The wrong trousers

David Thomas’s trans­gen­der di­ary

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - The wrong trousers David Thomas’s trans­gen­der di­ary

Chris Hinch­liffe, di­rec­tor of Lucinda Ellery, fe­male hair-loss spe­cial­ist, ex­am­ines a pic­ture of me taken two years ago. He notes the sparse, greasy tufts scat­tered along my hair­line and the bare, shiny scalp at my crown. Then he looks up at the lux­u­ri­ant thatch that now sprouts there, like a glo­ri­ous wheat­field on what was a bar­ren dust bowl.

‘You’ve got the best hair trans­plant I’ve ever seen,’ he says.

I bask con­tent­edly in the com­pli­ment. The £11,000 I’ve spent on two pro­ce­dures, the pain and dis­com­fort – it was all worth­while. And yet I de­tect a ‘but’ hang­ing in the air.

‘But it was a waste of time?’

Hinch­liffe shrugs. ‘Well, what I am go­ing to sug­gest next, would be just as easy for us if you hadn’t.’

It’s quite a blow. I could de­vote many thou­sands of words to the gru­elling busifem­i­nin­ity ness of hair trans­plan­ta­tion. But for now, let me just say this.

Hair trans­plants es­sen­tially con­sist of the re­moval of a strip of hair-bear­ing skin, about an inch wide and eight across from the back of your scalp. This is di­vided up into thou­sands of ‘fol­lic­u­lar units’, each con­tain­ing two or three hairs, which are then re­dis­tributed across the empty patches on your head.

You’re awake, though heav­ily tran­quil­lised, through­out. And as the hairy strip of skin is ripped from your skull, the thought that comes to mind is, ‘That’s just like Vel­cro.’ The sound, the feel – they’re ex­actly the same. Es­sen­tially, then, you’re scalped. And I’ve had it done twice.

Yet here I am in an agree­able of­fice in Chiswick, west Lon­don, com­ing to terms with the very real pos­si­bil­ity that Chris Hinch­liffe is right. Be­cause here’s the thing: if all I wanted was a man’s trans­plant, mine could in­deed be counted a tri­umphant suc­cess. Af­ter 25 years of ev­er­in­creas­ing bald­ness, I look in the mir­ror and see my old, youth­ful, hir­sute self.

But even the finest trans­plant can’t beat the maths. If you start out with 100,000 hairs, and you lose a third of them, then even if you re­dis­tribute them with the ut­most skill, you’re still try­ing to cover the same amount of head with a much smaller num­ber of hairs. Thus the den­sity of hair is al­ways bound to be less than it once was. And, Hinch­liffe says, ‘For true you need a good thatch of hair, with noth­ing ob­vi­ous in terms of thin­ning.’

And this is why I’ve come to Lucinda Ellery. Act­ing on the para­dox­i­cal prin­ci­ple that ‘the only way to get a nat­u­ral look is with a pros­thetic’, they spe­cialise in ‘in­tralace’ hair­pieces, com­prised of real hair, at­tached to a fine mesh. The mesh is placed on your head. Your own hair is pulled through it and com­bined with the hair­piece to cre­ate the ef­fect of a thick head of hair that looks en­tirely nat­u­ral.

‘We’ve got a whole colour range,’ Hinch­liffe says. ‘That’s an en­tire meet­ing in it­self. For ex­am­ple, should we have some grey in there? We could have some­thing spe­cially made that would be 10 per cent grey for a to­tally ac­cu­rate match with your hair.’

‘But,’ he flat­ters me, ‘you look young enough not to need any grey at all.’

Ac­cord­ing to Hinch­liffe, a Lucinda Ellery hair­piece typ­i­cally costs ‘a cou­ple of thou­sand a year’. This in­cludes reg­u­lar ap­point­ments to ad­just for loos­en­ing caused by the growth of one’s own hair. If it ex­tends right to the hair­line, as mine would, the in­tralace has to be re-taped ev­ery cou­ple of days.

‘It sounds like a faff, but once you see how easy it is, it’s not a big deal,’ Hinch­liffe as­sures me. ‘You just work it into your groom­ing rou­tine. When you see the ef­fect, it’s to­tally worth it.’

To prove the point, he sits me down in front of a mir­ror, picks up a hair­piece and says, ‘I want to show you how you look with a com­plete, softer hair­line and, most im­por­tantly, denser hair.’

He sticks it on my fore­head, in a rough ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the fi­nal ef­fect. I cer­tainly look more fe­male. But I still need a ton of work on my face to match the hair.

There are two other catches to con­sider. I don’t cur­rently have thou­sands of pounds a year to spare for hair­pieces. And I al­ways swore that I would try to be as nat­u­ral as pos­si­ble: no im­plants, no wigs.

But, Hinch­liffe is right. To look as good as I would like to, I am go­ing to need a lit­tle help. So there can’t be any half-mea­sures. Ei­ther I go all-in, or I don’t go in at all.

As the hairy strip of skin is ripped from my skull, I think, ‘That’s just like Vel­cro.’ Es­sen­tially, I’ve been scalped. And I’ve had it done twice

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