Pensacola, Florida
Monday October 15th 2018


Music for Social Change

By Jennifer Leigh

Since 2014, Strive (Social Trans Initiative) has been advocating for the transgender community in the Pensacola area. Its mission is to promote intersectionality, serve and protect the transgender community, and ultimately build the community up to be self-sustaining enough to be actively involved, according to the nonprofit’s President, Devin Cole.

But one organization cannot do all of that alone. That’s why this weekend, Chizuko will be hosting a benefit show for Strive with all proceeds benefiting the ongoing work and future projects of the organization. Bands such as Cookies & Cake, Homebody, Sour and more will be performing under the blue lights.

Chizuko has been a venue for several cause-related events since it opened earlier this year such as FemFest in February and a homeless benefit show in May. Owners Daisy Doyle and Jessica Laws say it was a “no-brainer” to host an event for Strive.

“Our vision for Chizuko is to be a comfortable, safe place for everyone, including Pensacola’s LGBTQ community,” said Doyle. “Strive is a very sweet group of people and we completely support their vision and want to help in any way.”

“We make every effort to make Chizuko a no judgment zone,” added Laws. “We don’t tolerate disrespect in any form. All are welcome, and we hope we can be that safe space for the LGBTQ community.”

The idea for the benefit show came from local musician Ryan Post, who was interested in doing a benefit show for Strive.

“We had been looking for fundraising ideas and had entertained the idea of a show in the past, but nothing had formulated yet,” Cole said.

Some of the biggest needs in the trans community are also some of the most basic human needs. Strive is currently developing an Emergency Housing Program, which will be the first of it’s kind, Cole said.

“There are currently no shelters in Escambia County that will take transgender people entirely as we are, meaning that the ones who do accept us will only take us on the condition that we agree to go by our ‘assigned at birth’ gender, which can lead to increased amounts of violence and harassment,” they* explained. “So housing is a top priority for us.”

Medical attention is another big need. Many trans individuals can find it difficult, to say the least, when it comes to obtaining healthcare or a job, Cole said. The nonprofit is currently working on hosting a job fair that would be open to everyone but would include businesses that are LGBTQ-affirming.

Helping transgender individuals pay for hormone replacement therapy is another initiative of Strive. So far, they’ve already been able to help a few trans people obtain medications to keep their transition from halting.

“With our already dilapidated healthcare system on the brink of complete annihilation, trans people are often left to fend for ourselves in terms of receiving care and treatment,” they said. “Because of the job market which is largely transphobic due to hate speech and bigoted propaganda, it is much harder for trans people to find work where we can be ourselves on the job. This then makes it harder to qualify for healthcare or to receive any benefits at all, so many trans people are unable to receive healthcare and have to pay for medical attention out of pocket, but with many being unable to find work…you see where I’m going with this.”

Cole has had first-hand experience of workplace discrimination when a manager, followed by fellow employees, taunted Cole for being queer.

“I had to quit because even though they were in the wrong, there were several of them versus just me and I had no defense,” they said.

Even as gay rights have progressed drastically over the years, the trans community has been “left behind,” Cole said. The highest rates of violence and discrimination are among black trans women.

“Sure some trans people have made it, but for every trans person who makes it in the world (i.e. has a successful title, job, income, life, etc.), there are dozens of trans people who don’t know where they’re going to be living at next week,” they said.

The price of admission to Saturday’s show will help support the cause of Strive, and all of its future goals. The best way to support the nonprofit is to donate and participate, Cole said.

“Showing up is a big part of activism and organizing,” they added. “We’re about direct action and disrupting the status quo. Transgender people (and really the entire queer community at large) have been pushed around and left behind too many times to try and appeal to those at the table any longer. We have to rise up and to rise up means to show up.”

*Cole identifies as gender non-binary and prefers they/them pronouns.

WHAT: Benefit show featuring music by Homebody, Sour, Cookies & Cake and more
WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday, July 1
WHERE: Chizuko, 506 W. Belmont St.
COST: $5