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Paying for gender transition: common mistakes

When thinking about how to pay for transition, I recommend this way of thinking:

  • Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.

Here are some of the big mistakes you do not want to make.

Not planning with real amount

The less money you have, the more clear your goals must be. Do not think you will have more money for transition than you will. Most of us do not have room for error.

Thinking work will stay the same

Many of us 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, bad reviews, transfers, being ignored, or even violence.

Many of us end up unemployed or underemployed after transition. Many thought everything would “just work out.” They had no plan in case things did not work out. Some are not able to find the same kind of work because of how they look. It sucks that things are this way, but people who do not “pass” face more problems at work. In a perfect world, that would not be the case, but we do not live in a perfect world.

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.

You may want to leave on your own

Even if you don’t feel forced out, you may want to move to a job where your past is not known. This does not mean you have to go stealth, but even those who are out as trans sometimes find it’s nice working with people who never worked with them before transition. I have found a difference in people who never knew me before and those who did, even though everyone knows I am trans. Some find it very hard to be referred to by their old name, or pronouns, or they just want a fresh start.

Further, women still make about two-thirds what men make in comparable positions. Transfeminine people may find it hard to keep 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 medical stuff. 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.


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 our desperation, so our community is constantly preyed upon by these scammers. Worse yet, many of those ripping us off are members of the community themselves!

I know people who have spent $3,500 on a fake 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.


A lot of women get obsessed with one aspect of transition, most commonly bottom surgery. They think, “As soon as I get bottom surgery, my whole life will get better.” While bottom surgery 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 bottom surgery 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

Disclaimer: This is financial talk, not financial advice. Some of this may not apply to you. It is presented without warranty. It may contain errors or omissions. You must do your own research.