A common claim among transgender activists is that many people don't have surgery because they do not have sufficient class or privilege to be able to accomplish it. Therefore, they say, these poor folks (as well as those who simply don't want surgery) should be accorded the same legal status as those who have had surgery.
Now, anyone with any shred of common sense should be able to see that the purpose for most who make such claims is not to help those less fortunate, but instead to improve the standing of non-ops. But, that aside, is there any validity to these claims?
First off, the primary thing that determines who does, and does not, get surgery is how badly the person wants it. I lived for over a year on half of what I should have in order to get surgery. Ironically, my surgery was covered by insurance, but in order to keep that insurance I had to stay at a half-time job.
Another friend worked even longer at the same job, facing the same lack of money that I did to have her surgery. Now, some might want to be rather snarky and point out that I am white, and therefore privileged. My friend is Latina, from Mexico, and she comes from anything but a privileged background. And believe me, I was not that privileged either.
Now, within the same project I worked on (AIDS prevention targeting transgender people) there were several others who were also pre-op. Except for one FTM, no one else took advantage of the benefit. In another words, even when it is handed to them on the proverbial "silver platter" people who are non-op will remain non-op. It is not about class and privilege.
Now, there are a lot of transgender people who live in poverty. Many of them have other issues, such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, lack of education, and mental and behavioral issues that keep them in poverty. Simply put, there lives are not improved by transition but are often made worse. These people do not make any attempt to assimilate into society as women. They prefer being openly identified as transgender.
Excuses can be made all anyone wishes, but the truth of the matter is, that most who don't have surgery actually don't want surgery, and would probably not have it if it was offered to them at little cost.