“This is a tough gig”

There’s an interesting story in The Guardian about a trans woman who’s had facial feminisation surgery. I’m glad it’s been positive for her, but I’m also glad that the piece also interviews Juno Roche about the reality for trans women like me.

Facial feminisation has allowed for the creation of “a kind of two-tier system where, on the whole, the most successful trans people are beautiful people that pass,” Roche continued. “People who are proud to be trans, and those people who can’t afford the surgery, fall into a separate category. That’s most people. And we have to create safety for everyone. It impacts on so many people, not just trans people.”

Roche understands the appeal of facial surgery for so many trans women. “If somebody wants to have an easy life, then boy, trans people deserve an easy life. This is a tough gig. But the truth is, if testosterone has shaped your face, it will have shaped your shoulders, your shoulder-to-hip ratio. It will have shaped your hands. Where does it stop?”

That’s exactly how I feel about it. If I had the money, and after dropping well over £10,000 on electrolysis and losing all my savings to COVID I certainly don’t, I don’t think I’d consider FFS. I consider electrolysis essential for me, because facial hair is the pumpkin in my particular Cinderella story: it limits where I can go and for how long I can go there. Hormones have made some worthwhile changes to my body. I haven’t ruled out other things. But I’m pretty sure that unless I win six figures on the lottery, FFS isn’t in my future.

I absolutely understand the desire for FFS. I’ve seen enough mockery of trans women’s appearances and experienced some of it myself to know that the people who claim to be “gender critical” are quite happy to judge trans women’s looks against the very same beauty standards they so deplore when applied to cisgender women. And the rest of the world judges us too.

A trans woman who is not conventionally beautiful (in a white, thin, cisgender, stereotypically feminine sense) will be reminded of this constantly through her life. FFS can make that much less likely to happen, and like cosmetic surgery generally it may make you more visually attractive to other people – something you’re going to think about if you’re single and fed up with people swiping left on you in dating apps.

But even if I could afford it, if I had the budget for the tracheal shave and the hair transplant and the brow reduction and the jaw reshaping,  I would still have these shoulders, this height, these proportions, this voice. And there would always, always be another thing to change.

Sophia, the woman in the story, looks pretty. But she’s still unsatisfied.

“On my face, I’m 75% there. I still have things I want to do on my body.” She nodded. “I’m planning other surgeries.”