We need to fund LGBTQI activists and movements differently. Here’s an idea.

Around the world, LGBTQI people face the threat of death, imprisonment, violence and abuse for simply being themselves. In 11 countries around the world, consensual sex between two men is punishable by hanging or stoning to death. In 57 other nations, you’d face between eight years and life imprisonment. Most of us know the numbers, the laws and the history. 

To achieve equality for LGBTQI people globally, we need to see human rights fulfilled, the repealing of oppressive laws, and changed attitudes and beliefs. LGBTQI people shouldn’t live in fear, isolation and in hiding. 

Young activists are on the frontline in fighting hatred, prejudice and discrimination. They campaign, protest, build communities and provide services that directly support LGBTQI communities. 

But they are struggling. In the worst case, they’re being murdered or abused into silence.

Simply, they don’t have the money to do their work, keep themselves safe and sustain the underground movements they’re starting.

This is where we need to step in and help them win. 

Funding a global LGBTQI movement 

Young people struggle to access the limited funds and resources available – even though they only need a small amount of money to achieve great things. In many countries, activists need to be registered with the government – the same government that denies their rights – to apply for international funding. They’re on the frontline with their hands tied.

A funding circle for LGBTQI activists would cut through this and get money directly to those who can use it.

The model is simple:

  • UK donors put money into a shared pot every month
  • We award grants of between £500-£1000 to young LGBTQI activists (those under 30) around the world 
  • We focus the grants on those living or working in the 70 most repressive countries.

We’d start small with 10 donors and 10 youth activists (probably from our existing networks) joining as members of the funding circle. They could then submit short, creative and simple applications to receive a grant.

If 10 people give £50 a month, we can award £6000 a year to youth activists. Money that could be spent on printing underground newsletters and books, sharing vital health information with sex workers, showcasing LGBTQI lives through arts, photography or film, renting safe spaces for groups to meet and organise, or hosting parties so people can have fun and feel accepted.

In the future, we’d grow both the number of donors and the number of activists in the funding circle by invitation. Over time, we’d build a network of activists that can share tactics, develop strategies, and emotionally support each other when times are difficult. 

You can find out more about how I imagine the model would work here. This is a work in progress and continues to be shaped and informed by conversations with activists, donors, and other funders.

Giving differently 

Too often, people lose connection to the causes they care about. They give money to charities but don’t have the opportunity to truly connect with those that receive support.  

Our funding circle would be different and it would require more engagement. 

  • We would all read each application and decide collectively how to distribute the money. 
  • We would know exactly who was receiving support, know their story and their lives.
  • We would see photos, videos and messages of how they were using the money and the difference it was making via a Whatsapp group.
  • We would trust activists to know how best to spend the money and our focus would be on building long-term relationships with them.
  • We would stand in solidarity as part of a global community.

The funding circle is a way of disrupting the traditional, international aid model of funding. As CIVICUS point out, the way we fund grassroots activists and movements needs to fundamentally change and they’ve outlined four ways of doing it. 

There are great campaigns out there already: here is a chance to try something new.

What am I looking for?

  • 10 UK-based donors or those with UK bank accounts – you may identify as LGBTQI or be an ally 
  • Each giving £50 a month into a shared pot (or more!)
  • Commit to two days a year where we come together to review applications and award grants

Are you interested? Get in touch and let’s chat more! Do you know someone who might be interested? Please share it with them!

Our generation’s fight 

Last year, I facilitated a six-day training with LGBTQI activists from South Asia and the South Pacific. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I blogged about it at the time. For a short time, we removed their fear and wonderful things happened. People danced and sang to Shania Twain, they dressed however they wanted, they came out to each other.

For the first time, they felt like they belonged.

I’m gay, I’m out, and I’m free to be whoever I want. My boyfriend and I could marry, have children, and enjoy equal legal protections and rights under the law. We don’t face violence, abuse or harassment and if we did, we trust that the police would be on our side. 

But we have these rights because of the activists that came before us. Those rioting at Stonewall in 1969, those on the first Pride march in 1971, those public figures who came out at great personal cost, who repealed criminalisation, equalised the age of consent, fought Section 28, and secured anti-discrimination legislation, civil partnerships, and eventually equal marriage. 

I’m 30 years old and, honestly, I contributed to none of this. Yet I live freely because of it. Because of them.

For me, this is my way of continuing the fight they were forced to start.

PS. If the commitment of the funding circle isn’t for you, please do donate in a more traditional way to fantastic organisations like All Out, Stonewall, AKT or Kaleidoscope Trust. They do amazing work! 

PPS. If you don’t know the story of our movement for equality, I highly recommend Matthew Todd’s book, Pride.

The image is taken from Pride (2019). The photo is of the first Pride march in London in 1971. 


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