accelerated by various conditions. But taking feminising hormones seems to enhance the shrinkage.

When I went to the Princess Royal Hospital eleven days ago the nurse routinely took a height measurement. It was 174cm - roughly five foot eight and a half. I said that can't be right, I'm taller than that! Can we do it again? We did, but same measurement. This was wearing no shoes, and the bit that touched the top of my head resting on the scalp. And proper posture.

This was hard to believe. Back in July 2008, at the commencement of a serious weight-reduction regime, with electronic scales to set up, I'd got M--- to measure my height very carefully, and it was then 176cm - about one inch taller. I can't vouch for my posture then: it wouldn't have been as upright as now, so the discrepency might have been even larger.

How to react? In some ways, this is good news - excessive height is a liability if you're trying to live the female life. So from that point of view, I won't be sorry if the shrinkage continues in the coming years. On the other hand, being a shorty isn't convenient if things are out of reach and you have to get up on steps and ladders, which I hate doing. And it's easier to be condescending to a small person: I don't want to be talked down to, or treated like a naughty child, just because I'm a dwarf.

On the other hand, instead of the wise words of Yoda, the wise words of Lucy it could be!


  1. My gynecologist measures me once a year - looking for the first signs of osteoporosis I presume.

    Isn’t it strange the kind of searching questions some people ask? I’ve noticed that they are usually the ones that reveal nothing about themselves. It's not easy to dodge direct questioning without appearing to be rude, is it? I think the only defence is to ask lots of questions yourself and get them to talk about themselves for a change.

  2. I don't ever remember being measured for height but I suppose I could have shrunk a tad. That may be solely due to age though as I am approaching (21 Nov) 66. One thing I have to confess is that I have always looked younger than my age, an inconvenience when in my youth perhaps but an asset in my dotage. I am in the position where I cannot avoid questions like 'What do you do'? as I am a self-employed electrician! Many of my clients ask how long I've been doing my job thinking I will say a couple of years for they seem unable to accept the fact that a woman was doing electrical work way back in 1962 when I actually started. When I ask people to guess my age I get replies in the order of 48 to 55 usually. The estrogen certainly makes me look younger though and healthier too I fancy. I am often asked what my husband does for a living too, which is nice. Anyway Lucy, don't get dragged down the veritable rabbit hole just yet, I'm sure there's still plenty of 'Mad Hatters' tea party to be enjoyed.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  3. I was measured today by coincidence and I've gained 0.5 cm. My gynecologist explained that as your spine isn't fixed and depending on what you've been doing and how you carry yourself your height can vary up to 1.5 cm. So don't worry too much Lucy.

    He then teased me about my fat tummy - I must do something about that. That's middle age for you.


This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford