By Abel Avalos
When the word transgender comes to mind, some immediately think of Caitlyn Jenner because in recent years, she was thrown into the spotlight for publicly coming out as a transgender woman. One of the most interesting parts of her publicly coming out was the “reveal” of her new self where an almost completely different person emerged. But, she, a famous multi-millionaire, is an unrealistic image of what physically transitioning is like for most trans people. Speaking from experience as someone who identifies as female to male (FtM) and is currently transitioning, things are not always smooth sailing.
After coming out at age 16, my wardrobe needed a change. I threw out every scoop neck T-shirt, floral print and girl underwear I owned. Replacing all that with men’s clothes was not good on my wallet, but it was a confidence boost. Buying new clothes wasn’t all I needed, however. I needed to start my physical transition too.
As a minor, the steps to start transitioning is hard. First, you have to publicly be open (tell your parents, teachers and friends, for example) about transitioning for one year. After that requirement is fulfilled, your therapist can approve hormone treatment and needs your parents to sign off on it. I waited till after I was age 18 to start hormone injections because I couldn’t afford to have a full-time therapist, which is required for minors.
Looking at the purely monetary side of physically transition, becoming your true self can cost upwards of $75,000, and in some cases much more. To medically transition for me meant starting gender affirming hormones — testosterone injections. With insurance I pay $35 to $65 on one month’s supply and needles. That price varies by person and insurance. Therapists can cost around $60 a session four times a month, and that would be considered cheap. More expensive sessions can cost up to $350 a session.
What I have my sights on next is changing my legal name and gender, and I need around $500 to get the paperwork filed with the court system. Luckily, I can apply for a fee waiver for living in a single parent household.
Most people associate being trans with “the surgery,” and there are generally two kinds. The first is top surgery, which is either the adding of breast tissue or the removal of it. These surgeries average on costs from $5,000 to $10,000. The second kind of surgery is bottom surgery, which range from $10,000 up to $70,000. Some people travel outside of the United States for sexual reassignment surgery because the American health care system doesn’t offer help for people to afford them. These kinds of surgeries are also dangerous and have high chances of complications. So even if it goes smoothly during the operation, people can stay in the hospital with related problems for months.
Transitioning does not happen overnight. It takes time, a lot of emotional labor, patience and an ungodly amount of money. There are so many aspects of being trans that are so hard deal with. We put ourselves at risk for simply wanting to live freely in our own skin, and we deal with harassment and discrimination even from the highest positions of our government. Our fight for equality and acceptance is not over. The struggle is real, but it’s all worth it when I’ll finally get to live my life as my true self.