Michael Winter, USA TODAY
A Boston fraternity has raised $16,000 for a transgender member's sex-change surgery after his student health plan and mother's insurance refused to pay for the breast-removal procedure.
Donnie Collins, 20, is an Emerson College sophomore and new brother of Phi Alpha Tau, the nation's oldest "communicative arts" fraternity. The Alexandria, Va., native was born female but came out as transgender at age 17 while living in an all-girls dormitory at a Connecticut boarding school.
Since then, Collins has been planning gender-reassignment top surgery, which involves a double mastectomy and male chest "contouring." The procedure cost $8,100, but it wasn't covered by insurance, so the Emerson chapter decided to raise money to help out.
The original goal was $2,000, but since posting a Feb. 9 appeal on the crowd-funding site IndieGoGo, the fund had surpassed $16,000 by Wednesday, NBC News reported.
"It's been an amazing experience, these last few weeks," Collins, who is studying visual arts and media, said in a video posted to YouTube on Monday. "My life has been absolutely changed by pledging this fraternity."
Out magazine explained Collins' insurance problems:
Collins now has a college health insurance policy through Emerson, a policy, like so many others, that is trans-exclusionary. It is common practice for insurance companies to deem female-to-male breast augmentation - or top surgery - as a cosmetic plastic surgery rather than a necessity. So Collins has been raising money for the procedure for months, but it seemed that one door after another would close in his face. His petition for a trans-inclusive policy was recently denied by the college's insurance plan, and his personal Chipin fund will cease when the crowd-funding site shuts down next month.
The extra proceeds will be donated to the Jim Collins Foundation, which provides financial aid for gender-reassignment surgery. It's not clear whether Donnie Collins is related or connected to the Connecticut-based foundation.
Donnie Collins, who has been undergoing hormone-replacement therapy, is scheduled for surgery in May.
"It's been such a long road, and it has been life-altering to find support and brotherhood," he said in a foundation news release Wednesday. "From my time in the transgender youth group, which introduced me to some of my best friends, to my brothers at Emerson and everyone who has given to this fundraising campaign, the support I have received has made such a difference in my life."
His gender was never an issue when he pledged, fraternity brothers said.
"Donnie's status as a trans student was a non-issue," one member told WHDH-TV, an NBC affiliate. "It wasn't even an afterthought. We just thought he was an outstanding man."