12/12/2017 16:10 EST | Updated 12/13/2017 13:52 EST

Transgender Cree Writer May Miss Huge Opportunity For Lack Of Cash

Arielle Twist started a GoFundMe campaign to write her first book.

Arielle Twist/GoFundMe

For an emerging writer, it's a dream come true.

Two weeks (or longer) to work on your first book in a private studio, nestled in the snowy mountains, embraced by a community of like-minded artists and mentors. But the prestigious Winter Writers Retreat at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alta., which emerging Halifax writer Arielle Twist was just accepted to, will cost her $1,200 to attend, plus the cost of travel and lost wages.

And for Twist who is Cree, transgender, and used to live in a youth shelter that's an impossible sum.

"As a trans woman of colour it feels amazing to be offered such an amazing opportunity to focus time on my first book and have access to my ancestors' land and energy that I have been displaced from," Twist wrote on the GoFundMe page she created on Dec. 9.

But, she added, "the luxury of having access [to] funds that I can earmark outside of living necessities is not my current reality. Having access to this program would allow me to focus on honing my craft and work with a break from constantly prioritizing survival over creativity."

Finances are a major barrier for many transgender people in Canada. Although no national data exists, the median household income for trans people in Ontario is just $15,000, according to Ontario's Trans Pulse Project.

Transgender people also face discriminatory and structural barriers to employment, The Trans Pulse Project reports.

Twist spent five months living in a youth shelter in her early 20s, then lived in subsidized housing until 2016, according to her GoFundMe page. Eventually, she found retail work and worked her way up to being operations manager of a small business in Halifax, and is also a sex educator that works with universities and organizations throughout the Maritimes.


A post shared by Arielle Twist (@arielletwist) on

It was during this time that she wrote a draft of her first manuscript, Twist said. Since then, she's been invited to speak at the Naked Heart Festival in Toronto, and had an essay about what it's like to be an Indigenous trans woman on Thanksgiving published in Them.

"I am thankful for the patience, patience in knowing what I deserve, and trust that my ancestors, would still call me magic," Twist wrote in the essay.

Being able to attend the Winter Writers Retreat in Banff would be an "enormous opportunity," Twist wrote on her GoFundMe page.

"Unfortunately, this opportunity is quite expensive; is not fully covered, and as many of you know financial stability is not something that is readily available to me," Twist said.

"I feel as though there is so much for me to write and express that I sadly feel I don't have time for or feel as though my energy is depleted from working full time."

Twist's GoFundMe page, which is currently trending, has been shared on social media by other Indigenous writers including poet and author of Full-Metal Indigiqueer Joshua Whitehead, and actor/playwright/author/artistic director Reneltta Arluk.

Twist had raised $1,590 of her $5,000 goal by Tuesday afternoon.

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