Boston Fraternity Raises Money for Trans Brother

2.25.2013

By Benjamin Lindsay

Brothers of Phi Alpha Tau at Emerson College campaign to pay for FTM top surgery

UPDATE: Read the followup story about how much money Donnie Collins raised

Traditionally, college Greeks are an archetypally masculine institution—about as butch as the Boy Scouts. Pledging a fraternity and being inducted as a brother is often an arduous process, one that is meant to separate the men from the boys. But where does the LGBTQ community fit into this macho niche?

Much like the world of professional sports, the world of campus Greek life is not often heralded as the epitome of acceptance. Locker room antics are an insidious fact of the frat house. No doubt about it.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, which is what makes this story out of Emerson College particularly heartwarming: brothers in Emerson’s Alpha Chapter of Phi Alpha Tau have come together to raise funds for a new brother’s FTM top surgery (full disclosure: I'm a member of the PAT fraternity and currently a junior at Emerson).

Earlier this year, Visual & Media Arts sophomore Donnie Collins pledged as a prospective brother to Phi Alpha Tau, the nation’s oldest professional communicative arts fraternity. An Alexandria, Virginia native, Collins didn’t come out as transgender until age 17 while attending a boarding school in Windsor, Conn. Of his time in an all-girls dorm, he says in a recent interview, “They were really nice, but it was all horrible."

Thus far, Collins has been taking his gender transition one step at a time. Barred from using his mother’s insurance to cover any physical transitions, he has singlehandedly covered the bulk of his hormone therapy since December 2011.

“I’d go to the endocrinologist and pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket, because, of course, I didn’t have insurance of my own,” he explains.

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.

In a time when his options were running out, Collins’s brothers in Phi Alpha Tau have rallied together to cover some of the surgery’s cost. Find their indiegogo fund here: Brothers of A Boston Fraternity - FTM: Top Surgery. The brothers' fund has already surpassed the $2,000 they initially hoped to donate, but now they’re looking to cover even more of the procedure’s $8,100 cost.

Collins has been completely overwhelmed by the wave of support, admitting to have cried out of gratitude when he heard what his brothers were doing. But the thought that this is a fraternity raising money for him never even crossed his mind.

“I was just like, ‘Oh that’s such a Tau thing to do,’ and I didn’t even think it was that weird,” he says. “But then I started sending [the indiegogo link] out to people, and they were like, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing! See, Greek Life isn’t bad; it’s amazing.’”

The brothers’ site says that they hope less to raise money with their efforts and more to spread acceptance, brotherhood, and love. “We are here... to tell a story. The story of transformation, the story of self-discovery, and the story of brotherhood.”

It seems that Donnie Collins and his brothers' story is certainly one worth telling. Please consider donating to their cause.

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