Trans In Tanzania: Is Gender Confirmation Surgery An Option?

A recent study found that 75% of those who underwent transgender surgery had a better quality of life after the operation. However, as the recent onslaught on the LGBT community by the Tanzanian government makes life difficult for this community, it becomes increasingly challenging to collect data on the happiness levels of trans individuals in the country. Despite these challenges, we must still address the inner turmoils that affect the trans community, especially in a system that doesn’t value or accept them. Outside the external problems they face are the internal struggles of dysphoria, identity, family acceptance, self-esteem, and the difficult question of surgery and whether it is even an option.

Gender Confirmation Surgery

It is estimated that gender confirmation surgery happens in about 1000 people worldwide every year. Just last year, South Africa performed one of its rare gender confirmation surgeries on Thando Thengwa. Although the number of hospitals that offer this service is still quite few, the number is steadily rising as demand for the procedure continues to grow. This steady acceptance of the procedure holds hope for the future, not just for South Africans, but also for Tanzanians. It sets the necessary precedence for greater acceptance in the future. It also offers Tanzanians an opportunity to get the surgery within the continent. Though there are still a number of daunting challenges that come with the procedure, especially for Tanzanians, if you are ready to do it, the important question to ask is whether you can finance it while still guarding your financial security. Keep in mind that you may find it difficult, if not impossible, to have the surgery performed in Tanzania. This will also factor into the calculations for those considering the surgery.

A Little Accounting

Before you start saving for the surgery, it’s important to understand how much money you will ultimately need to set aside for the entire process. Sex change surgery is many things, but it is not cheap. To start, you will need hormone replacement therapy, which will cost you upwards of $7000 a year until the actual surgery, and you may still need to continue even after the operation. Beyond this, it will run to $120,000 to $140,000 for a full transition. This will cover everything from the hospital stay to travel expenses and the post-surgery medication. This is the cost of a basic change, but it will cost more for additional procedures such as breast augmentation, a hysterectomy or facial feminization.

The Verdict

The numbers speak for themselves, but what does that mean? It simply means that the financial burden of a gender confirmation surgery is high, but not impossible. You have a higher chance of being significantly happier after changing your outer body to reflect who you are on the inside. If the numbers are not sufficient, there are testimonies of people who went through it describing how it changed their lives. All the data is there: ultimately it remains an individual choice. 

Gender confirmation surgery may not be popular or even possible in Tanzania. But as in all beginnings, it only takes one person brave enough to change this.

This article was prepared by Jacklyn Wentworth