By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com December 10 2013 9:08 PM ET
The founders of a website designed in part to fund gender confirmation surgeries have shut down operations after allegations, which they deny, that their organization resembled a pyramid scheme.
Last week, Buck Angel and Jody Rose, both transgender men, launched Transgasm as a platform where transgender men and women interested in receiving surgical care would have the opportunity to list themselves on a “surgery list,” seven at a time. Funding for those on the “surgery list” would be generated from the sale of user-generated content on Transgasm’s online store. The users who create a piece of content would be entitled to 50 percent of the profits brought in, while 25 percent would go to users on the “surgery list,” and the final 25 percent would go “back into Transgasm.”
These procedures, often with costs in the tens of thousands, are largely not covered under many insurance policies, leaving many transgender individuals unable to afford procedures the American Medical Association has deemed “medically necessary.” Transgasm looked to fill that void, providing people with a way to fundraise their own surgeries while supporting other transgender individuals by buying content from Transgasm’s online storefront.
Upon the website’s launch, a number of bloggers, including Eminism and Transplantportation, pointed out that the concept of “paying it forward” through 25 percent of sales going toward those on a waiting list, was very similar in nature to that of a pyramid scheme, which is illegal in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation describes pyramid schemes as an operation that pays earlier victims of fraud with money collected from newer victims of fraud.
Earlier this week, in the wake of accusations of purposely setting up a pyramid scheme that would prey on the most vulnerable transgender people in society, Angel and Rose backed out of the Transgasm project. They posted a note to their website accusing the critics of Transgasm of spreading "false lies" and engaging in "Oppression Olympics style rhetoric."
In addition to the note, Angel and Rose seem to have taken down existing content on the site, replacing the site’s header with another, shorter message (this one in all caps):
REMEMBER THAT PAYING IT FORWARD IS PART OF A STRONG COMMUNITY. SPREADING HATE AND LIES ONLY FURTHERS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TRANS COMMUNITY. BYE AND GOOD LUCK.
Angel previously voiced the opposite view, as to whether transgender people should be able to crowdsource and fundraise for surgical procedures. Angel once denounced the idea that transgender individuals should help one another in fundraising for medical procedures.
“Ugh, don’t get me started," he told the Village Voice in 2007. "That’s my hugest pet peeve. You want to be a man? Act like a man. Men take care of themselves. Very rarely do they fucking beg for money. Get a fucking job and save your money like a man. Asking for a handout for surgery — it really bothers me. It’s just wrong.”