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Transgender group to hold social media fundraiser inspired by old-school TV telethon

The Metro Trans Umbrella Group telethon will take place Saturday at noon through Sunday at noon.

Sayer Johnson grew up watching the annual Jerry Lewis telethon for kids with muscular dystrophy.

In recent years, he's wondered if advocates for transgender people could raise money in a similar manner?

That will happen at noon on Saturday, when the Metro Trans Umbrella Group begins a 24-hour telethon. Viewers can watch it on Facebook and YouTube.

“What’s going to be happening is basically a good old-fashioned variety show,” Johnson said. “I thought, ‘What a better way than to sort of be retro and reclaim that sort of variety show in a way that is relevant and exciting, and centers trans and queer people in St. Louis?’”

Filling needs, expanding services

The presentation will include entertainers such as singer Kristen Goodman and burlesque performer Lola van Ella, interviews with activists, and makeup tutorials. Johnson said it’s an easy way for people to learn about and support the transgender community.

Sayer Johnson is co-founder and executive director of MTUG.
Credit File | Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio
Sayer Johnson is co-founder and executive director of MTUG.

“People can participate from the comfort of their own home, and on their phones," he said. "It's an exciting way to take over the airwaves — the new airwaves being social media.” 

MTUG supports between 100 and 130 people each month. That number has grown by about a third in the past year or so.

“I think that, post-election, folks felt frightened and felt scared,” Johnson said. “And during a crisis or a situation of  ‘I’m not feeling safe,’ people gather together to create a community.”

Viewers may pledge money through a “donate” button. The group will use the funds to help people with bus fare, the cost of changing their names to match their gender, and other needs. Some money may go toward a larger meeting space.

“We just want to make sure we can fill those needs and expand our services,” Johnson said.

Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.