Transgender MTF surgery describes a range of procedures aimed at the hundreds of thousands of Americans who don’t feel at home in the gender they were assigned at birth. These procedures are also known by the term “gender-affirming surgery.”
As can be imagined, changing one’s sex is a complicated process, and the procedures involved can be expensive. Yet the cost of not following through with surgery can be even more enormous.
In this article, we will cover the qualifications for gender-affirming surgery, the process, and the costs involved. We will discuss all the ways you can make changing your sex more affordable.
Doctor Babak Moein of Moein Surgical Arts specializes in Female to Male (FTM) transgender MTF surgery. The information contained here will focus on those specific surgical techniques. You can learn more by scheduling a consultation with Doctor Moein. Call Moein Surgical Arts in Los Angeles, California, at (310)299-9106.
Living with Gender Dysphoria Hurts
Not being comfortable in your birth-assigned gender is known as suffering from gender dysphoria. Medical professionals began using the term when it first arrived in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) back in 2013.
If you feel as though you suffer from gender dysphoria, you probably feel isolated and lonely. You might even feel like a stranger in your own body.
Unfortunately, it is not enough to feel gender dysphoria. That alone will not qualify you for gender-affirming surgery. A medical diagnosis is required.
How to Get Diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria?
The first step to receiving an official diagnosis for gender dysphoria is to undergo a behavioral health evaluation by your medical provider. This process involves an evaluation to confirm the presence of the mental health disorder, as well as document how discrimination and prejudice due to your gender identity have impacted your mental health. Your provider will also ask about the support you receive from friends, family, and peers, which is vitally important to the process of switching your gender.
The diagnosis will be made according to the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
In order to receive a diagnosis, the medical provider must find that you suffer from extreme mental distress due to an overwhelming desire to be another gender.
Once you receive a diagnosis, you could be well on your way to undergoing gender-affirming surgery.
How Much Does MTF Gender Affirming Surgery Cost?
Depending on your goals, gender-affirming surgery could involve hormone replacement therapy (HRT), facial feminization surgery, top surgery, and bottom surgery.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT helps to tip the balance between female to male hormones. When a transwoman starts hormone replacement therapy, general effects include breast development, a reduction in muscle mass, reduction of body hair, redistribution of facial and body fat, and a change in sweat and odor patterns. These effects can also include, in some cases, an arrest and potential reversal of scalp hair loss.
HRT can cost as much as $7,000 or more per year.
Facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a surgical procedure that involves the modification of facial characteristics. The aim of FFS is to soften the facial features to make them appear more feminine. The surgery can include rhinoplasty, which focuses on both the bone structure and nose shape, as well as soft tissue work, including the face-lift and neck lift.
Facial feminization surgery can cost $20,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on the number of procedures performed, and the surgeon.
As a side note, some surgeons offer non-surgical facial feminization treatments, which can keep your costs lowered. For example, the jaw can be reduced, frown lines and wrinkles minimized, and masculine features softened using Botox and facial fillers. Lip filling and plumping are also possible with these injectable processes. A treatment of Botox can cost between $230 and $555 while facial fillers can cost between $500 and $800 per syringe.
Top surgery is considered a reconstructive procedure aimed at altering the size, shape, and appearance of the chest. In Male-to-Female top surgery, the technique involves giving you a feminized sized and shaped chest. This can be accomplished by using saline or silicone implants to increase breast size and shape.
The cost of MTF top surgery ranges between $3,000 and $10,000, depending on body shape, size, and the desired breast size.
Male-to-female bottom surgery aims to give the genitals the appearance – and in some cases, the functionality – that matches the individual’s gender identity. Many transwomen have no interest in undergoing bottom surgery. However, by doing so, you can significantly improve your self-esteem and quality of life.
MTF bottom surgery involves the removal of the penis and scrotum. The procedure also includes the removal of the testicles, also referred to as an orchiectomy. With the testicles removed, the primary source of testosterone is eliminated from the body.
The surgeon then creates new feminine structures, such as a new mons pubis, labia, clitoris, and vaginal canal. These structures are created during a surgical procedure known as vaginoplasty. A skilled cosmetic surgeon can make these new feminine structures appear natural, as well as functional, complete with sensation.
Those who are not interested in vaginal penetration may opt for zero-depth vaginoplasty, otherwise referred to as valvopathy, where the outward appearance of the vulva is created without the internal vaginal canal.
Bottom surgery costs around $25,000.
Body Contouring Surgery
MTF body contouring surgery is also referred to as body feminization surgery or BFS. This surgery is not always necessary. Some transwomen become satisfied with the way their body shape transforms on account of hormone replacement therapy alone. Others need a little more help making their bodies into the form they envision for themselves when diet, exercise, and hormones fall short.
BFS helps women achieve the pear shape, where the width is greater than the bust, and where your weight is predominantly carried in your hips, thighs, and buttocks.
Or maybe you prefer the rectangular shape, where you can achieve even fat distribution through the face, chest, waist, and buttocks.
Other transwomen prefer the apple shape, where the shoulders end up wider than the hips, and you’re left with a large bust, narrow hips, less defined waist, and small thighs. In this female body type, weight is carried predominantly in the face, bust, and belly.
The fourth female body shape FBS can give you is the hourglass shape. It gives you a narrow waist with fat distributed equally between your upper and lower body.
Cosmetic surgeons manipulate the breasts (through breast augmentation), waist, hips, buttocks, and abdomen (through abdominoplasty or the tummy tuck) to achieve these ideal body types. Liposuction is also used to remove fat from some areas while the fat transfer technique is used to redistribute fat around the body. The fat transfer technique involves the removal of fat from one area of the body before the fat cells are sterilized and reinjected into another area.
Body feminization surgery costs between $3,000 and $15,000.
Read our article: Where Can Liposuction Permanent Fat Removal Be Used on the Body?
How Much Does Not Transitioning Cost?
Gender-affirming surgery is not cheap, but the cost of not transitioning is far more expensive – at least psychologically. Studies show that 40% of transgender people experienced serious psychological distress when forced to live inside what they feel is a stranger’s body. These effects are exacerbated by the individual’s experience with violence, rejection, and discrimination due to their gender identity. These effects are shown to drastically diminish following transition surgery.
How to Afford Gender Affirming Surgery?
We have now covered the reasons and costs associated with transgender MTF surgery. The aim now is to help you afford the various surgical procedures necessary to feel more comfortable in your own body.
Employer Insurance Policies
Insurance companies vary wildly when it comes to transgender MTF surgery coverage. You may be covered depending on the state, plan, and company you work for. You can determine the level of your coverage by reading your policy completely. Pay special attention to the exclusions and limitations section. Since insurance documentation can be confusing, it might be better to call your insurance company’s member services department or your HR department at work.
You should be aware that The Affordable Care Act and The Patient’s Bill of Rights have added important protections in health insurance that affect transwomen. These state that anyone can apply for health insurance and receive the coverage they need, regardless of gender. Insurers are no longer able to deny people coverage based on having a pre-existing condition, which includes being transgender. Finally, plan cancellations are illegal. It disallows health insurers to cancel coverage when an individual’s health needs have changed, such as coming out as a transwoman.
For those without insurance coverage, Medicare may offer an economical reprieve. Medicare provides coverage for gender reassignment surgeries, as long as those procedures are deemed medically necessary by a medical provider.
The easiest way to pay for gender reaffirming surgery is to pay the fees directly. This can be accomplished by saving money over time or receiving help from family. Unfortunately, not everyone has the means to pay the costs of surgery out of pocket.
Personal loans from your bank or credit union can cover the necessary expenses for transgender MTF surgery. Loan amounts range from $5,000 to $100,000 with interest rates ranging between 5% and 36% on repayments that span from one to five years.
The better your credit score, the less you will end up paying over the lifetime of the loan. Credit unions will offer far better deals than you will get at any bank. You can also pay less by looking for loans that are backed by personal assets.
When paying for transgender MTF surgery with a credit card, consider high APRs (annual percentage rates). The one factor that makes a credit card ideal is if you know you can pay the balance off within one year. Doing so could save you a significant amount of interest.
Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)
Most people refer to a HELOC as a second mortgage. Being approved for a home equity line of credit allows you to access a line of credit that amounts to 85% of the value of your home. Because the line of credit is secured by the equity in your home, you will usually be eligible for lower rates than you will find with other loans.
Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid offer broader coverage for transgender surgery every year. Though, some of these policies do not cover some specific aspects, such as top surgery. To give you the additional funds you need, there are a number of surgical grants for which you can apply.
Notable grants include the Jim Collins Foundation, Point of Pride, and Genderbands.
Totals for the grants range from $500 to $9,000. The funds can be used for any portion of gender reaffirming surgery. It can range from TRT and top surgery to bottom surgery and body contouring.
Earlier we mentioned how important it is to have a support group composed of friends, family, and peers. Those sympathetic to your cause can contribute to your surgery by starting a crowdfunding page. GoFundMe and comparable sites give you a chance to state your cause from the heart. Your message can then be shared via social media and word of mouth, whereby beneficiaries can donate directly to your crowdfunding page using a credit card, PayPal, and other common payment methods. Though these sites do charge fees, if you have a big social circle with people who can donate even a little bit, this can be a terrific way to get some or all of your surgical costs covered.
Medical financing with a service like CareCredit gives you a chance to pay for surgery now while worrying about how to pay the associated fees later. Instead of an open-ended date to pay off the financing debt (such as with a credit card), a CareCredit credit card comes with fixed monthly payments over a set term that ranges from six months to sixty months.
Check around town and on social media to see if any businesses are willing to fundraise in your honor. Hitting up LGBTQ-friendly bars is one solid lead you can pursue. These establishments may donate a portion of a particular night’s drink sales to help you cover your surgical fees. You can also contact LGBTQ organizations in your community to see if they have other suggestions to help you raise the necessary funds.
Is Gender Affirming Surgery Right for You?
Choosing to undergo any surgical procedure is a massive decision to make. But you no longer have to live needlessly with gender dysphoria. Gender-affirming surgery is available. The procedures involved are permanent, so you should make sure the choice is the right one for you.
You would be a suitable candidate for surgery if you have a history of gender incongruence that has continued for over six months, and you have the ability to make a fully informed decision. You should also be over the age of eighteen for bottom surgery (16 for top surgery). Ensure that you are in top physical and mental condition.
Schedule a Consultation with Cosmetic Surgeon Doctor Moein
You can determine if you are a viable candidate for MTF transgender surgery by booking a consultation with world-renowned cosmetic surgeon Doctor Babak Moein. Start by calling Moein Surgical Arts in Los Angeles, California at (310)694-4486.