The Black Trans Travel Fund Is Helping Vulnerable Communities Get Home Safe in the Pandemic

It’s a tangible step to help protect Black trans lives in a dangerous time — before it’s too late

Nearly a year ago, Devin Michael Lowe was at a vigil in New York for Muhlaysia Booker, a 22-year-old Black trans woman assaulted and murdered in Dallas, Texas, on May 18, 2019. Booker was one of at least 22 transgender and gender-nonconforming people killed last year.

At the vigil, Lowe, 27, listened to speakers pontificate about showing up for the trans community and posting hashtags of support online. Lowe, a pansexual trans man, grew angry. “It felt like a lot of lip service,” he tells me. He wasn’t hearing tangible steps to help protect the lives of Black trans women who are still alive.

So he turned to the Black trans woman in his life — both his former and current partners as well as a slew of friends. Three necessities emerged from these conversations: lack of housing, job insecurity and unsafe public transportation. A 2017 study in the Journal of Feminist Geography found gender minorities are frequently harassed while taking public transit. The first two issues Lowe couldn’t tackle alone, but he had a solution on access to safer transportation for the trans women in his life. “I can get y’all some money and coin for some rides,” Lowe says.

A few weeks later, Lowe launched the Black Trans Travel Fund, a mutual-aid project providing Black transgender women with money to access safer alternatives to travel than public transportation.

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To me supporting trans futures means putting our people in a position to thrive. It means leveraging our resources to provide trans people with tangible support. It means doing the work to create space where trans people feel loved, respected, and valued. It means refusing to allow bigotry to go unchecked and making a commitment to protect the most marginalized in our communities. How are you showing up for trans people today? 100% of the proceeds from @gc2b’s “Safe Travels” capsule collection is being donated to @blacktranstravelfund in order to pay for private car rides for Black trans women in need. 🚗✊🏾💕 Join the campaign by ordering your #SupportTransFutures gear today and tell us what supporting trans futures means to you! #blacktranslivesmatter #protectblacktranswomen #supportblacktranswomen #guyslikeus #gc2b #BTTF #blacktranstravelfund #safetravels #tpoc #tmoc #ftm #transmen #transmodels

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In nine months, Lowe has helped raise over $75,000 through individual donations, sponsored events and partnerships. The fund has donated over $40,000 to more than 300 Black trans women in the New York City tri-state area. Lowe told Blavity they’re planning to expand services to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

To launch the fund in June, Lowe reached out to a longtime friend: Pose star Indya Moore. The two trans activists go back a few years; they even created short films together. “I didn’t understand community until I met Devin,” Moore, who uses they/them pronouns, tells me. “My friendship with him transformed my relationship to myself as a Black trans person and to my peers. He is a major part of my evolving revolution in my identity, values and politics.”

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REPOST • @devinmichaellowe Today is the official launch of my baby, the #BlackTransTravelFund! And even more exciting news, is that we were just announced as one of the #MAP4Youth grant winners, and will be receiving $2500 to redistribute to Black trans women in need! ✊🏾🚘💕 The Black Trans Travel Fund is a fund created to help provide Black transgender women in NYC with resources to make sure they are able to travel to and from their destinations safely and free from verbal harassment or physical harm. This project was created out of direct response to the relentless and unacceptable violence Black transgender women across the country are currently experiencing. This is a direct call to action for allies to be able to leverage their resources and make a tangible difference in the lives a Black trans women. The Black Trans Travel Fund is launching this June, just in time for Pride Season, kicking it off with #BlackTransPrideRides! Using these funds, we will be paying for Uber and Lyft rides(no shared cars) to women in need. To donate, you can send funds directly through the following options: Cashapp: $BlackTransTravelFund Venmo: @BlackTransTravelFund Donate to the Black Trans Travel Fund pool on Paypal: https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8f9fc2VdKp Paetron coming soon! For more information, or if you would like to discuss ways that you can sponsor, support and collaborate, please contact us at [email protected] #protectblacktranswomen #blacktranslivesmatter #startlovingblacktranswomen #blacktranswomen #girlslikeus

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Moore readily used their large social platforms to amplify the fund. “Lowe is committed to community building and Black trans liberation, and it shows in his compassion and patience for others,” Moore says. “He is fiercely compassionate, talented and creative, and I am so lucky to know him and share our friendship.”

gc2b’s “Safe Travel” apparel collection, modeled by members of the trans and gender-nonconforming community, including Black Trans Travel Fund founder Devin Michael Lowe

Each month, the travel fund allocates $50 to 50 women on a first-come, first-serve basis. The only criteria for applicants who apply through the website is they must be Black trans women. Donations come through CashApp, Venmo and PayPal.

Janice Williams, a recipient of the fund, calls the fund a “blessing to Black trans women.” It’s been “a tremendous help with maneuvering around easily with the relief of having funds available for travel expenses,” she tells me.

Lowe intentionally doesn’t stipulate where recipients of the fund allocate the money. Uber has a history of kicking transgender drivers off the app, and numerous women have alleged sexual assault and rape claims against Uber and Lyft drivers. Lowe can’t guarantee full safety of trans women who take a Lyft or Uber. “Some people are paying their friends or neighbors to give them a ride to feel a lot safer. And that’s their call,” Lowe says.

He also isn’t in the business of telling marginalized communities how to spend their money. “In the nonprofit industrial complex, there is this issue with infantilizing folks, trying to tell people how they can spend their money. I don’t believe in that policing,” Lowe says. “Queer and trans people have our agency stripped from us.”

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Hear from one of our fund’s users @brookethabarbie, whose been utilizing BTTF since we first launched back in June of 2019. "Black Trans Travel Fund has always been there when I needed it. I always have it whenever I really need it the most."⠀ *⠀⠀ @BlackTransTravelFund is a mutual-aid project developed with the aim to provide Black Trans women with the financial resources necessary to self-determine the safest travel alternative for them. In the past few months, they have already raised and redistributed over $35,000 in funds, financing 700+ car rides to over 300 Black trans women!⠀⠀ *⠀⠀ Support Trans Futures! Order your Safe Travels piece today! Available on gc2b.co and gc2b.io! Link in our bio!⠀⠀ *⠀⠀ 💎: @Brookethabarbie⠀⠀ *⠀⠀ #SafeTravels #SupportTransFutures #gc2b #blacktranstravelfund #bttf #blackhistorymonth #bhm #bhm2020 #ftm #mtf #queer #trans #lgbtq #lgbt #genderfluid #gnc #nonbinary #BlackHistory365 #BlackTransHistory #BlackTransMen #BlackTransWomen #blacklivesmatter #humanrights #blackisbeautiful #blackexcellence #africanamericanhistory #fashion #limitededition

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Now, nine months after launching, Lowe has begun expanding the Black Trans Travel Fund’s community impact. They recently sponsored a beauty and wellness event hosted by the Okra Project, which provides Black trans people with food and supplies; an open mic hosted by Black Trans Femmes in the Arts; and a commercial-space soft-launch party for Black Trans Media. The fund made sure to cover ride costs to and from the event for Black trans women.

The fund’s success has started to attract commercial attention. In February, the fund partnered with transitional apparel company gc2b on a “Safe Travel” capsule collection of clothes and chest binders. Marli Washington, founder and CEO of gc2b, tells MEL they’ve raised over $19,000 in profits. It is gc2b’s most successful campaign ever, and 100 percent of profits went to Black trans travel funds.

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Thank you for supporting trans futures, @iamjarijones! #repost⠀ *⠀ Now through tonight at 11:59pm EST, you can support trans futures by purchasing a piece from our ‘Safe Travels’ collection. After your purchase, we’ll email you a $5 off discount code, which you can apply to any future order with us! 100% of the proceeds from this campaign will be donated to @BlackTransTravelFund. Join us in supporting BTTF’s important initiative to protect Black trans women by providing them with the resources to choose safer travel options.⠀ *⠀ Reposting: @iamjarijones⠀ *⠀ "Supporting Black Trans Futures looks like keeping us alive. .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ @gc2b has partnered with @blacktranstravelfund in order to raise funds for their initiative to provide car service for Black Trans Women in the NYC/NJ area. 100% of the proceeds from the “ Safe Travels” collection will go directly to Black Trans Travel Fund to insure safe transportation options for Black Trans Women . SWIPE UP LINK WILL BE IN STORY !!! GO BUY NOW !!!⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #blacktranslivesmatter #transisbeautiful #queer #celebratemysize #actress #honormycurves #blacktranswomen #bodydiversity #effyourbeautystandards #curvygirl #curvemodel #influencer #visiblyplussize #plussize #plusmodel #influencer #plussizemodel #bodypositive #merch #transgender #blackexcellence #trans #newyork #safetyfirst #fundraiser #gc2b #shareblackstories #lgbtq "

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Washington, a trans man, attributed the collection’s success to Lowe and his team. “They’re just so transparent with their mission, and you know exactly where the money is going to,” Washing says.

Black Trans Travel Fund’s latest campaign is providing an emergency coronavirus relief fund. Lowe says they’re redistributed an additional $5,000 to trans women. But he’d like to see more money donated to help Black trans women in need.

“It’s a constant struggle,” Lowe says. “I just really encourage people who are in positions of power with more resources right now — people who are still sitting at home working from home and still collecting a paycheck — now’s the time to redistribute your resources.”