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BookTok Is Raising Money for Transgender Rights with a Readathon

March for transgender rights

As transgender rights are challenged across the US in increasingly horrifying ways, the internet is coming together to raise money to fight these unjust laws and support transgender people. Author and journalist Sim Kern has created a Trans Rights Readathon, which will take place from March 20-27 across TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. As of March 14, Kern tells us that 575 content creators have signed up to participate, with the majority posting on Instagram and TikTok.

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The Trans Rights Readathon is a decentralized fundraiser, meaning every participant gets to set up a fundraiser for whatever trans organization or individual they prefer. After announcing their participation in the event, creators will read books by trans authors and post content using the hashtag #TransRightsReadathon, including book recommendations or their to-be-read (TBR) list.

“A few days ago, I was feeling a lot of despair over the nearly 400 anti-trans bills proposed in the US,” Kern tells The Mary Sue via e-mail. “Online, I was hearing trans creators echoing that despair, but other than that I was hearing way too much silence. I saw a TikTok by Mercury Stardust talking through her tears about this despair, but also sharing that she’s doing something about it—by hosting a fundraiser March 30th, where she and Alluring Skull are going to raise $1 million for a trans charity, Point of Pride

“She inspired me to try to organize within my own community—which is book people and publishing people online. I immediately knew, though, that I didn’t have the bandwidth or the reach to organize a centralized campaign the way Mercury is,” Kern continues. “So I thought it would be cool to do a decentralized campaign, where each content creator who joined up would read as many books by trans authors as they could in a week, and host their own fundraising drive for the trans-supporting organization of their choice. This would spread around the stress of hosting a fundraiser, and it would spread around the proceeds to lots of smaller, local orgs that badly need the funding!”

The format of the Trans Rights Readathon is loose on purpose. Creators can post whatever they want, however they want, as long as they’re reading trans books and raising money for trans rights. People can also boost the event by interacting with posts from participants, including shares, retweets, likes, comments, etc. They can also post about the event itself, even if they’re unable to participate directly. Ultimately, the goal is to combat the anti-trans bills sweeping the US by helping trans organizations and individuals get the funding they need to keep fighting.

“What’s working so well here is the way each individual creator signing up is becoming an organizer,” Kern tells us. “So even if they just raise $5 or $10, the dollar amount doesn’t matter, they’re announcing to their wider community, ‘Hey, trans rights matter to me, and I’m going to drop my regularly scheduled content this week and focus on this issue.’ That creates a ripple effect going beyond 575 creators that’s frankly incalculable.”

This ripple effect is already making a huge impact, especially for Kern.

“I can’t tell you how much this has done to restore my faith in humanity! There were so many allies out there who were immediately ready to jump into this campaign and start spreading the word, as soon as they heard about the Readathon,” Kern says. “It turns out there are tons of people in the online bookish community—at least 575—who were eager for a way to speak out and protest these anti-trans laws, but weren’t sure how. And if that’s true of BookTok and Bookstagram, I wonder how many other communities are primed to rally around trans rights and other social justice issues as soon as there’s a clear call to action that’s tailored to their strengths?”

Kern hopes to see a variety of content shared under the #TransRightsReadathon hashtag. “So far, I’ve been loving the announcement videos where folks are sharing the trans orgs they’ll be supporting, because I’m learning about so many great, local nonprofits. I love the book recommendation lists going around, sharing titles in various genres. I especially love some of the humor posts and memes around the Readathon that have started to circulate. And I’m excited to see live ‘read with me’ sessions, book reviews, and vlogs next week!”

The Trans Rights Readathon is brand new, but Kern says they would love to do it again next year. They also shared that they would love to see others adopt the format “as a rapid-response kind of organizing in response to other social justice crises,” and that they’d love to see more Internet communities rally around trans rights and other causes in this way. ” I’d love to see other online communities use similar decentralized organizing principles to rally around causes like trans rights. “Can we get the fitness people to do pushups for trans rights? Can we get cosplayers to do cosplaying for trans rights?”

The first Trans Rights Readathon will take place March 20-27. Creators who want to participate can sign up via this Google Form. For updates and to see what participants post during the fundraiser, follow the #TransRightsReadathon hashtag across social media.

(featured image: Karollyne Hubert / Unsplash)

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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.

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