“Hey lesbian, have you ever thought you might actually want to be a man?” – that’s what I might as well have read when I checked my email inbox and found an email from the lesbian and bisexual women’s dating app HER.
What was once widely considered a homophobic cliché is now (supposedly) apropos to say to homosexual women: that they are secretly aspiring men. Subscribers to the app’s email were invited by HER’s virtual pill pushers, I mean, their “friends”, to try out microdosing testosterone. The email subject line was “What microdosing could mean to the queer community” with a little emoticon of a test tube filled with green fluid.
Within the “Newsletter” a section read “MICRODOSING TESTOSTERONE (HRT) – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. For folx seeking subtle, slower changes on testosterone, microdosing is a wonderful option. Read more from our friends at Folx Health”. I clicked “read more” to find out what Silicon Valley-esque casual doping plan HER was suggesting for me.
The site pops up and the page is titled “Microdosing (Low Dose) Testosterone HRT by FOLX Clinicians”. While euphemistically referring to body modifications for aesthetics as “care” the clinicians sell the idea of gender spectrums and an exciting and unpredictable adventure in growing more body hair. “While it is hard to know for sure in advance exactly how changes will happen with HRT, we can work with folx to try to achieve the best outcome with the tools we have.”
This is clearly an additive process being advertised to young women both pre-menopausal and with their ovaries functioning normally. They aren’t replacing hormones, they are supplementing for the aesthetic changes testosterone imbues.
I am struck by the use of the term “HRT”, Hormone Replacement Therapy is designed to – well as the name it suggests – replace some missing or low level of natural hormones. This is clearly an additive process being advertised to young women both pre-menopausal and with their ovaries functioning normally. They aren’t replacing hormones, they are supplementing for the aesthetic changes testosterone imbues.
Email newsletter sent by HER lesbian dating app to our writer Bryndís Blackadder
“Compared to standard doses of testosterone, these lower doses are often half that amount. This allows the physical changes to develop slowly and over a longer period of time. Some folx will use HRT for a short time to achieve certain effects, such as facial and body hair growth and voice changes, then will discontinue before further effects take place.”
They are marketing these subscription prescriptions to women who just don’t want to see themselves – or be seen as – women: “In the sea of gender identities and expression, a lot of folx live somewhere on the great spectrum beyond male and female. Nonbinary, gender nonconforming (GNC), genderqueer, X-gender, transgender experiences within or beyond the binary can entail exploring bodily changes in all different ways.”
It feels to me that this is quite literally a gateway drug to more extreme doses and eventually elective self-mutilation.
These women are told that higher doses of testosterone may stop their periods and that they might be a bit bummed out that microdosing doesn’t get rid of the pesky feminine menses: “One aspect of low-dose testosterone that may be bothersome to some is that it probably will not stop monthly bleeding. Bleeding can be stopped if desired with higher doses of T, medications also known as birth control, or surgeries like uterine ablation (removes uterine lining) or hysterectomy (removes uterus with or without other related organs).” It feels to me that this is quite literally a gateway drug to more extreme doses and eventually elective self-mutilation.
Elsewhere on the site, the folx at FOLX say: “We believe healthcare is about our lives – and not about a diagnosis”, they discuss “hurdles” in the medical system, describing the safeguarding around drugs as a barrier between you and your dream lifestyle. FOLX is offering these women swift workarounds to get those drugs, quick, easy and delivered by post.
I’ve flirted with the idea of injecting as they suggest up to “0.5mL (100mg) weekly or 1mL (200mg) biweekly” of T or slathering on up to 100mg daily of testosterone gel just to see what happens as a curious experiment. I’ve wondered if it would give me some major pep or make me a bit more athletic. My mother told me of her female colleagues in the fast-paced executive environment in Washington DC wearing testosterone patches to keep them competitive and driven. She also told me of her post-menopausal experience of the patches she was prescribed in the UK but all she reports is that they were itchy.
I however neither want to be a man nor do I want any more chin hairs than nature already has in store for me. I’m constantly amazed by the lengths to which companies create and cultivate female insecurities so they can sell us things. One minute our eyebrows must be one hair thick and the next we need bushy caterpillars. Our legs must be epilated and our pubes wrenched out of our vulvas but now they suggest taking testosterone to add hair where there once was none.
I feel for women with naturally high testosterone who are still caught between the mannequin smoothness in glossy magazines and the faux acceptance of the “queer community” who also tell them they are a bit, well, manly.
There is nothing wrong with female body hair, however, women are constantly told our natural follicles are signs of masculinity and these companies are just continuing this myth that hair equals maleness or at least being less female. I feel for women with naturally high testosterone who are still caught between the mannequin smoothness in glossy magazines and the faux acceptance of the “queer community” who also tell them they are a bit, well, manly. I personally reject it all and ditched the razor a few years ago and have a thing for women who look post-pubescent (as adults should, in my opinion).
Past the dystopian sci-fi images of trendy people with jazzy sunglasses and piercings, all illustrated with stylish graphics of needles while hawking the dream of being interesting future people, the site does list drug side effects on a couple of pages. It very casually drops in mentions of pretty serious health conditions and insinuates via words like “usually” that the chances of them not resolving are low: “Usually effects like skin changes, increased muscle mass, and vaginal atrophy are reversible.” The more serious list deeper within the site should scare any woman away from these unnecessary drugs:
“Health risks: The biggest concerns associated with testosterone are increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. Testosterone might also:
- Increase your red blood cell count which can lead to higher risk of clots
- Increase the amount of fat and/or cholesterol in the blood
- Increase the chance of diabetes
- Harm the liver (although there is recent research that disputes this)
- There isn’t a lot of research on the risks of testosterone for HRT so there may be other consequences that we don’t know about yet.”
The casual advocacy for non-conforming people and homosexuals to risk death just to disappear or be sexually attractive to people in their subculture really rankles. Are gay people this narcissistically nihilistic or do some clever people out there have a PR savvy way of selling anti-gay eugenics to the victims? Either way, the results are the same, the lesbians disappear and become “heterosexual men”, or they potentially die of avoidable illnesses brought on by taking cross-sex hormones for vanity or as self-medicated solutions to complex forms of depression brought on by trauma.
It gives a tantalising taste of maleness to women struggling with being female in a misogynistic world, and a starting point for gradual assimilation into a “heterosexual male” existence for despairing lesbian and bisexual women.
Luckily this website and company only operate in the USA, for now, but it was an appalling glimpse at the advertising that homosexual women are being subjected to by supposedly pro-lesbian companies in a country that still persecutes gays and lesbian people socially and in legislation. It gives a tantalising taste of maleness to women struggling with being female in a misogynistic world, and a starting point for gradual assimilation into a “heterosexual male” existence for despairing lesbian and bisexual women.
It’s clear that many women envy the male ability to become well muscled and powerful; online I see a multitude of women on testosterone showing off the muscles they could never achieve without steroids. They are tapping into a new demographic to sell lifestyle drugs to while emulating the microdosing LSD fad of Silicon Valley CEOs, a sexy and slick on-demand boost to your mind and body. This gateway has no safeguard, but why would they care? They can sell razors to the newly hirsute women, they can sell health insurance and a hospital stay for when they have a stroke, they can sell them a mastectomy once they are addicted. They can sell women the key to self-destruction, like any good drug dealer all that matters is that they are a new customer, get them hooked.
Bryndís Blackadder is a human rights activist, multimedia artist and film-maker.