Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Ferndale-based mental health service Transcend the Binary has launched a weekly streaming series creating community around queer narratives.

MICHIGAN — Ferndale-based mental health service Transcend the Binary is getting cinematic in efforts to support their trans and gender nonconforming clientele through Michigan’s stay-at-home order.

The organization has launched a weekly streaming series called “Quarantine & Chill” featuring films, TV series and anime driven by queer narratives. 

“We wanted to do something where people weren’t isolated, where you can chat together, where you can meet new people and have that sense of community,” said Transcend the Binary co-founder and executive director Brayden Misiolek. “And we’re showing actual trans and gender nonconforming narratives — that’s important too.”

Transcend the Binary got its official start in 2015 when Misiolek partnered with pharmacist and LGBTQ+ ally Darnell Jones, who had been cultivating medical resources for the trans community since the early 2010’s. Since its inception, TTB’s peer-led services have grown to include transition planning, peer counseling, clinical referrals, community outreach, arts and culture events, and more. 

Committed to making their services accessible, TTB invested in telehealth services years before the COVID-19 outbreak in 2017.

“Telehealth was a natural step,” said Misiolek. “It helps people overcome transportation barriers. It helps us reach people throughout the state and it gives us a good platform to continue to grow.”

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That existing infrastructure set the remote, all-volunteer TTB staff up for a “pretty seamless” transition once Michigan went into lockdown, said Misiolek — and that allowed the team to direct time and energy toward supporting their community in holistic, creative ways. 

In addition to providing COVID-specific resources like LGBTQ+ hotlines and links to food box pickups on their Facebook page, TTB launched their Quarantine & Chill streaming series when the virus hit Michigan in mid-March. 

“We see the social element of health and wellness as really critical, and that’s why we are really big about creating community spaces,” said Misiolek. 

Those community spaces became even more vital for many among TTB’s clientele during Michigan’s stay-at-home order. 

“I think when it came to the point of actually being isolated, there was a realization of how heavy that hits in the queer community,” said Mordecai Jackson, head of community and artist engagement. “We need to be in queer spaces to feel whole, in a sense. 

“Having to be locked in a space — like, for example, being in a home that is not as accepting and not being able to leave — would put a lot of strain on that person as an individual. So the idea came to get as many queer people as we could together to do something, even if we couldn’t physically be in the same space.” 

Since the first stream on March 20, which featured the classic drag scene documentary Paris is Burning, TTB has shown Moonlight, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, anime series Wandering Son and Hunter x Hunter, and TV series Pose and Euphoria

The stream has seen over 200 unique visitors with many returning week after week, and they’re making requests. 

“We showed the Euphoria pilot and then we skipped to something else, and people were like, ‘No, bring that back!’” said Misiolek. “So we look forward to seeing where it can grow, especially from a discussion standpoint.” 

Jackson, who moderates the live chat each week, said he’s enjoyed the active discussion (which has touched on LGBTQ+ Sailor Moon conspiracies) and seeing friendships bloom. After seeing its effects, he said he’s not planning on leaving the event series behind once quarantine passes. 

“I know we mentioned doing a show, bringing people in, putting a projection on a wall and just watching a movie together,” said Jackson. “We’re also working on building kind of the same Quarantine & Chill idea, but we’re trying to morph it into a way to connect musicians and artists in a similar space. So we’re building a discourse over how to engage artists and musicians in a way that we’ve been engaging people who watch movies and films.” 

Accessibility remains at the forefront of the team’s future plans.

“We see a mix of doing virtual, which is helpful because we can connect with people outside of the local area,” said Misiolek. “Not everyone has access to local community centers and spaces where it’s okay to be out and not be judged and everything like that. 

“So virtual is really helpful, whether it’s a location issue or having access to a car to be able to go somewhere or living in a controlling environment where you just can’t do those things. So we want to continue to do that, but we also want to bring in in-person elements.”

For the time being, Quarantine & Chill remains a weekly stream on Kast. You can find the event series on Transcend the Binary’s Facebook events page

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