TUFF (Trans United Family and Friends) is a budding nonprofit organization that promotes trans tolerance and support. It also sets out to raise funds for FTM and MTF medical procedures that many transgender and gender variant individuals in the United States cannot afford.
The organization is the brainchild of Jacob Rostovsky, a 22-year-old transgender male (pictured at left). Rostovsky is currently a senior and Point Scholar at American Jewish University pursuing a degree in psychology with an emphasis on gender studies.
"Honestly, it'd be great if there were no longer a need for TUFF in 20 years due to insurance companies covering transition costs, and everyone would be able to have access to healthcare," Rostovsky says. "But until then, I will do everything I can to help as many transgender individuals have hope and happiness by being able to afford their transitions."
Rostovsky came out as trans 10 years. Fortunately, his family was affluent enough to afford hormone treatment for the past eight years, and he underwent top surgery six years ago--transitional steps that he credits with changing his life and helping him further fit his gender identity. Knowing the incredible benefits of such procedures, Rostovsky has set out to change the lives of those who are not as financially fortunate.
"I was incredibly fortunate to have financial and family support through my transition. However, along the way, I met hundreds and hundreds of individuals who had to go through everything alone," Rostovsky explains. "Most were cut off from their families due to being transgender, and many of them couldn't find employment because they weren't able to get hired due to their appearances."
Rostovsky says he has known since age 15 that he wanted a future aiding the trans community, and after realizing the benefits of his own surgery, he knew that funding surgeries is his exact calling. TUFF is still in the beginning stages, but Rostovsky has hopes to fund one lucky applicant's gender reassignment surgery by September 2013.
Currently a student and full-time, unpaid intern at The Lavender Effect, a Southern California nonprofit seeking to create a LGBTQ museum, Rostovsky covers all of TUFF's funds himself. He knows that if his dream is realized, it will all pay off in the end. The current TUFF fundraiser campaign is to raise money to earn its 501(c) nonprofit status, as well as to fund the recipients' surgeries.
With such a life-changing opportunity, the application process--an online form that requires information about current hormone treatments, surgeries, and future planned procedures--is rigorous and selective. It also requires basic financial information to determine one's need. According to Rostovsky, when choosing a recipient, he places the most value in the two essay questions, the first of which asks the individual's role in the trans community, the second for recipients' life goals and career aspirations.
"I want to give funds to someone who will also give back to the community," Rostovsky says. "I don't want to fund someone's transition and then have them do nothing positive for themselves afterwards. If I give someone this wonderful opportunity, and I help the community, I hope that they, in turn, want to give back to the transgender population."
Rostovsky says the current campaign has raised nearly a quarter of the nonprofit's preliminary funds, and he has extremely high hopes for the future. "In an ideal world, I could donate something to everyone who asks," Rostovsky says, "but until then, I hope that within the next five to 10 years, I am able to fund an average of 20 to 50 people per year. I want TUFF to be as big as other LGBT nonprofits that give out financial assistance."