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Frat pays for brother's sex change

By Rande Iaboni, CNN
February 28, 2013 -- Updated 1549 GMT (2349 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An insurance company denies Donnie Collins' request to cover a sex change
  • Phi Alpha Tau members launch an online drive to pay for Collins' surgery
  • "We see Donnie as a brother," the frat president says
  • "I'm overwhelmed and surprised," Collins says

(CNN) -- Donnie Collins' journey from female to male will continue, thanks to a college fraternity that raised money for sex-change surgery.

Collins, a 20-year-old sophomore at Boston's Emerson College, learned soon after he joined the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity that his insurance company declined to cover surgery to remove breast tissue to flatten his chest.

Phi Alpha Tau members, defying the conventional stereotype of a fraternity, launched a campaign on an online fundraising site -- Indiegogo.com -- with a goal of collecting the $8,100 needed for the procedure, scheduled for May.

"We see Donnie as a brother and we want to support him in this endeavor," Phi Alpha Tau Chapter President Jon Allen told CNN affiliate WBZ-TV.

"We are here less to raise money, and more to tell a story ... of transformation, and a story of self-discovery, and the story of brotherhood," the online appeal said.

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The response was overwhelming, resulting in almost $16,000, according to the frat's website. The money left over after the surgery will be donated to the Jim Collins Foundation, an organization that helps "fund gender-confirming surgeries for transgender people," the group said.

"I'm overwhelmed and surprised. I can't thank everyone enough," Collins told WBZ-TV.

The whole Emerson campus has been supportive of Collins, according to Jason Meier, who supervises the school's Greek groups as student activities director.

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"Emerson has always been very inclusive and accepting of LGBT students," Meier told CNN. "I didn't even flinch or bat an eye. It just seemed like every day for these men."

Collins is not the first transgender member of the fraternity, Meier said. Another transgender student became a leader in the group, he said.

Phi Alpha Tau, which has been active at Emerson since 1902, describes itself on its website as a "professional communicative arts fraternity."

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CNN's Alan Duke contributed to this report.

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