Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Cost of Being You – Cosmetics

In the second of my ongoing series about the cost of being who we are, it’s purely cosmetics. Out of the gate, we are years behind. Most of us have never had the option of working with cosmetics. Even when I was single and had the time, I was always too afraid of being caught with makeup on. I did dabble with lipstick and powder foundation. I didn’t do either correctly, like a child getting into her mother’s cosmetics, I had it everywhere and badly. These were again pilfered items; I didn’t buy them so they were the wrong type for me as well. Times have changed and you don’t have to worry about entering the pharmacy to purchase cosmetics from an old guy who gives you the frowny face. You can buy cosmetics pretty much anywhere, even the grocery store and online. With the advent of self-checkout even public stores become less judgy and more anonymous. I am not an expert, I am a novice. In girl years of doing makeup, I am 10 years old. My 14 year old daughter is expert level, even better than my wife! You will learn with practice and application. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and if possible get someone who will give you an honest opinion on your work.

The BasicsThere are so many brands and types of cosmetics, it can leave you dizzy. But there are some basics from which you can then build. Of course, having a friend or family member to help you is ideal, but it’s not always possible. Also, I have found that, like my wife, they have dealt with cosmetics so long they don’t even think about it, or they can be annoyed by the simplistic questions we may ask. It takes time and dedication, but you will get there. YouTube is a font of information for cosmetics applications and reviews.

  • The Tools
    • Cosmetic BrushesYou will need a good set of cosmetic brushes. I don’t have them all, but I have a decent set. You will need these for application of the different cosmetics. They all have a use, and the more I get into cosmetics the more brushes I tend to use. Here is a link to essential brushes and how to use them. Also, if you order my example below, the bag is bright orange and smells bad, after a while the smell will go away, but the bag will always be tragic. Get a new bag when you can.
Example: EmaxDesign 12 Pieces Makeup Brush Set $12.99

    • Blender SpongeI didn’t think this was necessary, until I got one and started using it. Now I can’t even imagine not using it. I use it for applying my foundation and it is fantastic. You can use it wet or dry, I prefer wet (damp). Application is done by “stippling” which is bouncing it along the skin, dabbing if you will. If you rub on foundation with a sponge you are going to get streaks and it will be a wreck.

Example: AmoVee Pro Makeup Sponge $5.99

    • Eyelash CurlerThis is a pretty self-explanatory tool, you use it to curl your eyelashes. [Taken from Start when your lashes are clean, dry, and mascara-free. Open the eyelash curler and, keeping your eyes open; place your upper lashes between the two sides. Starting at the inner corner of your eye, position the curler as close as possible to your eyelid without pinching your skin. When your lashes are tucked inside, gently clamp the curler together. Hold for ten seconds, then repeat as necessary, moving outward to curl the entire lash line.] It is important that you don’t use the curler with mascara on; I don’t even use it if I have eyeliner on. It gets the tool sticky with residue, which will build up and transfer to your lashes or your eyelid. Keep your tools clean and they will work properly.

Example: Walmart [Walmart #: 553103036] COVERGIRL Makeup Masters Eyelash Curler $3.94

    • Small Mirror CompactA small mirror, to keep in your purse or vehicle, is a must. I can’t count the number of times I have had to resort to using my phones selfie camera and that is just awkward. The mirror compact I have has a normal mirror on one side and a magnifying mirror on the other, which can be helpful.

Example: BEST COMPACT MIRROR - MAGNIFYING MakeUp Mirror - Perfect for Purses $10.35

    • Makeup Remover Wipes After washing my face, I use these wipes to help completely remove any residual makeup or those, like mascara, that may be waterproof. Most remover wipes say there is no need to wash your face after using these, but I still do. I haven’t actually bought any of these, as my wife has always kept an ample supply for us both, so I went online to get a pricing.

Example: Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes $6.45

  • The Cosmetics
    • Primer Much like in painting, cosmetics primer smooths the canvas (your skin) and helps keep your makeup looking fresh. They suggest applying a moisturizer beforehand, however I always shave just before the primer and the hair “slow grow” lotion I always use after a shave works fine for me. As I have found with most cosmetics, a little goes a long way. I use my fingers; some use a blender sponge, and start from the center of my face and move out. I know some avoid the eyes, but I use it on my lids as I think it holds the eyeshadow better. On the Slow Grow, it kind of works. I notice that over time it slows down the growing process, but it doesn’t stop it. You have to use it consistently.

Example: Walmart [Walmart #: 553404853] Hard Candy 12 Hour Power Long Wear Face Primer, 1.3 oz $8.00
(Slow Grow): Slow Grow Lotion- Reduces Hair Regrowth 8oz  $8.40

    • FoundationIf you are still shaving your face a great foundation is vital. This will hide the hair shadow, and give you a smooth look. Even if you aren’t shaving, a good foundation will give you a more uniform look, hiding blemishes and discoloration. I suggest getting your foundation color matched to your skin tone in a department store or cosmetics store. However, you can try to match it as closely as possible in the aisle of Walmart. Lighting will change everything from the bathroom lighting when you apply it to the natural light of the sun. This is the one place you don’t want to try to save a dollar/pound/euro, spend the money and get a good one. I have yet to heed my own advice on this because I have liquid foundation that is adequate, not superior for my face. On top of the foundation I also apply hard candy corrector, which is more to match the slightly darker tint of my skin than anything else. A common mistake is to only cover the chin area; you have to remember to also go up the cheeks a bit and down the neck as well, blending it to your skin tone. The foundation is where I use the blender sponge and it is not only great it is fast as well.

Example: Walmart [Walmart #: 551704834] COVERGIRL truBLEND Liquid Makeup Foundation $7.60

    • Corrector/Concealer PaletteUsed to fine-tune color and blend, corrector palettes can help conceal reddened areas, dark circles under the eyes and correct for color differences of skin and foundation. I find it useful especially for shading my foundation, and darkness under my eyes. I was using this initially as a foundation/concealer and it did work fairly well. I use the blender sponge with this over the foundation, after using my fingertips to apply it (dab).

Example: Walmart [Walmart #: 553404128] Hard Candy Sheer Envy Conceal & Corrector Palette $6.00

    • Setting Powder This is used to set your foundation, keeping it from cracking or rippling. Be careful, depending on the type and the brand this can be easily the most expensive item in your cosmetics tray. I use a mineral translucent powder, which is actually used as a medium-coverage foundation but also doesn’t alter the color of the foundation. Since I am still shaving, I need the extra coverage, plus it sets my liquid foundation. I am careful to use this lightly as there is a greater chance of caking. If you don’t shave or don’t need the extra coverage, I suggest using a translucent pressed powder. A pressed powder has binders so there is more sheer coverage. I use my daughters technique, using my small flat-face brush I put a light amount on the brush, and tap the brush while rotating it, against the lip of the container, depositing the powder right back into the container. This leaves a very light coating of powder, and very little is wasted.

Example: Walmart [Walmart #: 005930257] Covergirl TRUblend Minerals Loose Powder, TRANSLUCENT $16.53

    • Eye Shadow While I do have favorites, I find this is the most changeable of my cosmetics. I don’t know what most people do, but I like to match my eye shadows overall effect to my clothes. Not a direct match, I want them to be in the same tones or shades. For instance, if I have a purple cardigan, then I like to have subtle lavender shading to my eye shadow. That may make me crazy I don’t know all the rules, I just know that I like the look. I don’t have any hard fast rules either. I have been known to wear a cream cardigan and eye shadow that is tinted with peach or light pink. I still have trouble with eye shadow, I never know if I have put enough on to show, or if I am putting on too much, so I always err on the side of too light. One rule my wife attests to, if you are older (have wrinkles) stick to a matte palette, avoiding shimmery palettes. This is because shimmery colors will tend to crease, accenting the lines you are trying to avoid. For the most part I have followed that rule, but I do like to add a shimmery color under the eyebrow where I don’t have wrinkles. Do what you like and don’t be afraid to experiment. Also, I would like to add, that I use my darker eyeshadow to fill in my brows. There is makeup for brows specifically, but when on a budget, a dollar/pound/euro saved and all.

Example: W7 Natural Nudes Naked Eye Colour Palette New $4.54 /

    • Eye Liner I thought this would be the easiest section to write, as it’s just outlining your eye. It’s not and it isn’t. While currently I am only using an eyeliner stick (e.l.f.), I have several other types I just haven’t gotten profient enough to pull off with full makeup yet. I also have two liquid types, which I am really wishing I was good at putting on. For now, I use the stick, which is like an eyeliner pencil, but you don’t have to sharpen it, just rotating the tip out as you need it. I did find out with my first stick, don’t forget to retract it. Much like lipstick, it is not a solid and if you forget to retract it and put the top back on, you have just squished it into the top and ruined your eyeliner stick. So, I bought another one and I am wiser for the mistake. There are a lot of tutorials for eyeliner application on youtube, and they all mostly fall along the same basics. The type of eyelids can determine how you apply it. Heavy lidded, smaller eyes, to make them seem bigger, you will apply to the outside and against the lashes, upper and lower. If you have big, bright, beautiful eyes like my wife, you will apply the eyeliner on the insides of the lashes, that small narrow edge closest to the eye. My suggestion, regardless of which way you do this, is to take your time and use small strokes to make the line. Again, youtube is your friend for most things cosmetic. Find your style/comfort level and go with it. Practice with just the eyeliner, so if you make mistakes you can clean it off and try again.

Example: Walmart [Walmart #: 550117605] e.l.f. Cosmetics Eyeliner & Shadow Stick $2.99 / Maybelline EyeStudio Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner Ink Pen $5.69

    • Mascara For most of us, thick full lashes are not naturally present. So, we use mascara to thicken and lengthen the lashes. There are many different kinds and brands. I go with waterproof and volume adding, and I went through a couple of brands before I found the one I like. Do your research and see what you need for your daily use and you may want a different brand for use at night.

Example: Walmart [Walmart #: 551086761] L'Oreal Paris Voluminous False Fiber Lashes Waterproof Mascara $7.15

    • Lipstick/Tinted Balm Used to color your lips, making them appear fuller and distinct, lipstick is the very first cosmetic I purchased and I have several colors. I use tinted lip balm on days where I am not going out or not dressing up; there is just enough tint to bring out my lips. On days where I am putting an outfit together or I just want more distinct color, I wear lipstick. There are of course other types of cosmetics to color your lips, lip makeup, lip balm, lip color, lip gloss, lip lacquer, lip liner. I am only covering the basics as it is what I have and what I know. There are rumors that the average woman ingests 4 pounds (or 7 depending on the magazine) of lipstick in their lifetime. I have yet to find actual facts on this, no study is cited and it smacks of guesswork and wishy thinking. However, we must ingest some, so I choose to go with those lipsticks/tinted balms that are as natural as possible. I am not pushing any brand, use what you like, but I enjoy Burt’s Bee’s brand lipstick and tinted lip balm. I love the colors and that the ingredients they use are as neutral as possible. I don’t know of any lipstick that is completely safe, being 100% natural doesn’t guarantee anything. A lot of poisons are 100% natural, but you don’t want to ingest them. Go with what you like, the colors you like and avoid too many chemicals if you can. Using lipstick can seem a bit daunting, but once you get some practice it will go on quickly. I suggest having a small mirror in your purse so that you can apply lipstick when needed, as they rarely last through the day with one application. There is a Burt’s Bees area in my grocery store, which is where I usually get them. But I looked online to get the pricing and to give you links.

Example: Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm Rose $5.87 / Walmart [Walmart #: 555393244] Burt's Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Lipstick, Juniper Water $7.62

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Cost of Being You – Clothes

I want to inform you, kind readers, of the undeniable factor in a transgender person’s life, cost/expense/toll/levy. Money will be your foe and friend in transition. So, I am going to try to document a series of  honest reviews of the fees incurred so that you aren’t stunned but prepared. I will give you honest, unabashed costs as I encounter them myself. This will be upon my firsthand experience, so it will apply mostly to MtF transition. Though, I have a son who is FtM, so perhaps I can get his take on the costs associated as well. But I also want to vent my frustrations. So, I will do both and hopefully give useful information along the way.

The first costs I have encountered in my slow, winding transition are for things to wear. I spent most of my life stealing clothes or wearing the clothes of my girlfriends, sisters and finally my wife. I know it was wrong, I was in survival mode and not thinking about how seriously intrusive and wrong it is. So, when I finally stopped denying who I was and honestly told myself it’s time to stop being the mask, I started buying my own clothes.

  • Online PurchasesAmazon and Walmart were great places to start, they offer a lot of clothes and you get the benefit of reviews to see if fit is accurate to size, etc. The clothes can be inexpensive and easy to return if you have issues. Now that I know what brands I like, that look better on me, I know I can go to them directly, or at least have an avenue of search on other sites. I tend to go towards styles that fit my age and aren’t clingy as I am overweight (I am working on that).
    • PantiesWhile my instinct was to go sexy, I found that it is better to buy practical at first. It is cheaper and you can often get them in packs of 2 or more. Also, if you make a mistake on size or style it won’t affect your pocketbook as much. I have not found a reliable size conversion for men’s underwear to panties. I was able to guess by comparing my wife’s size. Once you have the basics you can experiment with different styles and brands.
      • Example: [Walmart #: 553629108] Best Fitting Panty Cotton Stretch Bikini, 2 Pack comes in several color choices $4.96

    • BrasThis could be an entire column on its own. Bras are notoriously easy to get wrong. Honestly, the best way is to go to a place that does fittings. If you aren’t ready for that, it becomes a bit hit or miss, even if you follow the instructions. I am providing the instructions I followed. Still, it will be sheer guess work, I changed cup size and band size a couple of times before I got it right. Go with inexpensive bras at first (they can get outrageously expensive quickly), and keep in mind what type of dress or top you wear as it will matter what type of bra you purchase so that you aren’t showing a lot of bra over your top. Also, if you are wearing falsies, it is best to keep away from underwire as it does contort the shape and not in a pleasing way.
      • Example: Avenue Women's Back Smoother Underwire Bra  comes in three colors $24.40

* Taken from
Measuring band size
There are two ways to measure your band size. The best bet is to do it both ways to see if you get a consistent measurement. 
  1. Bring the measuring tape around your back to the front, keeping it under the arms and bringing it up across to the middle of your chest (see image). If you get an odd number, round up to the next even number to get your band size.
  2. Measure across the bottom of your band, directly under the bust and across your ribcage. Make sure to keep your measuring tape straight around the back to front. Again, if you get an odd number, round up to the next even number to get your band size. 
Measuring cup size
This is where it gets tricky- if you already have a bra and can talk us through how it's fitting, we might be better off stopping here- we can help you troubleshoot your fit. You can also Check Your Fit and see our Bra Fit Q&A for help assessing your fit. The first step (above) will tell us if you might be in the wrong band size. This one becomes much more subjective. Here's how to do it: 
  1. Measure loosely around the fullest part of your bust, with the tape straight across and around your back, bringing it to the front.
  2. Subtract your band measurement (from step 1) from this bust measurement. The difference calculates your bra size- each inch represents a cup size. For example, if you measure a 34 inch band size, and a 36 inch cup size, the difference is 2: which would indicate a B cup. 

    • TopsWhether it is a batwing blouse or a simple t-shirt, you should dress for comfort and with the entire outfit in mind. Style is more in how you wear something more than what you wear. Make good choices for your body and your age. This doesn’t mean you have to wear clothes that look like your grandmothers sofa. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find your own style. Again, start with inexpensive tops, they will allow you to find the style, material and size you enjoy. For colors I try to envision what my entire ensemble will consist of. Since I have so few shoes (the sadness of having man-sized feet) I build from the bottom, up. Starting with my shoes or boots, I build my pants/skirt/leggings then belt(no belt), then the top and any overshirt or jacket. Like most items, you will find the brands you like and stick with them. I have found (being plus size) that the sizes are pretty close between men and women. However, for the slighter of you, you will probably need to step a size up on women’s tops.
      • Example: Women's Plus Size Perfect Long Sleeve Tee Shirt, comes in several colors $17.58

    • JeansJeans come in many varied designs and fits, as well as materials. I find that I like the softer, stretchier jeans, which is obtained by varying the material makeup. The jeans I wear now have a 99% cotton 1% spandex blend. I recommend buying jeans in a department store, as you get a better fit this way and you can tell if you like the feel. Once you have this, you can order online. However, if you are not ready for that, I understand. Just go into the women’s jeans area and feel them. That will let you know the materials you like, the rest will be a bit of experimentation unfortunately. Cuts of jeans tend to be along the line of men’s jeans too, boot cuts flair at the bottom, straight legs are straight. Skinny jean cuts are very obvious, so if you aren’t out, then try to keep those for when you are being you and not going to work as your mask. I find that jeans not only vary by brand (size and feel and cut) but also the same brand of jeans will vary on size and they tend to discontinue lines of jeans. So, if you find something you love, I suggest buying several of them.
      • Example: [Walmart #: 552824037] The Riders By Lee Women's Slender Stretch Straight Leg, comes in two colors $18.94

    • LeggingsLeggings vary in how they fit the entire leg/waist. I have had those that fit horribly, with looseness at the crotch or buttocks, or they don’t hug the calves. Then you have the ones that feel like they will strangle you in the dark spooky area of the park, leaving you as the really pale actress with no lines on Law & Order. I am providing a sizing chart so you can get an idea of what size you might need. I have found that the most crucial areas to worry about are the waist, hips and stomach, as leggings are typically stretchy enough to fit the legs themselves.
      • Example: Women's Plus Size Basic Leggings 1X/2X and 3X/4X, available in many different colors/patterns $12.97

    • DressesI love a nice dress, in fact I started with dresses before anything else. I made three mistakes when buying my first dresses, the hemline was too short, dress was too tight and neckline too plunging. I went with what I thought would be sexy again. I still like short dresses, but I like them just above the knee. It will depend on what you like but also what you can get away with. If you have falsies, avoid plunging necklines, if you have implants then go wild. If you have really good falsies that match your skin tone and meld seamlessly to your skin, then go for it as well. Most of us will want to avoid plunging necklines, opting instead for less revealing cuts. You can still accent the breasts by looking for dresses that push up the breasts or outline them from just under the breasts. The tightness of the dress will also depend upon what you like. Bodycon (figure hugging) is not good for us big girls, dresses can cover all manner of sins, but not when it’s so tight it’s competing with your immune system. Whether to go sleeveless or sleeved, long or short will be up to how you feel about your arms and the weather. Beware the models photos; use them as an idea of the style, not how they will fit you. They never fit you how they fit the models, mostly because they don’t fit the models either (behind them are clamps and pins holding the dress tight and loose in all the right places). I go inexpensive here as well, find what you like then you can find better versions of those styles. Also, be thinking of what shoes/boots you have to fit the dress.
      • Example: NINEXIS Women's Wrap Surplice Short Sleeve Dress, available in several colors depending on size $22.99

    • Shoes/BootsOk this is going to hurt and I am sorry. The one thing a transgender woman can’t change is foot size. The general wisdom is whatever you are in men’s size; add 2 sizes and you have your women’s shoe size; however width will remain the same. (I.E. Men’s size 11 = Women’s size 13) Sizing doesn’t really change between brands and types (boots, shoes, heels, etc). As the sizes go up in women’s shoes, the more they tend to become fetish-wear with heels absurdly high and thin. I have spent months trying to find a boot or shoe that will fit me (size 11½ men’s). Don’t give up! Every few weeks new shoes appear and old ones disappear. If you see your size and style don’t tarry, get it as soon as you can. Of course the smaller your shoe size the easier it is to find footwear in more styles and colors. I scour Amazon (multiple suppliers), Walmart, Long Tall Sally US, Pretty Tall Style, Belk, etc. When you do find your size, be conscious of the pricing. I have had them in the cart, ready to go when I noticed the boots cost over $200. You can find inexpensive shoes/boots but it is going to take a lot of searching and some time. Don’t get too frustrated, keep at it.
      • Example: ROF Petty-02 Women's Fashion Western Inspired Almond Pointy Toe Vegan Stacked Heel Ankle Booties, available in several colors and materials $29.99

  • In-Store PurchasesI have focused on online purchases, mostly because it is far easier to shop this way, barring the issue of fitting. If you want things to fit, you must try them on. In order to do that, you must be comfortable walking up to an attendant and asking for a fitting room. These things are hard initially, especially if you aren’t out yet. You have to start somewhere. I started at Walmart, oddly the least judgmental place in the world, look at the people who shop there. It took me some time to work up the nerve to approach the fitting room attendant. My voice is distinctly male; I really have to work on that, so asking for a key is the hardest part. Once you are past that hurdle, there is the other thing. There is the chance they are going to clock you; they are going to talk about you when you are gone, or as you are walking away. I hate that, but it is going to happen sometimes. I don’t want to you to not take the chance, to be a normal person shopping. I just want you to be prepared if it does happen. I have been clocked, I didn’t enjoy it but they didn’t cause a scene, I went red in the face and fumbled a lot trying to get my purchases. It was embarrassing, but I lived through it, and I have been back to that store. Being clocked is going to happen, be safe but don’t be afraid. You are worth living your life as a person.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Faster than the speed of...

Life is often strange and weird for me. Nothing is normal, not even my mom's death. She didn't die, she rebounded and leaves my previous post feeling oddly out of place. I managed to come to acceptance through the whole stages of grief, and then I climbed out into hope.

She isn't dying now, she is up and getting better from the sepsis. Her doctors have a new plan for treating her cancer and she is back to wanting to fight. I don't know what happened, but I am glad it did.

On the me side of things, my transiness, I am going to the laser hair removal for my facial area so I don't have to shave my face anymore (hopefully). I am going to do this and I will keep moving forward with my changes.

My wife and I are starting a blog together, it's not about my transiness or her issues (non-issues) with it. It's a secret right now, but I will post the link once we start it on this blog. It will be a blog post about the first blog post about the new blog... and blog.

This update is over. I will report my facial hair removal consult and let you all know what to expect, what happens and the costs that you can expect, since no one seems to say this like it's taboo. Ta for now!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Greater than Myself

I had said to friends that I was not going to post on my blog for a while, that I had some personal things going on and I had to deal with them. But here I am posting anyway. I am not writing this for pity, or for feels. I know that you who care for me wish me to not be in emotional pain, and there are those of you that don’t care at all but find it interesting, or are bored, etc. I am writing this with the original purpose of this blog in mind, to write about my thoughts, good or bad. 



First, let me update you on my Mom. She is doing as well as can be expected, level 4 lung cancer and in hospice care. She also has sepsis; assumedly from a surgery she had a couple of weeks ago. They did not expect her to survive the week. As with most diagnosis against my mother, they were proven wrong in how resilient and strong she is. She is weak and tired; she has said she is ready to die. These are never easy things to hear about someone you love. I pray for her, even if I am not religious. I pray for her because she asks me to, because she believes and I am not above being wrong. So now we wait.


My mind drifts to the future, thinking about what life will be once my mother is gone. My tendency to overthink situations, cause/effect and to try to anticipate people I have no ability to understand often overwhelms my ability to process it. It’s a fool’s errand, which makes it a perfect task for me, for I am afool. When my mother is gone, I will come out to my remaining family, to my brothers and stepfather. The only reason, I have said before, that I do not tell my mother is only because I don’t want her to worry over me. She would be ok with it; she would deal with it and then want to fix things for me. I didn’t and don’t want her to worry over me, when she should be the one taken care of. But I will come out to my family and my wife’s family. They will accept me or they will not, they will tolerate me or make fun of me or whatever they wish. Their reaction will not change who I am, it will only change our relationship. 


My mother dying is not in any way freeing me to do something. It is however a wakeup call to not take time for granted. There is so little time in our very short lives to not seize each moment like a child grasping a balloon. In that vein, I am coming out to family and friends very soon. With work, it won’t be long at all, a little longer than now, but much shorter than another year. I still have to be able to pay for things, to provide for my family.


It was as good a Christmas as it could be. I wasn’t sad the entire time, nor was I happy either. We have moments of either, small moments that if stitched together make a pattern of a good life or a sad life. Since most of my moments this Christmas were happy, interwoven with moments of sadness for my mother, I can say it was a good Christmas. Our children opened presents; we adults managed a few ourselves. The time passed, a week off work went by and there were times where I thought I would dry up completely from crying. The New Year rang in with us at home, quietly celebrating the clocks twelfth toll.