If you’re looking to avoid buying physical gifts this holiday season but still want to show your loved ones that you’re thinking about them, donating to a mutual aid fund in their honor is an absolutely fantastic gift. So many people need support more than ever this year, and in my opinion a personalized card with a little note letting your mom / wife / sibling / BFF / great uncle / whoever know that you made a donation in their honor to an organization that contributes to making things materially better for folks in your community is a perfect gift. Seriously — it won’t get lost in the mail, you can gift it from a distance, you can take care of it at the very last minute and it still won’t be late, you can make a recurring donation so it’s the gift that keeps giving, it says fuck you to capitalism… should I go on?
Team Autostraddle got together to let you know about some of our personal favorite mutual aid funds if you need inspiration about who to give your money to this holigay season (whether it’s for a gift or simply because you have a large disposable income and want to share your resources!). We tended to stick to organizations that are local to us because it’s often easiest to see which groups are making the strongest impact on your actual community when they’re run by people in your actual community! I’d love to hear in the comments about the local organizations in your area that you like to support.
Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor
I love organizations where the material relief provided is extremely tangible. With the PDX Free Fridge project, things move quickly: people put food in the fridge if they have extra, people take food from the fridge if they need it. They are looking to expand and create more fridges, and I want that for my community. If you live in Portland, you can donate money or simply stock a fridge near you with some delicious food.
This community collective, started by activist and Portland native Randal Wyatt, renovates and revives Black-owned homes that have requested help. Portland has a long history of historical redlining, gentrification, and systemic racism, and while that can’t be undone, Taking Ownership PDX enables Black homeowners to age in place and generate wealth. I like to give my money to this organization because it’s another example of work that makes a material difference in my community in a quick and straightforward way.
Malic White, Writer
Brave Space Alliance is the first Black-led, trans-led resource center for Chicago’s queer and trans community. They’re located on the South Side of the city, where queer- and trans-affirming services are few and far between. This year, Brave Space Alliance launched mutiple mutual aid programs that serve sex workers, Chicago’s houseless community and people experiencing food insecurity. You can donate money for their programming, or if you live in Chicago, you can bring supplies to one of their drop-off sites.
Heather Hogan, Senior Writer & TV Editor
The Astoria Mutual Aid Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots group of neighbors in my community that came together during the COVID-19 crisis to address the current realities of living in Queens, which is the borough that has been hardest hit by the pandemic. They provide assistance with grocery shopping and prescription pickup/delivery, transportation to doctor’s appointments, errands, dog-walking, and even just phone chats with people who are unable to get out of their homes safely. In only 8 months, they’ve already completed 1,500 requests for help! In ten different languages! They’re also hosting a holiday toy drive! When I got COVID, I had big plans to use my antibodies after I got better to do all kinds of things to help my neighbors, but my battle with LongCOVID has prevented me from doing that. It feels so good to be able to help my neighbors in this way, by supporting folks who can do physical tasks with just a little extra money every month.
Carolyn Yates, Writer
Gender is hard enough when you can afford clothes that affirm it; when you can’t, everything feels so much harder. Trans Closet Club provides free gender-affirming clothes for BIPOC, trans, and non-binary youth anywhere in the U.S., for free (plus a small flat rate for shipping). They’re run by only two people out of a Bay-area storage unit, are currently working on expanding, and could use especially masculine-presenting items, binders, plus-size items, and winter items, as well as financial support for their storage unit.
Renea Baek Goddard, Writer
With the pandemic causing shelter closures all over the country and winter weather making streets unsafe for the houseless, LGBT young adults in the South are facing obstacles from all sides. Already a vulnerable group, LGBT youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than the general population, and there’s very little relief to be found in a historically impoverished and politically conservative region.
There’s no doubt that LGBT-exclusive shelters like the one operated by Lucie’s Place are scarce and sorely needed — especially out here in the Bible Belt, where it’s not uncommon for young trans folks to leave abusive homes only to be turned away by most shelters. Now led by Xejeia Freelon, a young black nonbinary lesbian, the nonprofit is currently transforming its former Transitional Living Program into a mutual housing collective.
At the Lucie’s Place community center, LGBT youth ages 18 to 26 can eat, shower, do laundry, find gender-affirming clothes, receive case management from LGBT staff and — most importantly — build a family of peers that share their experiences. As a 22-year old gay person living in Little Rock, Arkansas, I see firsthand the way my own friends and chosen family all seem to be hanging on by a thread these days — either couch-surfing or living a paycheck away from it. Family becomes a necessity when you live in a poor, red state, under constant repression from your own political representatives.
After the pandemic caused major losses of funding, Lucie’s Place has been relying heavily on community aid and allied organizations. Other than making a one-time donation, you can also become a monthly donor or start your own fundraiser on Facebook.
Christina Tucker, Writer
We’ve got a good number of community fridges here in Philly, which I love, but The People’s Fridge on 52nd is my neighborhood fridge (and my housemate helped build it!) so it holds a special place in my heart. It’s next to one of the best coffeeshops in West Philly (Mina’s World I love you!), it’s so nice to know there is a place to donate food you can’t use, and it’s perfect on the days when you realize you’re out of greens and have nothing to make for dinner. If you’re a Philly local, you can drop off items directly, and if you just feel like showering a good cause with some money, their Venmo is linked in their IG bio!
Abeni Jones, Contributor
The Okra Project started simple: It was the holidays, Black trans people were hungry — so some folks pulled together to get them fed. It’s grown since then — they now offer food, therapy, community-building, training, and more, all directly for Black trans people by Black trans people. You’ll be hearing a lot about Black trans death this time of year — your contributions to The Okra Project support Black trans life!
When I lived in New Orleans, I was struggling. Community saved my life. Though I was never officially homeless — though it was close there for a minute — queer and trans people of color rode HARD for each other, including for me. Some of those folks who saved my life are a part of House of Tulip, a radical project that’s building sustainability and community thriving through housing. Homelessness among trans people is a massive issue that complicates so many other issues. I’m so proud of these folks and can’t wait to see where they take this project!
Carmen Phillips, Deputy Editor
Named in honor of a legendary lesbian Detroit icon, the Ruth Ellis Center creates a supportive environment and community, and trauma-informed resources, for LGBTQ+ young people of color — with an emphasis on those young people of color who are currently unhoused, are without economic or educational support, or those otherwise experiencing barriers to health and wellbeing. From providing outreach and safety-net services, to skill-building workshops and HIV prevention programs the REC is known across Detroit for incorporating racial and gender equality at the core of all their work, and to be honest? I just love them. I’ve never seen a group like REC — that prioritizes the knowledge and lived experience of queer and trans young people of color — as informing all their other practices, going from the grassroots up to the top of their organization, instead of the other way around. They are a lifeblood to the queer community in Detroit, and if you have even a few bucks to spread their way, it would mean so much. Thank you.
Nicole Hall, A+ & Fundraising Director
Jailbreak PGH is an autonomous coalition of activists who provide jail support to those incarcerated or recently incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail. It’s simple but necessary. They provide money to people on the inside for commissaries, and provide support, including free food, bus fare, masks, to those released from the jail.
SisTers PGH is a transgender centered drop-in space, resource provider and shelter transitioning program based in Pittsburgh, PA. SisTersPGH, Corp offers outreach, accurate transgender education, trans inclusion training, advocacy, and emergency housing/shelter for transgender people of Pittsburgh. They’ve been working on a new housing space and also recently opened a new branch, BroThers PGH, which offers all the same services, but with a focus on the trans masculine communities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
Adrian , Contributor
SONG Nashville’s Care Not Cages Fund
I have been so grateful to find a political home with Southerners on New Ground’s Nashville chapter this year. One of their projects is the Care Not Cages fund, a community emergency fund that prioritizes Black Trans and Queer folks impacted by the Prison Industrial Complex. In the words of the organizers: “We are actively moving funds at all times to Black Trans/GNC/queer folks impacted by the prison industrial complex whether that’s to keep a beloved SONG member from being evicted, to support for the LBTGQ community group in South Central [Correctional Facility], to support for fam who is recently released from incarceration. Once your money goes in, SONG Nashville member leaders vote on how it is used.”
How to donate: cashapp $QUINNSE, venmo @alexandraaxel, or paypal email@example.com with “care not cages” in the notes
Kamala Puligandla, Editor-in-Chief
Food is an essential part of surviving, yes, but is also an essential part of expressing care and sharing community. Healthy and affordable food can be a hard thing to access at any time, but during the pandemic, when so many people have found themselves out of work and struggling financially, and especially during the holidays, when everyone deserves something special, investing in food pantries and local farms feels important to me. I chose orgs in LA because that’s where I’m based and I like to give locally. I especially appreciate that Feed Black Futures and Alma Backyard Farms are not just addressing food insecurity as a short-term, pandemic problem nor an isolated issue, but are offering total food sovereignty to Black and Brown communities, outside of industrial and government food systems.
Polo’s Pantry is a community food pantry helping to feed and marginalized communities in LA, and Thursday 12/10 (today!) is the last day to donate to their Holiday Drive For Farm Workers!
Feed Black Futures provides job training skills, creates spaces where people can grow their own food and distributes produce across Southern California to people and families impacted by incarceration.
Alma Backyard Farms transforms LA land into bountiful urban farms, and employs and trains previously incarcerated people so they can build and contribute to their own communities. Throughout the pandemic, Alma has also been running a weekly farmstand, where families in need can grab a free grocery kit of organic produce.