Caitlyn Jenner May Inspire Those Transitioning Genders, But Medical Costs Can Be Steep, Experts Say

Full insurance coverage of gender reassignment surgery remains rare.

— -- With Caitlyn Jenner making her high-profile debut on the cover of Vanity Fair on Monday, experts say the newly-minted transgender icon may help shed light on the financial and medical difficulties of transitioning genders.

While Jenner likely has vast financial means to pay for gender reassignment or “gender affirming” surgery, many other people transitioning genders are often without the means to easily pay for the surgeries or hormone treatments that can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, experts say.

Kylie Aquino, the president of the Jim Collins Foundation, a nonprofit group that grants funds to individuals seeking gender-affirming surgery, said she’s “proud” of Jenner but is concerned that people will not realize how exceptional her story is.

“People who don’t have her notoriety or her financial means ... they have a terrible time of it,” Aquino said. “And they don’t get the exposure that they deserve.”

“The tangible medical needs are truly primary for the transgender community,” said Deaton, who noted it’s important to remember her medical costs related to her transitioning will continue for the rest of her life. “The regular medical need will never go away.”

Aquino said her group is seeing more private employers offer to cover gender reassignment surgery, but for the vast majority of transgender people it remains an out-of-pocket cost.

She said transgender women can face intense discrimination from family, work colleagues and others that make it almost impossible to have the support necessary to successfully transition.

“I call it complete social exile. It’s quite acute and quite pervasive. ... It’s being able to go to the grocery store and not being harassed,” Aquino said. “I think people don’t actually know that. That’s why it’s still very hard.”

After the City and County of San Francisco agreed to cover procedures for gender transitions in 2001, the total costs per claimant averaged approximately $25,542 during the first five years, according to a report issued by the Human Rights Campaign.