The Black trans-led collective For the Gworls recently announced that it has hit a major milestone with its widely shared mutual-aid program. On Thursday, the organization claimed it has redistributed over $1,000,000 million to Black trans people around the world in the past year and a half.
“If you would’ve told me that at 25, not only would I have touched a million dollars, but that I also would’ve given it away, I would’ve cackled,” said Founder Asanni Armon in an Instagram caption accompanying the announcement. “If you would’ve told me hundreds of thousands of folks would trust me with a million dollars to help people, I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend it.”
“I’m grateful,” Armon added. “Eternally thankful. I couldn’t have done this without my team.”
For the Gworls began its life with a Fourth of July rooftop party in Brooklyn in 2019, with the intent of fundraising for two friends facing eviction. Until the pandemic, the group hosted parties every month for similar fundraising purposes for Black trans people. In a statement on its website, Armon refers to the collective’s mission as a “safe haven for Black transgender people” and “a tool to sustain Black trans livelihood.”
Though the collective had to pivot away from in-person gatherings at the beginning of 2020, For the Gworls continued the work of raising and redistributing funds and boosting the needs of individual trans people during the pandemic. Since the pre-COVID days of July 2019, the group has reportedly raised $595,377 toward rental assistance, $460,866 toward gender-affirming surgery, and $53,058 toward critical medical needs.
Illustrating the unprecedented strain that the novel coronavirus placed on the LGBTQ+ community, the majority of funds were accrued in the latter half of 2020 alone. As of July 2020, For the Gworls had distributed $252,000 to vulnerable individuals — drawing in an impressive $848,000 in the 7 months since.
Without the ability to throw parties to bring in donations, the majority of funds are raised through social media. Individuals can also set up recurring donations through For the Gworls’ website.
With LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ people of color, more likely to be out of work or unable to pay rent during the pandemic, the need is ongoing. According to an August 2020 survey from the Human Rights Campaign, 31% of Black queer and trans respondents had their hours cut as a result of the pandemic and 18% lost their jobs. These rates are significantly higher than non-LGBTQ+ Black individuals or the LGBTQ+ population as a whole.
As the collective pointed out in an Election Day post, Black trans people are among those hardest hit by the pandemic. And despite the tireless work of mutual-aid programs like For the Gworls, the vast majority of their needs continue to go unmet.
“We are the last ones hired and the first ones fired when shit hits the fan — CO(V)ID is just the latest in a long history of reminders,” Armon wrote. “We are the ones left without insurance when we need it just as much as others. We are the ones left homeless and with very few fail-safes when we need help just as much as others. We are the ones being thrown in prison cells irrespective of our gender. We are *also* being ki(l)led in the middle of the street, in our homes, in jail cells — not just Black cis people.”
On January 6, the collective announced that applications for rent and gender-affirming surgeries were closed until further notice. At the time of publication, applications for those funds were still not available on For the Gworls’ website, although the application for the medical fund was open.
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