Home / Blog / Please Don’t Get Scammed By Fake Hormone “Alternatives” Online

Please Don’t Get Scammed By Fake Hormone “Alternatives” Online

Sep 30, 2023Sep 30, 2023

By Samantha Riedel

It may be Pride Month, but scammers and grifters have no pride or shame, and they don't stop just because it's June. So please, don't take herbal supplements that a random person on the internet told you are just like hormone therapy.

On Tuesday, a Twitter-"verified" brand account calling itself "QueerQuirk" began boldly advertising an "estrogen alternative" available with no prescription called "I Can't Believe It's Not Estrogen!" under the sub-brand "EstroLabs."

"We're officially the 🔌 to get HRT style pills without a doctor's note," an announcement post claimed, beckoning transgender readers to a Shopify landing page.

Backlash to the post was swift and brutal, as trans folks pilloried the brand for apparently trying to scam vulnerable, desperate trans people who can't access hormones. As of Thursday, the post had garnered over 1,200 quote retweets, the vast majority warning others not to get scammed or put their health at risk. But the brand seems to be trying to post through it all, uploading a video Wednesday evening that features two "before" and "after" photos to imply (but not directly claim) their "alternative" hormones really work.

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

"EstroLabs" claims its pills are tantamount to natural hormone therapy while jamming a frankly creepy amount of "online trans girl" references and awkward similes into its marketing copy. Their pills, the company claims, are "like your very own magical, hormone-boosting fairy godmother" that will give you "a puberty that actually RSVPs to your invite." The copy also openly references the popular trans meme subreddit r/traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns and "hitting high notes in the voice pitch app."

It all reads eerily like someone lurked on trans Reddit pages for a few weeks, took notes on popular in-jokes, and then abruptly launched their version of Alex Jones’ Brain Force targeted at overly online white trans girls. In fact, that's probably exactly what happened, since at least one of the timeline photos that appears in a recent "review" on the site is actually an image of a trans Redditor.

That all sounds like a scam even before you read what's in the pills themselves: 1,300 milligrams of the ashwagandha shrub — often used in traditional Indian herbal medicine — and a dash of black pepper. And that's it.

There is absolutely no evidence that ashwagandha has any feminizing effects. Taken in high doses, as EstroLabs recommends, ashwagandha can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and may adversely interact with numerous kinds of medications. Not only that, there's some evidence suggesting that ashwagandha may raise testosterone, not lower it — which is exactly the opposite of what most transfems are trying to achieve. (Many ostensibly testosterone-boosting supplements contain ashwagandha — and no, if you’re transmasc, that doesn't mean it's a substitute for legitimate hormone therapy, either.)

In fact, getting trans women to take a potentially testosterone-raising supplement may actually be the real aim of this grift. EstroLabs is also selling an "Oops, All Testosterone" T-shirt, which its marketing copy snidely says will complement "the ‘I bought gas station HRT pills from EstroLabs and all I got was this male pattern baldness’ coffee mug!" If that's not giving up the game, I don't know what is.

But ashwagandha isn't the only "HRT style" supplement EstroLabs is trying to hawk to young trans people. The site also offers two types of "feminizers": a run-of-the-mill vitamin gummy branded as "Super Girl Power" that references Jones’ "gay frogs" conspiracy while blatantly copying Jones’ grift; and "Femboy Tummy Pills," a weight loss supplement that may also carry potential health hazards. Feeling tired from all this reading? Try their energy drink mixes, "Gender Fluid" and "E-Girl Formula!" Each supplement on the site is priced between $30-50 per bottle, with their flagship "estrogen replacement" perpetually on sale thanks to a timer that, by some dark magic, doesn't appear to dip under eight hours.

James Factora

Wren Sanders

Samantha Riedel

Jennifer Culp

In case it isn't clear, gang: this junk is bunk. You should not spend your money on snake oil just on the slim hope that you’ll be able to get around bigoted laws or unaccepting family, even if the salesperson also knows which memes you like. Whoever is behind the QueerQuirk brand claims to be a trans person of color who founded the company after being thrown out of their home as a teenager, and asserted on Wednesday the backlash to their products was simply "bigoted." But with a Twitter account that's only existed since December, no posts until the last week of May, and a CEO "photo" obviously made with an AI generator — part of their neck tattoo appears to be melted into their shirt collar — everything about their operation is covered in red flags even before you realize the pills don't work, babes.

Unfortunately, our cultural moment has created something of the perfect storm for grifters to make a quick buck on the backs of trans people. Propelled by celebrities like Jones and Gwyneth Paltrow, the diet and nutritional supplement industry is booming even as medical experts warn of the health risks; meanwhile, trans people are more culturally visible than ever, and suffering from international attacks on hormone therapy and other necessary care. Where those facts meet, there's a lot of money to be made by people who have no qualms about exploiting already -marginalized people, not to mention those who would happily ruin a trans person's life for free.

If you’re looking to access feminizing or masculinizing hormone therapy, there are a lot of alternatives you should try before leaping to a scam like this. Many providers and health clinics including Planned Parenthood centers operate on an informed consent model, meaning patients can access hormones after meeting with a doctor to discuss their potential side effects. Some medical providers offer HRT consultations and prescriptions via telehealth, and some grassroots community groups — including several we’ve included in our list of trans-led organizations to support — can also connect low-income trans people with hormones even if they can't pay for them out of pocket.

Not everyone who claims to be in community with you actually is — so this Pride Month, remember to love big and be yourself, but also guard your heart. There are still too many people in this world who will cut you with a smile.

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