Doctors alter the hormones of millions. And in that, we have an opportunity to learn. Living for a few weeks with extra testosterone gave me a new understanding of men. Now, when I notice my husband glancing at an attractive woman, I don’t take offense. Testosterone turns your head and makes you look. Sometimes, I whisper, “Yep, she’s beautiful.” He jokes that I’m now one of the guys.
Could I have achieved this compassion any other way? Empathy is complex. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute reported in 2013 that humans are basically egocentric. We tend to view others’ emotions in light of our own. Our brain can counteract this self-centeredness, but we have a better chance if our emotions are neutral or in the same emotional state as the other.
When discussing this with my daughter, she suggested that perhaps in the future, we might choose to live for a while as the opposite sex to learn how the other thinks and functions. Perhaps a few days or a week might be feasible, but unfortunately, the side effects for longer periods are problematic. Both testosterone and estrogen therapies have been linked to heart attacks and strokes. Doctors need bona fide medical or psychological reasons to alter hormones. In fact, the standards of care for people transitioning hormonally to the opposite sex are stringent and include significant counseling and monitoring by a medical doctor.
Some people transition though, and some, like me, spend time with the wrong prescription. We then process the world through a different lens of emotion and analysis. Yet, the lens is the transient thing.
It is possible to live as either male or female.
Which means, of course, underneath the high-pitched whine of our sex hormones, underneath the lens, we are neither.