'Star Wars' fans rally to raise funds to support transgender youth: 'This is something we refuse to stand by silently for'

Padme Amidala, a Star Wars character from the prequel trilogy who served as a senator and anti-war advocate, is the inspiration for the Amidala Initiative, a fundraiser for Equality Texas to benefit transgender youth. (Photo: Everett Collection)
Padmé Amidala, a Star Wars character from the prequel trilogy who served as a senator and anti-war advocate, is the inspiration for the Amidala Initiative, a fundraiser for Equality Texas to benefit transgender youth. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Fans of the Star Wars franchise can relate to Padmé Amidala, a character from the Star Wars prequel trilogy played by Natalie Portman, for a multitude of reasons, from her troubled romance with Anakin Skywalker to her desire to do her best to protect her people.

It's the latter that inspired the Amidala Initiative, a group of Star Wars fans and content creators who have joined ... forces ... to raise money for Texas advocacy organization Equality Texas after Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of trans children who have had or are seeking elective gender-affirming procedures or treatments.

"We, the undersigned, are 77 fan content creators, podcasters, YouTubers, TikTokers, artists, writers and cosplayers who have joined together to use our limited platforms to stand in solidarity with our trans siblings and their families in Texas," a GoFundMe site for the Amidala Initiative states. "No child should fear that their teachers will report their parents to the government for allowing them to live as their true gender. No parent should fear criminal charges for supporting their transgender child and helping them seek therapeutic and medical support to treat their gender dysphoria ... this is something we refuse to stand by silently for."

Byn McDonald, a podcaster within the Star Wars community, calls Abbot's Feb. 22 proclamation, "the straw that broke the camel's back."

"LGBTQIA issues are obviously something that's very important to me as a queer person and a nonbinary person," McDonald, who lives in Arkansas and uses they/them pronouns, tells Yahoo Life. "Obviously it's not just Texas: We've got Florida and Utah and South Dakota and Tennessee and Arkansas — it's a bevy of states using the opportunity to overload us with all of this so we can't really concentrate on one part of it."

Inspired by Queen Padmé Amidala's willingness to fight for causes that mattered to her, McDonald started the Amidala Initiative, where they, along with 76 other Star Wars fans, hope to raise at least $25,000 to donate to Equality Texas in support of trans youth.

"When you have a level of misplaced anxiety, it helps if you can find something to do with it," they say. "Obviously I don't have any pull with Texas legislators. I can't pop up as an advocate. I don't know people. But at the very least I'm good at doing my research and I can find someone who's already doing that and help in what little way I can."

To date, the group has raised over $8,000 toward its goal. McDonald and their counterparts plan to promote the fundraiser throughout the month of March before sending the donation to Equality Texas.

Chase Hauser, a nonbinary YouTuber who posts about all things Star Wars and uses he/they pronouns, is part of the initiative says when they heard the news coming from Texas, they were "horrified" and wanted to help.

"Almost immediately, my mind went to the heartbreaking statistics of self-harm among nonbinary and trans youth — which is devastatingly high," Hauser says. "My heart just broke. I feared the worst and, to be honest, I still do. If I could have connected with every young LGBTQIA+ person in Texas that day, I would have. As trite as it may sound, I just wanted to hug each and every one of them and tell them how loved they are."

McDonald says there's a second purpose to the Amidala Initiative: making sure queer youth know there's room for them within the Star Wars community, a place they say is often perceived as only being for "white cisgender heterosexual men."

"Growing up as a queer kid, I loved Star Wars for as long as I can remember," they say. "Say I'm a 12 or 13-year-old kid who loves Star Wars and I'm watching Star Wars explained on YouTube by a creator who has a huge reach and then I see them pop up and talk about this fundraiser: It would feel really reassuring and would verify that I belonged.

"Even if it's just a fictional thing that isn't necessarily going to change your experience at school or at home," McDonald adds, "I think sometimes just that little bit of hope that there are other people like you or that accept you and want you there — I think we underestimate how much those small gestures can mean to people. I know it would have been life-changing for me to feel that growing up."

Hauser agrees.

"Revisiting Star Wars as an adult who has never been more self-assured in their queerness has been an invigorating journey," they say. "The message I want kids taking away from all of this is one of solidarity and hope — they aren't alone now and despite the other messages they are receiving, they never will be. This community is here both with them and for them and we aren't going anywhere."

Ricardo Martinez, chief operating officer of Equality Texas, says the passion and support of the Star Wars community are both seen and appreciated by the organization.

"Something we have learned in the last two weeks is that [these Star Wars fan creators] have unleashed an incredible new age where LGBTQ+ advocacy and philanthropy meet for good, and our 'geek squad' — our staff — is really inspired by their efforts," he says. "Their involvement really reinforces our belief that anyone can contribute to advocacy and justice in whatever way makes sense for them at this very moment."

"Meeting people where they are at and encouraging individuals to leverage their talents on behalf of meaningful causes is incredibly important and so incredibly moving to witness," he adds, describing Equality Texas as "the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans."

While McDonald says the official fundraising campaign for the Amidala Initiative will end at the close of March, they plan to leave the GoFundMe running indefinitely, sending any donations directly to Equality Texas. As more people learn of the efforts, they hope additional funds and support will continue.

"The thing that I've learned in this part of the Star Wars community is that there are so many people — more than you would think — that have never felt like they could talk to someone else in the community about [their fandom]," they explain. "I'm meeting huge groups of queer people who have never talked to another queer person about Star Wars. It's something silly and it's light entertainment fluff, but those are things that mean something and represent something larger."

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