US: Fraternity to donate $18,000 to charity after insurance agrees to cover trans brother’s surgery

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The trans student whose fraternity launched a fundraiser to pay for his chest surgery has learned that insurance will cover his operation, meaning most of the $20,000 (£13,209) raised can go to helping other trans people in need.

Emerson College fraternity Phi Alpha Tau raised over $20,000 to cover the costs of top surgery for new member Donnie Collins, after learning he was a trans man who could not afford surgery in February.

Mr Collins was already paying for hormone therapy out of his own pocket and was seeking to get chest surgery as the next step in his gender reassignment. However, he could not afford to pay for the $8,000 ($5,300) procedure on his own, and his student insurance policy rejected his claim to cover it.

Phi Alpha Tau then began fundraising on his behalf and broke their own goals with the help of widespread media coverage.

The fraternity and Mr Collins were unaware that Emerson College were also looking into the issue, and had chased up their insurance provider, Aetna.

It emerged that although the college’s policy covered surgery for transgender students, Aetna had not updated their internal files to reflect this.

Once this inaccuracy was deal with the college got in touch with Mr Collins to inform him his surgery would be covered.

Mr Collins said he was shocked to hear the news, and delighted that he would only have to use $2,000 ($1,320) of Phi Alpha Tau’s fundraising money to cover expenses like travel and aftercare.

The $18,000 (£11,888) left over will now be granted to the Jim Collins Foundation, an initiative which gives grants for gender reassignment surgery.

Mr Collins said: “We can help people that need this money a lot more than I do. That’s a really incredible feeling.

“While this started out as a really cool story I can now feel that it’s not about me personally, it’s not even about Greek life. It’s about helping a community that really needs help, and educating the public.

He added: “As a trans person, this is the coolest thing in the world to me, to see that money go to people who need it and deserve it 100%.”