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Meet River


River's story

Annual Trans Surgery Fund recipient

River (he/him) is a 21-year-old trans man of color from Arizona. As the oldest of five siblings, he provides financial support to his mother and siblings to make sure his family is taken care of. Savings towards his own top surgery has been very challenging: River has hypothyroidism and is living with a disability, and hormones as well as more regular bloodwork and doctors’ visits adds up.

In an effort to obtain his surgery, River moved to Arizona specifically to work for an employer who offers trans-inclusive insurance. However, this job is very physically demanding, and binding is taking its toll: “I work 10 hour shifts in a warehouse lifting and performing heavy labor so a binder makes it very hard to breathe at times, and I can actually feel it compressing my ribs. It also makes me very hot due to my hypothyroid already overheating my body as it is. I have to frequently readjust my binder given the short bathroom breaks I’m allowed. I dream of a day that I can walk into my workplace without fear, anxiety, without trouble breathing, and do my job confidently without anything interfering.”

River is also an intern in sound engineering and music production and hopes to make a career out of music production for film, television, and video games. He is also involved in his community by providing in-person and online support to other Latino trans people, connecting folks to resources and support. He enjoys guiding others through the often confusing processes of legal name changes, identity document updates, and obtaining surgery.

River's timeline

  • Award Granted

    March 13, 2019

    River was granted a Surgery Fund Award!

Grant details

$6,500 towards gender-affirming care.

About FTM Top Surgery

On average, it costs $12,000+ for River's care.

What is it?

FTM/N top surgery is a surgical procedure that removes breast tissue and reshapes the chest contour to create a more traditionally masculine or gender-neutral appearance.

What is life like for a person who needs this care?

Prior to care, many trans masc people experience dysphoria that impacts their daily life. One of the most common and heartbreaking experiences we hear from applicants is that they cannot give hugs to their loved ones without feeling intense distress with their chest. In addition, reliance on chest binding can cause strain over long periods of time.

How accessible is it for trans folks to receive this care?

While top surgery is often categorized as a covered benefit in many insurance plans, the reality is that it's frequently denied coverage. Many people report unsuccessful attempts to appeal for coverage. In addition, finding skilled surgeons experienced in performing top surgery can be extremely challenging, particularly in states and regions most affected by anti-trans healthcare legislation.

What is the impact of this care on the recipient’s life?

Many trans folks who undergo top surgery report massive improvements to their overall well-being and mental health, leading to increased confidence and more comfort in relationships, navigating public spaces, and more.