Grassroots online efforts form a new queer network of care

Almost exactly a year ago, Theo Hendrie thought he might have to leave school. His partner lost his job, and they struggled to pay bills and make their money. He was worried about it X Marks The Spot, his newly released anthology, is perhaps the only creative project he could ever complete. And then, at the right time, Tuck Woodstock’s Gender public program for mutual assistance.

‘Until then, it’s always been, you know, if we have a tenner, we put it in the so-and-so top fund for surgery, and they’ll probably put something in mine later, and it’s all exchanged. around, ”says Hendrie. “While I think Tuck’s thing was the first time I saw something that helps the community as a whole, and helps us do something creative rather than just paying for medical bills.”

Hendrie received £ 75 and admitted the money he could stay in school. Granted, that doesn’t sound like much. But since then he is studying at the university and returning for a master’s degree in media and communication. Like the thousands of other people who have somehow benefited from mutual aid, financial aid has enabled him to pursue his goals and stabilize his life, without disruption.

Hendrie’s experience is not unique – everywhere on the internet, people have access to help and care through digital networks that inevitably spread in the offline, everyday lives of strangers. When people in the LGBTQ community feel excluded from, unwelcome in or underserved by mainstream health networks, groups such as QueerCare, For The Gworls (FTG), and transanta step in, offer help in the form of care and often cash.

Woodstock launched their mutual aid fund via Gender Reveal at the start of the pandemic, when it became clear that people urgently needed help. The fund replaces the original Gender Reveal Grant, which requires people to submit their work to a judging panel. That was not appropriate at the time, Woodstock says. “It has become fair: ‘Do you need money to live? Do you need money to pay rent, feed yourself, pay for medicine? ‘”

Woodstock’s pivot for mutual aid and away from the Gender Reveal Grant is indicative of a larger shift that took place in 2020, thanks to COVID-19. It is well documented that the pandemic inequality exacerbates across the board; in some marginalized communities, the recipe for survival was the doubling of care independent of the main systems.

But this building of DIY care networks has been in the making for decades. Queer people and other marginalized groups have been doing this groundwork for generations, and the modern ubiquity of GoFundMe pages and Instagram accounts is simply the latest chapter in a long history of alternative care.

FTG founder Asanni Armon recognizes Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance rental parties with the idea of ​​raising money for black tenants’ rent and gender-confirming operating costs. “We just follow in those footsteps,” Armon says. “As long as we have been affected by the ills of capitalism, especially black people, we have had to do this kind of work.”

Mutual help can seem like a lot of different things, depending on what you need – while Woodstock sent money to Hendrie via PayPal and Venmo for as much as $ 800 (and as little as £ 75), FTG only helped with $ 50,000 to raise for 23 young people. people receive a year of hormone replacement therapy, through the new point of Pride HRT Access Fund. Historically, mutual aid has been a way for people on the fringes of mainstream economies to jointly access resources and provide care; watch the Black Panther Party breakfast program, or the AIDS activism of PERFORM, and you will see the same network formation, without internet.

It is no coincidence that these networks usually work with activism, says Kirsty Clark, a postdoctoral research fellow at Yale School of Public Health whose research focuses on LGBTQ mental health.

“When people are moved to the sidelines, they create social networks through formal or informal channels where people can give each other information and support,” she says. ‘It comes together to push back against persecution and forge a sense of togetherness in the group. And these networks not only provide peer support, but can also lead to resources for medical care. ”

While the pandemic stopped the rental parties of FTG, and forced organizations like Trans Defense Fund LA (TDFLA) offering their self-defense courses online has not slowed the spread of mutual aid programs within the foreign community, on the contrary. TDFLA has just sent another 200 self-defense kits for trans people in LA; FTG announced on February 8, $ 1.1 million has been redistributed to black trans people around the world since its inception in July 2019; Woodstock, from Gender Reveal, raised $ 100,000 in just one month. Clearly, the practical implications of mutual aid are real and life-saving.

“The biggest success is that we provide the people with the necessary tools and it goes into their hands,” says Nikki Nguyen, the organizer behind TDFLA. “That’s the biggest part – just to be able to provide it for the trans community.”

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