Trans economics: The cost of transition

Rachel Saunders
5 min readSep 15, 2023


Photo by Engin Akyurt:

When exclusionary feminists demand that we consider the kids and stop child mutilation, they forget that most trans adults have the similar narrative: they knew their gender identity from an early age and if they could have transitioned young they would have. That most trans folk do not is due to a mixture of fear, not knowing that being trans is a thing, or pressure from the outside world, the societal cost far outweighing any future economic one. If you do transition as an adult the costs can be high depending on which country you live in, meaning that if you transition young you potentially avoid many of those costs. When they say think of the kids, yes, we are thinking of the kids and those future adults who have to pay for potential societal pressure forcing them through puberty. Here I examine the fiscal and societal costs of transition, looking at how trans economics is both monetary and societal.

Trans folk raise the issue of trans economics whenever childhood transition is mentioned. It is patently false to say that children are being mutilate without consent or awareness of what the future may hold. An adult transitioner can pay to correct going through their assigned sex at birth. This includes hormones, facial reconstruction, chest augmentation, genital surgery, gamete storage, and any other necessary treatments. Then you have name changes and other legal costs, plus required medical assessments before you can begin treatment. The costs add up if you pay them yourself. These can leave a trans person vulnerable to exploitation, poverty, and decreased quality of life.

Many trans folk, often trans women, end up in some form of sex work because it is the only avenue they have available to pay for these treatments and make a living. This then leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, violence, and precarious living standards. When you body is both the thing making you your living and the thing you are trying to remould, it impacts both how you see yourself and how the world sees you. Yes, in a Marxist sense all bodies are bought and sold in exchange for labour, but with trans bodies being trans is often the primary root of oppression.

However, not all trans folk end up in sex work. There are many trans folk who build lives for themselves prior to transition, have a nest egg, or live in societies that provide legal protection and access to affordable care. The costs are still there, but the ability to avoid sex work means they can transition with better safeguards. The societal costs are still present, such as is the precarity of being fired, demoted, or frozen out because they are trans. In societies where being trans is dangerous, this often means the choice is either to remain their assigned sex at birth or move somewhere safer to transition. Both choices come at personal cost.

So why transition in the first place? If it were a matter of pure economics and societal pressure being trans would be a zero-sum game, with the economic and societal costs potentially outweighing transition. We transition because those costs are outweighed by the inner need to affirm our innate gender identities and live as our authentic selves. We bear the costs because we see them as worth it, even though it potentially leaves us fiscally and societally worse off. The true economics of being trans are measured in quality of life, quality of inner peace, and knowing that life as our affirmed selves is worth it.

Society’s pressures on us are the main personal cost, and for many are the source of transition unhappiness. Oppression is not a natural state of being. The natural order is not nasty, brutish, and short. When we say to kids it is okay to be trans this is not an ideologically driven mantra, it is an understanding they are safe to be themselves in a world that embraces them for who they are. The cost of being trans should not be measured in dollars, but in the lives saved and made better through affirmation and acceptance. Yes, some people may detransition, and this is perfectly fine, being trans is not a bear trap. Yet, for every detransitioner there are many other content and happy trans folk just living their lives.

The ultimate cost of being trans is the cross that society places upon us. Economics alone does not account for depression, violence, and shunning. If the costs by themselves were a limiting factor, then if the will if there a person can achieve anything. It is the misunderstanding of trans identities, the shaming of trans bodies, and the gatekeeping of pure transness that are the key costs that force trans folk through so many hoops. In telling trans folk they are a scourge on society, that they are sexual predators waiting to happen, and their identities are abominations the emotional costs and mental health economics are far higher than any fiscal ones. If the root of oppression is the burdens placed upon a group, then the emotional burdens places on trans folk are oppressive indeed.

There is nothing immoral or degrading about being trans, it is not a moral sickness, and it is not shameful to live as your affirmed gender. The fiscal and mental economics of being trans flow directly from the societal shaming of trans identities, from the moral denunciation of anything proclaimed deviant, and the fixation that bodies somehow have a genetic destiny at birth. Two hundred years of feminism fought against this sex-based oppression, and for gender critical folk to continue insisting that sex is the anchor point of moral economics is retrograde. Social capital is not based in the bodies we inhabit, but in the shape of our lives and the fibre of our characters. This is the true trans economics, for in liberating trans identities from the scourge of moral panic the fiscal economics become easier and more bearable no matter when you transition.