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Surgery covered for transgender student

Donnie Collins, center, and his fraternity brothers at Emerson College to raise funds for female-to-male gender confirmation surgery to remove his breasts. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

A transgender student whose Emerson College classmates rallied to help him raise money for transition surgery says his insurer will cover the procedure, after all.

Donnie Collins’s story went viral last week, after Out.com reported that his fraternity brothers had created an online fund-raising page for Collins ­after an insurance company ­declined his claim. Readers learned of the support Collins received from members of Phi Alpha Tau, a professional communications fraternity, and donated many times the fraternity’s $2,000 goal.

By Thursday, they had raised more than $20,000 for the surgery, which will remove breast tissue and construct a masculine chest for Collins, who was born female but began living as a male before graduating high school.


But in a YouTube video posted Wednesday, Collins said he received notice March 1 that the insurance company had ­accepted his claim.

“I did not instigate this. It was totally unexpected. I was very confused,” Collins said in the YouTube video.

Collins could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Emerson said in a statement that it contacted ­Aetna, its student insurance provider, for clarification after Collins’s request was rejected. The college said its policy has included benefits for transgender medical care since 2006, but “the policy language had ­inadvertently not been updated by Aetna on their internal documents.”

“Aetna has since updated their internal documentation to accurately reflect the college’s policy,” the statement said.

Still, Collins said, he needed official confirmation that he met the criteria. He said he waited from the call on Friday until Wednesday to be sure he was covered before making a public announcement.

“This is amazing, because it means that of all the money we’ve raised, I’m only going to need to use about $2,000 for my copay and travel and care ­expenses,” he said in the video.


Collins said about $18,000 raised for his surgery will instead go to the Jim Collins Foundation, a Connecticut-based nonprofit that helps fund gender-transition surgeries. The late Jim Collins and ­Donnie Collins are not related.

“This surgery’s going to become a reality for me, and it’s also going to become a reality for other people,” Collins said in the video. “So I’m thrilled.”

Jeremy Fox can be reached at jeremycfox@gmail.com