By most non-profit benchmarks the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG) in St. Louis, Missouri is still in their adolescence. But a glance behind the curtain at the 2019 MTUG Annual LIVE Telethon shows a well-seasoned production team, focused on their mission with all gears syncing, fueled by adrenaline and maybe a Red Bull…or two. This is an organization that is committed to the long haul; intent on doing whatever it takes to take care of their own.
2019 was the third year for the telethon event. What began as a spontaneous idea in 2017, produced in less than a month and reminiscent of putting on a play in your back yard; the annual production has grown in size, community involvement, and fund-raising rewards.
St. Louis has a rich transgender and non-binary community but the resources for services and support weren’t always accessible and readily available. In fact, most needs weren’t being met at all until the founders of MTUG decided to change the narrative for their trans-centric family in the metro area. Each of the past six years they’ve evolved to meet the demands of their burgeoning community. But resources cost money and this group is nothing if not resourceful.
We jump to December 2019 to the fourth floor of a downtown high-rise where MTUG has taken over a donated space to broadcast their third annual telethon. This is not the same show viewers were presented that first year. What has become MTUG’s largest yearly fund-raiser now requires more talent, more volunteers, and more finesse. Local singer/songwriter/producer Kristen Goodman and MTUG Executive Director Sayer Johnson returned to lead the team of transgender technicians and volunteers through months of planning that culminated in 24 hours of live broadcast streamed via Facebook Live and YouTube.
The all volunteer production – behind the scenes and in front of the camera – was a shining example of how this chosen family comes together. Viewers were presented with some of the best drag performers, trans musicians and artists. Important trans-centered talks with local and national advocacy groups and community leaders were shared in interview and round table discussions. Local and state politicians took the stage to lend their support and join in the fun. The show rotated hosts throughout the event to keep the broadcast fresh and make sure the folks involved could sustain the sometimes grueling 24 hours schedule, while volunteers provided food and beverage for on-air talent, tech crew, and behind the scenes staff.
Maintaining the energy levels of so many individuals as each hour passed proved a challenging task but these people are masters at lifting each other up. There was work to be done, after all.
Every dollar counts and every person makes a difference when it comes to fortifying a grassroots get your hands dirty organization. Assistance with document name changes, bus passes, and the MTUG HQ facility expenses are just a few of the financial needs that must be met throughout the year. This is a group that is primarily funded by donations from supporters who want to make a difference.
The ambitious goal of raising $30,000 in 24 hours had been set and this team committed to make it happen. Donations were accepted online or presented in person throughout the live broadcast. During the final minutes of the broadcast, surrounded by a stage filled with smiles and tear-stained faces, Johnson announced that they had reached the $28,000 mark and donations were still rolling in as people were stepping up to add their support.
When the last dollar was counted, MTUG had surpassed their $30,000 challenge! This group continues to show what can be achieved when everyone comes together for a cause. Something tells me that even before their heads were hitting the pillows they were already filling with ideas for next year’s telethon.
To learn more about trans services and resources available in the St. Louis area visit Metro Trans Umbrella Group.
If you are able, please show your support by becoming a monthly sustaining donor or making a one-time financial contribution. No amount is too small – and every dollar counts. MTUG Donation