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The 'Sam' in Samplings

Samara Ballen is a writer, tech enthusiast, animal welfare advocate, environmentalist, and LGBT+ ally from Brooklyn, NY. Beyond  her true passions, she loves fashion and beauty, science, world travel, and hanging out with her rescue pit bull, Allie. Also other cool stuff.

Friendly and open-minded, but vocal and unapologetic, and a totally serious human, Samara started Samplings to provide a window into the lives, challenges, and realities of trans and gender-nonconforming people by publishing honest and engaging original content. 

She also hates writing about herself, which might have been evidenced by the sheer sterility of this bio, had it not obviously been authored by a completely separate and highly regarded individual of notable literary accomplishments, as proven by their exclusive use of the third-person.

Share your thoughts openly in the comments or on social media, as long as love and compassion guide your words. Read and share freely.

I'm A Trans Woman and I'm On My Period

I'm A Trans Woman and I'm On My Period

Before I started HRT I did a lot of research so I would know what to expect both in terms of permanent changes and what my body and mind would experience throughout the process. I could not believe the breadth of changes hormones are capable of enacting. They literally rewrite your body. If you start young enough (far younger than I did, unfortunately), beyond their extensive baseline effects, they can actually replace birth sex puberty with a version much closer to that of a person's gender identity, and they can even go as far as to alter a person's skeletal structure.

My post about the different aspects of transition outlines a lot of the typical effects one can expect from HRT regardless of age:


What you won't read about nearly as frequently or in as many official medical documents on the subject, is that many trans women also experience things like moodiness, soreness, bloating, cramps, nausea and headaches... on a monthly basis. Sound familiar?

I'm far from one to discount anyone else's experience, but since it wasn't talked about as much I kind of mentally discounted that one as something I needed to be prepared for.

A few weeks back I had a couple of really strange days. I was in my bathroom getting ready for the day when all of a sudden I had a mini breakdown over something laughably stupid. I think I was having trouble getting my hair to cooperate. Which is ridiculous, because I always have trouble getting my hair to cooperate and baseless tantrums haven't been a regular feature of my morning routine since I was 13.

My mood hit the floor, broke through it, and plummeted through all 19 of the apartments beneath mine until it hit bedrock. All of a sudden I couldn't focus, and everything bothered me. I mean thank the universe I didn't cross paths with our mail carrier that day because if that sweet lady had so much as said "Hi!" to me I was liable to have tackled her like the grizzly bear I had turned into.

It didn't get better from there. Not able to sit and get any work done for the entire day, I sat on the couch with muscle pain, unusual physical sensitivity, and the attitude of a 2 year old—puss on my face and all. I'm pretty sure Allie even put a few extra inches between us. My stomach bothered me and I was hungry but I hated all the food I had along with everything else in the world. Normally if I have a weird off day or a down spell I feel low—sad and depressed. Not today! I was fucking perfect. But everything else sucked and I wanted it to DIE.

Except for Allie. She's beautiful and perfect always and forever. Have I shown you pictures of her?


Anyway it eventually passed and I just chalked it up to hormones in general, even though it was pretty different from any other hormonal moment I'd experienced.

Fast forward to last night. I met a friend for drinks and lovely conversation—easily one of my favorite activities involving little to no physical effort (there was a 7 minute walk to and from the bar...). Afterwards we hugged goodbye and I was walking home when all of a sudden I started to feel really off. And as if my mood was on a waterside I just started slipping on a constant downward trend. By the time I got home I looked at myself in the mirror and the expression on my face was like I had just been through something very traumatic. Okay to be honest my bag did get a little wet from something that must've spilled at the bar but I cleaned it and it was cheap anyway. Not the likely stimulus.

So I went to bed a bit early and figured tomorrow I'd be back to normal. "Not so fast!" said my body this morning as it proceeded to hormone-jab me from the inside. Still off, and now kind of achy. I... I can't seem to unfurrow my brow for some reason. Yup, stuck in semi-permanent bitch face.

Out of suspicious curiosity I looked at my calendar trying to figure out when my last weird episode was. Without giving her context, I texted my friend who I had shared the experience with and asked her if by any chance she remembered. We both knew it was on a Monday a few weeks ago. "Yah I think 4/23" I got back.

Whatd'ya know. A month to the day. I guess I'll set a reminder for June then.

In looking into it more, basically what happens is that when your entire hormone mix has been reconstituted to be at the levels of a premenopausal female, your body doesn't understand (doesn't care?) that it doesn't have a uterus. So in layman's terms, it expects to menstruate.

What some trans women end up with as a result is all of the side effects (less the bleeding) for none of the benefits. Lovely. Well, at least I'll save on tampons.

Gender Diaries: Part 1 - The Sex Filter

Gender Diaries: Part 1 - The Sex Filter