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Transgender surgeries, also called gender affirmation or gender confirmation surgeries, are medical procedures you can undergo to affirm your gender identity.
The cost of these types of surgeries is often high and health insurance coverage may vary by policy. “Even if a procedure is covered by insurance, there are still maximum deductibles and reimbursements,” said Wynne Nowland, CEO of Bradley & Parker, who made the transition at 56. Cosmetic-only surgeries might not be covered by insurance at all.
The good news is that several financing options are available to help you pay for the procedures. Some organizations even offer grants and scholarships that can help pay for surgery costs.
How much does transgender surgery cost?
The cost of transgender surgery can vary depending on the provider and the type of surgery you choose to have. For a female-to-male transition, masculinizing chest surgery (also called top surgery) can cost between $3,000 and $10,000, while chest surgery for a male-to-female transition can cost between $5,000 and $10,000. according to Longwood Plastic Surgery.
Lower surgeries, such as vaginoplasty or phalloplasty, can cost $25,600 and $24,900, respectively, according to estimates from the Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery. Additional procedures may increase transition expenses from there. Apart from the actual cost of the surgery, other hidden expenses may also arise.
For example, you might need help at home during your recovery if you don’t have a good support system, according to Nowland. There may also be travel and hotel costs, which are usually not covered by insurance. Nowland says the best way to prepare for surgery is to contact insurance to discuss coverage and plan to save the funds you’ll need to continue.
If you’re considering borrowing money to pay for surgery and recovery costs, here are four options to consider.
4 Ways to Fund Transgender Surgery Costs
Personal loans, credit cards, medical credit cards, and home equity loans are products you could use to pay for transgender surgery costs over time. Here’s what you need to know about each:
Personal loans are generally unsecured installment loans that provide a lump sum that you can use for almost all legal personal expenses, including medical expenses. Lenders can offer loans from $1,000 to $100,000. However, your credit and income may affect how much you can borrow and your interest rate.
The average annual percentage rate (APR) for a five-year personal loan is 15.93% as of September 19, 2022, but rates can go up to 36% APR. The good news is that many lenders allow you to prequalify online for personal loans without a credit check, allowing you to compare rates and compare costs before you borrow.
Credit cards give you access to a line of credit that you can use to cover medical expenses. You will then pay off the balance over time. While some credit cards have annual fees, many do not. Some credit cards even offer an initial APR of 0% for several months when you open a new account.
Standard interest applies after the interest-free period, but billing and repayment procedures during the interest-free period could be an affordable way to fund the bills. That said, credit cards are generally best for expenses you can pay off relatively quickly, as interest rates can be higher than personal loans. Therefore, maintaining a high balance over several years can be costly.
Medical credit cards
Medical credit cards are designed specifically for medical expenses and may be a financing option recommended by your doctor’s office.
CareCredit is a popular medical credit card that offers six, 12, 18, or 24 month interest-free financing plans on transactions over $200. There’s a catch though: if you don’t pay off the balance during the financing period, interest is charged retroactively from the time of your purchase.
For purchases of $1,000 or more, CareCredit offers extended financing terms of 24, 36, 48, or 60 months. The APR for the payment plans is fixed and ranges from 14.90% to 17.90%, depending on the amount you borrow and the loan term you choose.
Home equity loans or lines of credit
If you own a home, home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are ways to borrow against the equity you have accumulated. Here’s how these two options work:
- Home Equity Loans: A home equity loan is an installment loan that lets you borrow money in a lump sum, which you could use to cover transgender surgery costs. Homeowners are typically able to borrow up to 85% of their home’s equity, and loan terms can range from five to 30 years.
- HELOC: These are lines of credit that you can draw on and repay with a variable interest rate. A HELOC might be a better alternative to a home equity loan if you have ongoing costs, as it will give you the ability to borrow only what you need and pay it back as you go.
The advantage of home equity products for medical expenses is that interest rates can be lower than unsecured personal loans because the collateral (your home) minimizes the risk to the lender.
However, since your house guarantees the transaction, you could lose your house if you fail to repay your loan. If the value of your house goes down, there is also a chance that you will suffer the house if you owe more on your mortgage and loan than the house is worth.
Can you get transgender surgery grants?
Several organizations offer grants to help with transition costs, including gender affirmation surgery, which is money you don’t have to pay back. The requirements for getting a grant can vary, but in some cases you have to prove that you have saved money on your own for the surgery to receive money. Here are some examples of organizations offering grants:
- Jim Collins Foundation: The Jim Collins Foundation offers two scholarships. General Fund grants can cover all costs of gender-affirming surgery while Krysallis Anne Hembrough Legacy Fund grants can cover 50% of surgery costs for recipients that match the grant funds awarded.
- point of pride: Point of Pride offers an annual scholarship-like program that provides financial assistance for gender-affirming surgery.
- The Loft LGBTQ+ Community Center: Funds from the TransMission grant through the Loft LGBTQ+ Community Center are not enough to cover the full cost of the surgery. However, grants can be used to help pay for therapy, hormones, and other transitional expenses.
Tips for Paying Transgender Surgery Costs
As you develop a plan and explore ways to pay for surgeries, here are some tips to consider:
- Check your insurance policy. Read the policy terms carefully and contact your insurer to find out which surgeries are covered. “Like all covered insurance procedures, expect to deal with some paperwork, but your patience will be worth it,” Nowland said.
- Use a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Both HSAs and FSAs are tax-advantaged accounts designed to help you save money for medical expenses, which could include gender-affirming surgeries. You can make pre-tax contributions to both accounts from your salary if you set them up with your employer. If you create an HSA yourself, you can deduct the contributions from your tax return.
- Consider crowdfunding. Crowdfunding consists of setting up a campaign to raise funds. If you prefer to keep medical procedures private, creating a campaign and asking for donations might not be the right way to go. But if you feel comfortable sharing your story, creating a GoFundMe or Fundly fundraising page could be a way to cover the cost of your surgeries. Bonfire is another site you can use to raise money by selling custom t-shirts.
- Get support from family and peers. If you have friends or family who can gift or lend you money, it may be more affordable than taking out a loan from a bank, online lender, or credit union. .
How to save for gender affirmation surgery
Using a combination of funding sources is one strategy that could help you become less reliant on loans.
Different surgeons charge different fees, so compare prices to project costs. From there, you can determine how much you need to save and when. If you’re not using an FSA or HSA to save, consider storing your savings for surgery in a high-yield savings account so that your savings earn more interest than in a traditional savings account.
Some savings tools can make it easier to set aside. For example, banks often have recurring transfer features that you can set up to automatically transfer money from a checking account to your savings on a schedule. Additionally, there are savings apps like Digit, which can connect to your bank account, use an algorithm to review your cash flow, and automatically put money aside for you. Your savings can grow over time, so you can pay for treatment and surgery as you go.
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