Our Impact

One of Massachusetts’ Leading Feminist Organizations Throws a Ball to fundraise for the Transgender Emergency Fund

Posted by Sasha Goodfriend, President of Mass NOW on October 18, 2019

Mass NOW partners with Transgender Emergency Fund and the Fierce Urgency of Now series to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ+ young professionals of color, the Boston Ball scene and fundraise to support low-income trans individuals.

On September 7, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women (Mass NOW) teamed up with the Transgender Emergency Fund (TEF) to organize “The Back to School Ball” at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. The Back to School Ball was Mass NOW’s first time participating in the Fierce Urgency of Now series and was a huge success bringing together 150+ LGBTQ people of color, straight and white allies and businesses alike. Together we danced the night away, awarded $3,500+ in cash prizes to QPOC performers, and fundraised over $900 to support the Transgender Emergency Fund! 

Mass NOW is a member-based, multi-strategy & multi-issue grassroots organization that has been pursuing gender equity in the Commonwealth for over 50 years. When City Awake announced the F.U.N series, Mass NOW jumped at the opportunity to build new partners through this event to build on our mission of advancing gender equity and stand in solidarity with queer communities of color. 

A “Ball” or an event that is marketed to the “ballroom community” is a dance party featuring competitions in which participants are judged and awarded prizes based on dance or “voguing” skills, costume or “effects,” and overall performance. Contemporary “Balls” have roots in 1960’s Harlem and are primarily Black and Latino/Hispanic countercultural expression of gender variance and performance. This past spring in honor of Pride and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, Mass NOW co-sponsored ‘The Reset Ball’ with Athena Vaughn. Athena is the director of TransCEND (Transgender Care and Education Needs Diversity) at the AIDS Action Committeewhere she helps provide support and risk reduction services to transgender women. Athena, or ‘the Legendary Athena West,’ is also President of the New England Ball Collective (NEBC), which organizes Balls year-round for young LGBTQ+ people of color to access support and build community. The ballroom scene has been gaining visibility nationally, thanks in large part to the new TV show Pose for which Billy Porter recently won an Emmy, the first openly gay Black man to do so. 

At the Fashion Media Awards this year, Pose star Indya Moore used her red carpet appearance to make a statement with custom designed earrings and purse baring the faces of trans women who’ve been murdered this year. Trans women of color face the compounded impact of sexism, racism, homophobia & transphobia and therefore especially need to be centered in spaces geared towards supporting gender minorities and people of color. In Massachusetts we see these trends too; for example Black, Latinx, and multiracial LGBTQ students are all more likely to report skipping school because they felt unsafe and young LGBTQ people of color are over-represented among new HIV cases. 

The vast majority of Boston’s ballroom community is comprised of LGBTQ people of color, between the ages of 18 and 29.  In Massachusetts, young LGBTQ people of color are over-represented among new HIV cases and are disproportionately burdened by other sexually transmitted infections. The ballroom scene offers a critical opportunity for community-level intervention, builds affirming spaces, reduces stigma and isolation, and enhances knowledge within the QPOC community about social support and health services. For allies, the Back to School Ball was an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the Boston ballroom scene and support performers in developing their craft and showcasing their skill. By fundraising for the Transgender Emergency Fund, we’re supporting low-income trans individuals in Massachusetts and walking the walk of allyship and our feminist principles. 

This event would not have been possible without the generous in-kind and financial support from Hibernian Hall at Madison Park Development Corporation, Eastern Bank, the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth and Willie’s Superbrew. Mass NOW convenes and educates the feminist community through innovative, community-driven programming like the Back to School Ball all year.

This past year Mass NOW successfully piloted innovative programming — such as a sold-out Dismantling White Feminism series, consciousness raisings, and pop up art shows. This year Mass NOW is mobilizing our members and allies around menstrual equity and has co-written H.1959/S.1274 An Act to Increase Access to Disposable Menstrual Products in Prisons, Homeless Shelters and Public Schools (the ‘I AM bill’). By ensuring access to menstrual products, we're taking on issues of public health, economic inequality, and educational equity—while breaking down one of our most systemic and ancient taboos. On Sept 30, Mass NOW hosted our second Period Art Pop Up show– this time at the Massachusetts State House on the 4th floor! This show raised visibility to the issue of period poverty and menstrual equity and celebrated, reclaimed, and explored menstruation and the theme ‘the personal is political.’ On October 19, we took over City Hall Plaza for the first-ever National Period Day!

Our work for equality and justice is made possible by membership dues, individual donations and volunteer hours. Go to MassNOW.org today to sign up to become a member and allow Mass NOW to fulfill its mission of advancing gender equity in the Commonwealth.