The term ‘trans’ is a Latin prefix that means a few different things, but one of the definitions is ‘changing thoroughly’. If one is transgender, we are, essentially, completing transforming our gender.
There is no standard or measure that one must change their appearance, wardrobe or anything else to be able to be transgender or as the gender we identify as. Some of us completely alter how we dress, some of us will make very few, if any, changes to our appearance. Some of us will change our names, some will not. There is not a list that we must check off to be able to identify as transgender or as anything else.
As members of the transgender community, being transgender means different things to each of us. Yes, both myself and Laverne Cox identify as transgender but whereas she has had operations and legally changed her name, I am happy to go back and forth between genders and never committing permanently to one or the other.
I think it’s safe to say that we all have explored many different things, whether it is clothes or makeup that is traditionally considered “for girls”. Some of us have tried makeup and fell in love with it, some of us have very little interest in it. Some of us happily spend a lot of money on a pair of heels we wear three times a year, others think that is an incredible waste of money and are happy with a pair of practical flats.
I have tried many things as I became who I am. I learned a lot about myself and what I like. I have no problem spending an hour doing my makeup or buying a sixty dollar dress, but I have little patience for doing my nails. I do love doing my nails but it feels impractical to do so as I spend most days completely in male mode.
Discovering who we are can be a humbling, exciting and eye opening experience. It’s humbling because we realize early on that this discovery is something that requires time, patience and money. We need to accept that the first time we try liquid eyeliner on our waterline that it will be a messy disaster. We need to accept that it may take several wigs before we find one that truly suits us. We can’t let ourselves get frustrated when applying false eyelashes takes 45 minutes. It’s exciting to find a pair of heels that fit us and that we can wear for hours at a time without any discomfort. It’s exciting to zip up that dress that we fell in love with. It’s exciting to look in the mirror and feel happy.
Before I go further, I want to stress that I do not believe there is a standard you have to meet to be transgender or to be a woman. You do not have to paint your nails, wear skirts or heels to identify as any gender you want. Not all women wear makeup and you do not have to in order to be a t-girl, transgender or identify as anything else. Again, I can only speak from my experiences.
Transforming my gender, even if it’s for only a few hours at a time, has been an eye opening experience. It’s also been an expensive experience. I accepted early on that if I wanted to look how I wanted to look that I needed to take the time to learn makeup and I needed to be willing to invest in my look and wardrobe. I was stunned to learn how much a tube of lipstick cost. I was shocked at how easily a pair of stockings can run and how expensive it was to replace them. I couldn’t imagine spending $120 on a haircut. I was used to fifteen dollar haircuts, a half dozen pair of socks costing under ten dollars and renting a tux for a wedding for around a hundred dollars or so.
I accepted that if I wanted to look how I wanted to look I needed to accept that it was going to be expensive. That’s not to say you can’t be thrifty or find for an amazing dress on clearance but how I wanted to look was going to be more expensive than how I want to look in male mode. Based on my experiences, you generally get what you pay for on makeup. Yes, I can buy foundation for $6…or I can spend $45 for foundation that I feel suits me better. My recent makeup lesson with Corrie at Midwest Makeup Supply gave me a chance to experiment with different foundations, powders and techniques. I always had trouble getting my lipstick as even as I would like, so I bought a lipstick brush to help apply it. Sure, I could have spent the eight dollars on something else, but I wanted my lipstick to look better so it was an easy investment to make.
As we start to reach out to others that can help us with makeup or other services, we may find out that certain services cost more than we expected. I have a friend who went through hair removal and I was taken aback at how expensive and extensive of a process it was. But I can’t argue with results and she’s incredibly happy with the decision. Truth be told if I could afford it I would do it, too. Private makeup lessons are not free. As much as Corrie loves makeup and helping others, she also has to pay rent. Makeovers are not free. When we schedule a makeover we are hiring someone for their time. I’ve never had makeover that was less than 45 minutes.
Not only are we hiring someone for their time, we also need to consider how hard the artist worked to get where they are. If they went to cosmetology school it’s not unrealistic for them to have spent tens of thousands of dollars investing in their art. And of course, the makeup they use is not free, either.
Yes, it can be surprising and perhaps a little shocking to explore the financial impact on obtaining the look we want, but for some of us its worth every penny. The feeling I get from an amazing dress, an incredible makeover and killer heels is priceless.