Fraternity Helps Transgender Brother Pay for Sex-Change Surgery


Noah E. Lewis, a staff attorney for the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said people miss the point when they see Collins' story.

"My honest reaction was -- they had to do this?" said Lewis. "No one should have to resort to a fund-raiser to pay for surgery. The more important question is why was a fund-raiser needed in the first place? Why is it not covered by their health insurance?"

For the past six years, some of the nation's elite colleges have offered student health insurance plans that cover sexual reassigment surgeries. When Brown University jumped on the bandwagon in August, it was the 36th college to offer coverage for gender-reassignment surgery, according to a recent article in The New York Times

"Harvard, Cornell, Stanford and Yale cover surgery -- it's recommended as a medical necessity by the American Medical Association and even the IRS," said Lewis. "Transgender students pay the same tuitions as other students, and yet are being denied the care they need."

Some insurance companies have reversed initial denials when pressured.

In October, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund helped resolve the claim of Ida Hammer, a 34-year-old transgender woman who had been denied health insurance coverage for sex-reassignment surgery. MVP Health Care initially denied her claim on the grounds that it was "cosmetic."

Despite his dismay that such fund-raising was necessary, Lewis praised the inspirational efforts of Collins' fraternity brothers.

"I think the younger generation has a completely different outlook today," he said. "With Chas Bono on 'Dancing With the Stars,' you are seeing a shift in the way trans people are viewed in society.

"But, I'd like to see the fraternity organize to get that exclusion removed from the student insurance policy."

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