Montreal Artists Come Together to Raise Money For Trans Organization ASTTeQ
Musicians Elle Barbara, Eve Parker Finley and Tranna Wintour are coming together to fundraise for ASTTeQ, a trans health and advocacy organization that is in danger of having to shut down its services.
Montreal trans health and advocacy organization ASTTeQ is in danger of having to shut down its services — but not if these musicians have anything to say about it.
Artist and community organizer Elle Barbara, of Elle Barbara’s Black Space, has launched a fundraising campaign with a goal of raising a hundred thousand dollars to help the organization stay afloat, joining forces with musicians and comedians Eve Parker Finley and Tranna Wintour to spread the word.
ASTTeQ — which stands for Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q) — was founded in 1998 as a community organization by and for trans people. The 25-year-old organization provides frontline services to trans people and advocates for trans rights and trans-inclusive health care. In March, the organization came to the end of five years of funding and has not been able to secure new core funding since. While the organization continues to explore core funding options, it's at risk of suspending current services.
So far, the fundraiser has raised $21,000.
“It’s a wide net — a big community of people — that are invested in ASTTeQ’s survival,” Barbara says of the fundraiser.
Alongside work in the music and ballroom scenes — she is the Mother of Montreal’s House of Barbara and organizes local ballroom events — Barbara has been involved with ASTTeQ since 2016, eventually becoming an intervention worker with the organization.
“It’s funny, because a lot of the work that I’ve been doing in the last few years has been so anchored in community and solidarity, people forget sometimes that I first came on the scene as an artist,” Barbara says. With ASTTeQ facing the possibility of ceasing operations, though, Barbara knew she could tap into her creative community. She reached out to Eve Parker Finley — musician, comedian, and host of CBC’s 10 Minute Topline — and Tranna Wintour — comedian, chanteuse and star of Big Brother Célébrités.
Barbara was inspired by some graffiti on a poster in downtown Montreal, which read something like: “What if Tranna Wintour, Elle Barbara and Eve Parker Finley started a supergroup together?”
This supergroup isn’t releasing any music — not yet, at least — but is instead coming together for a good cause. The three performers, all pillars of Montreal arts scenes, have joined forces on a boudoir shoot and a telethon-inspired promotional video for the fundraiser. The photoshoot, taken by Samantha Blake, takes a vintage pin-up model approach. Anyone who donates at least $250 to the fundraiser has a chance to win a glossy printout of the centrefold posters.
“I got a message from Elle Barbara asking if I wanted to be part of a fundraiser for ASTT(e)Q and before hearing more I said yes!” Finley says. “I can't remember at what point I found out that it would involve posing for the most risque photoshoot I've ever been a part of but, despite being mildly terrified and nervous, I said 'hell yeah!' It's the closest I'll ever get to being in one of those naked firemen calendars.”
Barbara is hoping to use the photoshoot to inspire others online to take their own sultry snaps and share them alongside the fundraiser link, as a kind of social media challenge. “We want them to do the same sort of glamorous work and sexy work that Eve, Tranna and I did,” she says.
“I think this is a perfect encapsulation of trans excellence,” Finley adds of the photoshoot. “Spinning a kind of devastating adversity into joy, pleasure, and fun, while being firmly rooted in a mission of social justice.”
All three artists are busy outside of fundraising efforts. Finley recently released the first single off of her upcoming album, the cinematic "The Mirror," while Barbara is preparing for a Black Space release on Dec. 20 that will feature remixes by Jessy Lanza and Wizard Apprentice, among others.
But the artists are devoting their time to a fundraiser that will have a meaningful impact on the lives of trans people in Montreal, especially with the holidays approaching. Barbara explains that the 100K goal isn’t meant to replace the core funding, but will help cover work hours for staff and fund holiday activities. “We have our community dinners that are so important to a lot of people in the community who feel tremendously isolated,” she says.
“We hope that people enjoy the photos and telethon video but also take the call seriously: we need to raise some serious money so ASTT(e)Q can keep offering services,” Finley emphasizes. “If they don't raise $100 000, their services could get shut down. Quite simply, we can't let that happen.”