Organizers of Trans Pride Seattle are sounding the alarm about the event, which is struggling to raise funds with just weeks to go.
In an Aug. 9 email to supporters, Gender Justice League — the nonprofit that puts on Trans Pride — announced that it had raised about 25 percent of the amount that it needs to put on the Sept. 2 event. Organizers aimed to bring in $40,000.
That money goes to pay performers, provide American Sign Language interpretation services and get photographers to document the event, among other things, said Kai Aprill-Tomlin, communications and membership development manager with Gender Justice League.
“We’re really trying to kick it into gear,” Aprill-Tomlin said.
Fundraising has been slow this year. That’s partly because of the ongoing impact of the coronavirus — the pandemic and its economic consequences have weighed heavily on marginalized groups, whose members had less of a safety net to weather possible illness and unemployment during the shutdowns.
Now, society at large seems determined to reopen, but without the limited supports offered at the height of the pandemic such as rental assistance and the eviction moratorium.
Couple that with Trans Pride’s “no corporate money” ethos, and you’ve got a recipe for struggle within an already under-resourced community.
“Money is always tight in those groups,” Aprill-Tomlin said. “There’s a joke that trans people always pass the same $50 to each other around all the time.”
It’s better than accepting money from organizations that might otherwise try to condition their funds, Aprill-Tomlin said. Some corporations might want to be associated with the celebration but not the radicalism that is inherent to the event and the legacy of trans activism.
“So rather than having big corporations be the forefront of Trans Pride, we want our Black Lives Matter contingency, we want our accessibility contingency, we want sex workers at the front. We want the communities we want to see centered actually centered rather than corporations,” Aprill-Tomlin said.
While the event doesn’t always feature the same performers each year, it is a good opportunity for performers to be seen and recognized, Aprill-Tomlin said.
Trans Pride Seattle 2022 marks the first time in nearly three years that the program will be held in public. The last in-person Trans Pride Seattle was in June 2019, before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties inherent to meeting in large groups.
That year, Seattleites packed Cal Anderson Park and created a wall of humanity in the streets, despite concerns over security — the Proud Boys, a far right group that identifies as “Western chauvinists,” were also expected in town that day for a rally of their own. Members of the leather community kept an eye out for unwanted intrusions at the perimeter of the park, communicating via walkie talkies.
Trans Pride 2022 will have private security and other groups keeping watch, Aprill-Tomlin said. While members of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) may be in the area, they won’t be there explicitly for Trans Pride — there won’t be a parade this year, so there’s no need for the group to organize with SPD for street closures.
Overall, Trans Pride 2022 will not be as big as in years past, in part because of the impacts of the coronavirus and turnover within Gender Justice League. The event is largely volunteer-run with a few paid staff, and the loss of institutional knowledge in organizing it has had an impact.
“This year, we’re trying to have a smaller but successful event that we know can be a good one,” Aprill-Tomlin said.
While there haven’t been explicit threats against Trans Pride 2022 so far compared to 2019, the atmosphere in which the event is taking place isn’t necessarily a safe one.
Police stopped and arrested a group of armed militia members outside of a June Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Queer events have become the target of rightwing abuse as explicitly homophobic and transphobic rhetoric around things like Drag Queen Story Hours and women’s sports have become part of the mainstream. At least 25 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been killed so far in 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The threats are also coming from institutions. State legislatures have considered roughly 140 anti-trans bills in 2022 alone, according to advocacy group Freedom for All Americans. Locally, a book about a trans student titled “If I Was Your Girl” was taken off the shelf of a King County middle school amid a nationwide surge in book censorship in school libraries.
The focus on the transgender community means more pressure for the Gender Justice League, a small organization with a statewide advocacy focus. It also means that a fundraising deficit leading up to one of its larger events of the year — Trans Pride 2022 — will have an impact on its ability to conduct advocacy and provide services, Aprill-Tomlin said.
“It would make the rest of our work very difficult to carry out. We’d have to reevaluate a lot in our budget, and it would probably impact the services that we provide and how we show up for the community,” Aprill-Tomlin said.
Read more of the Aug. 17-23, 2022 issue.