many trans folks are in economically precarious positions under normal circumstances and with the impact of covid-19, our communities — and others — are facing even greater economic difficulties.
while there are social services programs that can help (call 211 or visit NeedHelpPayingtheBills.com to find social services in your area), i know a lot of us are going to need greater or different help than they provide.
i’m a great believer in mutual aid: the practice of providing each other the help we need. with many of us out of work and facing looming rent payments and other bills, it’s imperative that we get able to talk with each other about money — who has it, who needs it, and what we’re gonna do about it.
the following are some tips to get you started in these conversations, whether you’re the person asking for money or the person offering it. but before i break it down, a tip for all parties:
- know that it’s good to have these conversations. we’re taught not to talk about money, but not doing so only serves the wealthy and we don’t want to serve them, do we? remember that having these conversations is doing good work to break down the oppressive class system and bringing us all closer to good lives free of oppression.
if you’re someone who needs money…
- tell your friends and community members as soon as you know you have the need. there’s absolutely no shame in having needs, especially under oppressive capitalist systems, not to mention during a pandemic. giving people a heads up as early as you can helps them plan their finances in such a way that they can help.
- use whatever communication means you feel comfortable with. if asking a group is easier for you, you can make a facebook post; you can hit up the group chat. i also very much encourage approaching a particular person, who you know has steady income right now.
- be straightforward. if you need help with the language, try something like “hey everyone, i’ve been laid off at work and i’m really worried about how i’m gonna make ends meet. can anybody help me pay rent/buy groceries/get my meds?” when addressing an individual, try something like, “hey [their name], i’m struggling financially right now, are you able to help me pay my bills?”
- be specific. $200 short on rent? say that number. a group of folks will be able to work out how to split an amount. folks also like having a goal to meet.
- if your need is going to be ongoing, be open about that. say something like “i need financial help right now and will need it on an ongoing basis, because i don’t know when i’ll be able to work again.” preparing folks upfront for an ongoing need makes it a lot easier for them to plan how they can help. it helps a community of folks make a long-term plan.
- be prepared to accept whatever response. it can be hard to be denied resources that you think others can spare. but you don’t necessarily know what wiggle room others do or don’t have. however, if you hit up the group chat and are ignored by everyone, it’s probably time to have a conversation with the group about what kind of community you all intend to be. folks should at least answer you, even if it’s to say they can’t help. be patient with yourself and others; we’re all figuring this out as we go.
if you’re someone with resources to spare…
- state that you are in a position to help. your friends don’t want to make your life harder, so they need to know that asking for help from you isn’t going to do so. say something specific like “my work is steady right now and i’m very down for redistributing these resources!”
- approach your communities as a group. you may not know who all is struggling right now, since we’ve all been taught not to share that. hit up the group chat/zoom meeting/netflix party! say something like “hey all, i know with everything going on right now, finances can be especially hard. i have money to spare if folks need it. just let me know!”
- reach out specifically to the friends you’re worried about. some folks won’t feel comfortable taking you up on your offer in a group setting, so it’s important to talk to particular folks if you’re concerned about them. try something like “hey [name], i know your gigs are falling through right now. if you need help paying the bills or anything else, i’m here for you.”
i’m so proud of everyone who goes on to talk about money with their friends and loved ones. the learning curve is difficult, but extremely worthwhile. the more we have these conversations, the better we’ll get at them and the stronger our communities will be. we can survive — and thrive — together.
if you’re interested in learning more about mutual aid, check out dean spade’s mutual aid syllabus page.
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