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Meet Zen

Zen's story

Annual Trans Surgery Fund recipient


Zen (he/him) is a 41-year-old demimale trans person of color currently seeking top surgery.

For several years, Zen lived with debilitating chronic migraines that forced him into unemployment, and as a result, he had to use his savings and retirement to stay afloat.

Today, he is able to work, but his health insurance does not provide surgery coverage. He lives with his mother whom he also helps to support, and is slowly chipping away at past debt. This has meant affording basic necessities, such as medication for asthma, migraines, and HRT, is a challenge. Saving towards surgery has been nearly impossible, as options GoFundMe, CareCredit, or taking on an additional job are not wholly reliable, costly, and not feasible.

Zen shared his excitement about post-op life: “Not worrying about the surgery funding will help me devote more brain space for writing. I’m eager to share my trans experiences and creative endeavors, such as my poetry.”

Zen's timeline

  • Award Granted

    June 21, 2021

    Zen was granted a Surgery Fund Award!
  • Care Received

    November 6, 2021

    Zen successfully completed surgery with Dr. Medalie!

Grant details

$6,500 towards gender-affirming care.

About FTM Top Surgery

On average, it costs $12,000+ for Zen'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.