Sometimes I still find myself in this state. There's this peculiar feeling like something scratching at my thoughts in the back of my mind. It seems difficult to think of optimistic possibilities. Instead, I can only think of the dread over the distance of those possibilities. Then, a stray thought. Often it involves a vague sort of self-denial, something that set's the proverbial bar just that much more out of reach. Perhaps I'm too "damaged" to think myself worthy of good things. I feel the need to fight tooth and nail for them. Without that struggle, they seem less meaningful.
Tonight it was a network of thoughts concerning my plans for 2008. As some of you know, I've been trying to save as much as possible for SRS -- a.k.a. GRS, a.k.a. "The Surgery" -- for almost a year. The actual total at the moment is $3000 USD. There is approximately $700 additionally in my checking account, and another $500 is feasible by the end of the month. This is especially likely as another two weeks of travel have been confirmed for the last two weeks of September. Combined with this week, I will only be in the office for one in total. As work pays for food expenses when I'm on assignment, I reap an additional benefit for each week. Considering all of this, I can comfortably say that I will have $4000 USD in savings by October 1st.
So, just where is that amount in respect to the total cost? Since transition, I've held fast to the number of $15k. It seems almost an impossible amount. At my current income, it would take another three years to reach that amount. In reality, I had heard that number off-hand, out of context, and several years ago. No doubt the total would have changed. Given the time I first heard it, I could believe that $15k would be the cost of SRS from an American surgeon. Today, that price can be $33k to $45k.
Thankfully, I'm not so insular as to deny the world outside of the US.
Thailand has been treating MTFs for several years. I have heard both good and bad it. The good of course, is that the price is far, far more approachable. My admittedly terse research from a year ago gave the value of $13k. To me, it still sounded an impossible amount. How was I ever to save that much?
What I have discovered recently, however, is that I may have been reading cost of the Combo Meal with Fries, versus the simple hamburger I had wished. First of all, there are many surgical procedures in addition to SRS that are common for transwomen. Some include a tracheal scrape to reduce the appearance of the Adam's Apple, Breast Augmentation Surgery, and the big one, Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS). How many of those am I likely to get? None. In the last three years since going Full Time, I have not been clocked once. Attempts to out me by misguided family members have resulted in critical looks at them. Passing ability, of course, is only half of the decision making process here.
The other half of that decision is exactly what of my mixed up body am I comfortable. Since beginning a progesterone regimen, I have been very happy with the development of my chest. I am just barely a 'D', and there are still signs have further growth -- although I realize I am approaching my limit. I feel that if I were to reduce the size of my belly (an issue that rivals even that of SRS!) I would be very pleased with the results. Breast Augmentation Surgery? No need. The next issue is my face. To be honest, there are parts I would certainly want to edit. My nose could be smaller, my chin less pronounced. All in all, however, proper lighting and $40 of cosmetics are more than satisfactory. Furthermore, the thought of changing my facial features gives me a shudder. I had seen a tgirl after undergoing and healing from an FFS procedure. She did indeed look more feminine, but her face also came off as a sort of terrible mask -- like it was too perfect to believe. I decided against it then and there. That leaves the tracheal shave. This I may yet consider, but it is currently not enough of a concern of mine to give it priority. In either case, the cost is low enough to consider a US surgeon on an out-patient basis.
That means the only procedure I'm considering is SRS itself. Slightly less terse research indicates that the cost of SRS in Thailand will run $7 to $9k depending on the type of procedure and the surgeon. Thailand is not without it's risks. There are plenty of hackjobs that would leave us mutilated for that amount of cash. Unfortunately, there are many of us desperate enough to take the risk anyways. As there are several members on my friend's list that have recently and successfully undergone the procedure in that far-off country, I too consider it an acceptable risk given solid research.
I have yet to do more than idly poke around the 'net for potential prices and surgeons. Even my Aunt Kathy had asked me, "Have you picked a surgeon yet?" several months ago. Her manner struck me as odd as it came across as a question one would ask about carefully selecting a card out of a deck from a collectible card game. To be honest, I considered the subject so dreary, so seemingly impossible, that I outright avoided a serious investigation of surgeons and prices. With $4000 in my savings, however, I feel it is time to confront this fear.
My goal at the end of this year is to break $5000. I think this more than possible. If conditions permit, I would make a go for $6000, but I have serious doubts. Most notably, I have a long delayed appointment with my endochronologist next Monday. No doubt this will result in a requisite blood test for liver and kidney function -- something that I should have done back in January. Due to the fact I haven't seen a doctor since last year, I still have yet to pay my $750 deductible. This means that my next appointment will result in an expected cost of $500 or more -- the maximum I can possibly save in travel-free month. With only three months remaining (September's savings practically accounted for), $6000 seems nearly impossible at my current level of income.
My income, however, is likely to go up by year's end. My annual review is scheduled to take place sometime over the next two months. Last year I received a pay increase of $5000 year. The increases are based on one's "utilization", in other words, the number of weeks one is teaching a class or is doing consulting. This year has been a blur of consulting compared to last year. Entire months have disappeared in it's name. All of February, some of March, April, most of July, August and September. In the least, I think I can expect a similar bump in pay. This would make $6k a possible goal, although still difficult.
So what of 2008? Ideally, I would have SRS mid to late next year. This would require me saving at my current rate for at least four months. If travel drops off, it may be longer. If I am to stay on track for this event, it would also mean the cancellations of any sizable expenditures. I can only think of one that fits into the category.
My vacation to the UK this year was a mixture of stress, fatigue, argument, interspersed with genuinely enjoyable moments. To summarize, the entire trip seemed a exercise in particularly bad timing. I was patently exhausted from over a month in Indiana, and arrived the very day my hosts encountered problems of their own. For this reason, I had decided against writing about it publicly. One thing that cannot be argued is the price. In total, it cost $1000. Some of which from my own savings. I accepted the cost at the time because I believed that I would never have the opportunity again. Months afterward, I did begin to consider a repeat of the trip next March. However, given the growing disparity of the exchange rate and my determination for SRS, I believe I have to cancel. If I am to visit another country next year, it will be Thailand or nothing else.