Twitch stream brings light to trans rights

Aubrey Fetzer Headshot

Aubrey Fetzer Headshot

On Jan. 19th, with the aid of politicians, game creators and actors, one video game streamer managed to raise over $300,000 for a UK Trans charity. Mermaids, a UK-based transgender support group, was due to recieve a $500,0000 lottery grant the other week when funding was suddenly pulled in response to negative public reaction. Popular Irish TV actor and producer Graham Linehan, known for his role in creating “The IT Crowd,” was instrumental in mobilizing displeased citizens into stripping the organization of its funding. Following the denial of promised funds, Mermaids UK received an outpour of unexpected support spearheaded by popular video game streamer Harry Brewis. 

Brewis, better known by his channel name “Hbomberguy,” is one of the most successful gaming streamers with almost 400,000 subscribers collectively between his Youtube and Twitch accounts. Brewis took to Twitch on Jan.  18th to host a marathon livestream of Donkey Kong 64 in support of Mermaids. However, even he never expected it would reach the popularity that it did. 

Over the nearly 60 hours the stream ran for, donation links and stream urls were being shared nonstop across trans-social circles on Twitter. Many of those viewers took it upon themselves to engage directly via social media with those whose support could bolster the stream’s popularity and increase the chance of donation.

By the close of the marathon, the stream had played host to Chelsea Manning, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Paris Lee, Natalie Wynn and numerous other activists, game designers and journalists. Grant Kirkhope, the voice of the titular Donkey Kong character, even joined the stream, and to the excitement of the audience, stated “Trans Rights Ok” in the character’s voice.

The marathon continued for over two days largely in part to the wide variety of speakers and hosts who dropped in and out of the stream in support. The stream reached over 20,000 live viewers even at times when Brewis was inactive, highlighting that people’s engagement was about far more than the game at hand.

Viewers’ continued engagement and response to the stream across the marathon was a powerful statement, and an act of resistance in support of a group that is constantly under attack.

This marathon provided far more than merely a means to support an organization wrongfully targeted. The space created within the stream was one that fundamentally existed to uplift and support trans voices and people, connecting them in one place. At times, the Twitch chat would flood with thousands of messages all proudly declaring their identities and support for one another. Producers of the stream were very intentional in centering trans voices, particularly those that aren’t heard very often in highly publicized events like these.

The amount of money raised for Mermaids UK was astounding, but the sense of community support and response within the stream was even more incredible. While many news outlets chose to highlight the eventually star-studded host list, the real point of interest is just how much impact the global trans community was able to have in response to hatred.

In the time following the stream petitions have been created, and funding for Mermaids continues to pour in from donors. In a recent BBC interview with Susie Green, chair of Mermaids, Green stated that the stream donations would be used in support of opening more branch locations across the UK.

The effectiveness of Brewis’s stream highlights a huge range of possibilities for movements like this in the future, as well as ways to improve. While having celebrity voices and prominent figures on the stream helped increase popularity, it also decreased the amount of visibility and space for trans creators. If trans people are going to invest their money, time and effort into a cause directed at supporting them, then the visible outcomes should ideally reflect that as well. Hopefully trans communities in the future will be able to use this technique to gather support while retaining their visibility and highlighting the impact they have as a unified group.