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New guide to
self-injecting hormones for trans men

New guide to
self-injecting hormones for trans men

A new documentary on self-injecting testosterone, screened at the San Francisco Main Library last Saturday, highlighted some of the technical issues affecting female-to-male individuals in transition, North Gate News Online reported.

The film, Taking Care of Business: A DIY Guide to Self-Injecting Testosterone, made for and by trans men and health care advocates, is an 11-minute introduction to safe needle use and injection techniques .

Filmmaker Vlad E. Wolanyk said he got the idea for the film from Laura Morris, a nurse from the Sherbourn Health Center in Toronto, where Wolanyk works as a counselor, North Gate News Online reported.

"She told me how, in order to show trans men how to do it [themselves], she would have to inject herself over and over with saline," said Wolanyk.

Wolanyk decided to make a DVD resource for self-injecting testosterone as a favor to bruise-bearing nurses like Morris and their clients.

Testosterone therapy is key for those who have decided to transition from female to male bodies. It is usually administered once every one or two weeks by a doctor or nurse, and is injected directly into the patient through a syringe. To avoid potentially long waiting periods, some patients choose to self-inject.

Morris plays the film's central figure, the leather- and rubber-clad Nurse Vivian. Vivian demonstrates how to avoid common dangers such as hitting major arteries in the leg or buttocks. Vivian also advises viewers on the safe disposal of needles and storage of testosterone.

"It's a time issue," said Martin Rawlings-Fein from FTM International, the organization that helped set up Saturday's screening in San Francisco, North Gate News Online reported. "They have to wait and wait and wait for a nurse to inject them."

For those who live in rural areas or areas without a specialist in transgender health issues, self-injection is usually preferred to traveling long distances on a regular basis. Others self-inject to have a more direct role in the process of their transition. "This is about taking some of our own health care into our own hands," said Wolanyk.

Wolanyk also hopes his film will address the concerns of the growing number of people who self-inject testosterone illicitly, a practice that he believes is becoming more and more common.

"Testosterone is readily available in the street," said Wolanyk. "I'm not advocating for that, but people are doing it, and they often have no idea how to inject it."

Testosterone is also more difficult to clean off of used needles. Methods that some harm-reduction programs use to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as washing syringes in bleach and water, may not work to clean needles that have been used to inject hormones.

Morris said that needle exchange programs, which provide trade-in centers for used syringes, often fail to carry the larger 18-22 milligram needles that hormone injectors need. She hopes the film will help dispel some of the myths surrounding the practice of self-injecting, North Gate News Online reported.

Wolanyk plans to distribute his film free to individuals who would like a copy. He's asking for a $20 donation from organizations and institutions that would like to use it as a resource. For more information Wolanyk can be reached at vwolanyk@sherbourne.on.ca. (The Advocate)

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