Shane Stinson, a transgender man from St. Louis, is employing a method similar to VanJustice’s: an online fundraising campaign. Stinson came out to his family and friends a year ago and was met with what he described as a surprising amount of support. His parents were with him 100 percent; they just couldn’t offer any financial help for the testosterone therapy and operation to remove his breast tissue.
Because each experience and set of needs is so individual, it’s difficult to pinpoint how much a medical transition can cost. Levasseur said he usually tells people it can cost $7,000 to $90,000 — an astronomical range.
For Stinson, it was a more manageable number but a big one for a college student nonetheless: about $7,000. As soon as he came out, he got a job to start paying for his testosterone therapy. He expected the surgery bill to be in the thousands, but what surprised him most were the additional costs.
Stinson will have the operation in Florida and will have to pay for gas to drive there and back from Missouri, lodging for his recovery, as well as the expenses of his girlfriend and parents, who will accompany him on the trip. He’ll have to pay for medical items needed during his recovery as well as antibiotics.
“You have to be able to have a chair to sit in, you know?” Stinson said. “And if my family is coming, they need a place to stay too.”
He needed $7,000 and was starting at zero.
“It was really overwhelming,” he said.
VanJustice shared a similar experience.
“My first reaction was to freak out, to be honest, because I’m struggling to pay off my student loans,” he said. “I’m struggling to pay my rent. I’m struggling to pay [for] my car. I’m struggling to get by, day by day, and here I have this surgery I need to have, and this doctor is telling it’s going to be $10,000, so I freaked out.”
VanJustice did the math: It would take him more than eight years to save the money for his surgery alone. Stinson, 21, assumed he’d have to save money well into his 30s for his.
But it went faster than Stinson thought when, about six months ago, a friend of his set up a page on GoFundMe.com — a website that allows users to raise money online. It turns out that crowdfunding, for Stinson, was a viable solution. Donations came from friends, family and strangers — from Missouri and beyond.
In five months he raised nearly $5,000. With the donations from a benefit show he hosted in April, he met his goal years ahead of schedule.
“I was lucky,” Stinson said. “And a lot of people don’t have that luck.”
For Emily Sylvia Colvin, who hasn’t started raising money yet, creating an online fundraiser for her transition is a step she’s reluctant to take. Asking for money is enough of a hurdle, but doing so for something so personal in such a public way makes it even harder.