OREM (ABC4 News) – The transition process for a transgender person can be difficult financially, costing thousands of dollars and making it virtually impossible for some. But thanks to Genderbands, a nonprofit based in Orem, the idea isn’t so impossible anymore.
The organization was founded by Ian Giles, whose pronouns are ‘they/them.’ Giles went through top surgery themselves four years ago and spent months selling wristbands, buttons, and shirts with messages such as “Pizza Roles, not Gender Roles” and “Hearts, not Parts” at various LGBTQ events to raise the money.
“Being a college student at the time and a single parent, I didn’t have a whole lot of money so I had to fundraise the money myself, as most trans people do,” said Giles.
Giles recalled experiencing gender dysphoria for years before their surgery, which is the feeling of conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender in which they identify with.
“It was extreme unease or dislike with my body. I just didn’t feel comfortable in it. I couldn’t relax. I was always thinking about this isn’t right, this isn’t comfortable, or this isn’t me,” they said. “Some trans people have even committed suicide while dealing with gender dysphoria.”
But after their procedure, Giles described having a better quality of life, even though their family still doesn’t fully support their transition.
“Overall, I’m so much happier and I’m so much more confident. I feel good in my body. I will actually now look in the mirror and think, ‘You’re good looking’ when before, I would avoid the mirror,” said Giles.
Giles didn’t stop there with fundraising and has continued to raise money so that other transgender individuals could go through top surgery as well.
“It was really difficult for me to make this happen, so I know it’s difficult for other people. I just felt like I needed to keep going,” they said. “I want to help people and as a trans person, I understand that these resources are really hard to come by.”
In the last four years, Genderbands has grown to a six-member board with multiple volunteers. They’ve awarded grants to six transgender individuals for top surgery and is on track to give out four more.
The grants are available for applicants living anywhere in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Aidan Castro, one of the grant recipients from California, spoke to ABC4 News via Skype Wednesday.
“When I found out I was a recipient, I was in absolute disbelief,” said Castro. “I was concerned with finances because I didn’t know if I would be able to afford it on my own. Now I have this confidence that’s absolutely flourished.”
In June, Genderbands opened an office in Orem, where they host local peer support programs twice a month, offer free chest binders, and plan social and educational programs for the trans community and their allies. For now, the nonprofit only funds top surgical procedures for trans-masculine individuals, but Giles said they are working on expanding that to help transgender women as well.
“If you can get them these things and show them love and support, that goes a long, long way,” said Giles.
Giles said Genderbands is the first trans-specific organization in Utah that provides services and they hope through having a physical location, transgender people will be able to get the help that they need.
The next grant application period will begin November 1 until the end of the year. For more information on Genderbands, click here.