Gemma Hale, 34, was prescribed oestrogen by a specialist doctor in 2020 to treat her gender dysphoria – mental distress caused by a mismatch between a person’s assigned sex and their gender.
Now she fears that the changes caused by the hormone, including breast development and decreased hair loss and facial hair growth, will begin to reverse as she has been unable to obtain her prescription since April.
She said: “My mental health is not good at the moment. I'm having suicidal thoughts. It has left me feeling down and depressed.
“Once you start hormones, you’re not supposed to stop them.
“It has affected me in a terrible way. My mood is not where it should be. I don’t feel confident going out, being a normal woman again. I hardly eat any more. I'm so tired of being let down.”
Her GP, the Adelaide Street Family Practice, said a nation-wide shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is to blame.
Increased demand and disruption to the supply of the drug Oestrogel has resulted in around 1m women in Britain – including transgender women and women going through menopause – being unable to access the treatment they need.
Gemma said: “I feel like something is going to happen to me. I feel like my body is going to revert to being more male. I feel like I'm not going to be seen as I want to be.
“I don't go out often any more. I don't want people to see me. And when I do go out, I don't wear what I want to wear any more because I'm scared of violence or hate.”
What is HRT?
HRT provides the body with hormones it is unable to produce on its own. Oestrogen is provided to women, and testosterone to men.
The therapy helps relieve the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive. For transgender women, it causes breast growth, reduced body hair, and the redistribution of body fat, resulting in a more feminine appearance.
A spokesman for Adelaide Street Family Practice said: “There is currently a national shortage of hormone replacement therapy and as a result, some patients have had their treatments paused. We apologise for any distress that this may have caused and detailed discussions have been held with all impacted patients. The issue is being looked into nationally in order for a solution to be found.
“We would like to assure patients that everyone is treated the same, no matter what their gender. This practice employs an LGBT lead who is able to support members of the LGBT community in any healthcare needs they may have and information on how to access this support has been made available to those affected.”
Have you been affected by the HRT shortage? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]