While we all see hundreds upon hundreds of crowdsourcing efforts come around (“world’s best belt!” or “movie about hamsters and platypus!” or “let’s make potato salad!”), some just stick out and demand attention — much like the individuals they benefit.
New Yorker Jay Kallio (above, at NYC Gay Pride in June) is a transgender man and lifelong LGBT and AIDS activist. He and life partner Eleanor Cooper provided critical compassion and caregiving during the worst of the AIDS crisis, and Kallio suffered serious illness as result of a 2000 HIV vaccine trial (Cooper passed away in 2010).
After being struck by breast cancer in 2008, Kallio has found treatment and mere survival to be a challenge. A NY Times profile drew attention to the transphobia he faced, which resulted in a delayed diagnosis and decreased survival odds — he since developed terminal lung cancer — while Kallio’s Medicaid and fixed disability income doesn’t cover crucial elements like painkillers or to join a potentially lifesaving clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University.
HuffPo picked up Kallio’s story last month and posted a video that elaborates on the appalling situations some transgender individuals endure when faced with these dire medical conditions.
Friends from Facebook support group Queer Exchange have swooped in to assist, setting up a $15,000 GoFundMe campaign that will offset costs of everything from oxygen tanks to food to desperately needed apartment repairs (one member of Queer Exchange discovered he didn’t even have a working toilet).
While odds for survival are against Kallio, already the effort has proven profound, he tells us. “It has fueled me to generate yet another bout of activist energy I did not believe I had in me to politically change the system for the better,” he says. “I am fighting to the best of my ability against the dreadful Medicaid HMO which is refusing to pay for access to the immunotherapy drugs which are providing a great blast of hope to many cancer patients with the type of aggressive cancer I have, who were previously without hope of prolonged life, quality of life, or significant remission, even cure. Without the GoFundMe campaign, I would still be back wondering how to get cab fare to the Emergency Room for my pulmonary embolus, and how to get the portable oxygen machine I appeared to need to get out of the house long enough to attend a doctor appointment, not holding rallies and lobbying legislators! That is what the Queer Exchange-generated fund has done for me!”