My surgery date is almost here. Only four days are left before my life changes forever. And while it's a huge relief to know that it's finally happening, getting to this point hasn't been easy by any means. The reality is that transgender people have to continually jump through hoops in order to have access to the healthcare we need to improve our lives and self-images. My story is no different.
When I first brought up the idea of undergoing Facial Feminization Surgery and Breast Augmentation Surgery to my parents, I was extremely nervous about their reaction. They told me that they wanted nothing more than for me to feel happy and content in my body, but understandably had many concerns as well.
Is it safe? Are there complications? These questions I had answers to. I had researched the procedures extensively and could confidently say that they are generally considered safe. I also knew that with any surgery, there are risks as well. These are risks that I'm willing to take.
What is the cost? Does insurance provide coverage? I wasn't sure what to tell my parents. No amount of research could provide me with an answer either. I knew that the cost of the surgeries could range anywhere between $20,000 - $50,000, but I was uncertain about how much of the total amount we would have to pay out of pocket. Navigating the intricate maze that is the American health insurance system is a feat for anyone, let alone someone who is transgender and is perceived by some as less than a person, at every level of society. Although the transgender community has fervently argued that gender-confirming procedures are medically necessary, I was about to learn that insurance companies generally consider them to be purely cosmetic.
After submitting various scenarios to my insurance company, I kept getting denied coverage. It was disheartening to have my feelings about my own body be invalidated by people who had never walked a day in my shoes. What did they know about being stuck in a body and a life that felt completely wrong? It also made me think about all of the trans people in the world who will never be able to correct the disconnect between their bodies and minds because of the exorbitant costs of gender-confirming surgeries. And with all of the buzz surrounding Caitlyn Jenner, the financial aspect of transitioning seems to be a hot topic.
When I first saw Caitlyn looking drop-dead-gorgeous on the cover of Vanity Fair, I was speechless. She is a vision, through and through. And because I am going to the same surgeon who did her incredible work, I was even more invested in Caitlyn's story. But I also think it's important as a socially-conscious and politically-minded individual to acknowledge how privileged she was to be able to undergo what she felt was necessary for her happiness. I, myself, have to constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to be able to do these surgeries as well. Thankfully, I have parents and family members who have agreed to help me along this journey. This does not escape me for a moment. Many transgender individuals face nothing but rejection and stigmatization, even from those closest to them. And until systems and institutions of power begin to truly understand and acknowledge our experiences, this tragic reality will persist. I hope that sharing my story can make even a small difference.
I want to thank all of you for following my story. (You can find my first two entries here, in case you missed them.) Today is my final day of work before my surgery. I am unbelievably fortunate to be part of a company that is willing to be flexible around my recovery schedule. So many components have aligned in order to make this surgery a possibility. It truly feels meant to be. I will be sure to keep you all posted through my recovery with photos so you can track my progress.
Wish me luck!