Chris Barcelos recently published a trio of articles on medical crowdfunding in trans communities. Chris is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and a member of the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies.
Despite improvements in access to transition-related medical care, many transgender people still face numerous barriers to paying for gender-affirming procedures. Crowdfunding websites have gained immense popularity as a strategy for trans people to raise money for transition-related healthcare expenses. Using descriptive statistics and thematic content analysis, this paper illustrates how fundraising campaigns for medical gender transition both reveal and reinforce health and social inequalities. Although trans people crowdfund for a variety of transition-related needs, the majority of online campaigns are used to fund chest surgeries among young, white, binary-identified trans men in the United States. Most campaigns fall dramatically short of their fundraising goals. In addition, campaigns use medicalized, normatively gendered transition narratives that privatize inequality in marginalized communities. The article concludes with a consideration of how to incorporate a ‘revolutionary etiquette’ in crowdfunding for transition healthcare.
Transgender individuals experience multiple barriers to accessing care related to medical transition, including a shortage of providers as well as health insurance programmes that categorically exclude the provision of gender-affirming hormones and surgery. Like people seeking financial support for health care related to illness or injury, many transgender people utilise web-based crowdfunding to help pay for medical transition costs. Although a growing body of research finds that medical crowdfunding individualises the effects of health inequalities, little of this research has focused specifically on trans crowdfunding. A dataset of 410 crowdfunding campaigns for medical transition was created. The majority of online campaigns were used to fund chest surgeries among young, white, binary-identified trans men in the USA. On average, campaigns raise only about 25% of their fundraising goal. Using thematic narrative analysis, I find that campaign narratives exhibit several main themes: trans 101, biological essentialism, insurance access, deservingness, normative transition and notions of progress. These themes illustrate how transgender medical crowdfunding is a response to inequalities but also has the effect of reproducing them.
Purpose: An emerging body of research analyzes the scope, ethics, and inequalities of web-based crowdfunding to raise money for medical expenses related to illness or injury. To date, little research has investigated how transgender communities utilize crowdfunding expenses related to gender affirming medical care.
Methods: Using GoFundMe.com, we created a data set of 391 crowdfunding campaigns for gender-affirming care created from 2012 to 2016. In addition to descriptive statistics of recipient demographics and campaign financials, we conducted hierarchical multiple regression analyses to determine the factors associated with financial outcomes of fundraising for medical expenses.
Results: Findings indicate that the majority of campaigns were used to fund chest surgeries among young, white, binary-identified trans men in the United States. Few campaigns met their fundraising goal. Being a trans man whose Facebook community shares the crowdfunding campaign is predictive of meeting a higher percentage of the fundraising goal, whereas being a trans woman whose Facebook community shares the campaign is predictive of raising more money.
Conclusion: The use of crowdfunding for gender affirming care highlights the difficulties that transgender persons face with using private and public health care programs to fund medically necessary care. Health care providers should exercise caution in recommending crowdfunding as a viable strategy to raise money for out-of-pocket costs.