Some fraternity brothers at Emerson College decided to an amazing thing for one of their newest members: help raise money to pay for his breast reduction surgery as part of his gender transition. Their initial goal was $2,000, to cover just a quarter of Donnie Collins’ costs, but have so far raised not only the full $8,125 it would cost, but now over $20,000. The fraternity decided to donate the excess funds to the Jim Collins Foundation (no relation), which helps transgender people with financial assistance for gender-confirming surgeries. Now, it seems that there was a mistake, and Collins’ insurance has agreed to cover the costs.
After Collins’ initial rejection from Aetna, Emerson reached out for clarification, because its insurance policy is supposed to cover transgender benefits. In fact, it was among the first universities in the country to offer trans-inclusive coverage. According to a statement from the college, the language for the inclusive policy “had inadvertently not been updated by Aetna on their internal documents.” Now that it has been clarified, Collins’ surgery can proceed, requiring only that he pay an insurance copay. His hormone therapy, for which he has also paid hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket, will also now be covered. The brothers still plan to donate all the extra funding to the Jim Collins Foundation.
Collins’ story is a simple example of how transgender people still face legal and financial obstacles to simply arrive at an authentic identity. He is fortunate to have such loving fraternity brothers and a considerate university that appreciates his healthcare needs, but many trans people have no such advocates. Hopefully his happy ending can inspire others to do right by trans people and help them receive the care they deserve.
Here’s a clip Collins recorded explaining his transition and everything that’s transpired so far: