It’s been a couple weeks now since Harris “Harry” Brewis, a.k.a. H.Bomberguy, Dan Olson and their crew raised over $340,000 during a 57-hour marathon stream for the U.K.-based trans youth organization Mermaids. If you ask anyone involved if they could have imagined the impact Harry’s Donkey Kong 64 charity stream would have on the trans community, they would tell you they had no idea; Olson and Brewis both believed they would make a couple thousand dollars, and only have a few hundred people stop by the stream.
When I became involved in the stream on the evening of Sunday, January 20, there were over 10,000 people watching, and the numbers just kept rising. This was in large part due to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other celebrity involvement.
Olson spoke to us about how this all started. Brewis chose Mermaids, a charity that offers support to young trans/gender-nonconforming people in the U.K. and their families, because of outbursts from Graham Linehan, an Irish comedian known for the U.K. series “Father Ted,” as well as his outspokenness against the trans community. Linehan had posted misinformation about what Mermaids does on a popular U.K. forum, Mumsnet, which already features many trans-exclusionary sentiments. When Linehan found out about the stream, he continued his anti-trans tirade on Twitter, which gave the stream a massive push and more publicity.
What ended up happening was the opposite of what Linehan wanted. People started pouring into the stream, and donations came with them. Celebrities showed up wanting to publicly declare their support for the trans community; everyone from former “Matilda”star turned writer Mara Wilson to “DOOM” co-creator John Romero was there. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez even posted about the stream on her Twitter, and also participated on-stream, professing her support for trans rights.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 20, 2019
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Brewis and the others began to realize this was bigger than they ever could have expected. Olson says it was like “if your Saturday afternoon in the basement was on national television.” There was no plan beyond getting the gang together and playing Donkey Kong 64 in its entirety. In the midst of it all, criticism about the lack of trans inclusion in the stream started to spread. That was when they knew they needed to find trans voices to highlight, and what happened next was magical.
Trans people from around the globe reached out to Olson and the others working behind the scenes so that Brewis could focus on playing. They put out a call on social media looking for trans people, and many began to show up in the stream. By Sunday, it seemed like a well-oiled machine. There was a discord for trans people to hang out in with voice and text channels. Trans people were being invited to come speak with Brewis on-stream. Well-known figures in the trans community such as Chelsea Manning were present.
By late Sunday, Brewis finished the game and Mermaids took away well over $340,000 in donations, not counting what he raised in bits and subscriptions. The trans community and everyone involved was blown away by the magic of the weekend. The ripples of it continue.
Ripley, a 36-year-old non-binary transwoman from Oklahoma, was a part of the stream, and is helping run the Discord Brewis created for the event, which has now turned into a permanent space for the trans community. I asked her what the stream meant to her, and she said it was the best moment of her life.
“For the first time,” she says, “a group of hyper-creative transgender people assisted by ally journalists, celebrities, comedians, musicians, politicians and industry folk transcended the public perception of being reduced solely to our identity. In one of the largest viral fundraisers on Twitch, the power of love illuminated the gloom in the world and we made a positive change in both the children’s lives, and within ourselves.”
So what’s next? This stream created an important space for the trans community, and those involved are trying to keep the momentum going. Despite still trying to process the enormity of the stream, Brewis, Olson and the others are committed to not letting this be the only way they support the trans community.
I asked Ripley what was next, and she says more collaborating, networking, building connections and support: “This group was too important to lose. We changed so many lives in just one weekend … and if we can continue the work, I believe we can change the world.”