August 17, 2019

A YouTuber with a grudge and a good heart began a live-stream play-through of Donkey Kong 64 via Twitch on Jan. 18, with all donations received from viewers benefiting U.K.-based organization Mermaids, all in an effort to spite a sitcom writer.

A proposed lottery grant for Mermaids, an organization dedicated to supporting trans youth, was put under review after writer Graham Linehan encouraged the public on a website called Mumsnet to send letters of concern about the grant.

The stream, titled “Donkey Kong 64 Charity Nightmare for Mermaids,” attracted an abundance of attention online, including appearances in-stream by CEO of Mermaids Susie Green, U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, voice of Donkey Kong Grant Kirkhope and more. Many of the guests were young trans people.

Harry Brewis, known on his Twitch channel and YouTube account as Hbomberguy, played the Nintendo game and left the stream running for nearly 60 hours beginning on Friday evening to spite Linehan. His goal was to complete the game to 101 per cent, getting every item and doing everything possible in the game while viewers donated to his original $500 goal.

“Well done, Graham,” he said in a YouTube video informing viewers about the charity stream event he was planning and why. “You have a massive audience and the power to choose to fight for progress in all the many forms we need in the world right now and you used it to make sure some children won’t have access to helpful resources.”

He also expressed in the video that he had a grudge against the game, stating, “I never actually beat Donkey Kong 64 as a kid. So to finally put this little f***** to rest, I’m going to stream it.”

Brewis expresses his horror at having failed mini game, Beaver Bother, while viewers donate. He ended up spending nearly two hours trying to complete the mini game. Photo by Twitch.

What Brewis didn’t expect was just how powerfully the charity stream would explode and that he and his viewers would end up collectively donating $347,135 US by the end of the stream, a number that is still growing as the donation link remains open.

He began the stream with no video on a black screen with the donation progress bar while he prepared to get on camera. Before he ever even appeared in the stream, donations were already at $325, more than halfway to his original goal. Thirteen minutes into the stream, he surpassed it. By the time he actually started the video game, he had doubled it.

“The big thing that happened was, when Bill Nye did his new show, he did an episode about gender and gender expression and sexuality and the differences between those things, the spectrum between those things,” Brewis explained as to how he began getting into trans rights advocacy. “And so many people came out of the woodwork to pretend that they knew the science, that I thought, ‘I have to, like, look into this.’ And I found studying that so interesting and I made two videos about it.”

“I don’t feel like I really need an excuse [to be an advocate],” he explained. “I wish I had a fun explanation but really it’s just the right thing to do, that’s really all I can say.”

Brewis is known on YouTube for his series titled A Measured Response, where he dissects and debunks the opinions, claims and views of other people on the Internet in a humorous manner.

“It was a really fun and lighthearted thing to make the stream around,” said Sera Hopkins, a transgender woman and fan of Brewis who watched the stream, in reference to Donkey Kong 64 being in the background for the entire thing. “It wasn’t a big part of the whole experience to me personally, but I liked being able to watch something that reminded me of being a little girl just having fun on a Saturday. I don’t know if it was an intentional choice, but that’s how I felt about it.”

The chat feature on the stream was full of thousands of enthusiastic viewers and was quite active throughout the entire event, with more than 78,000 views total.

Almost all guests made a point of saying, “Trans rights are human rights,” at some point during the stream.

Brewis did sleep periodically, placing a skeleton model in his chair while he rested. Fans excitedly commented on every action he did on stream, including brushing his teeth, and began referring to themselves as “skeleton crew,” “teeth gang,” and even “feet gang” when a glimpse of his foot slipped into frame while he was sleeping.

Brewis sleeps while the skeleton holds his place on camera, wearing a sweater and headset. Photo by Twitch.

Hopkins said she was very excited about the support demonstrated by viewers and participants.

“He’s a really cool guy generally,” she said of Bewis. “He and Shaun, who was also on the stream, are two of the best cis people I’ve heard talk about trans issues. It was also great to hear Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez call in and voice support.”

“This last year has felt like everyone was crawling out of the woodwork to be transphobic, like it’s the hottest thing,” Hopkins continued. “Hell, some dude busted out my car’s back windshield a couple of months ago for it and I live in a generally progressive neighbourhood. But this made me feel like there’s a real chance that those people aren’t the majority. I’m very happy to hear that Hbomberguy was able to raise that much for Mermaids. I would’ve done anything for the kind of support they offer kids back when I was a teenager.”

Canada has organizations just like Mermaids that offer support to members of the LGBTQ+ community as well. Senior consultant of Toronto-based organization The 519, Jacq Hixson-Vulpe, said that government funding for organizations such as Mermaids and The 519 is important for reasons that go deeper than finances.

“A, it recognizes that LGBTQ2S folks are valuable and important parts of our society.” said Hixson-Vulpe. “That we are taxpayers, we are citizens, we are individuals that have a right to be recognized, is really important, and that we are a thriving community that have a lot to add to society in general.”

“But also the important recognition that in Canada, all levels of government have at some point targeted queers. The Canadian war on queers, where civil servants were fired if they were suspected of being lesbian, gay, bi, trans, two spirit; there was the fruit machine, that was well documented, where they came up with a test where they thought they could identify who was gay. So the recognition that individuals have been fired from their jobs, have been denied pensions, all of these different things. Having governmental funding actually hopefully works towards repairing really damaged relationships that continue to exist between different levels of government and LGBTQ2S communities. And there’s so much more that those governments need to do in order to repair those relationships. So giving funding is an important start, but there’s a lot more that can be done.”

When asked what they wish that more people knew about trans folks, Hopkins and Hixson-Vulpe had advice.

“There’s two things I want people to know,” said Hopkins. “One, if a trans person corrects you or points out that you’ve made a mistake, don’t overreact and try to make yourself the victim or try to explain by saying how hard it is or something. Just apologize and try to be better. Two, trans women are not men who want to be women. Trans men are not women who want to be men. I am not a gay man. My boyfriend is not a lesbian. I am a woman. He is a man.”

“We all make gendered decisions every day. We all have a gender identity,” Hixson-Vulpe said. “Often, we only talk about gender identities when they go against the norm or we recognize different narratives when they go against the norm. So the idea that a child may wish to transition or may wish to change their name or change how they present 80 times before they’re 10 is seen as somehow wrong as opposed to the recognition that every day, a little cis boy or a little cis girl is gonna make the same decisions about their gender, but it’s deemed normal or normative, so we don’t really understand that fact. So of course it’s more important to allow an individual to make a decision as to who they are and maybe change that identity 80 times before they’re 10; otherwise, they may not reach adulthood,” they said, referencing the high suicide rates among trans youth. “It’s more important for us to live fulfilling lives. So again, that recognition that we all make gendered decisions and we only really see them when they go against the norm.”

As the final credits began to roll when he finally finished the game at around the 57 hours and 48 minute mark, emotions began to rise as Brewis thanked his fans and contributors.

“This has been the most amazing 60 hours of my entire life. Thank you all for coming out and donating; you did all the real work. . . I’ve just had a pretty good time playing a game from my childhood, even more than I ever would have wanted to, and it’s been so, so wonderful and I’m so proud of having been given the opportunity to do any of this. It’s over, I did it! I’ve settled the score with my childhood.”

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