For many transgender men, the cost of top surgery (removing the breasts) is prohibitive and can take years to save up the funds. In the meantime, they are required to use uncomfortable binders to strap the breasts down so people don’t immediately think “female” when they see them. We have seen many creative ways of people going public with their fundraising tactics, from housecleaning to calendars.
While Genderbands was first created for just that — a man’s effort to fund his top surgery — it has now blossomed into an ongoing project to help raise money for others to pay for their top surgery.
Ian Giles started Genderbands in March 2015.
“I set up a free blog and added PayPal buttons, very grassroots,” he said. “I had almost no money to my name, so I knew I couldn’t afford T-shirts as many guys do for their fundraisers. I found a site that sold silicone wristbands for cheap, in bulk. I used some credit, used a phrase I liked, and bought my first 300 wristbands.”
That phrase was “Pizza rolls, not gender roles.” And while it didn’t cover the full cost of his surgery, it did help.
“I had surgery June 2015 and used credit to pay for it,” he said. “I knew early on that I wanted to continue my fundraising efforts to help others. Many trans guys can’t afford top surgery. I’m friends with many of these guys. I watched as they dealt with deep depression or suicidal thoughts or even attempts because of their severe dysphoria with no hope of surgery. I didn’t have the means to help but I knew I could if Genderbands grew.”
Giles went to work to kick the project into gear with many friends and supporters.
“I was able to add more variety of wristbands, T-shirts, and pins,” he said. “We have plans for more amazing products and fundraising concerts in the future.”
Last November, he started taking applications for his first top surgery grant.
“Our goal for our first grant was $700, a minuscule amount considering the average cost of surgery is $6,000,” he said. “A very successful pride season put us at just over $1,200. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this.”
He took applications through the end of December and will award the grant in the next month or so.
To grow the project, Genderbands will have a fundraising concert this summer.
“We hope to make it an annual thing. It will feature a few local LGBT musicians, a silent auction, and free food,” Giles said. He is looking for sponsors to help cover the costs so that more of the money collected can go toward the top surgery fund.
Giles has been traveling to regional Pride celebrations, as well as those in the state, and to conferences like Utah Pride Center’s Genderevolution and Affirmation’s annual conference to sell his merchandise and raise money for the grant.
“We are completely volunteer-run. I hope to eventually get Genderbands to a point that we can pay our hard workers,” he said.
Currently, Genderbands has two kinds of T-shirts, two wristband designs, pronoun and pride flag pins, and an LGBT coloring book. All are available online at genderbands.org.
“We are working on three more products, one of which is a top surgery care package. Our grant winner will receive our first one, before they are even available to the public,” he said.
For the incredible amount of work that Giles puts into the project to help members of the transgender community, QSaltLake thanks him as a person who “Makes it Better.”