Author Sim Kern kicked off a readathon on social media on March 20 to support trans rights. Running through March 27, the #TransRightsReadathon will spotlight books by trans authors to raise money for trans rights organizations. As of this writing, more than 2,100 participants have signed up using TikTok and Instagram to broadcast their reading. Some participants are also joining via Mastodon, Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube.
Many participants are content creators, and Kern noted that some of BookTok’s most popular creators, including Starry Steph and Ezeekat, were some of the first participants to sign up, which was “a big part of why this campaign blew up so quickly.” Kern said they are “excited to start seeing libraries and booksellers get into the action as well.”
Kern, who is the author of three novels, launched the readathon in direct response to recent legislative efforts that are proliferating across the country. “I was feeling so much despair about the barrage of anti-trans bills being proposed across the U.S.,” they said. “I think so many people, myself included, felt defeated and overwhelmed and not sure what to do.”
Then two experiences galvanized Kern into action. First, at a counterprotest at a Ron DeSantis rally in Houston, some of the organizers Kern was with decided to silently read books now banned in Florida outside the convention center that housed the rally. Conspicuous reading, Kern decided, felt like its own “niche form of protest, and I wanted to do more of it.” Later, Kern learned about a fundraiser, launched by the content creator Mercury Stardust, to donate $1 million to the organization Point of Pride. They were inspired.
“The pieces came together for me,” they said. “I wanted to organize my community—which is book people and publishing people online—in the same way Mercury was.” When they first proposed the idea on TikTok, the response was “immediate and overwhelming.”
Kern described the fundraiser as “decentralized,” meaning that participants will set up their own individual fundraiser to support the organization of their choice. For participants who are unsure which organization to fundraise for, Kern recommends the Transgender Law Center’s Trans Health Legal Fund.
Kern said that TikTok is their favorite social media platform, and that they’ve amassed a sizeable following by posting book-related content, but they don’t know if their influence on the app has translated into sales. “I have three books out with small presses,” they said, “and I’ve sold maybe a handful of them through TikTok.”
While some indie authors have found overnight success by having their books going viral, Kern finds it difficult to “compete with publishers who can distribute large runs of print advance reading copies” to BookTok’s most powerful influencers. Still, Kern is “a fan of whatever democratizing influence TikTok can exert.” The #TransRightsReadathon is one such example of that democratizing effect.
Want to get involved? Kern laid out how in four steps. First, sign up. Then, on social media, share that you’re participating in the #TransRightsReadathon, along with which organization you’ll be supporting. Optionally, you can set up a fundraiser for your followers to donate to, or have them pledge their donations in the comments. You can even set your own fundraising goal (Kern thinks $100 is a good place to start). Finally, start reading! Kern encourages participants to “read as many books by trans authors as you can, and post content about what you’re reading using the hashtag.”
Kern is optimistic about the readathon’s fundraising potential. “I think we can raise $100,000 for sure,” they said. “Though if this campaign keeps growing as steadily as it has been, I think we might blow that goal out of the water.”