Transgendered Substantiation #10: The Wasted Years

Transgendered Substantiation #10: The Wasted Years

by Lucy Rose.

A few words before we start…

Picture: Scott Chalmers Photography

Firstly, I want to thank you for taking the time to read the latest entry of my series, Transgendered Substantiation. The series has been adapted from blogs I wrote for my website during my transition, based on my thoughts and feelings at the time. They almost represent, then, a time capsule for that period of my life. I have done my best to edit and update them for this publication, but some areas may be out of the date, especially regarding the administrative side, as some parts of the process may have changed since I went through it myself.

My ultimate aim with this series is to help people by shedding a light on the transition process. While everyone’s experiences are different, and this is but one person’s perspective, if this is something you are going through yourself, it is my hope that it helps you know that though it may be a daunting process, it is not insurmountable and there is nothing that cannot overcome. Or, if you are a friend or loved one of someone going through the process, it helps you understand what they may be thinking or feeling or the challenges they are facing.

With everything said, please enjoy this week’s entry.

Transgendered Substantiation Volume 10: The Wasted Years

As it currently stands, the waiting list from referral to your initial appointment at the GIC is about 18-36 months. The people there are doing their best to decrease this but with the cuts to their budget, the resources they have at hand and recent move toward the social acceptance of LGBT+ members and their resultant emergence from the woodwork, it’s only natural that the time would increase. For that reason, I wanted to write about what you could do to fill this time and use it best to your advantage. So, the title of this post is ironic in a way, but also, in a sombre sense, very much not.

I remember being exposed to the idea of a ‘sex-change operation’ as a child, permeated, as it was, through popular media. I didn’t know then just how inaccurate that phrase was, as it gave me the impression that you walk into the hospital one gender and get wheeled out another. However, the process, all told, can take anywhere from three to five years, if you go through the NHS, depending on how lucky you are on the bureaucratic and administrative side of things and how the medical changes affect you. The cost of this can be anywhere from £5,000 to £30,000 depending on what surgeries you wish to undergo, where and by whom they are to be performed, as some are covered while others are not. 

If you wish to go private, there are private gender clinics that are worth checking out, such as GenderCare. In this case, it’s worth checking the medical staff as those that work for the NHS can sometimes also run private clinics and these are going to be the most experience and dedicated. The timeline for private care drops to about two to four years but the price can rise upwards of £20,000 for the most basic treatment. 

The fact that you must add these extra, mandatory years in the case of the NHS course does make it a much more daunting prospect. There’ll be this gap of time when it may feel like there’s nothing you can do, time quite literally slipping away unlived. But it’s a perfect opportunity for you to make some important personal steps. 

A golden opportunity

During this period, I was shackled by my old biology and as such it was difficult to fully express myself and live life the way I wanted to. I still had to conform on some social occasions, present as male for my laser hair removal treatments, and experience a swamping fear every time I went to the corner shops to pick up some bread. Having just one more year of this, in my case, was awful. Plain and simple. It pushed back the time when I could take the reins for myself and one less year I would have to enjoy the ride, but at its heart this year of waiting is a golden opportunity to make ready for the changes to come.

I touched on this in my previous post about ‘Seeking Referral’, but I’ll lay it out again here and in more detail. During this year, I made sure that every aspect of my life that was tied in any way to that of my gender transition was within my scope of organisation and I knew how each of it lay. In this regard, I finished up my university education, came out to those friends to whom I hadn’t yet spoken, I told my family, I began researching more in detail the medical process, the surgeries and how I’d go about changing my name and gender on paper (this came later for me in the timeline and I’ll have another entry dedicated to this in the future). I also built up a support structure, both personally and financially, by finding somewhere to live with people I could trust and getting myself a job. I was unbelievably lucky that my job allowed me to work from home as it made this period of time a lot easier to exploit, and I began saving portions my pay-checks immediately to pay for the upcoming transition and any surprise costs that might arise, such as train tickets to London and back, the prescription costs for hormones, cosmetic surgeries, etc.

This was only expanded when I went through with the name change, which applies to a variety of accounts and organisations, but I’ll talk about that when I get to that topic. Most of all, however, that year was a period when I could experiment with dressing more day-to-day, starting the routine of doing so around the house and just . . . living a day. I remember that my first full day presenting as female was a trip to my nearby Sainsbury’s as well as going up and down the local high-street’s charity shops looking for clothes, supported every step of the way by my house-mates at the time. And I built it up from here, day by day, until each new day was mine and I could do more of what I wanted to do to fill the time, including heading down to Sainsbury’s all by myself to pick up my much-needed loaf of bread.  

While I didn’t come out to my work colleagues during this period, due to the fact that I hadn’t finished my probationary period and wanted the authority of my initial consultation behind me when I did so, this can be done here too to either begin the change of details on their system or give them a timeline for the upcoming fixtures of the transition process.

With this routine and substance in place, whatever happened after hormones began and that true uncertain threshold was crossed, I knew I had all the pieces in place to hold myself together emotionally and administratively and I need only focus on remaining healthy and happy as I went through the upcoming typhoon of psychological and physiological changes. It was all under my control now. I had instigated this. It was by my choice that my life had taken this direction, and every day that I lived with the goal of moving forward is one I was glad to have lived. It was brighter for having such purpose, it served to grow me as a person, and whatever comes, I was going to make of it the best I possibly could. 

So, to summarise, my advice for these years would be to get on the waiting list early, even if it might be before you’re ready, so that you can use the intervening time to make yourself ready. After all, it’s easier to call it all off, it you realise it’s not for you, than to get on the list in the first place. Prepare yourself emotionally, mentally, financially and administratively. Get a support structure around you of friends and family. Change your name if you’re at that point. Update your documentation and secure all those aspects that need securing so that the only thing you need to worry about when you head to your first clinic appointment is making the most of the chapters yet to come. And, trust me, they are good chapters indeed.