It’s a commonplace that transitioning is expensive. The figure I kept reading online as I researched where to start was quite variable: anything between £10,000 to £25,000 out of pocket. In countries without a state health service covering some of the medical things, it could become a great deal more. Early on, my thoughts of transition expenses were about major surgeries and hair removal. What I also talked about to people were clothes and other sundries. It adds up.
It wasn’t until I was trying to fill in the financial disclosure for my divorce that I tried to put a pound figure on my transition. I ended up saying it was a meager two-hundred pounds a month; a very conservative estimate but other brackets absorbed some of the expenses: clothes, cosmetics, accessories and suchlike. Some of that budget might seem higher than average, but my estimate is based on the assumption that I will see an unforgiving judge that will force me to defend that expense.
"SO WHAT DOES TRANSITIONING COST ME, REALLY?"
So what does transitioning cost me, really? In the past year, I have spent £3,600 on hair removal alone. I needed all new clothes - nobody builds a wardrobe from nothing unless they’re transitioning or they’ve had a calamity like a flood or fire - which roughly amounted to £400 to start and perhaps an extra £30 per month beyond what one might normally expect to spend on clothing. Let’s call that £760. Makeup is a hobby of mine and I’ve spent far more on it than someone less enthusiastic might, but a decent set of makeup brushes will run you £20 or so before you actually buy any of the other essentials. I’ve helped clients purchase an initial makeup kit for something in the region of £50.
My mum bought my hair and it was a modest £200. You can spend a lot less or a lot more, but we’re all ready pushing five grand in the last year. Putting this in perspective: my salary as a teaching assistant amounted to nine grand last tax year. My wages as a barmaid is an improvement at around eleven grand a year. I obviously had help.
But what about the opportunity cost of transitioning? I was going to apply for teacher training, which would have increased my income to nearly twenty grand. I’m a half a year into when that programme would be, so that’s a chunk of pay and career prospect that I just don’t have now. I didn’t end up going for it for a variety of reasons, but the basic reason was, at the time of the interviews, the strain of transitioning and sorting my life out was too great for me to cope with interviewing.
My family gave me a considerable amount of money to help me realise myself and transition much more quickly than I would have otherwise. That money was something they could have used elsewhere or, had it ended up coming my way, I could have spent it on other things. It’s impossible to quantify exactly what transitioning cost me: the impact on me, my career and my family is too far reaching.
Looking at my divorce, the thing that started this line of thought in the first place, my transition has cost me in that as well. The court has deemed the divorce my fault on the basis of my unreasonable behaviour (transitioning). Basically that means I’m liable for any monies that might be demanded and that’s why I’m filling in a financial disclosure form.
If this is looking hopeless, it’s because it is. I’m lucky to have family that are in a financial position to help me and make sure I can live the life I need to. Without them, I would not have completed my social transition as quickly as I did. That would have actually increased the cost to my mental health and, in turn, cost me other opportunities to better myself. We can’t know what that would add up to.
"MANY PAY A HEAVIER COST THAN I HAVE AND WILL CONTINUE TO PAY."
Many pay a heavier cost than I have and will continue to pay. I’m continuing to pay for my transition; thankfully I’m more capable of shouldering the expense than I was. With the basics covered, I’m able to maintain things without asking for help, usually. Others aren’t so lucky. Others don’t have anyone to help them. I keep reminding myself how lucky I’ve been in this process - and yet even with a lot of luck, the expense is crushing.
I haven’t mentioned medical expenses yet. And I won’t; those costs are well documented and generally what people think of when we talk about the expense of transitioning. The only thing that is maddening about the medical expenses is it’s tacked on after we’ve reinvented our personal lives; bought all new products and clothing; and potentially lost a job or career.
What about friends? Contacts, people we worked with. People who throw job adverts our way or ask us to work with them on a project. People who support us in what we do and help us endure stress at home or work. Many are left friendless. Many lose that network when they transition; how do we quantify that cost?
The trouble is, I have a form to fill in that’s asked me what my costs are and how my quality of life was before and after the separation. They’re trying to get at how things changed for each party and what financial arrangement will make things equitable, but can they really do that? I don’t think so. This has cost me far more than money, and I know I’m not alone. Money won’t replace what I’ve lost.
So how much do I say? I shrug, write ‘transition expenses’ on the monthly cost line, and decide I can justify £200 without working too hard. It doesn’t even come close to covering it, but that’s the world we live in.