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March 6, 2014 / missmarymax

Reaching Out to Save (And Sustain) Scarleteen

scarleteen: sex ed for the real world

Most of you know that — of all the spaces on the Internet — Scarleteen is among the dearest to my heart. The organization (with its forums and columns and live chats and direct services) provides compassionate, comprehensive sexual education and support to teens and twenty-somethings. They’ve been doing this, on a fraying shoestring of budget, for 15 years, for users who are not (and in many cases cannot be) getting these resources elsewhere. The space is queer-positive, trans-positive, body-positive, sex-positive…(that list just keeps going, you guys.) The “inclusive” qualifier in its header is actually an understatement. Scarleteen actively prioritizes the experiences and the needs of youth — specifically marginalized youth — and builds services that affirm and meet those needs.

I’m especially grateful to the folks at Scarleteen for the services they provide that I’ve never needed. I’m grateful for the live chats, referrals, and other direct support they offer to youth in crisis. Queer and questioning youth on their last leg. Youth recovering from assault or abuse, or currently embroiled in ‘relationships’ that meet those criteria. Youth who are alone and facing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. I’m grateful these resources are available, somewhere, for the many, many individuals who need them. And I’m grateful for what the site has given me, personally, and to many other folks I know. For starters: a comprehensive, accurate education about sexuality. But even more importantly, a firm belief in the inalienable right to this body. The right to be here, to be bodily, to protect my physical autonomy, to experience pleasure, to act sexually or — in any given moment — to choose otherwise. Finding spaces — and Scarleteen is perhaps the epitome of them — that shout back at the constant social messaging about my body as damaged, inferior, dangerous, or about anyone else has been life-saving for me. It’s played a massive role in my recovery from an eating disorder and in the life I’ve built on that foundation. It’s paved the way for the fucking kickass relationship I currently share. It’s given me tools and support in the ongoing, messy, and vital process of self-care that includes (intrinsically) this body. This one. Here.

And if it does not receive some drastic financial support before May 1st, all of that will be in serious jeopardy.

According to executive director Heather Corinna:

With no radical change in giving and support immediately — and a change that is permanent, not just reactionary — Scarleteen as we know it, and as our users use it, may just be over.

Which is why we feel it may be time to strike. Come May Day – May 1st – unless something radically changes, Scarleteen will begin a strike.

The full details of why this is necessary (and what it would mean) are available at Heather’s post, which I seriously encourage you to read and consider. In the meantime, while you’re still here at my blog, I’d like to point out one of the many great things about the small-but-mighty Scarleteen crew: they understand (and expect) that the people they serve (namely youth — and marginalized youth, specifically) cannot pay for their services. Scarleteen has always been completely and utterly free. Their site structure, their annual donation ask, even this recent preparation to strike, has never focused on convincing users to pay for the “privilege” of accessing this space.  They flat-out do not expect payment from their user base. But that leaves unsolved the problem of who will fund this work, for these users. Who will keep it from falling prey to the triply-underfunded intersection of sex education, youth, and the Internet?

The answer, I hope, is us.

I would love to be a substantial donor to Scarleteen, to give in a way that could make a difference as real and as lasting as the one their work has made in  my life. It’s not something I can, personally, do — for reasons that are familiar to many of you and to most of the Scarleteen folks: I (too) work for a nonprofit, where I serve youth, as an educator. I’m unlikely to dive, Scrooge-McDuck-style, into a pool of money anytime soon. This is one of the reasons that, during Scarleteen’s recent annual ask — which netted zero dollars — I almost didn’t give, period. I assumed that others would and that I didn’t need to, that my nickels and dimes could not affect change of a more substantial sort. The tipping point for me was Heather’s announcement that, after nearly a week of asking, the site had received five donations. Five. At that moment, my “I can’t do much” made the slight but mighty transformation into “I can do a little.”

It was a similar moment, a couple of years ago, that led me to start giving — a very little bit — to Scarleteen each month. Like many of you, my financial history is short on money and long on insecurity, and it’s for those exact reasons that I give the way I do. I give a very little bit, very regularly. I give the amount I’d pay for a coffee or a cheap lunch, an amount I consistently have, and which I’ve learned, over the months, does not break me. An amount, frankly, that I don’t generally miss. I currently have the luxury of employment and of a joint income to put toward my bills. At times when I haven’t had those things, I haven’t always been able to give. Right now I can, so I do. I give $10, every month. I can count on that amount not to make a difference in my day-to-day life. And Scarleteen can count on that amount to be there, month after month, to help them make a difference in someone else’s.

You–reading this, right now, thinking I don’t really mean you–have that same power. You have the power to become a sustaining donor to Scarleteen: a person who gives, in any amount, to the site on a regular basis. I’m asking you to use that power. Before May 1st (the kickoff date for the potential strike), I’d like to join with friends, family, readers and other rad people, to find an additional $200 for Scarleteen each month. I want to turn my personal $10 into our collective $200.


The main gift here is not the cash itself, but its consistency, the dependability that comes with a recurring gift. There’s a thoroughly mind-boggling and yet somehow accurate statistic that came out last year, that Scarleteen serves one person for every penny donated. Literally every penny. For every $10 then, more than 1000 people benefit. For our collective $200, Scarleteen can serve twenty-thousand youth. Over the course of a year? Nearly half-a-million people served, in ways they flat-out cannot be (or are not being) helped elsewhere. That is some serious bang for one’s buck.

$200 of sustaining funding is 20 friends stepping up and donating $10 a month, to a cause that’s far more valuable. It’s 10 friends donating $20. If we pull that off, we’re $200 closer to the $3000 increase in funding that Scarleteen needs, each month, to function as it does. To give the resources it’s given to me to someone else. To give the resources I’ve never needed to someone they will benefit greatly.

I know you all, reading this, and I feel really lucky that I do. I feel incredibly lucky to have friends, family, and readers who truly value my call, when I say that a cause is worthwhile. More importantly, I feel lucky to have friends, family, and readers who value so many of the same things I do — education, sexual education, resources for queer and trans youth, resources for survivors of (and those currently embroiled in) abuse, better access to healthcare — and the countless other services that Scarleteen has provided for the past 15 years. Services we need to ensure they can keep providing. I hope, with the full power of the word, that you will join me in this.

If you can give — pleasepleaseplease set up a recurring donation. And (if you’re willing to suffer my overpowering gratitude), let me know you have, so I can count it toward this success. And please- spread the word about the need.

If you can’t consider making a one-time donation. I completely understand what it’s like for life to be too unpredictable to make a predictable gift, and I have nothing but respect for you taking care of your own needs (financial and otherwise), as best you can. Think about whether you can throw a few bucks toward Scarleteen, just this month, and (again) help to spread word about what they do and why we must save them. (Then see the above, regarding my gratitude.)

And if you can’t donate, period — pleasepleaseplease share about Scarleteen and the site’s current straits. Share widely and relentlessly, through your own networks. (I would love to post guest content here about what Scarleteen, specifically — or services like it — have meant for others. If you aren’t able to donate but would like to write a piece about why this work really, really matters, please contact me).

$200, between us. It’s not an impossible goal. It’s a lofty one.Which leaves the question:

What is our reach?

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