Transsexuality doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t worry about race, nationality, sexual orientation, or class. Each category has an impact on how a trans person can move through the world, present themselves, and most importantly, transition. Underneath each category lies the economic base which most directly determines class considerations. The process of transition is vastly easier for middle- and upper-class transpeople than for the working class, who by no means experience less dysphoria. The fight for ending inequality is a fight for the trans community.
There is considerable expense involved with the transition process. Before surgery or hormones or even therapy there is an expense involved with trying to present as one’s gender; binders for transmen go up in price with their binding quality, and transwomen may have to purchase a whole new wardrobe. Then, therapy can cost upwards of a hundred dollars, out of pocked for those without healthcare (like 4 million Americans and hundred of millions around the world). For those with access, hormones and surgery costs are monumental.
Most parts of the world are not particularly accepting places for transfolk, and many of the most queer and trans-friendly areas tend to be expensive places to live. Here in Toronto we have a welcoming LGBTQ community with resources including community programming and trans healthcare, but housing in Toronto is also much more expensive than in areas farther from the city. The same is true for San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City in the US, all cities with enviable trans communities. Some European countries have better resources and more progressive social codes that make life easier for transfolk, however being able to settle in Europe from outside is difficult, especially in these times of economic crisis.
In my fairly short involvement in the trans community I have known both working class and middle/upper class transfolk. The middle and upper class transsexuals are able to go through the transition process much quicker, starting testosterone or estrogen as soon as they have gone through the required twelve weeks of counseling and getting surgery and their names legally changed within a few years. They are able to relieve their dysphoria faster and are able to pass more easily, making them less likely to be targets of harassment or violence.
The working class transpeople I’ve known aren’t nearly as lucky. They struggle to afford the therapy that diagnoses Gender Identity Dysphoria, the psychological name for transsexuality. They dream of getting hormones but don’t know how to pay for it. They weigh saving for surgery against eating nutritious food. They face more dysphoria, more oppression, and more violence because they are not able to pass as well as those who can afford the transition process. And they offer suffer in silence, not having a way to fight for their rights.
My experience only covers North America and the UK. The struggle is much harder for transfolk in other parts of the world, especially postcolonial countries whose working class often struggle harder for essential commodities such as food and shelter, to say nothing of medication or gender-related surgical treatment. Of the few countries that have any legal protection or provisions for transpeople to change name and gender, very few are in the postcolonial world.
The only way that transfolk can fight for access to hormones and surgery for those suffering from crushing dysphoria and depression – over 50% of transsexuals commit suicide in their 20s or earlier – is to stand in solidarity with those struggling against class oppression in all its forms. By fighting for socialism, we fight for a world in which transpeople are accepted for who we are and are given what we need to continue living.