By Tess Joseph
We Can’t Crowdfund Human Rights
Crowdfunding, or online fundraising, seeks to address myriad needs through asking people—often strangers on the Internet—for donations. Take a few minutes to scroll through GoFundMe, the world’s largest social fundraising platform. There are people soliciting financial assistance to buy groceries, flee an abusive home, and get abortions. Many of those who start a GoFundMe campaign are experiencing pain and trauma, and many of those who donate are, in a way, facilitating someone’s ability to heal.
Crowdfunding is a testament to the power of mutual aid, to the might of interconnectedness and empathy. But it’s also a grim reminder that people are forced to turn to websites like GoFundMe to satisfy basic human needs that nobody should be denied: food, safety, health. These are fundamental human rights to which we are all entitled. Our access should not be determined by the generosity of our social networks or the invisible workings of an algorithm. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Oliver Haug writes about crowdfunding for a specific set of medical procedures: those that fall under the umbrella of gender-affirming medical care. They note that GoFundMe can facilitate mutual aid—particularly, trans mutual aid—but they also interrogate further the implications of having to rely on donations for healthcare. To Haug, “GoFundMe is perhaps the epitome of the late-stage capitalist solution to a fundamental healthcare problem.”
While defining the “fundamental healthcare problem” is too great a task for Haug’s article (or for this blog post), we can join them in focusing on concrete issues in trans healthcare. As Haug mentions, trans folks who need hormone-replacement therapy or surgeries that should be understood to be deemed life-saving might be faced with an insurance plan that deems this necessary treatment “cosmetic.” Such an interpretation gravely misunderstands the nature of trans healthcare denies access to necessary services. (Of course, this affects the select trans folks that have health insurance.) So, trans folks turn to the same place many people struggling in America turn: GoFundMe. Put bluntly, Haugh writes that such asks to “[fund] things that directly impact people’s physical health and ability to survive” make blatantly obvious the failures and shortcomings of our government.
We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation recognize that to fully reach and enjoy the human right to sexual freedom, we must fulfill our other human rights. That includes the right to accessible, quality healthcare, safe housing, and food security. We support mutual aid, generosity, and compassion, but find it shameful that this society forces so many of us to turn to crowdfunding to meet our basic needs. Such a society is neither equitable nor just. It is up to us—all of us together—to put our collective energy toward achieving social change so we no longer have to crowdfund our human rights.
Photo credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection