“I’ve Just Applied. Now What?”

Note: Please note that this content pertains only to our financial aid programs, and not our binder or tucking garment programs.

Introduction

If you’re considering applying to one of our financial aid grant programs, or if you just applied, we want to provide complete context and transparency to help you understand what comes next.  We hope this guide allows you to better understand what goes into running these programs, what your likelihood of receiving support is, and why we do things the way that we do. 

In compiling this information, it quickly became a lengthy document, but one that we feel will be useful in addressing some of the inquiries we commonly receive. 

We encourage everyone to read the “What To Expect” section, as well as the section titled “Our Programs by the Numbers.” And if there was a section that was particularly helpful, or that you had additional questions about, please let us know! At the bottom of this page is a survey where you can weigh in on how we can improve.

Our Process

Every cycle begins with a standard process of removing identifying personal information, such as your name and phone number (this data is kept in a secure folder with limited access, even amongst Board Members, to protect your privacy. Review our privacy policy). From there, the applications are “shuffled” into randomized packets of 50 applications for review.

As a result, those reading your application won’t know who you are, or whether you applied in the first 15 minutes of the cycle versus the last 15 minutes of the application period. They are reviewing your application based on your answers, and not when you pressed “Submit.” (We are doing as much as possible to be more bias aware, and we don’t want those who have inconsistent or unreliable access to devices and/or internet to be negatively impacted.)

Application packets are then distributed to our Board of Directors and Community Grantmaking Fellows (CGFs) for review. You can learn more about our CGFs here. If you are unfamiliar with the program, please note that we require that all CGFs  identify as transgender (FTM, MTF, non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and all other non-cis identities).

What to Expect

In general, it takes a minimum of three weeks for our team to review all applications. For our larger programs, it takes about an extra week for every 250 applicants. Between 2019 and 2021, the larger programs have had an average of 1,200 to 1,400 applicants. Using these reference points as examples, it would take approximately 8 to 9 weeks to select grant recipients. 

In addition to communicating with you via email, we’ve created a Program Status Dashboard so that we can provide approximate timelines and more information.

As a reminder, we are a 100% volunteer team. That means for the roughly ten hours a week that our Board Members dedicate to Point of Pride work, they are not getting compensated. All of our members also have jobs and families and commitments outside of Point of Pride. This process could go faster if we had employees, but we have decided instead to reserve those funds to award recipients. Similarly, we could attempt to accelerate the timeline above, but we’ve learned that this is a pace that feels sustainable. There is a saying by author Penny Reid, “Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.” Our goal is to keep working at a sustainable pace so that Point of Pride can help applicants for months and years to come, rather than burn ourselves out trying to help as many people in a single cycle as fast as possible.

Our Programs by the Numbers

Something we hear often is, “If Point of Pride really cared, they would fund every applicant. We’ve said many times in our discussions as a team, that if we were able to, we would fund every single applicant. If it were up to us, Point of Pride as we know it would not even exist because every trans person would have access to the comprehensive, life-saving care that they need and deserve. 

The reality is that, financially, we are not even close to being able to support every applicant. We rely on our generous donors and sponsors to support each person we can. You can see a listing of our sponsors, as well as learn more about making a donation if you’re in a position to do so. Though we have generous donors and sponsors, the majority of our funding comes from people giving what they can — the average is about $20, though we also frequently receive smaller donations of $3-4 dollars. 

Even with donors, sponsors, grants, and individual donations, the need for these services far outpaces what we can provide.

When we let people know that we were unable to provide them with a grant, we tend to use the language “extremely limited funds,” and we want to offer some context about what that means. For perspective, we want to share some numbers from our 2021 Surgery Fund and our 2020 HRT Fund.

For our 2021 Surgery Fund, we had 1,259 unique applications. Even if we use an estimate of $8,000 per procedure, to fund every single applicant would cost over $10 million. That’s about $9,700,000 more than Point of Pride had awarded in its entire existence for a single cycle of a single program. And those numbers are before even taking into account that certain procedures requested by applicants cost far more than the amount used as a baseline above. Of the 1,259 applicants, we had enough funds to award 9 recipients grants. That meant that for our 2021 Surgery fund out of every 140 applicants, just 1 received a grant. The average award for the 2021 Surgery Fund cycle was a little over $6,500, meaning that our applicants also contributed savings of their own towards their procedure.

We also want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Mosser and his Gender Confirmation Center, as well as Dr. Facque. As of the time of posting this in 2021, the Gender Confirmation Center has generously donated a total of $65,500, providing discounts for 10 recipients.

Dr. Medalie’s office deserves recognition as well.  As of the time of posting this in 2021, they have generously donated a total of $46,000, supporting 5 recipients.

We are grateful for their generous contributions.

Looking to our 2020 HRT Access Fund, we received 202 applications. The average grant was approximately $1,600. Using that average as a baseline, it would cost over $323,000 to award every applicant a comprehensive year of Plume services. Like the Surgery Fund, that would be more than Point of Pride had awarded in its entire existence for a single cycle of a single program.

For this inaugural cycle, we were pleased to also partner with Ashlee Marie Preston’s #YouAreEssential campaign and For the Gworls, two incredible, Black/trans-led organizations who did amazing fundraising work and who generously provided the funding to sponsor 22 Black trans recipients. 

We are incredibly grateful for their support.

In the 2020 cycle, Point of Pride had sufficient funds to sponsor 2 applicants, leading to  1 grant for every 100 applicants. For the 2021 cycle, more than 1,400 applications were received, 7 times the amount of the previous year. Without the generous contributions of our donors and sponsors, the need will far outstrip our ability to provide support. This example points to the difference that an individual program can have in each cycle, from the number of applications, to restricted funds associated with a program, to overall funds available.

The process of operating any one of our financial aid programs is incredibly hard for everyone involved, both for our team and the applicants. As our volume of applications continues to increase, we’ve begun to request volunteers from the community to help us in reviewing applications. For our volunteer readers and our internal team, we encourage breaks and self-care. We have a saying amongst our team, that these programs can be the hardest thing and the most rewarding thing that we do. The most rewarding because we understand what a significant impact this can have on our applicants’ lives, but also the most challenging because we know that for every applicant funded, there are so many other deserving candidates who need support from us that we simply cannot provide.

While we absolutely wish that we could fund every single applicant, we are not in a position to do so, and likely will not be for some time. This is especially true because while each year we are getting more effective at fundraising, our number of applicants continues to increase significantly. So though we have more funds for each cycle, the proportion of resources often remains the same or similar.

We are proud to share that we are certified as a Guidestar Platinum non-profit. This means that we maintain the highest standards of transparency and accountability. This certification is not a one-time process either: to maintain it, we continue to have to demonstrate that we are doing what we say we are doing. We don’t want to just be transparent with organizations like Guidestar though. We want to be transparent with you, someone seeking our help. 

Past performance is not a predictor of future results, and our ability to fund applicants can vary significantly from cycle to cycle based on many different factors. That said, we designed our Program Status Dashboard to help you understand key details about all of our programs, including where we are in the process of each cycle and what some key data points are, including the potential likelihood of receiving funding based on previous cycles.

Being bias aware

There has been increased attention on conversations around unconscious or implicit bias, and we recognize that everyone has differing levels of experience in this space – you may just be learning about the idea or you may have been having conversations about these concepts for a long time (or somewhere in between!). We recognize that bias is an unavoidable part of our financial aid programs, but that’s not necessarily an intentional or bad thing.

We use the term “implicit bias” or “unconscious bias” to describe when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge. These biases are formed over our lifetimes through direct and indirect messages. Everyone possesses them, even people with strong commitments to treating others fairly. These biases are not fundamentally good or bad on their own but they may create circumstances that can negatively impact others or lead to harmful behavior. The more we expose ourselves to ideas, images, and words that challenge these stereotypes, the more we are able to identify these moments. Identifying moments of unconscious bias is a life-long journey. Our goal is to ensure that we are aware of the possibility of implicit or unconscious biases impacting the way that we review these applications and to incorporate that awareness as part of the process.

Being “bias aware” means taking the time to unpack what our own biases are, as well as considering ways in which certain communities have been historically excluded. While some organizations use the phrase “underrepresented communities,” we believe that this language diminishes the intentionality and extent of the way that these communities were systematically disadvantaged. Unfortunately, within the US, there is an extensive history of mistreating BIPOC communities, such as the massacres of Indigenous populations, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Redlining (a process where Black citizens were unable to live in certain areas, which caused a cascading effect in numerous ways), Japanese internment, and many, many other instances of wide-spread, systematic harm. We are also aware of the effect that colonialism and patriarchy continue to have, especially on trans women. At Point of Pride, we are committed to doing what we can to uplift members of our community who have been harmed by the legacy of these exclusionary policies and  practices. Being bias aware means considering these factors when reviewing an individual’s application. 

“But I’m white, does this mean that I won’t be selected?” We certainly hear this question a lot, and we hope that providing some clarity around our process of being bias-aware will help folks understand how we consider demographic responses. (If you are unfamiliar, demographics are things like age, race, disability status, veteran status, and gender identity, amongst other things.)  Each application is assessed based on the unique circumstances of the applicant. As a general practice, we do not have quotas for specific demographics when reviewing applications. It is important to note that some of our donors may have specific requests as to how their funds are distributed, whether that is in support of a specific program, a demographic, or a combination of the two. When donors make requests like these, we do honor them, which has led to some confusion. We are working to make these donation requests more transparent so that our community better understands the context of the decisions we are making (as well as to celebrate how  members of our community do incredible work to uplift their trans siblings!). While larger percentages of white applicants go unfunded, white applicants also make up the largest percentage of applicants. The number is higher not because we have a policy of turning down these applicants, but because as noted elsewhere, we simply do not have the resources to fund everyone.

Ultimately, this is an incredibly complicated conversation with no easy answers or clear path forward. We receive emails from community members who are concerned that their needs are not seen or supported because they are under-resourced, white, trans people. We also receive emails saying that we have not awarded enough Black trans women or other historically excluded demographics. We are committed to continuing to do our best to try and hold the tension between uplifting those harmed by exclusionary policies and practices, while also assessing the unique circumstances of every applicant. If you have suggestions on how we can improve, we invite you to complete the survey at the bottom.

If you’d like to learn more, we are continuing to build out our Resources page that links to additional support options available for historically excluded communities, in addition to working to add links to resources that are helping us learn more about the ways that systemic exclusion can impact specific communities.

The “Why” behind some of our steps

We’ve made some difficult decisions around elements of our process, but it is our sincere hope that being radically transparent about how we came to these conclusions is important.If you think that there is information that warrants further consideration, we invite you to complete a survey at the end of this post to share your feedback.

Why do you have character limits? — While we understand that it can be quite challenging to summarize your experiences to fit that character limit, if we were to raise or lift those limits, the time it takes to review all the applications would be extended. Though that itself might not be an issue for some applicants, there are already few gaps between program cycles as it is. Our team often reviews from one program cycle to another without pause, or we are running multiple programs at once. To help ensure that we’re able to continue to run our programs for the foreseeable future and to make sure that we can be present with each application in the way that you deserve, these limits on response length are the necessary compromise.

If you’re struggling to respond in the space allotted, we recommend practicing in a separate word editor that displays character counts. On your first pass, focus on saying what you want to say without worrying about the limit. For some people, it might be helpful to use free speech-to-text software to get started. Then, go back and see if there are ways that you can remove extra words or move sections to a different area of an application. We regularly see comments that applicants ran out of space despite saying similar things in more than one section. We also recommend focusing on your unique experiences and situation, as our readers are trans/of trans experience and familiar with some of the challenges faced in society when it comes to accessing care and feeling safe. If possible, consider asking a friend to help review your application. They might be able to make suggestions around how to say things more clearly or in a shorter space. We at Point of Pride help one another with our writing all the time — it’s an extremely helpful practice!

Why can’t I edit my application after submitting it? — As our programs have grown, it is no longer sustainable for us to go into the application database and update responses, especially since only a limited number of Board Members have access. An additional factor in this decision was the goal of being bias aware. Since a number of our applicants live with anxiety, we didn’t want to disadvantage anyone whose anxiety prevented them from reaching out if they noticed an error in their application. Instead, we elected to share all application form questions in advance. That way, you have extra time and opportunity to write your responses.

Why do you require written responses (instead of other formats)? — The most commonly requested alternative format is a video submission. The short answer is that we are trying to be bias aware. For instance, not everyone has access to devices that allow for alternative formats like video. A significant percentage of our applicants experience housing insecurity and a number of them rely on public spaces like libraries for access to the internet, potentially making this process inaccessible. Another concern is that a mixed format of written and video submissions, introduces a high possibility for biasing those who submit a video application at the expense of someone who has a circumstance (such as lack of access to record a video or dysphoria/anxiety) that prevents them from sending a video. Instead, we focus on what you write, and not how you write it.

Why aren’t there more POC trans-women recipients? — This is a complicated but important question to discuss. We have always requested that applicants share their demographic information in the application as they feel comfortable. Historically, demographic information was looked at in the context of the individual cycle of each specific program, as this is helpful information not just for us to better understand who is seeking support from us, but also to use when applying for grants. However, we’ve never looked at demographic data comprehensively, across all programs and all cycles. In part, it was because we were often too focused on what the next thing we could to do help was.

As a reminder, Point of Pride is a 100% volunteer organization, and never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that we would serve as many people as we do. While we’re grateful for the opportunity to give back, there have been some challenges as we continue to grow. When attempting to answer this inquiry with transparency, we realized that the way we aren’t yet able to provide a “bird’s eye view.” This is, in part, because of how the information was organized previously and in part because we have continued to make improvements in how we asked questions and what questions we asked.

We are currently working on a way to organize and present demographic data in a way that is user-friendly while still being consistent with our privacy policy. At this time, it would be a disservice to the community to have this conversation with insufficient information.   We recognize that all across the world, important conversations are happening around equity and how to address the impact of historic exclusion, colonialism, and oppression. We are committed to holding ourselves accountable to being bias aware and equitable across all of our programs.

Why don’t you require past recipients to fundraise on behalf of future applicants? — Though we don’t receive this question often, we want to acknowledge it. While we do have certain requirements of our recipients that are laid out in the contract, we do not require fundraising. We came to this decision because we don’t want it to be a barrier for potential applicants. Many of our applicants sit at the intersection of historically excluded identities, live in places where it is not always safe to be out, or deal with conditions such as anxiety that make fundraising difficult. Instead, we request that community members who have the ability to do so fundraise on behalf of future applicants instead. We especially encourage (and appreciate!) allies taking on this additional work. It makes a difference.

Why do you fully fund some applicants instead of providing smaller amounts of funding to more applicants? — This is a great question that we’ve had a lot of discussions about as a team. One thing that isn’t always obvious from the outside is that there can be a lot of moving pieces around getting gender-affirming care. People can lose their jobs, move, survive natural disasters, experience the end of relationships, and so on. All of these things can have an impact on their finances and their ability to afford surgery, especially if these changes can deplete the savings that applicants had to help them meet their surgery goals.

When these life changes inevitably happened, it was heartbreaking to recognize that we had given folks hope, only for that dollar amount to not adequately meet their needs. Ultimately, we found that this was not what we wanted to create for our community. So we instead decided to focus on helping bridge the gap between where applicants were in their savings (if applicable) and the procedure they were seeking. Since then, we have been focused on continuing to identify fundraising and grant opportunities so that we can achieve the original goal of helping as many people as possible while also helping them in the way we’ve found to be most impactful.

Why is the application only in English? What if English isn’t my first language? —  As a non-profit that serves applicants in over 90 countries and counting, this was something that was a tough challenge to explore. In looking at the members of our community who didn’t speak English as a first language, Spanish was the second most prevalent language and the first one that we explored. In speaking with people who specialize in what’s called “Localization” we quickly realized that there were some significant concerns.

First, localization is different than translation. Translation is the process of taking text from one language and creating an equivalent text in the target language. However, trying to create that equivalent text can be complicated. For instance, looking at words like “sidewalk” or “bathtub,” there could be several different options depending on the country. When a machine translates text, it might not pick the option for “sidewalk” or “bathtub” based on the country the reader is in, but a best approximation based on frequency. In general, though, people understand that a machine translation will not be perfect. Localization would be the process of creating different copies of the text that matched the unique vocabulary of the target region, as well as other considerations like the level of formality or informality of language in that region.

Next, it’s important to recognize that language keeps changing and shifting. For example, right now there are a lot of discussions around the ways that words can exclude people or are based on harmful traditions, practices, or sayings. If we elected to provide translations on our website, we would need to constantly be assessing the language that we used in light of these ongoing learnings. Falling to provide thoughtful and sensitive content in the target language is an important consideration. As we explored the idea of translating our content, we realized that there was a greater risk of creating unintentional harm out of our own ignorance than we were okay with.  Ultimately, we decided that not offering translations of our site and resources would be the better course of action to manage user expectations. 

If English is not your first language, we encourage you to apply in your native language. We will use machine translation to review your application. As a reminder, we focus on what you say, and not how you say it.

Why is this process not more involved? — This is something of a tough question to address because, as we noted elsewhere in this post, it’s an ongoing challenge to try to be present for our applicants and give them the time and attention they deserve, while also working at a sustainable pace and with a sustainable workload. We are trying to find ways to better communicate with our applications while also recognizing that there are certain things that we are not the best resource for. While we do want to support each and every member of our community, we also want to be transparent about what we can to provide. Oftentimes, some of the support we are asked to provide is something that our team simply doesn’t have the expertise to do so.

You deserve the best resources available, which is why we’ve collected a list of additional resources that, we hope, can better address some of the needs expressed by our community members here. They’ve helped us and we are hopeful they will help you too. We are proud to contribute the way that we do and recognize that we are just one piece of a larger team that is working together to address the gaps in support that trans people experience.

Why don’t you accept applications from minors? — This one is a bit tricky because it can vary by program, but the short answer is that the legal constraints around providing support to those under 18 can be extremely complicated and may even vary from state to state. When possible, we attempt to address these concerns on the program-specific FAQs. Ultimately, we cannot accept minors if it would jeopardize our 501(c)(3) standing and our ability to continue to serve our community. This can be especially heartbreaking because we recognize the benefit of receiving gender-affirming care as soon as possible. Wherever possible, we accept applications from all ages as permitted by law.

If you have a suggestion on how we can better address some of the points raised, or if your question wasn’t answered, we invite you to email us or complete the survey at the bottom of this page.

“What if I want to apply to a program that isn’t offered where I live?”

We accept applications from all applicants whenever we are legally able to. When possible, we attempt to address these concerns on the program-specific FAQs. 

Broadly speaking, we have run into concerns around how to navigate the potential need for travel for applicants from outside the US, the lack of relationships with providers within the country of origin, and, most significantly, the potential impact that payments made outside of the country might have on our 501(c)(3) standing.

“How will you get in touch with me?”

We’ve explored alternative methods of connecting with applicants including through text and phone calls. Based on feedback, we wanted to be mindful that you may have limited access to email or may prefer alternate methods of communication. However, after testing out phone calls, text messages, and email over the years, we found that phone calls and text were significantly more time-consuming for our volunteers and even less likely to yield a response. Therefore, we will communicate with you exclusively by email.

Our commitment to improvement

We take our role in serving the community very seriously. With every single cycle of every single program, we keep a running log of ideas to implement for the future in order to do better. We also work to incorporate these learnings across programs. And, of course, feedback from the community is a large part of how we come up with ideas to make our programs better. Contact us