A couple of days ago I saw a tweet from Neil Gaiman promoting a crowdfunding campaign for a play about trans people. I went and had a look at the campaign page and sent back a concerned tweet to Neil. As it turned out, the project is indeed a good one, but the causes of my concern make for an interesting lesson, so I thought I’d blog about them.
The first thing is nothing to do with the campaign itself, but rather the Indiegogo website. These days I get most of my news from Twitter, and I normally access it via my phone and tablets, not via a PC. With the phone I am often doing that when I’m on a train, in a cafe, or otherwise away from my home network. Bandwidth is an issue. But when you click an Indiegogo link from Twitter on a phone you don’t get the website. You get an ad for their bloody app. When you have just spent several minutes waiting for the page to load (on a train, remember), this is enormously irritating. Companies should not do this.
However, eventually I got through to the campaign page, and I read the blurb. With crowdfunding all of the advice pages talk endlessly about the importance of the video, but if you are on a train with limited bandwidth you are not going to watch a video. You just read the text, and in this case it was problematic in two ways.
Firstly there was this:
People like actress Laverne Cox, model Andreja Pejic, celebrity Chaz Bono, director Lana Wachowski have led the charge, but it was Olympic legend Bruce Jenner whose declaration sparked a media frenzy and forever thrust transgender identity into the light of day.
That immediately sounds alarm bells for me. Laverne Cox has done a huge amount of work for the trans community (as has Janet Mock). It was Laverne appearing on the cover of Time that started everyone talking about a transgender tipping point. Jenner, in contrast, has spent most of the last few months in “no comment” land. A focus on Jenner suggests to me that this is a campaign aimed mainly at well-to-do cis white people, not something that will help the trans community.
Anyway, I read through the text, and what I saw was a lot of talk about using the stories of real trans people, but nothing about their involvement beyond that. What I was looking for was how trans people would be involved in the production and staging of this play. I saw nothing.
When I tweeted Neil he asked me about the video. Of course I hadn’t watched it. (On a train, remember.) When I got home I fired up a laptop and checked it out. Immediately I saw trans people, including some who were fairly obviously in the cast (Calpernia Addams, for example). There was much relief in my corner of the world.
So the lesson here is that if you are doing a crowdfunding campaign, don’t put important information in the video, and leave it off the text (or vice versa). You need people to get the whole message, no matter how they end up consuming it.
And now, if you’d like to back the Trans Scripts campaign, that would be a fine thing. If you happen to be very rich and a big Neil Gaiman fan you can get a personal Skype call from him. If you live in Edinburgh, or are going to this year’s Fringe, I’d love to hear a report of the play.