Because healthcare services have failed trans people, and surgery is expensive
During a time in which wallets are increasingly tight and solid healthcare is difficult to access, being able to cover the cost of a gender transition can be difficult. Mix this with the employment discrimination and unstable financial situations faced by many trans people, and it can be near-impossible.
Seeking a quicker path to surgery by funding it privately, trans people are turning to allies online. The #TransCrowdFund hashtag is connecting those seeking treatment and/or surgery with donors on Twitter as many people seeking treatment are priced out or left stranded on years-long waiting lists.
Mia Violet, a 29-year-old British trans blogger and author of Yes, You Are Trans Enough, is crowd-raising funds for gender-affirming facial surgery. She told Dazed that she suffers debilitating gender dysphoria, a condition which causes sufferers to experience distress as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.
“I’m raising money for facial surgery, specifically to alter the features that trigger my gender dysphoria, as all of my dysphoria is focused on my face,” she said. “It’s a set of procedures which will make subtle changes, but very personally impactful ones.”
“Unfortunately, the surgery costs a fortune and saving for it on my own is wildly beyond my means,” said Violet, who is on a low income and looks after her disabled partner. Despite the procedure being “extraordinarily beneficial” to her mental health, Violet says, facial surgery is rarely covered by the NHS.
Gender identity services in Britain are run by Gender Identity Clinics (GICs), which work independently of each other. Because of this, campaigners say a “postcode lottery” limits patients’ access to services.
While some trans people don't have surgery at all, transitioning can alleviate symptoms of gender dysphoria. It can be life-saving, with studies suggesting that nearly half of trans young people attempt suicide.
Those asking for help funding their transitions using crowdfunding pages like GoFundMe and Kickstarter are either hoping to start transitioning, or need money to complete their transition.
October Rain Evans, a 30-year-old trans/genderqueer musician based in the United States, has been transitioning since aged 14. With the help of Medicaid, the state programme that helps low-income people and those with disabilities with medical costs, Evans – who suffers multiple health issues and is on disability benefits – has received some gender-affirming procedures. However, she was informed on January 25, that she would not have the rest of her planned gender-affirming surgeries funded by the programme.
I'm raising money to finish my gender transition. Click to #Donate to my #TransCrowdFund to finally become a happy #transwoman without Gender Dysphoria haunting me anymore - @Teeth_Gang@TransCrowdFund@TransEthics#PleaseRT - thanks: https://t.co/vkevSJhWtv via @gofundme— October Evans (@OEvansMusic) January 26, 2019
“It got to the point where the Medicaid I had relied on for so long isn't going to cut it anymore,” Evans, who is attempting to raise $100,000 via GoFundMe to complete her transition, told Dazed. “I wanted to finish the transition ASAP and not wait one more year.”
“This is my future we're talking about here, and if the U.S. government chooses to fight me and everyone else who's trans here, they've got another thing coming… The gender dysphoria must end so that I can begin.”
In the United States, a lack of universal healthcare means most transgender people are left to fund gender-affirming surgeries themselves. In a further blow to trans people in America, President Donald Trump just barred transgender people from serving in the military.
In the UK, NHS gender identity services are hugely backlogged, with gender identity clinics having years-long waiting lists, resulting in trans people giving up or going it alone. PinkNews has pointed out several other trans crowdfunders across Britain trying to raise money for transition treatment.
“Trans people need [these] funds,” says Evans. “Without said funds, it will be the end of our lives, our futures and our world.”
I’m raising money for surgery to stop my gender dysphoria 💜— Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) January 21, 2019
Because without dysphoria I will be able to achieve my ultimate final form and become unstoppable, spreading love to the universe forevermore with no weaknesses and no end ✨#TransCrowdFundhttps://t.co/81E3iNs9Us
While the Trump Administration might not be willing to assist, the people of the internet are. Gamer Harry Brewis, AKA Hbomberguy, hosted a mammoth marathon 57-hour Donkey Kong session to raise money for Mermaids, the UK charity that supports gender diverse young people.
Meanwhile, Violet’s crowdfunding campaign, launched on January 17 with a £19,000 goal, has already raised more than £3,000. “I feel amazed by how much has been raised so far, and incredibly grateful for everybody that has shared the crowdfund link or donated towards it,” she told Dazed.
While she admits to feeling “guilty” for asking for money, the writer is grateful that people are willing to help. “Knowing how painful my gender dysphoria can be on bad days, I can’t help but also be excited and deeply touched that one day I might be free to live a much more peaceful life because of the generosity of friends and strangers.”
You can donate to Mia Violet’s crowdfunding GoFundMe campaign here, to October Evans’s campaign on GoFundMe here, and find several other transition crowdfunding campaigns on Twitter via #TransCrowdFund.