How #TransCrowdFund Fights Against Economic Violence
J. Skyler created the hashtag to boost crowdfunding campaigns.
In May 2016, J. Skyler’s employer stopped offering year-end bonuses at their workplace. To make ends meet, they started crowdfunding an emergency fund on YouCaring. Shortly after, they created #TransCrowdFund, which helps transgender folks needing assistance can boost their campaigns on Twitter. As a result, many trans folk have been able to cover living expenses, healthcare costs and other important bills.
I reached out to J. to learn more about the hashtag and why crowdfunding is so important at this particular moment in history.
Tell me about yourself.
I am 31 and hail from southern California. I am certified in Business Management, Human Resource Management and International Business from Mt. San Antonio college. My work has appeared at ComicBookBin, Comicosity, ComicsAlliance, and in Cinema Journal.
I read about your story and why you started your emergency fund on YouCaring. Why did you choose crowdfunding? Why YouCaring over other crowdfunding websites?
I personally chose to avoid GoFundMe over the controversy surrounding funds being raised on their site for Darren Wilson and Daniel Holtzclaw. I chose crowdfunding because it’s already become commonplace in our society — anyone can crowdfund for literally any reason.
One aspect of crowdfunding that deserves observation is that, whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, the most successful campaigns are often for cisgender able-bodied heterosexual white men, which are funded for the most part by other cisgender able-bodied heterosexual white men. Conversely, you often see fundraisers for people from marginalized groups ignored or partially funded, and contributors are often other marginalized people who are also struggling to get by. We are conditioned to believe people with privileged identities who find themselves in financial crisis are victims of circumstance despite their best efforts while marginalized individuals have brought it upon themselves; the former deserve compassion, the latter condemnation. We are conditioned to deny or ignore systematic advantages and disadvantages that perpetuate income inequality.
You talk a lot about economic violence. What does the term mean to you? Have you personally experienced it?
On a personal level, economic violence means living in a state where the minimum wage is not equatable to the cost of living. It means being employed by a business which, according to the District Attorney, has violated a number of laws which have been settled in and out of court and not being able to file a lawsuit because lawsuits favor whichever party has the most money. It means being unable to risk being terminated for filing a suit against my employer because I also run the risk of losing if one were actually filed. It means I will likely be forced to wait until 2022 when California raises the minimum wage to $15 before I can find another full-time employer that pays entry level employees over $10 per hour. People often suggest working more than one job, but for those who work retail, employers often demand an open schedule or “on-call” availability. Conflicting or restricted schedules are often grounds for termination, as is working for competitors in many cases.
This is my experience and that doesn’t even include issues with gender identity in the workplace. In one way, I am fortunate to live in a state with legal protections for transgender employees and tenants. Many trans people around the country aren’t so lucky. Cis people assume the only situation in which a trans person would experience a financial crisis is if they are unable to pay for medical care (such as hormone replacement therapy, surgical procedures and/or disability related care). While that is certainly one way in which trans people experience economic violence, it is not the sole variable.
Economic violence can occur on a worldwide scale and is in fact happening at this very moment; however it can also happen when someone is using money to control your thoughts and actions in a way that hurts yourself or others. — Michelle Spicer, The Transgender Handbook
Some trans people face economic violence in the form of employment discrimination. Others face housing discrimination. Numerous trans people suffer health care discrimination and many trans people face these injustices simultaneously. The “Fight For $15” doesn’t mean much to a trans person who can’t find employment or is terminated without legal recourse. Maintaining a full-time job isn’t exactly easy if you’re homeless due to housing discrimination. Many trans people have to rebuild their entire lives after coming out as trans, which can include losing financial assets after a divorce or leaving the family home. Trans people of color run a higher risk of facing these issues than our white counterparts. Many trans people, especially trans women of color, are dependent on sex work for survival, which inherently runs the risk of racial profiling, incarceration, and legal fees. Trans people who make sex work their career of choice face these hurdles as well.
Additionally, cis people tend to assume trans people have only themselves to care for, but many trans people are financially responsible for children and extended family. As you can see, there is a never-ending myriad of ways trans people face economic violence.
Would you consider #TransCrowdFund a form of reparations for the trans community?
I see reparations as being given specifically by the state to settle grievances it is responsible for. #TransCrowdFund is a community effort for charitable and conscientious souls to help individuals in need and to give those individuals a greater reach. However, some may also see it as community-driven reparations for cisgender violence against transgender people, and if so, that’s perfectly fine. However, from that perspective it is important to emphasize that reparations should benefit the most vulnerable at the intersections of our community, which would be disabled Black trans women.
Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?
When using the hashtag on your Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr, my recommended format is to state what your current situation is (which can range from needing to replace your cell phone to preventing your home from going into foreclosure), the goal amount, how much you’ve collected and a link to your fundraiser.
For obvious reasons, people prefer donating to verified accounts, so even if you prefer using services like PayPal or Square Cash, it’s highly recommended you create a formal crowdfunding page and simply link to those accounts there. For those wishing to contribute, it’s recommended you not only check the tag regularly on your social media accounts to signal boost, but to mark your pay dates on your e-calendars as a reminder. $5–$20 from hundreds to thousands of individuals could very easily (and very quickly) change lives. It is also important not to tag another person or their fundraiser without their consent.
Other hashtags to consider are #DisabilityCrowdFund and #FemCrowdFund which are extensions of the original #TransCrowdFund. Under the Trump administration, crowdfunding will likely become quintessential to those with multiple intersecting identities. Resistance is survival and it is imperative we recognize how these movements are tied to ones already in play. Folks living under multiple axes of oppression are on the frontlines of #BlackLivesMatter, #NoBanNoWall, #WomensMarch, #NoDAPL and #SaveACA. A radical redistribution of wealth will be one of the only ways for some to escape certain death.