Paying for gender transition: common pitfalls

Not planning realistically

Precision and realistic goals are essential. The less money you have, the more precise your goals must be. Do not overestimate how much money you’ll have for transition. Don’t have vague plans and goals. Most of us have little room for error.

Assuming employment will not be affected

I would guess that the majority of TSs have a different job within about a year of going full-time. Some are fired on the spot or lose all their clients when they come out. Some feel forced out through demotions, suddenly poor reviews, transfers, or ostracism ranging from subtle to violent.

I cannot tell you how many TSs I have known who ended up unemployed or underemployed after transition. Most of them had kind of figured everything would “just work out.” They had no contingency plan in case things didn’t. In some cases, they find themselves out of work and unable to find new work because of their appearance. It sucks that things are this way, but here’s a reality check: unpassable TSs face greater discrimination in the workplace. In a perfect world, that wouldn’t be the case, but that’s not where we live.

Don’t assume anti-discrimination laws will keep them from eliminating you in an interview. If you do not think you can keep your job or get a new job where your transsexuality won’t be an issue, you need to get a plan in place now. Unemployment, or being forced to take a lower-paying job to pay the bills, are the fastest ways to seriously set back your transition goals.

Even if you don’t feel forced out, there is often an urge to move to a job where your male past is not known. This doesn’t necessarily mean going stealth, but even those who are out as TS sometimes find it’s nice working with people who never worked with them as male. I have found a difference in people who never knew me as a male and those who did, even though everyone knows I’m TS. Some find it very demoralizing to be referred to by their old name, etc., or they just want a fresh start.

Further, women still make about two-thirds what men make in comparable positions. You may find it difficult to maintain your income at current levels when switching jobs, or you may find it harder to get promoted once you’ve switched. You need to plan on a certain amount of financial discrimination in the workplace and compensate for it in any way possible.

Keep in mind that transition at work is the defining moment in transition for many, even more so than SRS. You must make plans in the event your work transition does not go as well as you hoped. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Do not get caught unprepared for a bad outcome.

Experimentation

People who fool around with breast creams and magic herbal feminizing pills, unproven hair growth and hair removal potions or contraptions, and even experimental medical procedures are all too common in our community. The problem is that there are always scumbags willing to exploit TS desperation, so our community is constantly preyed upon by these scammers. Worse yet, many of those ripping off transsexuals are members of the TG community themselves!

I know people who have spent $3,500 on a supposedly permanent hair removal device that uses an electrified Q-tip (honest– you put a plain old Q-tip in a holder and run an electric current through it). I know people who have spent thousands on laser hair removal, only to have all of their hair grow back. I know people who have bought secret shampoos and scalp magnets for hair growth. People buy breast pumps, corsets, body wraps, only to find any changes temporary. People inject fat into their faces, only to have it totally reabsorbed in a few months. If you cannot afford to waste your limited transition money on experimental products and procedures, DON’T! If it turns out to be a huge waste of money, it could set back your entire transition plan.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Overfocusing

A lot of women get obsessed with one aspect of transition, most commonly SRS. They think, “As soon as I get SRS, my whole life will get better.” While SRS or other specific things in transition can improve your life in some ways, they are only part of transition and only part of your life. Even if SRS is your top financial priority, it still has to be balanced with other priorities. If you place all your emphasis on one facet of transition and neglect other financial matters, like retirement or having an emergency fund, you could end up in a difficult position after you’ve met that primary goal. Try to keep everything in perspective.

Buying on impulse

Transition is wonderful. You are suddenly free to express yourself as you’ve always wanted. However, don’t confuse this new freedom with freedom to purchase whatever catches your fancy.

If you are prone to impulse buying, put the purchase in perspective of your transition goals. Try to keep your eyes on the prize. I used to think of my money in “zap units.” If I saw something I wanted, I’d say, “Is that something I want more than __ hours of electrolysis?”

This doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself occasionally. Your spending plan should have money for just such moments. However, you need to think very carefully, and the bigger the price, the more you should think.

Buying on credit

If you are using a credit card and not paying it off each month, you are paying much more for the same item if you paid in cash. For some scary examples, look at my section on credit.

Next: Saving and investing