02 March 2013

He's Their Brother

I frankly hated college as much as I hated high school.  Actually, I hated it even more:  Even though I knew a few gay and lesbian students and was friendly with them in private, I would not be seen publicly with them.  Homophobia was rampant on campus, perhaps even more than it was in my high school.  And I knew no trans people. At least, I didn't know that I knew trans people.  Moreover, I didn't think I could be one because I subscribed to all of the conventional "wisdom" about transsexuals, which really hadn't changed in the quarter century that had passed since Christine Jorgensen's surgery made headlines.

Given the way I felt about college, it probably wouldn't surprise you to know that I didn't participate in many aspects of campus life.  To the extent that I expressed my feelings, I mocked and reviled the notion of "school spirit".  And, you also would probably would not be surprised to know that I was even more contemptuous of fraternities.  

I haven't thought about fraternities or sororities for a long time.  After all, I didn't set foot on any campus--save for the occasional poetry reading or play--for eleven years after I got my bachelor's degree.  When I finally went to graduate school it was, of course, very different for a number of reasons: I was in my thirties and had worked and, of course, I wasn't expected to--and didn't--participate in much of the social life, such as it was, on campus.  Also, fraternities and sororities, while they existed where I went to graduate school, weren't as prominent as they were in my undergraduate school.

Also, the colleges in which I've taught had little or none of the sort of campus life I saw as an undergraduate.  Even at New York University (where I taught for one semester) and Long Island University's Brooklyn campus, both of which   had dorms, there wasn't the same kind of campus experience one could find at Rutgers when I was there.  If anything, NYU students mocked the whole idea of "school spirit" in ways that even I couldn't have imagined when I was at Rutgers.  At both NYU or LIU, fraternities didn't play the kind of role on campus that they did at the college from which I graduated.  Students in those schools probably cared less about frats and sororities than I ever could have.

But now I may have to change the way I see them.  Or, it may mean that the fraternity--or the college--I'm about to mention are different from the others.

From accounts I've read, the brothers of Emerson College' Phi Alpha Tau chapter "embraced" Donnie Collins when he rushed them last year.  Not only did they include him; they raised money to help him pay for a surgery his insurance wouldn't cover.

Since you're reading this blog, you've probably guessed where this is going.  Yes, Donnie Collins is a trans man.  The surgery in question is the removal of his breasts.  His Phi Alpha Tau brothers made a fundrasing video and posted it on IndieGogo.com.  

Their efforts, so far, have brought in twice as much money as Donnie needs for the surgery.  So, he has asked that it be donated to the Jim Collins Foundation, which provides financial assistance for sex-reassignment surgeries.  (Donnie is not related to Jim)  The organization was co-founded by Tony Ferraiolo, who led a transgender youth group to which Donnie belonged when he was in high school.

It's great that the Phi Alpha Tau brothers raised the necessary funds, and more. But I think their more lasting contribution is their acceptance of Donnie Collins.