For transsexual people, the costs of medical transition, including hormones, surgery and other medical expenses, can run into the thousands, and that’s after paying for therapy, routine medical screenings and other incidentals. Unfortunately, many insurance companies don’t cover these expenses, as was the case with Donnie Collins, a student at Emerson College in Boston. The Phi Alpha Tau member wanted top surgery to address his unwanted breast tissue, but his insurance turned his claim down, leaving him with few options.
That is, until his fraternity brothers stepped up. In a true show of fraternitas, the men turned to the Internet to seek funding assistance to help Mr. Collins get the surgery he needed, and showed just how useful crowdfunding can be. “We care deeply about each and every one [of our brothers], and rely on the entire active brotherhood to stand behind any one individual when they are in need,” they wrote in their request for funding assistance, stressing the deep bonds between members of their chapter.
“We want to tell a story,” they said, highlighting the fact that many transsexual people around the world, college students included, have difficulty accessing needed medical care because of prohibitive financial costs and trans-exclusionary insurance plans. Emerson College is not one of the colleges and universities in the United States that covers transition services, and this story of a welcoming, inclusive fraternity underscores the fact that denying people needed health care is ludicrous. No one should have to take to social media to plea for money for a necessary surgery or other medical expenses, and the Phi Alpha Tau story spread quickly around the world thanks to its unique combination of compelling story, fraternity involvement and protest for trans rights.
By Wednesday morning, they’d already met the amount to fully fund the surgery by over 200%, and the number keeps climbing, thanks to the media attention they got for their amazing request for help; extra proceeds are going to the Jim Collins Foundation, which provides funding assistance for transsexual people who need help paying for their surgeries. His fraternity is not only helping a brother, but paying it forward, and bringing a serious issue into the international spotlight. Not bad for a day’s work, and a far cry from typical stereotypes about fraternity life.
What does Mr. Collins have to say about all this? THANK YOU. And: “I really don’t know what to do with all of the love in the room right now. I really don’t.” As he put it in his video discussing his amazement at the situation, it can be difficult to accept help from people who want to provide it, but in the end it can be a great experience for both the giver and the recipient.
Mr. Collins will get the surgery he needs in May, and his story will live on as yet another example of why trans-exclusionary health plans need to end.
Photo credit: Nicholas Torres Pardo
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