The scholarship will underwrite surgery for those in need who lack the financial resources to undergo gender re-assignment operations.
Timane, who was born female in Nigeria and transitioned to male in 2012, is also an ordained minister. He established the Happy Transgender Center in 2012 to provide much-needed support to trans individuals and their families during the transition process. This was followed by the establishment of the transgender surgery scholarship in 2014; to date, five surgeries have been funded, with much of the funding coming from sales of Timane’s memoir, An Unspoken Compromise (HawkFish Publishing, 2017) as well as from sales of Timane’s songs on iTunes. Most recently, Timane recorded “Love is All We Need” an upbeat, pro-diversity anthem that has so far received more than 1 million views on YouTube.
The activist, recording artist and author states that he typically receives between 300-600 applications from all over the US and worldwide, including Timane’s native Nigeria, the UAE, the U.K., Asia and South Africa, among others. Applicants are requested to submit essays sharing their experiences and explaining why they need the surgery. Further, they must meet internationally established guidelines of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), an international, interdisciplinary, professional association devoted to the understanding and treatment of individuals with Gender Dysphoria (GD).
“My heart breaks when I read some of the struggles my fellow trans family are going through and I can directly relate to the gender dysphoria that they are experiencing. I know not all trans people desire or need surgery as part of their transition, but for those who do, it’s very painful to remain trapped in the wrong body simply because one lacks sufficient insurance or funds to afford the surgery,” says Timane, adding, ” It’s bittersweet to select just one recipient a year, but I feel immense joy knowing that I am able to positively impact that person’s life and help them match their inner authentic self to their outside self. I hope to sponsor many more surgeries in my lifetime.”
Although successful applicants may elect to choose their own surgeons, Timane has relied upon Dr. Curtis Crane, M.D., a San Francisco-based plastic surgeon who possesses the rare combination of expertise in both plastic surgery and reconstructive urology, for previous surgeries for those awarded with the scholarships. In addition to his unique qualifications and experience, Timane cites Dr. Crane’s “passion for serving the transgender community and his grasp of the complex issues transgender individuals face in choosing to transition.”
“I take great pride in helping this courageous community align their bodies with their minds. Everyone deserves a chance to be the person that they really are,” notes Dr. Crane.
Following the review of the hundreds of applications, Timane and his wife, Christina Timane, will winnow the list down to one individual to be awarded with the scholarship, which will be announced on November 20, to coincide with Transgender Remembrance Day.
Previous awardees include 20-year-old Niko Walker, a female-to-male transgender youth whom Timane met through the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. As with many transgender youth, Niko’s journey includes the experience of disengagement from family and brushes with homelessness. It is this understanding of the interlocking web of issues that transgender individuals must confront that informs Timane’s desire to make a difference in their lives.
“I’m so satisfied with my life and how things turned out after surgery. Nothing is what I expected but somehow it all worked out. My confidence is high and my energy is higher. I love how free I finally feel,” states Niko.
The surgeries are funded entirely by Timane, but those who would like to support these efforts may do so through purchases of his memoir and songs on iTunes.
For more information on the Rizi Timane Transgender Surgery Scholarship, or on Rizi Timane, please visit: www.rizitimane.com