Despite paying £40,000 on surgeries, a London trans activist and social media influencer has said her hair transplant to tackle male pattern baldness made the “biggest difference” to her wellbeing on her transitioning journey.
When Charlie Craggs, 28, first noticed her hair was starting to recede and disappear in her late teens, she had more reason than most to worry.
Just as she was starting to see the first signs of early male pattern baldness, Charlie, who has over 46k Instagram followers, had also just transitioned in 2012 – and her receding hairline had major implications on her self-confidence.
“I’ve spent about £40k on surgeries and on trying to make myself look like a woman so that I can feel safe out on the street, but of all the things I have had done, it is my hair transplant that has made the biggest difference to my wellbeing,” said Charlie, who had her first follicle transplant in 2020.
Charlie was born on a council estate in Ladbroke Grove, growing up alongside two brothers, and said she knew she wanted to be a girl as soon as she could talk.
Speaking in Transgender Awareness Week, which ends with the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday, Charlie said: “People think being trans is a choice but it’s not.”
She added: “My mum says I would tell her I wanted to be a little girl as soon as I could talk so that’s even before I remember telling her that.
“I was saying that at an age when I had no concept of gender or memory so that tells you it is not a choice.
“I had always wished I was a girl – I would wear tights on my head to pretend I had long hair and go to bed at night and pray that wish would come true, but I had no idea it was even a possibility until I was 10.”
The event that dramatically changed everything for Charlie in 2004 was seeing Nadia Almada not only appear on the hugely popular tv show, Big Brother, but go on to win it.
Almada was the first transgender person to take part in the Channel 4 show and her victory sent out a strong signal of acceptance by the public – but Charlie said this did not seem to last.
“There hadn’t been anyone before her in my lifetime and there wasn’t anyone else in the public eye for another 10 years so nothing really changed,” said Charlie.
She added: “My parents have always been accepting of who I am, but it has not been the same outside of the home.
“I was accepted at primary school, but I went on to an all-boys school where I wasn’t, which was a shock.
“I had no friends and where I was so isolated there were many times I thought about suicide.”
After leaving school, Charlie — who is the author of a book called To My Trans Sisters, which is a collection of inspirational letters and stories written by trans women telling the challenges they have faced and overcome — went on to study at the London College of Fashion.
“At last, I wasn’t the only person like me, but I was still feeling dead inside because I was trying so hard to bury those parts of me that I hated,” she said.
“Eventually, I decided I might as well transition because life was so bleak, it couldn’t be any worse than feeling dead already.”
She added: “I just didn’t want to be this person. I was depressed and suicidal and sadder than I had ever been. I hated myself and just wanted my life to be easier.”
Reaching the point of breakdown, Charlie said she ‘did a Britney’ and even shaved off all her hair.
She said every step of her transition has been difficult, including her first visit to a GP – who threw her out of the surgery and refused to write a referral to the gender clinic.
Charlie was also hurt by the realisation she had not had the support of medication she could have been given in her teens which would have prevented her body from maturing as a male.
As a result, when she did finally transition, her hair continued to recede.
In November 2020, Charlie had her first Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant with Harley Street Hair Clinic.
The treatment works to replace lost or thinning hair with hair taken from other areas where the follicles are still healthy and productive, usually taking follicles from the sides and the back of the head.
Charlie, who now boasts a thick mane of long, wavy hair went back to have more hair transplanted a year later and is due back again at the end of this year.
Today she said her new hair represents everything she has had to overcome to be who she was born to be.
“It’s not a secret that I am trans, but I know I am still not safe out on the streets,” she says.
“Having this hair has made my life easier and I love having it but I am now going to have surgery to change my voice because when I speak, people know that I was born male.”
Charlie, who describes herself as a trans activist, says she was subjected to hate crime at the beginning of the year, where she was spat on while on the Tube.
She continued: “If there is something in the news or on social media about trans people, we are then targeted and attacked on the streets.
“You see the number of these attacks go up.
“And yet we are just trying to get on with our lives, just like you. We are not a threat to anyone so all we would ask is that people show us some compassion and leave us alone to get on with our lives.”
Charlie is the presenter of the BBC documentary Transitioning Teens which is available on BBC iPlayer. Her book, To My Trans Sisters, is available in paperback from Amazon and she is on Instagram at: @charlie_craggs
For more information on hair loss, visit: www.hshairclinic.co.uk/hair-loss-treatment/fue-hair-transplant/