A suggestion to help yourself

Idea: for the month of March, volunteer for 20 hours with an organization or project that specifically deals with trans folk, or solve a local problem.

Without getting involved in politics.

When I say without getting involved in politics, I mean without becoming embroiled in the online arguments we see, without lobbying for a law to change, without going to see a politician and getting them to vote for something.

Kinda different for a request, isn’t it?

It is a suggestion to you in order to get you to help yourself. The difficulty is that the way that it helps you is indirect — far more so than working on some change in law. It is going to affect other trans people, and that, in turn, is going to affect your life and make it richer, make it better.

You might wonder why I am doing this now, as February comes calling, but the reason is that I want you to take a month a research the organizations in your area that do things for Trans people other than the political.

You will have to research them.  You will have to hunt for them.  Well, that is unless you live in New York or Boston or San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Some of the organizations will be doing political work as well, and that’s ok.  Just say you want to spend 20 hours in an entire month doing whatever it is that they need done.

I haven’t talked about this idea with any other organization. This isn’t part of some secret trans activist effort carefully coordinated behind the scenes. Yes, those things happen. They have to if we are going to get some things to change.

No, this is just me, by myself, asking you, personally, to stop for 20 hours in March and volunteer your time to help trans people.  And I am asking you to start looking for that trans organization now.

It might just be a support group that has, on a good day, three people.  They need a volunteer, and they may not even know it.

It might be a group that serves 15,000 people in an area larger than the state of Maryland, and you may need to sit down with them to see what it is that you can do.

It almost certainly will not be exciting work. It will not be sexy. It will be hard, and people will probably be rude to you. You will likely deal with people that you normally would have nothing to do with in a thousand years.

But do it. Please. Twenty hours is a lot, I know, but really, it is 20 hours that can change so much. Pretty please. With sugar on top.

Then tweet about it. Use the Hashtag on twitter of #transhelp.

#transhelp.

One month, only twenty hours of your time.  That’s all I am asking of you.

It may involve emailing your friends to ask them for money. I don’t know.  It could involve delivering condoms and warm knit caps to homeless trans people.  It could be bringing warm soup to them, or maybe just baking cookies for a support group.

Perhaps it is going to involve handing out flyers, or maybe it will be something easy like going on facebook and inviting people to a seminar.

Maybe it will be appearing in a video.  Again, I don’t know.

Just volunteer.

When you do, let them know what you are good at, but don’t expect for them to put you to work doing it.  Just show up and do what they need you to do for a change.

I know that one group might decide what they want to do is to get a bar to stop being a jerk to the members.  Another group might want you to speak out against someone who has been bashing trans people.

Maybe they need someone to do housecleaning for an elderly trans person, or maybe they just need someone to check in on those who have isolated.

Show up, offer your time, and let them know that you will do it for 20 hours.

Then tweet about the organization, what you do, how you feel about it, and use the hashtag #transhelp.

There’s no trick going on here. There’s no secret to it.  These organizations are trying very hard to make life better for trans people on a daily basis.  They are boots on the ground, hearts in the hand, eyes on the needs type of groups, and the work they do is always underfunded and always done by a few people who talk about the need for help.

I know for a fact that some of you who read this blog regularly are “names”. I am talking to you, too. To the Executive Directors and to the Presidents and to the leaders out there who do amazing work already.  Go out.  Spend the time.  Especially if you are a leader, and even more importantly if you are a leader of a political group.

Because you already know that even if every single wonderful law were passed tomorrow, that these services would still be needed.  You already know that even if we have complete legal equality, and great tools to enforce it, that we still have systemic cultural issues with stigma that no law can erase and that will involve years of hard work.

You already know that the needs come from this end of the work, and that the two sides work together rather seamlessly, in a neat little package that allows us to get along so well, even if we do fight like cats and dogs over donors.

This isn’t about the money (though you’ll hear it). This is about the time.

We make these kinds of asks every time we try to push through some legislation, but we don’t make them when it comes time to help out the homeless and the barely surviving.

Yes, I am biased. Yes, I work in this area every day.  That is part of the reason that I am making this ask.  I look at what wonderful volunteers I get each month, and I get many, and I have the less than pleasant duty of reporting that sticking around for 20 hours of work when you have no idea what it is going to involve is pretty darn boring and not all that much fun.

I also know that I have to work at finding things, because there is so much that I am trying to do without enough bodies that I develop tools and systems that allow me to seemingly be in two places at once.

Still, I am asking.

It is important that you look towards someone locally in your area.  Feel free to leave a request for help finding someone in the comments here.

Even if you hate me, I am asking you. I am so keen on this that even if Julie Burchill or Cathy Brennan were to do it, I’d be willing to not talk smack about them for a year.

A year.

They’ll have to prove it, of course, because I don’t trust them, but they don’t trust me either, so it works out well in the end.

IF you are an ally and you are reading this, it is that important.  Please do it. Please tweet about it. Please share your experience in doing so. Even if you are going in with a negative attitude and a purpose of tearing that organization down to the ground, do it.

Twenty hours.

Doing what they need you to do.

Working to make the lives of trans people better on a day to day basis.

20 hours in March.

Why March, and why tweet it?

Well, March 31st is the International Day of Trans Visibility.

The lead up to that day is a great time to remind people that trans folk live among them. That there are people out there who care.

Take pictures, take notes, take the time to see the people there.  For their faults and their strengths.

I have met Doctors and Philosophers, Lawyers and Truck drivers, Janitors and Jockeys, street walkers and escorts, smart and startlingly dense, black and white and native and asian and all the variable aspects of our community.  I have come to much of what I know from seeing the variety of people that are trans and coming to understand their side of things, their outlook, their lives.

I don’t agree with all the stuff I hear. But I don’t need to agree.  The mission doesn’t say “to help those I agree with”. It just says to help trans people.

All of them. To empower them, to encourage them. To give them that which they need.

There is a reward that comes from doing that. It isn’t tangible. It isn’t even always visible until long after you’ve gained it, to be honest.

But this isn’t about the reward, and I am not trying to talk you into doing it for some higher or noble purpose.

I just want to show the world that we can help each other. That Trans people and their allies can, in fact, take the time to focus and really do some phenomenal work on behalf of other trans people.

That we can help ourselves by helping Us.

It is a suggestion.  I would love to see other bloggers take it up and repost it. Especially among the community of Trans people of color which is where much of this will strike.

It doesn’t have to be in the US. I know I have many readers in France and Spain and Germany, especially.  I apologize to all of you for not writing much of my stuff in a way that communicates some of the odd language quirks we have clearly.

Twenty Hours. March, 2013. Tweet with hashtag #transhelp.

Please.

You want to see change, this is how we do it. This is how we achieve it. This is how we make the world a better place.