The protests for racial justice and the coronavirus pandemic’s disproportionate effect on people of color helped generate $2.8 million for a fundraiser for Black transgender women in Atlanta, according to the campaign’s organizer.
“It really revealed all of the underlying issues that have existed for decades that people have been trying to alleviate but the rest of the world wasn’t listening,” Jesse Pratt López told Project Q Atlanta. “And now with the movement for Black lives, it seems like suddenly people are caring.”
López, a trans Latinx organizer, activist and photographer, started the Homeless Trans Black Women’s Fund in December for a small group of friends and family in need. The campaign initially raised $10,000.
Then the pandemic hit, and widespread protests formed after the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in February, Breonna Taylor in March, George Floyd in May and Rayshard Brooks in June. The continued violence against Black trans people nationwide also put a spotlight on the issues, López said.
“Atlanta is a very black city, a very queer city and in general within the community, people need to understand that until Black trans people are free and have the same protections and rights as everyone else, no one else will be,” she said. “All the movements coalescing together has really formed this perfect storm, so I really think it’s a unique opportunity.”
López expounded on her June Q interview about consulting with experts and organizations, as well as the women she intends to help, to decide what to do with the money.
“The money will go towards investing in spaces for trans people and paying for trans folks to get into permanent housing according to what they want,” she said. “It’s centered around what each specific person needs and wants.”
López’s comments came during Friday’s episode of Q Conversations, Project Q's live virtual event series. The episode also featured Taylor Alxndr and Justine Ingram, who are also working on campaigns to fund housing and safe spaces for trans people in Atlanta.
Alxndr is the co-founder and executive director of Southern Fried Queer Pride. Ingram is a capacity-building assistance specialist at Southern AIDS Coalition and an executive board member and program manager for Trans Housing Atlanta Program.
'It's just been really beautiful to see'
THAP has an ongoing capital campaign to buy housing for trans people to rent or stay for free depending on the need, Ingram said. It's about halfway to a $150,000 goal.
The need for trans housing is urgent, so THAP partnered with A Vision For Hope Foundation to open a house in College Park earlier this month for seven trans women to stay rent-free for up to one year.
“They can stay there, they can get connected to wraparound services, get IDs, some of them are starting jobs,” Ingram said.
Alxndr created the Help Fund a Black Queer Community Space fundraiser on behalf of Southern Fried Queer Pride in June. The original goal was $50,000, but the campaign has raised $73,000 so far with a new goal of $100,000. It was a lofty goal that the group has wanted for years.
“We’ve always had it in our vision to have a community space where we’re able to put on our programming and events but it’s also open to the community to grow through the arts, grow through workshops, but also be a space for just community,” Alxndr said.
SFQP’s past fundraising campaigns never generated more than $800, but the confluence of high-profile current events this year changed everything.
“A lot of the issues that we’ve had as a community just became even more under the microscope and even more glaring because of the pandemic, because of our government failing us, and people questioning what’s going to happen in 2021 if we’re even able to be in person,” Alxndr said. “Will there be spaces for us to congregate?”
“It’s just been really beautiful to see people show up and help out and make this dream a reality,” they added.
SFQP is in the process of scouting locations for a future space.
It’s important to have more spaces in Atlanta for trans people run by trans people, López said.
“There’s a lot of gatekeeping when it comes to spaces in the LGBTQ community,” she said. “People don’t understand how affirming it is to walk into a space and see people that look like you and that are from your community.”
More trans-inclusive protests needed
Donating money is “the bare minimum” allies can do to help trans people thrive in Atlanta, López said.
“Mutual aid isn’t just about giving money, it’s about giving resources, giving time, food, whatever you can give,” she said. “Being part of a community requires investing in the community.”
Alxndr echoed López, saying that money eventually runs out.
“Donations might run dry, but if there’s people who experience life in certain ways – black trans people, black non-binary people – if they’re getting these jobs and getting these resources and getting in positions of power, that’s something that can change situations for years to come,” they said.
And while the protests for racial justice in Atlanta were welcomed by Ingram,López and Alxndr, they said most haven’t been inclusive enough of trans people.
“When they say ‘Black lives matter,’ they’re not talking about Black trans lives matter,” Ingram said. “Especially for my trans sisters, we didn’t really feel safe going out into those spaces and marching with those people because for many of us, those are the people that are our aggressors, those are the people that attack us.”
Plus, the fear of arrest is greater for trans women, added López.
“Going to a men’s prison is not an option,” she said. “It’s not what I’m trying to do.”
This story is made possible through a grant from Facebook Journalism Project's COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund.
Screenshot clockwise from top left: Ingram, Project Q Atlanta founder Matt Hennie, Lopez and Alxndr