Max Balegde is facing criticism from the Trans community over the lineup of his ‘We Stand With You’ fundraiser to ‘celebrate the trans+ community and advocate for change.’
The British creator started posting comedic videos about his life on TikTok in 2020 and has since gained over 3.5 million followers on the app.
ICYMI, on 5th October Max took to TikTok in response to transphobic comments made by the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. In the video he expressed his disgust and outrage at the comments and ended the video with a request for ways to use his platform to support the Trans community. Later that day, in response to messages he’d received from the original post, he announced that he was attempting to organise a march in London.
On October 6th he updated his followers, explaining he was in the process of organising the march, and involving brands and the police.
In response to these videos, Trans content creators took to TikTok to share their concerns over Max’s intention to get the police involved, urging him to consider “platforming trans charities and organisers that are doing existing work in the community rather than centring [himself].”
On October 9th, the creator took to TikTok to acknowledge that he was “naive” in his initial plans to organise a march, sharing he would be putting on a fundraising event instead. This announcement was met with widespread positivity, including comments from Trans content creators thanking him for listening to their concerns.
The initial line up however, which was chosen by the TikTok creator and his management team, was met with criticism from the Trans community that the selection of acts released in the initial line up was significantly lacking in representation of Trans men, Trans women, drag kings and age diversity.
Members of the cast responded to these criticisms with reassurance that more acts would be announced in the coming days.
This response sparked further criticism from Trans man and drag king Chiyo @prinxchiyo as to why the decision had been made to lead with “famous faces” as the community is looking for “trans joy and some dopamine, not another red carpet event for those who have been on the telly.”
Trans woman and cabaret artist Alexa Vox @alexavox also commented under the post with the reminder that they “have the opportunity to do this correctly! The line up is very non-binary & drag led. Each and every performer on that stage is a valid and valued member of the LGBTQ+ and wider trans community, what they are not however is trans men and trans women who are continuously shunned and pushed aside for various opportunities.”
In response to these criticisms Not A Phase released a statement in an Instagram that read “We are very grateful to have been selected as the beneficiary charity of Max Balegde’s “We Stand With You” fundraising variety show.” The statement continues explaining events such as the fundraiser allow the organisation to spread awareness about the struggles of the Trans+ community and allows the recruitment of new allies to the cause. In addressing the backlash, the post reads “We are excited to see the continued announcements of acts that are volunteering their participation,” but that “it is important to remind everyone that of the current lineup, 80% of the acts are trans+ identifying,” and that “invalidating language can be incredibly hurtful. There is no such thing as being trans enough”
The response has been largely supportive of and reiterating both Chiyo and Vox’s concerns and critiques.
Max responded directly to Vox reiterating her concerns in a comment that reads, “It is incredibly difficult to create an event that represents every corner of the community whilst raising as much awareness as possible AND selling tickets.” When asked by Vox why there had been no opportunity for Trans people without a large platform to participate in the event by stating, the comedy creator responded, “This is a FUND RAISING event, we needed influential people to get people to buy tickets, so that the charity can then use that money to put on events throughout the year to uplift the community!! I’m seriously confused as to how you are finding issue with this. I am not the enemy here.”
Vox told Centennial World she was “unfortunately not surprised” by the way the British TikToker reacted to her concerns. “As an older trans woman over the age of 45 I am very used to being told what to do and say by white cis men…The line up as it stands is not a true reflection of the trans community. We need to see people on that stage that reflect ourselves. We need to be seen. We need to be heard. And I felt I was completely shot down as soon as I voiced my concerns.”
Max’s argument about needing ‘influential people’ to promote ticket sales falls particularly flat when taking into account that earlier this year Trans TikTok influencers @mercurystardust and @alluringskull, who both have smaller followings than Balegde himself, raised over $2 million in 30 hours with their annual TikTok-a-Thon for Trans Healthcare.
In speaking Centennial World, Chiyo described the comments made about needing ‘influential people’ in order to sell tickets as “a lie” being pushed by Max and his team, explaining “I do events in London that consistently sell out and never involve people off the telly. Just good old-fashioned grassroots [events.] Trans people uplifting trans people. So for him to turn around and essentially say to all of us, you’re not good enough [to sell tickets] it’s just rude. It’s condescending and it’s not okay.”
He raised further concerns over the fact that none of the acts are being paid for their involvement in the fundraiser.
“If you’re an influential person like Max who has a big platform [on social media] you cannot tell me that you’re charging people to enter this space and you have all these big names, but you cannot find [the money] to pay trans people in the current climate? Even though you’re saying this [event] is for trans people.”
They continued, “Max could pay it out of his own pocket. We all know this.”
Chiyo continued, speaking of the “rhetoric” being spread by the TikTok comedian and his team that “if this event gets cancelled, it is the fault of the people who have been criticising it.”
Screenshots of messages from Instagram user @ellytake2, (allegedly a member of Max’s management team) were shared to social media in which she states, “We might be cancelling the event now, Not A Phase will lose out on thousands and thousands of pounds for the community. Literally because of a small group of like minded individuals attacking within the community which is so sad to see.”
In response to a meeting with the founder of Not A Phase, Chiyo told Centennial World, “I know that if this event gets cancelled it’s because of ticket sales or because Max can’t handle the heat. I just want to put it out there that there is this narrative going around and [Max’s team] are already trying to assign blame to us, that is all a lie. I wanted to pinpoint that as a narrative going around from his team.”
Chiyo urged Max and his management that the best way to move forward from this was to “publicly apologise to the trans community.”
They also stated their support for Not A Phase and reiterated that their criticisms were in regards to Max and his team, not the charity. Max Balegde did not immediately respond to Centennial World’s request for comment.