On February 25th, 2021, The House of Representatives voted for passing the Equality Act: this means gender identity and sexual orientation will now be protected under the civil rights act of 1964. This has invited those who disapprove to make their distaste for the LGBTQ community known, and has done little to concretely help actual queer people, and more specifically, trans people. With an estimated 44 anti-trans bills currently under review in the United States, it is no wonder that many in the trans community take the Equality Act as a superficial display of freedom, and know that the community is not truly receiving the respect, help, and support that it urgently needs.
” Our trans ancestors set out a larger vision for us that included basic human rights and dignity. We are still fighting for a chance to survive and for basic human needs like food, shelter and a chance at bodily autonomy and agency. “Isa Noyola, Director of Mijente
According to The Human Rights Campaign that has been tracking trans deaths since 2013, 2020 was the deadliest year for Trans people with a majority of the deaths being Latinx and Black people. The Trans Murder Monitoring Project reported that at least 350 Trans and gender queer individuals were murdered globally not including cases that went unreported or covered up. This has been labeled a surge of violence towards the trans community, so civilians have taken it upon themselves to provide for and protect each other through mutual aid. Mutual aid, by definition, is the mutual exchange of goods and resources that aims to assist, benefit, and protect participants. The term was coined by anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin in his essay “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution.” In it he encourages people to go against capitalist competition and opt for cooperation instead, especially when the resources are available to make cooperation happen.
” In the long run the practice of solidarity proves much more advantageous to the species than the development of individuals endowed with predatory inclinations.”Peter Kropotkin
Social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter have helped the spread of important information and fortunately have boosted mutual aid collectives, helping them reach the people they are meant to be supporting as well as reach allies who want to contribute. One of these many collectives with a widespread social media platform is Trans Defense Fund LA.
The Trans Defense Fund is mutual aid providing self-defense kits and resources to trans folk in Los Angeles. Back in August, they raised $3,038 in funds to provide 100 trans people in the Los Angeles area with self defense kits that include a stun gun, pepper spray, kitty self defense key chain, pointed window breaker tool, and a rhinestone flashlight. Each kit was completed with a pamphlet detailing the items, how to use them, and a disclaimer at the end for where such items are forbidden. Recently, they updated their kits so that some of the items included come from a black owned small business called Beyond Defense.
Even when they are not giving out kits, the group provides followers with resources through frequent giveaways of defense items, free lunch opportunities, free virtual self defense classes by Connie Lau, videos showing how to use items from the kits, boxing classes, and sharing information for other people seeking or providing help.
The money that funds the Trans Defense Fund mostly comes from donors, and more recently, from sticker sales on their website. ALL profits from sticker sales go toward Black trans femmes’ Cashapps, Venmos, GoFundMes, etc.
Maybe now you’re thinking: what can I do to help? Aside from financial donations, there are lots of other ways to support mutual aid collectives. You can share their posts to boost awareness and engagement, this is essential in helping pages grow and become more visible on social media. Donate supplies, this could mean creating packs of essential items for people who may be in tough situations that include feminine and hygiene products or even making free bagged lunches will do. Donate your time by volunteering, if you cannot financially support. Volunteer to drop off supplies, or monitor and work the events that they may be holding, or help put supplies together. Offering a personal skill is debatably the best way to take part in mutual aid: take something you know you’re good at and teach other people. If you know how to do handy work, offer to host a zoom class teaching other people how to do it! Maybe you’re really good at budgeting or finding a bargain? Share that knowledge with your community!
Mutual aid is an act of love and solidarity. According to Samara Machel,” solidarity is not an act of charity, but mutual aid between forces fighting for the same objective.”