Nfld. & Labrador

Testosterone therapy helps Corner Brook teen find his true voice

For this teenager, the drop in his voice represents a change in who he is as a person.

Zachary Hunt views a year full of major changes as a positive thing

Zachary Hunt moved from Labrador City to Corner Brook with his family in 2017 after coming out as transgender. In a recent video post, he discussed his experiences of being on testosterone hormone therapy for one year. (Zachary Hunt/Facebook )

For most teenagers, a changing voice is just another sign of the weird, wild biological trip known as puberty.

But for 17-year-old Zachary Hunt, the drop in his voice represents both a year-long journey and a change in who he is as a person.

"It's like the milestone for me of how far I've come and how much I've changed," Hunt says.

A year of big changes

Hunt describes the past year as a rollercoaster, from moving to a new city, to figuring out the proper dosages of his hormonal therapy, to the physical changes and side effects of taking testosterone. He believes the challenges have all been worthwhile. (Zachary Hunt/Submitted)

In fact, Hunt's voice is only one of several major changes he's gone through in the past year.

For starters, he and his family moved from his hometown of Labrador City to Corner Brook in July 2017. He's met new friends at his new school. He has a new job.

And earlier this month, Zachary, who is transgender, celebrated one year of taking testosterone hormone therapy.  

To mark the occasion, he posted a video on social media, one of the monthly "voice check-ins" that he started recording before he began taking testosterone last October.

In each new video, his voice has audibly dropped by a note or two, gradually developing a more masculine tone throughout the year.

"People who don't talk to me for months come back and they're like, 'Whoa, what happened?'" he said.

By 13, Zachary had already gone through many of the biological changes most teens go through. The difference is that back then, he had yet to come out as transgender.

When puberty meant his body began producing the estrogen designed to widen hips and accentuate other feminine features, he quickly realized those external changes were out of sync with how he was feeling on the inside.

"Stuff started changing and it was not how I wanted it to change," he said.

"It was just a bad time."

'A lot of people just didn't understand it'

A photo of Zachary from 2015, before he publicly came out as transgender and began taking hormonal therapy. (Zachary Hunt/Submitted)

Zachary began expressing those feelings to close friends, followed by his parents, eventually coming out publicly as transgender.

It was at that point when things changed at his high school.

"A lot of people just didn't understand it, so I guess people are just afraid of things that they don't get. And their immediate response is to just shut it down, like 'You can't do this. This isn't right.'"

While he found solace in those who accepted him for who he was, as well as online forums where he could find others with similar shared experiences, the bullying was too much, so his family eventually decided to move from western Labrador to Corner Brook.

Despite the negativity he experienced during those last few years, he still misses the comfort and familiarity of his hometown.

"I miss a few of the people, and I do have some friends back there still and I have a bit of family," he said.

Second chances

Rather than focusing on the things he left behind in Labrador, Zachary focuses on how the move has also afforded him a fresh start as the person he is, rather than the person people expect him to be.  

Going through puberty and having your body change in ways you do like … it's euphoric.- Zachary Hunt

"It was really amazing to just come out here and be like, 'Hi, I'm Zachary,' and as far as everybody is concerned I've always been Zachary to them and that's all they'll know me as."

And with a year of testosterone treatment in the books, Zachary has had the rare experience of essentially going through puberty twice, albeit with the assistance of hormonal therapy the second time around.

Puberty isn't great physically either way, he said, but the experience was very different emotionally.

"Going through puberty and having your body change in ways you don't like is terrible," Hunt said. 

"But then going through puberty and having your body change in ways you do like … it's euphoric."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Jonny Hodder is a journalist with CBC Radio based in St. John's.