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What hormone therapy means for transgender people

Video by ACS

How do hormones affect the appearance of gender?

Many transgender people find themselves facing questions from others about what it means to transition. After the public transition of Caitlyn Jenner, a new video from the American Chemical Society (ACS) explains the role that estrogen and testosterone can play in this process.

The video explains the basics of how hormone therapy works for those transitioning from male to female (MTF) and from female to male (FTM). Taking certain amounts of estrogen, testosterone and antiandrogens can cause a person to begin to develop the secondary sex characteristics of the gender with which they identify. For MTF people, this can mean breast development and a shrink in muscle mass and body hair; for FTM people, this could result in deepening voice, more facial hair, and broadening shoulders, among other changes.

These changes take several years to fully take effect, and the effects of hormones vary from person to person. Not everyone who is transgender transitions, and for some people, transitioning does not involve hormones at all. But for others, hormone treatment makes a big difference by helping their body to align with their gender identity.