Friday, 17 June 2011

Counting the transition costs

We all know that transitioning costs us dear. You pay with lost partners, lost family, lost friends, lost homes, lost jobs, lost social position; and sometimes you can lose your life.

There have been a lot of posts devoted to these aspects, and there always will be, and rightly, because many of us pay these costs, and many of us want to know about them in order to learn the lessons. The experience of others is a resource that can't be underestimated: you can't transition without information and assistance.  I for one found that the support I got from online comments and advice was essential to getting successfully where I am now.

But there do seem to be some taboos! Things that people don't mention much, or not at all. One is sex. Another is money.

I've already written a little about my initial post-op sensitivity in the genital area, and something about how I may deal with any male attention. The latter topic is entirely hypothetical at the moment, but as real-life experiences come my way, I'll tell you about how I got on, and what knowledge can be gleaned from the encounters. I'm told that the Art of Flirtation is one of the most important things that a woman can learn. But surely the Art of Seduction is part of the same game, and how to react to a man's (or woman's) sexual overtures is a related skill that one must become expert in. And not merely in order to 'pass'. I now feel I need these accomplishments in order to live my female life naturally and to the full.

But today I want to discuss frankly the money side.

Call me a nerd if you will, but I've kept spreadsheets going on all my transition-related expenditure from the very beginning. I'm talking about all transition-related costs since 1 July 2008. All right, I've excluded some travel costs, like car parking and rail tickets when I've had to go up to London - partly because I usually made the London visits multi-purpose - but I have included all these things...

# Name change
# Consultations and counselling
# Medication
# Hair removal
# Voice therapy
# Surgery
# Clothes
# Shoes
# Underwear
# Jewellery
# Bags
# Other accessories
# Cosmetics, nailcare
# Hair
# Miscellaneous

...which I think you'll agree is what you'd expect to see on a Transition Costs List that made some honest attempt at including everything 'girly'. Let's go into it a bit. Remember that the headline figures are the total of almost three years of expenditure.

Name change £85.00
A one-off expense in 2009 for the Deed Poll and 25 legal copies (of which 22 had to be used).

Consultations and counselling £1,824.00
This is for initial counselling to help me understand my gender dysphoria and explore any other issues that might have been confusing me; plus the regular visits to Dr Richard Curtis, the London gender specialist. A category of expense that tails off drastically as you go on - only £240.00 of this total has been spent since the end of 2009, representing two visits to Dr Curtis. 

Medication £Nil
This means the cost of hormone patches and regular tests of various kinds. It's nil because I was already popping pills for my blood pressure and cholesterol - an inherited family problem - and I have been buying an annual NHS Prepayment Certificate for those non-trans items. The latest one in February 2011 cost me £104.00, and having got it I don't have to pay anything extra for any additional medication prescribed by my doctor, no matter what it is. She has regarded the hormones and tests as simply part of my established whole-life medical treatment, and so she includes the extra stuff on my regular prescription. So it's cost me nothing more. (And when I get to age 60 next year, my prescriptions will be free anyway)

Hair removal £3,758.34
This is the cost of laser and electrolysis treatment to remove hair from my face. 40 sessions so far, so that's an average of £93.95 per session. Nearly all of them have lasted 90 minutes, so that's about £1.00 per minute. I currently pay £79.00 for 90 minutes' electrolysis, the laser sessions having ended. Treatment will go on for a long time yet, because all my remaining hair facial is blonde or grey or white, and can't be removed by laser, only by slow-but-certain electrolysis. Eventually it will dwindle to maintenance-only sessions every two months or so, at a cost that I won't notice nearly so much! Meanwhile it's my last big, unavoidable transition expense.

Voice Therapy £2,023.91
The fees paid to Christella Antoni, the London voice therapist, for 18 one-to-one sessions plus a number of group sessions; also attendance at a transgender medical conference she organised. I still like to go to occasional group sessions, but this expense is essentially now behind me.

Surgery £10,875.00
The fee paid to the Nuffield Hosptial at Brighton for surgery by Mr Philip Thomas, plus a week's stay in a private room, was £10,500.00. The rest represents the initial consultation with him, and the cost of getting a pre-op Second Opinion from Dr Michael Perring in London. And unless I have the money and inclination for any facial surgery - not highly likely - there will be no further surgical costs.

All the above costs - which together come to £18,566.25 - can be regarded as 'basic transition costs', the absolute minimum that had to be spent taking the private route, as opposed to the NHS pathway. Time was not on my side, so I felt it was worth paying in order to shorten the timescale and save myself anguish and possible frustration.

Now for the 'optional extras'. Mind you, in principle these are just as necessary for the female life. They are justifiable on psychological grounds: the Prada handbag, for instance, was a deliberate choice, intended to boost my female image and say 'I'm worth it' to any onlookers. You can spend very little, or be very extravagant. I was one of the big spenders, but only because I had the cash. Nowadays, I've learned some wisdom and restraint, and have curbed my impulses - although you may disagree about that!

I know I'm setting myself up for some comment by going into all this, but then if you were inclined to feel guilty over your own purchases, you may feel rather better if you see that they are in fact modest and reasonable compared to mine. Some of you will have spent more, of course. And it must be recognised that certain natal women spend outrageous amounts on this and that. I spotted this in the Daily Mail a few weeks back (I don't read the Mail; it was at the Volvo dealer's, where I was waiting for new front tyres to be fitted on Fiona):


Click on the picture to see the price tags more clearly, and read some of the article.

Clothes £8,013.20
No apologies! I have been very spendthrift here. But then I had to learn what suited me, and experimentation doesn't come cheap. There have been many mistakes; but not lately. £5,156.85 of the total - well over half - was spent by the end of 2009, so my extravagance has tailed off somewhat. I still love clothes, and will continue to buy them, but I've given up on expensive boutiques and big-name brands unless the purchase is very important. At least I'm never stuck for 'something to wear'!

Shoes £1,818.36
Some mistakes here, no question, but it's not a bank-busting total, and currently the only shoes I lust after are a pair of Dubarry boots this autumn. Marks and Sparks will do for everything else.

Underwear £218.24
Nice, comfortable stuff, lately with a hint of lace trimming, mostly from Marks & Spencer. But clearly I haven't indulged in sexy bras, panties and other provocative accoutrements in satin and silk! Not even for my own secret pleasure. Which just goes to show that luxurious personal adornment, and the feel of gorgeous, slinky fabrics next to my smooth skin mean nothing at all to me. Absolutely not!

Jewellery £2,474.05
In here are the cost of my ladies Tag Heuer watch (early 2009) and my pearls (2010). Both of those were one-offs. I've also spent some cash on silver rings and bracelets, and some pendants, but nothing of great value. No diamonds! Gold is nice, and would probably suit me, but I haven't anything made of gold, and don't intend to acquire anything either. I prefer silver. The four things I wear nearly all the time - my standard kit, so to speak - are all silver items. That's a plain silver ring on my left little finger (a birthday present from M--- in 1994: it cost her just £2.00, but I'll wear it forever); a flexible silver necklace that looks like a slow-worm (another present from M--- in 2008; it cost her £79.99); a silver ring in a curling-wave design that I wear on my right hand (2009, £12.00); and a hinged silver bracelet that I wear on my right wrist (also 2009, £120.00). I regard these as 'lucky' things to wear, and clearly their cost is irrelevant. I have no plans to augment my jewellery collection.

Bags £3,192.38
This total includes the Prada handbag (early 2009).  I admit to being never satisfied where bags are concerned. There is no such thing as the 'ideal' bag, but my search renews with each season's arrivals. All I will say is that in recent times I have shown better restraint. Not perfect restraint, but better. I swear it.

Other accessories £1,575.52
All sorts of things, such as gloves and scarves and hats. 

Cosmetics, nailcare £861.72
An amazing total, considering that plastering myself in makeup, and submitting to makeovers, has never had any strong appeal. But somehow the cost has mounted up to this figure. Nowadays I wear no makeup apart from mascara and lipstick. No foundation and other stuff; no eye liner and eye shadow. I dare say that I would look great after a proper professional makeover, but unless I am invited to Buckingham Palace or need to appear on TV, the Melford face will remain unpainted and natural, revealing - of course - my astonishing teenage complexion and soft, fresh, youthful bloom. And ongoing costs ought to be low, too!

Hair £1,475.28
The cost of my Trevor Sorbie cut-and-blow-dries, plus the odd extra. It works out at about £10.00 a week over the three years. You can spend that just parking for a few hours in Brighton.

Miscellaneous £523.20
A rag-bag collection: bits of equipment, reference books, but I've still recorded it all.

Well, there you are. I suppose that if you're strapped for cash you will choke at my self-indulgence. But I did learn a lot on the way. Every purchase was vital practice at mixing with women in women's shops, and asking questions, and getting into women-only conversations, and going in and out of women's fitting rooms, and generally learning what women do and say when men aren't around. So that knowledge has to be thrown into the balance. Perhaps it was knowledge bought at too high a cost; but it has been of priceless value to me.

3 comments:

  1. This is so right Lucy. I hate to think how much I've spent over the last 6 years since starting my transition. I have to say that it has been worth every penny because of how much I have learned along the way.

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  2. Although I am not considering surgical sex change, I do agree with Lucy on her point about being worth a good wardrobe and put up a strong presentation. I have too many times watched Trans girl friends go for the cheap jewelry and simply look awful. It takes an effort and it takes a little extra spending for us to look our best. This is however also a cultural matter. In Europe, people at large tend to dress better than here in the US. One more reason I sometimes get so homesick. But back to the botomline of Lucy's blog. We are sertainly worth some extra spending to look our best.

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  3. I knew I was getting a good deal with my electrolysis, but not how good. I'm being charged £20 for a 45 minute session, or £30 if she also gives my chest a few well-aimed laser zaps.

    Even so, I reckon I've forked out about £1400 on hair removal so far, with at least another year of treatment ahead of me.

    ReplyDelete

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Lucy Melford