Fraternity raises thousands to fund transgender member’s surgery

Emerson College’s Phi Alpha Tau fraternity raised over $19,000 to help a transgendered member afford gender-confirming surgery. Donnie Collins, who was born a girl, found out that his insurance company would not pay for his female-to-male breast surgery. Upon hearing of this, his fraternity brothers decided to help raise money for Collins.

The fraternity set up a pledge campaign on Feb. 9 through, an international crowd-funding website. Three of the fraternity members recorded themselves speaking about the importance of Collin’s story, hoping to gain donations.

The fraternity hoped to raise $4,800 to help Collins with his $8,125 surgery. More than $19,800 was raised for the cause, according to the Los Angeles Times Collins donated the rest of the money to the Jim Collins Foundation, a group that raises money to fund gender-confirming surgeries for transgendered people, according to the organization’s website. It is unknown whether Jim and Donnie are related.

I believe the fraternity raised the bar for Greek life and helped defeat their crazy party-goer stereotype.

“Fraternities and sororities are first and foremost social organizations. They get a bad reputation for providing an outlet that many students need during difficult times. That being said, they all participate in philanthropic activities and it is about time that side of Greek life got some press,” said Josie Gormley, a member of Phi Sigma Sigma at Chapman University.

“They could have put together a forgettable Greek-life event, but instead they did something memorable and life changing that any fraternity would be proud of,” said Gormley. “Their efforts to help their friend did far more than just that for the transgendered community.”

Kevin Mason, president of Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians, and Allies for Diversity (BGLAD) at CLU, believes it was a significant accomplishment made by a fraternity.

“It’s an extremely important feat. It’s essentially moving the progression of society to more LGBT-friendly views,” said Mason.

There is a stereotype that fraternities and sororities are a place for people to go wild and party. From the 1978 classic fraternity movie, “Animal House” to the recent 2011 ABC Family TV show, “Greek,” Greek life on film and television has been depicted as out-of-control parties with red solo cups filling the house and rowdy behavior.

I have always thought that Greek life was kind of like what was on film and television. I knew there were old traditions to be upheld and a lot of rules to being a part of Greek life, and I figured that an organization that had a brotherhood or a sisterhood would have philanthropic pursuits. I figured that an organization founded on such old traditions would be stuck in the past.

To hear that a fraternity openly accepted a transgendered member and encouraged a gender-confirming surgery was astounding. I believe the fraternity demonstrated their acceptance of all people. It was a huge step toward progress in society.

Miguel Duran, in charge of publicity for BGLAD, believes this will help show fraternities in a better light.

“Speaking on behalf of the LGBT community, I think it is an amazing step forward for a fraternity to come out and express their support for one of their LGBT members. I think we all have this preconceived notion that fraternities are full of superficial, selfish and intolerant young men. With their action, Phi Alpha Tau shows the world, and the LGBT community, that support is everywhere and can exist in the least expected places,” said Duran.

Phi Alpha Tau achieved an incredible accomplishment. They provided a safe place for all to feel welcome. The fact that the fraternity made this a personal fundraiser demonstrates that they take their brotherhood seriously.

“Their action sheds light on the fact that on top of partying, fraternities can be a place of acceptance in which people take care of each other because they are so united. It helps to remove some of the negative connotation the word ‘fraternity’ has by showing that they also mean well for their own,” said Duran.

Sophomore Zachary Lemmo was surprised to hear of the power a simple video could have for a fraternity.

“The fact that they were able to raise the money for him was amazing in the charitable sense, but to bring an issue like the difficulty of being transgender to the public eye with their video really shows what these types of organizations have the potential to do,” said Lemmo.

Phi Alpha Tau was able to successfully fundraise, help one of their members and send a positive message of acceptance. This is a breath of fresh air in recent college news. I believe that this philanthropic achievement could inspire other communities to be more open-minded and raise money for their own unique causes.


Louie DeMetre
Staff Writer
Published March 20, 2013