Phi Alpha Tau helps transgender brother

February 26, 2013

Donnie Collins '15 is a member of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity at Emerson.

The Phi Alpha Tau fraternity is receiving widespread but positive media attention since news broke that members are individually raising money for gender reassignment surgery for one of their fraternity brothers.

Donnie Collins ’15, a Visual and Media Arts major, in recent weeks was denied coverage from his health insurance company to remove breast tissue to flatten his chest. Collins was born female but now identifies as male, and has undergone hormone treatments for 14 months.

UPDATE: On March 5, Emerson College learned that Collins' surgery will, in fact, now be covered by his insurance despite the initial rejection of his request. The money raised over the past few weeks will be donated to the Jim Collins Foundation, which provides financial assistnance to transgender patients.

The following statement was released March 6 by Emerson College: "Emerson College is pleased to have confirmation that its policy with Aetna will cover Donnie Collins' surgery. After the rejection of his initial request, the College contacted Aetna for clarification—knowing that transgender benefits have been part of its insurance policy with Aetna since 2006. Emerson was one of the first college's in the nation to remove the exclusion of transgender benefits from its policy. The conversations that followed led to the discovery that the policy language had inadvertently not been updated by Aetna on their internal documents. This inaccuracy led to the rejection of coverage. Aetna has since updated their internal documentation, to accurately reflect the College's policy. Diversity and inclusion are a priority for the College, and we continuously strive to be a place that encourages open hearts and open minds."

Collins’ story was first reported February 25 by in an article written by Benjamin Lindsay ’14, one of Collins’ fraternity brothers. The story was then picked up by the Huffington Post, BostInno, Salon, Boston Globe, Globe and Mail of Canada, Associated Press and numerous other outlets. It was also on the front page of the Boston Herald.