Creative CrowdFunding in Lexington: Jackson Cofer’s IndieGoGo Success Story

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In this week’s Ace cover story, on stands 8.09.2012, Ann Bransom writes about crowdfunding in Lexington (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc.)  “LGBTIQQA activist, Jackson Cofer, started a campaign entitled Top Surgery indiegogo.com/jacksoncofer) to raise money for surgery to complete his final stage of gender reassignment. Cofer, full-time student in UK’s art administration program and Sales & Grants Director at WRFL 88.1 FM, utilized some very creative perks in his campaign to incentivize friends and loved ones into giving. For example, $10 donors each received personalized axolotl cartoons drawn by Cofer himself. The first ten $100 donors were invited to a pancake breakfast at Cofer’s home, and $1,000 donors were entitled to 50 hours of volunteer work on the part of the fundraiser. Cofer met and exceeded his goal of $7,000, raising $7,777 total.”

Below, we asked Cofer to share his IndieGoGo success story with the Ace Readers. 

Top Surgery

Completing My Journey to My Long-Awaited Manhood

BY JACKSON COFER

First off, I didn’t even want to do a fundraising campaign of any kind for my surgery. I felt like it wasn’t a worthy pursuit in the face of so many people around me dealing with health issues of different kinds, who needed certain services more than I.

However, the more I talked about it with friends, the more validity I received in terms of the fact that….I did need this surgery. My back problems, the crippling mentality of binding for three years, my growing urgency to be more like who I was on the inside, are issues that differ from most others but they are just as worthy of remedy.

Jackson Cofer: Two Weeks Post-op

Then one day my friend, Tim Buckingham said, “Jack, if you do this, I will donate and I know others will too.” Those words from a man in our community that I have a lot of respect for just sent me over the edge. I got excited and felt like this could actually happen.

The initial goal was to raise half the cost and then apply for a grant from the Jim Collins Foundation. I researched Kickstarter – they only fund creative projects. I also looked into ChipIn but as I recall, their site was difficult to work with. IndieGoGo was not only easy but they had an established community, they let you keep the funds you raise even without hitting your goal (the fee jumps from 4% to 9%) and they promote your campaign on their site.

It is here that I stop ragging on Facebook as we so easily do all the time and acknowledge that without it, I may not have reached my goal. Friends shared with friends, posted on walls, re-shared and celebrated every milestone with me through the miracle of social networking. Parents of friends donated. 2 fans of my character in a locally shot webseries, one in Austria, the other in England, gave substantial amounts. A 15-year-old girl saw my story on her friend’s wall and gave the last 3 dollars in her bank account. High school classmates expressed financial support. People in the community of Lexington who I didn’t even think knew I existed, gave.

The amount of notifications from Facebook messaging in my gmail nearly approached the number of notifications from IndieGoGo themselves. I received messages from people I have never met and may never get to thank in person. Their reasons for giving ranged. One even said, “I don’t know why I’m doing this but here it is” and donated $100.00. There has been a great deal of dialogue – all of it positive. I received exactly zero negative comments or messages.

Also the range of donations were huge. $3 was the lowest but came from the biggest heart and $500.00 came from a certain brave and beautiful Lexingtonian who shared from the funds raised from her husband’s struggle with cancer. He passed away at the exact hour that I was being operated on. I think it was the universe’s way of allowing us to meet, crossing one another’s respective paths, as we had never had a chance in person. I can never thank that family enough.

By the second week of the campaign, over 2,000.00 was raised. Long before the campaign was due to be over, my goal was surpassed. At the end, my community and far away friends and loved ones gathered $7,777.00 – a very lucky number if I do say so myself.

Transvisibility is still a struggle. I wouldn’t want to be me anywhere else. Thank you, Lexington.

Post Op:

The term “transgender” stems from the idea of transcending gender roles rather than conforming to them. Two weeks after my operation I find with some surprise that I do not feel like I transcended anything at all. Instead I feel simply as though I have reached full fruition – not going beyond but becoming full and present. When the bandages came off 5 days after the surgery and I looked down, I didn’t feel like I saw myself for the first time, but that the world around me finally did. Because of the great care I gave my body before the surgery and because of my amazing support network of friends and family, my healing has been swift and relatively painless. The bottom line is be good to yourself, be who you are and do your homework. [My doctor] was very skilled at what he does, he cares personally about trans related issues AND he’s a former Wildcat! With that being said, I may owe myself a pat on the back but I surely owe so much more to the people far and wide who contributed to this monumental point in my life.

Notes from Jack’s IndieGoGo Page:

My name is Jackson Cofer and I live in Lexington, KY. Born in North Carolina and raised in Jupiter, FL I have been a Kentuckian for the past 9 years. More importantly, I have discovered my true self as an activist, advocate and voice for the LGBTIQQA community.

In 2008, I came out to my close friends and partner as transgender. A year later I was going by my chosen name of “Jackson,” quit smoking and began binding. One year after that, I began hormone therapy…

So here we are, at my FINAL stage of transition! I have no desire to transform myself beyond top surgery and so it is now that I ask for the help of my loved ones, colleagues, friends and communities.

I have found a doctor in Cleveland and have completed my evaluation. The cost of surgery with everything included will be $6,000.00….

A bit about my financial situation: I am a full-time student at the University of Kentucky in the Arts Administration program. In addition to that I do part-time Standardized Patient work for the College of Medicine, am the Sales & Grants Director at WRFL 88.1 FM and a part-time receptionist for LexArts, a United Arts Fund.

I have paid off my credit card debt as of three years ago, do not own a car and live as modestly as I can. I cannot afford this surgery.

…I just want to be able to swim in a public pool, wear a tank top in the summertime, be able to lounge around my house without worrying who may drop by and simply feel okay with my body. I am 27 years old and I haven’t loved my body. Ever. It has made it very hard for me to love myself.

I understand that these are hard times for all of us financially and your generosity will not go unnoticed. Please take a look at the perks I have listed. I really tried to think of things I could give within reason that I felt were unique to who I am and my relationship to my community.

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