- I am a trans woman living in the UK and the gender reassignment surgery will cost me around $24,000.
- I fly and stay in Thailand for the procedure, which makes it particularly expensive.
- The trans community’s strong culture of financial support has helped me save money and participate in crowdfunding.
- This article is part of Women of Means, a series about women taking charge of their finances.
In the summer of 2021, I made a decision that had been in the making for a decade.
I had considered having sex reassignment surgery for many years, but finally decided to commit to it shortly after my 25th birthday. SRS, also called vaginoplasty, is a type of gender-affirming surgery for trans women.
For those able to navigate the National Health Service system, SRS is available free of charge in the UK, but some transgender women choose to seek SRS privately abroad if they have difficulty accessing health care. health. In addition, surgeons use several techniques, with different advantages and disadvantages.
I felt that the technique used by a surgeon in Thailand was the right solution for me – and that it was important not to compromise on such a permanent decision.
I am responsible for more than the cost of the surgery itself
The cost of the surgery itself comes to about 13,000 pounds, or about $18,000. The total cost, including flights, accommodation and other expenses, is £18,000.
The first financial hurdle to overcome is the payment of the deposit, which represents 20% of the total cost of the surgery.
Perhaps surprisingly, the next big cost to pay is plane tickets. Traveling business class on the return trip is recommended, as long-haul economy class travel is extremely uncomfortable in the early stages of recovery. Unless you have a big budget, you should fly economy class to get to Thailand, but even a one-way business class flight from Bangkok to London can cost you around 1,500 pounds.
Finally, there are the rest of the surgery costs to pay – by far the biggest payment to make. However, the time frame is more flexible here; it can be as late as a month before surgery. It can be paid in instalments, but it’s important to set a date only if you’re sure you can raise the funds on time.
4 ways to raise money for my surgery
1. I went back to live with my parents
None of this would have been possible had I not been able to return to live with my parents during the pandemic. Especially in the queer community, not everyone can rely on family support. I was privileged to be able to work from home from my mum’s house, rent free, while others endured the worst of the first UK lockdowns.
During this period, I was lucky enough to be able to save almost all of my salary, around £1,800 per month. I saved about half the total cost of the surgery this way, although I continued to save about £400 a month once I moved again and had to support myself financially .
2. I do crowdfunding
Due to the high cost of gender-affirming surgeries and the lower incomes that are common for trans people, a strong culture of crowdfunding support has developed within the community.
It has been humbling to see such a wide range of people supporting me financially through one of the greatest stages of my life. There are too many to thank individually here, but I am grateful to all who have given and continue to give, especially the anonymous donors, who are often the most generous.
3. I also fundraise offline
The online communities I am part of have been very supportive, but I am also grateful for the support of my friends and family in the offline world, including my close friend who is hosting a pub quiz to raise funds for the operation.
We found a cafe nearby that will allow us to use the space for free for the night, and the community came together to offer help. One of the local drag kings has offered to host the event for free, and it will also include a raffle with prizes donated by friends. Even those who couldn’t make a direct donation to the fundraiser were generous enough to help make it a success.
4. I use a student loan
I managed to cover the rest of the costs by taking out a loan. I study part-time and work part-time, which leaves enough money on the student loan after tuition to help with the operation.
In the UK, student loans are issued by a public company. It’s a better deal for me than taking out a regular loan because the repayments are spread over my income and totally canceled after 30 years. Additionally, many private loan providers may be reluctant to offer a loan for the full cost of surgery.
Access to gender-affirming surgery is incredibly difficult at the best of times. I hope I was able to share some helpful ideas on how to save the money you need.