New Year and a New Question

I know, I have been absent from the Internet (mostly) for the past month. A combination of huge piles of work, Christmas gifts to buy, a break-up to get over, and generally tired of dealing with the terminal stupid of cis people on the Internet wrt trans stuff.  I also realized that I was spending way more time online than going out and hanging with my friends.

I have been keeping up on things, but growing increasingly tired of just getting angry and venting. I used to actually – you know – DO THINGS that I thought made a positive impact in the world. Volunteering for GLBT youth programs, Doing security at women’s health clinics, staffing phone banks for anyone who needed my time. I probably did way to much actually, since I burned out a couple years ago and the idea of putting myself “out there” like that doesn’t seem much fun. There is a story there for another day – suffice to say that “progressive”  does NOT mean trans-friendly.

Anyway, I have been working on an idea for a non-profit organization with two friends. It’s still in the planning stages, but it’s solid. We are trying to form a group that will provide basic computer/office/phone training for women (cis and trans) who have been released from prison. We have a business in the call center industry willing to hire the women and pay us a “finder’s fee”. Because of the job placement, we won’t be able to accept women convicted of either violent crimes or fraud. However, this targets the groups with the highest re-offending rate – prostitution and drugs (often both). the ultimate goal will be to replace the three of us with our graduates as the instructors, staff, and finally directors – this should be a group run by the population it serves. The three of us will take on an advisory role, and step in if asked to assist with fund raising/grant writing/ etc.

This has been by focus for a few months, but it’s recently become more “real” as we have started writing a charter and looking seriously at getting some funding from the state. The last part is tough, since the economic climate isn’t conducive to government largess. I do remain hopeful.

I have also been kicking around another idea. I read many blogs and have quite a few ( at least more than I expected) trans friends on Twitter as well as folks I know offline. One thing that I have noticed often is that the folks I’m talking to/reading/spending time with are in near crisis situations financially. I’m talking women needing to choose between medicines and food, de-transition to find work (and probably die) or maintain transitioning and lose their apartments, stay in an abusive relationship or be homeless. These are some of the economic tolls faced by many trans women. We are un/under employed and basic social services fail to safely accommodate us.

I’m lucky. I have a job and I’m JUST making it – JUST. I also just got news that I’ll be transferred to a different department with no guarantee that my pay will remain the same (if it changes it won’t go up) so my “just making it” status may become “barely making it” by next month. One of the reasons for my absence was that I started to feel helpless – and I HATE that feeling. Then I read Questioning Transphobia and a post by little light. I’m not linking to the post because it’s been locked due to some jerks being insulting and fear for the subject of the post and her friends and family. Suffice to say, the resulting call to action and action actually being taken kicked me in the panties and I decided to do something on my own. I’m involved a little (and soon to be more) with the project being developed there, but I want to do more for the people I know and respect.

The thing is… I don’t know what to do. I first thought is to add a PayPal Donation link and set up a fund to pass out to the trans people who need it. But I’m not sure how effective that will be or even if it’s a good idea. I’m asking for input from anyone who wants to give it. So, do you think a donation link would do any good, can you think of a more effective way to help the people who need it?


~ by laughriotgirl on January 15, 2010.

14 Responses to “New Year and a New Question”

  1. I have a couple of ideas that I thought of right away.

    A PayPal link is a start. There are some things to consider before you do set up a PayPal link such as who will administer and disburse donations, how will people apply for any funds to be disbursed, and last be extremely careful how a link is set up as PayPal does have rules of what they will allow.

    Beyond donations I think you could use a team of researchers helping you so that you can contribute research directly to the project. The way I envision this is for you to recruit friends, acquaintances, etc. to look for information that you want (I will be your first volounteer). Tell your team of researchers what you information you would like (specific or general) and then your team submits any information to you and you forward it to the project.

    Give me some time and I may be able to come up with some more ideas.

    • Jim, the questions you bring up re: administration are the ones I’m trying to suss out. Short-term it would be divided among trans people I know personally online and off. The issue I’m trying to handle is accountability to any donors that the money is going to trans folks in need and not to a personal “pay my bills off” fund. As far as determining need, pretty much every trans blogger I know is having serious cash issues.

      I’m in the payment processing industry, so I have a good handle on how to set up the donations with PP and stay within their rules (PP is notorious for shutting stuff down for little reason tho).

      Researching is a fine way to go, but is time consuming and it’s something I’ve been doing for a few years. Each time I get asked by a young trans girl some difficult questions about hormones or surgeries I try to direct to resources that won’t marginalize her or preach to her (still looking for that one)

      • I realize that researching takes a lot of time. The project will require somme researching in order to provide answers and help to those that require it. I was actually suggesting that I would do some researching for you and send the results to you so that you could forward them to the project. I see your role in this as an editor and not as a researcher. All I require from you is what you would like me to research.

  2. Well, one of the things I talked about on the OP was that funding would be necessary for the legal watchdogging stuff, so that folks could travel from spot to spot and prevent caregivers or families from screwing over trans folk.

    So a paypal donation thing would actually be a really good idea.

    • RP – I’m looking on actually starting a thing I’ve been kicking around for some time. I think this should be independent from the work being done on the project. I don’t want to dilute the focus of that.

  3. There is a large body of research that suggests it is better to provide assistance and resources that help create greater self-sufficiency than simply to hand out money to those in need. It’s something worth considering. (The old adage that goes with this is: “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”)

    That said, there is nothing that can substitute for immediate, crisis-related financial needs like an instant infusion of cash. So it’s good to be of “two minds” about this issue.

    I think a PayPal donation link is a very good place to start. And like Jim above, I’d be happy to volunteer remotely.

    • SMC – I agree with the “teaching a woman to fish..” saying. However, with the people I’m talking about, they are in crisis situations where lofty goals of “teaching” and “providing tools” needs to be secondary. Actually, most of the people I’m thinking about have the tools and are using them as best they can. They are just in situations where options are so limited.

      As an example: My friend bizzyb (she’ll be writing here soon) is in a rotten position where she has to move. She is, like me, just making it and her apartment manager wants her out and she is getting harassed by her neighbors. Moving at this time will be taxing for her and she has the real option of going into a shelter (where she will be placed with men). I don’t want to see that happen.

      • Please don’t me wrong. I absolutely, without equivocation, support the idea of providing immediate, crisis-related financial assistance. That’s why I put that in my post. I guess I didn’t make it clear: I think the obvious merits associated with the “teaching” approach as a longer-term solution are far too often erected as obstacles for just giving at the moment of crisis. In our cold, hard world, it’s unfortunate, but often there is nothing better than just putting some money in someone’s hand to ease the burden and the pain.

        I’ll make a small donation, the best I can do right now, as soon as things are set up.

      • SMC- I think you made your understanding of the need for crisis relief clear – I guess I was just driving home my intentions. No need to apologize – s’all good

  4. One thing I want to talk about are existing organizations. The national (US) GLB orgs are funneling all their cash into “gay marriage” and don’t have much, if any trans-specific initiatives to address these any of these issues.

    Trans-specific online orgs are often not helpful either. We have serious issues from two camps within the “movement” who try to take over and direct focus onto their own issues and interests. We have “Classic Transsexuals” trying to get rid of the “not trans enough” and pimping their belief that trans folks should go it alone, take their lumps and move on and blend in. There are also the kinda creepy fetishist-TVs (one small subset of CD/TV identified folks) who make discussions around hormones/surgeries/living about them and tend to get dismissive when transitioning folks need other types of information (beyond how sexy it is to wear stilettos etc.)

    So, along with trying to get cash to those who need it, I want to eventually find a place to honestly discuss trans-related medical (and cosmetic) options where the focus will be on providing useful information and not advertising or pimping a specific narrative. All this and a desire to sleep too.

  5. One idea I’ve had in my head for a while now is a peer to peer grant fund website. Those of us who are more well off would agree to put in, say, $1-20 per month, of our chosing. People then come to the group and ask for funds, and people vote on where it goes. I had originally intended this as a way to raise money for small activism projects that needed say, a few hundred dollars, since it’s doubtful much money could be raised within the trans population itself (it also could bring in non-voting allies for more money… corporate groups, etc.).

    This same model could easily be adapted for personal-i-need-money-right-now crises as well.

    The main problem, as stated by others above, is vetting out the people and/or activists who are getting the funds. Some of that will be handled in the peer voting process, but there really should be some element of personal face time, etc.

    There is one site that is doing this now in a broader sense to help fight hunger, It’s still small, but it seems to have already raised money for a few projects, with less than 300 members.

    This is within my skillset to build (the website anyway), but I always had doubts about reaching a “critical mass” of members.

    • Siduri – that’s a sweet idea! Sorry I haven’t been on here in a bit.

      I’d only say that I have very limited time/energy/resources to put towards a project like this

  6. Send me an email privately and I’ll give ya some pointers on the whole thing and see what little help I can provide. As you may recall, I’ve done a lot of this sort of work the last few years.

  7. Having spent some time a few years ago working at a training centre to help people get back into work after a time unemployed, I can safely say one BIG problem for TS ladies is becoming employed for the first timne “as a woman”. A lot of their job history (if they have one) will be tied up with their previous male name, and if (as some have found, whether legal or not) they had to leave a previous job because of the transitioning, a reference is unliklely to be forthcoming. Any organisation such as you initially describe is massively useful as it can also act as a job reference for such a woman, and also offer advice on how to continue in the job market. Building up a network of T-girl-accepting future employers wouild be a good idea, as your clients would have to move on eventually, and knowing that they were moving to a “decent” employer would make both you and they rest more easily.

    Good luck with the project, in whatever form it eventually comes to fruition.

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