Since 2009, Kickstarter has been in the business of bringing awareness to causes, from the entrepreneurial to the personal to the downright strange. But lately, Kickstarter has become a vehicle for change for one very important group — the LGBT community, which has taken Kickstarter by storm in order to inject some much-needed diversity into literary and film circles across the country.
Over the course of five years, Kickstarter has transformed some 66,000 dreams into reality by helping campaigns raise $1 billion in funding. Simply put, the platform works by bringing ideas to a larger community — a community that is interested in seeing good ideas brought to life. Of course, some ideas have been better than others — LeVar Burton's Reading Rainbow campaign, which surpassed its funding goal five and a half times over and closed at nearly $5.5 million, was probably a much better investment than Zack Brown's potato salad campaign, which surpassed its goal 5,500 times over and closed on Tuesday at $55,500.
But all the same, the success of two very different missions proves one thing about Kickstarter — it's a community of people who are willing to listen and willing to help. And when it comes to upping diversity, these two characteristics are of paramount importance in an audience.
This is something that S. Bear Bergman first discovered back in 2012, when he used Kickstarter for the first time in order to fund the publication of his two books, The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy and Backwards Day. These books, geared toward elementary school children, feature transgender or gender-independent kids, a space that is relatively unexplored in the children's book sphere.
In his initial campaign pitch, Bergman pointed out the importance of having characters who were reflective of real-life experiences.
Kids with dogs like it when the kid in the book has a dog ... Kids with non-nuclear family structures cherish books in which families like theirs are shown.
And while there are plenty of books about kids with dogs and about kids who are gender-conforming, the same cannot be said about gender non-conforming children.
Enter Bergman's second campaign, which comes after the success of his first Kickstarter trial (he raised $18,555, nearly doubling his goal of $10,000). This time, Bergman isn't just looking to publish a couple of books — instead, he hopes to bring LGBT characters to the masses by establishing a book club that will deliver six books to "celebrate the great and wide variety of LGBT kids, families, and communities."
But these books are about more than just showing the literary world that the LGBT community exists. Rather, Bergman says in his campaign profile, they will have "storylines: travels, adventures and mysteries to solve." Their sexual orientation or gender identification will not be the focal point of the story, but simply another characteristic, like their hair color or height. These books, Bergman writes, "will celebrate gender-independent kids and adults as their whole selves, however they identify."
In an email to Slate, Bergman explained his motivation behind his Kickstarter campaigns and his books. You see, Bergman is not just a writer with grand ideals — he's a parent concerned about his child. "My child is about to start kindergarten," Bergman told Slate. "He will start with a bunch of other children, and I have no idea what messages they have gotten in their homes about families like ours. That's terrifying."
But with his projects, Bergman hopes to use books to give parents an "unambiguously positive message about LGBT people" to share with their children, a message that makes the world a more accepting and more loving place. With six days to go, Bergman has already rounded up the support of 504 people who have donated $40,942 of his $49,000 goal.
And Bergman isn't alone in his efforts. Searching "LGBT" on Kickstarter's website yields 176 results, from an LGBT law library to a documentary exploring what it's like to be LGBT as well as Mormon. This documentary, entitled "Far Between," is a product of "three years in research, development and production" and more than 200 interviews that explore the intersection of sexuality and religion, and hope to change the existing dialogue around the subject.
And Kickstarter has worked. The platform has helped several of these incredible initiatives come to be, including FourTwoNine, self-described as "a new kind of LGBT* print magazine — one that just happens to be LGBT." The magazine, which "showcases the ways in which our leaders are changing our world with sophistication, power, and a bold redefinition of what it means to be LGBT," got its start on Kickstarter, where it raised $18,704 of its $10,000 goal. Today, FourTwoNine boasts covers that feature Jared and Shannon Leto, Andy Cohen and Sarah Jessica Parker, and numerous other famous faces and LGBT allies.
So while Kickstarter is certainly helpful in turning potatoes into the most expensive salad you've ever had, it can also be used to do some pretty incredible things, starting with S. Bear Bergman and the LGBT community.
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