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Pride Week 2014: Transgender Individuals Go Online to Crowdfund Transition Costs

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We continue our coverage of Pride Week with a look at the costs faced by transgender individuals as they undergo the transition—hormone injections, therapy sessions, surgery. In many cases, insurance won't cover it, so some are turning to the internet for help. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

Twenty-two-year-old Jacob Centrone says he was always a tomboy, but didn't encounter the word transgender until he took a human sexuality course in college.

"It was like a light went off and I was like, 'Oh, this makes sense!'" Centrone says.

"I absolutely knew from a very young age that I wasn't a girl," says Remy Lourenco.

Remy Lourenco started social transitioning at age 21. Now 22, he's been taking testosterone for six months.

Like many, his previous insurance company wouldn't cover the hormones.

"They would pay for the visits to go to the clinic but not for the testosterone itself," Lourenco says.

Now uninsured, he may have to foot the bill himself—which could be as high as $200 a month.

Jacob luckily gets his through a program at the Callan-Lorde Community Health Center.

Finn Brigham, the Director of Special Population Services there, says people who can't afford hormones often take great risks to get them.

"Sometimes they access them online. Sometimes they get them from their friends, so they're not under the care of a primary care physician which can be increasingly dangerous," Brigham says.

By far the most expensive part of transitioning is surgery—in these cases, top surgery—which involves removing the breasts and contouring the torso. Costs vary but could range from a few thousand to over $10,000 dollars, which is why Jacob says he swallowed his pride and started a "gofundme" campaign.

"Within the first couple of hours I had my first donation of $200 from a close friend of mine and then people in other states, other countries just started to donate. It was just a mind blowing experience," Centrone says.

Ultimately, he raised almost all of his $6,000 goal—enough to cover most of the expenses associated with the procedure, which he had done a few months ago in Ohio to further cut down the cost.

Remy is also getting donations through gofundme.com.

"Most of them are people I know, absolutely. Not so much family, but a lot of friends, people I've worked with," Lourenco says.

"That fact that people were really understanding a trans person and understanding how necessary it was for me to gain these funds really was an incredible thing," says Lourenco.

"These are not choices that people are making. These are not cosmetic surgeries. This is something that's really important for people's well being, for their peace of mind and, frankly, for their safety in maneuvering this world," Brigham says.

Another organization, the Jim Collins Foundation, offers financial aid to members of the trans population to help pay for surgery.

They are accepting applications through August 1.

For more information visit jimcollinsfoundation.org. .

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