KHJN Trans Health Advocacy announces new surgical grant program

Queer Kentucky chatted via email with Oliver Hall, (They/Them), Trans Health Director for Kentucky Health Justice Network about the new KHJN Trans Health Surgical Grant Application.

The Trans Health Advocacy Program, a part of Kentucky Health Justice Network, is accepting applications to support Trans Kentuckians seeking gender affirming surgeries. Each grantee will receive $1,000 towards their surgery. The first application period is open from (July 1st 2020) to (August 13th 2020). If we are unable to assist you during this grant cycle, we encourage you to re-apply when the next cycle opens up.

The only requirement to receive funding is that you have completed a consultation with a surgeon. Your answers to these questions will in no way negatively impact your chance of receiving funding.

How did this initiative come to be? When did this happen?

To understand how the surgical grant program came to be, it may be helpful to start with some information about the Trans Health Advocacy program and fund. The Trans Health Advocacy Program and fund is a state-wide community resource that works to help trans Kentuckians access the healthcare they need. We do this through in person advocacy and support, connecting folks with online and community resources, advice and assistance navigating insurance, as well as financial assistance to help pay for things like binders, gaffs, breast forms, packers, hormone copays, gas for travel to appointments, and emergency housing. The Trans Health Fund, relatively new but growing, has a limited budget because grants that fund direct aid to trans people are few and far between. Typically, the most we are able to give to a person at one time is about $500 — which is generally reserved for emergency housing needs.

Over the past three years we have consistently received questions about financial assistance for gender affirming surgeries. It has been heartbreaking to not be able to fund these requests. The surgical grant program developed naturally from the Trans Health Advocacy Program and fund to help meet this need.  

Our Trans Advisory Board, which is made up of trans folks in Kentucky representing a range of identities, steers the direction of the program. We all met last year as the Kentucky Health Justice Network, the larger organization that the Trans Health Advocacy Program and fund is a part of, was crafting our 2020 budget. As a group, we assessed how the money from the Trans Health Fund was being used and looked for ways to set aside a certain amount of that funding to go towards gender affirming surgery requests. We are excited to share this money with our community.  

Why did this become a program?

In 2014, Kentucky Health Justice Network partnered with the TSTAR Lab to conduct a survey of transgender Kentuckians’ experiences with healthcare. The results from that study were disheartening, but common knowledge for many of us with firsthand experience. For example, 80% of respondents indicated that they have had to educate their healthcare provider about healthcare needs related to their gender. One in three respondents indicated they traveled over 25 miles one way to access trans-related specialized healthcare. The Trans Health Advocacy program was born out of a need for better healthcare responses for our community. The surgical grant program is an extension of that need.

How did you come to the $1,000 amount?

Last year when we decided to set aside a certain amount of funding for gender affirming surgery requests, we settled on $4,000. We wanted to share that money with as many people as possible while still  being able to give an amount of money that could take someone over the threshold to be able to afford surgery/not cancel their surgery. We recognize that $1,000 is not enough, but it can make a difference. As we are able to raise more money for the Trans Health Advocacy fund, we hope to expand how many surgical grants we are able to give and increase the amount given. If you are interested in supporting this work, you can donate here and leave a note that your donation is for the Trans Health Advocacy fund, or more specifically, surgical grants.

Who qualifies for it?

Any trans Kentuckian who has had a consultation with their surgeon for any gender affirming surgery is qualified to apply for this grant. The person applying needs to live in Kentucky, but the surgery does not have to take place in Kentucky. The reason we require a consultation is largely to assist with gathering logistical information – for example, how much the surgery costs, assistance navigating insurance coverage, and surgery dates.

What does the application process entail?

The application is fairly short and mostly consists of logistical questions like the ones mentioned above. The application shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes to fill out. One of our explicit goals when developing this program was to reduce barriers in the application process. Most grants for gender affirming surgery require essays and financial statements that make them prohibitive for the people who need them most. Trust is a key part of our entire program and we want to affirm to other trans folks that we trust them to know what’s best for their lives, bodies, and transition. There is no need to justify or prove the validity of those decisions to us, we just want to support where we can.

How are people chosen?

For each grant cycle, we are able to fund one person. That person will be chosen by our Trans Advisory Board. We will not be reviewing applications with names attached. To assist in making that decision, we have chosen to prioritize applicants who are BIPoC and/or have a surgery date scheduled before the following grant cycle ends. This is our first cycle so we understand that we may need to make changes for future cycles, but these are the current guiding principles for how people will be chosen.