To build a secure online platform where friends, families, and allies can raise and distribute bail and bond money for trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) people; Support.fm is an intermediary, connecting a network of supporters to grassroots, trans and GNC led organizations that run community bail funds.
Existing crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and YouCaring don't allow fundraisers for bail, legal defense, or "the support of anyone alleged to be involved in criminal activity." The result is that trans and gender nonconforming (GNC) people have no safe platform on which to fundraise for some of the steepest and most common costs they have to pay; namely, the unjust costs of being held in jails, prisons, immigration detention centers.
This past year, we’ve seen more trans people in the media than ever before. But higher visibility doesn’t equal increased safety. Incarceration rates for trans and GNC people are four times the national average, and those rates are even higher for trans and GNC people of color. Black, Latinx, and indigenous people are more likely to be arrested, more likely to receive longer prison sentences, and more likely to be tried as adults when they are under the age of 18. More than 60 percent of the queer, trans, and GNC youth arrested and detained each year are Black and/or Latinx.
A lack of employment and housing opportunities means that many trans and GNC people depend on the sex and drug trades. The illegality of these trades, as well as discriminatory policies on the part of law enforcement agencies, means that trans and GNC people—especially communities of color—are criminalized for their survival.
The trans and GNC population is particularly vulnerable to the injustices of the cash bail and immigration bond systems in the United States. Here's why:
Courts calculate bail amount based on a pre-trial “assessment” of the likelihood that the accused person will show up for their court date. This assessment considers factors like whether the accused person has employment, is in school, or has stable housing, all of which are difficult for trans and GNC people to hold onto or come by, especially when navigating race, ability, and class-based discrimination.
Unemployment rates for trans and gender nonconforming (GNC) people of color are 4 times the national average. Nearly 60% of trans and GNC people have experienced rejection by their families. Between 20-40% of homeless youth identify as trans or GNC. The bottom line is: for most trans and GNC people, bail is high and next to impossible to pay. And If people can't afford to pay their bail, they spend months (and in some cases, years) in jail—all just waiting for a trial or resolution to their case. For undocumented people, the difference between a day or a week in jail could mean the difference between remaining with their loved ones or being deported.
Once they are detained, queer, trans, and GNC people in jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers face critical health and safety risks: physical and sexual abuse; the denial of gender-affirming medications and clothing; the ongoing violence of being misgendered. Every day that a queer, trans, or GNC person spends in jail, prison, or detention is an unsafe one.
Support.fm will assist groups already organizing on behalf of trans and GNC people in jail, prison, and detention by helping them develop revolving, sustainable bail funds that don't get shut down and don't have to be hidden.
Countless grassroots organizations already work to bail trans and GNC community-members out of jail and detention centers; the problem is not a lack of organizers doing this work, but the absence of a secure platform through which to raise funds and build a network of supporters to contribute. The goal of Support.fm is to grow a secure, not-for-profit platform and donor base to contribute to local, trans-specific bail funds. While non-profits, legal advocates, and community organizers work towards legislative and political change, Support.fm functions as a form of immediate harm-reduction, mitigating the longterm damage that jail time does to our communities.
To start, we'll launch a pilot version of Support.fm working to meet the needs of existing grassroots organizations:
By starting small, we can test our features with a group of users who are already fluent in navigating the intricacies of the criminal justice and immigration detention systems. Down the line, we'll expand Support.fm so that anyone interested in doing this kind of work will have access to the platform. We believe that with an accessible and secure crowdfunding tool more people will be able to organize effectively and sustainably in support of trans and GNC people in jail, prison, and detention.