First, a bit of background. Trans rights are a controversial topic in the UK currently with mainstream newspapers exhibiting some of the most toxic and transphobic headlines; The Telegraph recently ran a front-page story titled “Trans row as men get access to women’s NHS wards”. Not only does this mis-gender trans women in the headline, but it is also a classic fearmongering tactic that hearkens back to the days of ‘gay men are a danger to your children’ and other such 80s classics. Transphobia is not exclusive to right leaning newspapers – even the supposedly liberal Guardian ran an editorial claiming that the rights of trans women collide with those of cis women, despite numerous academic studies showing otherwise. The Guardian’s own US journalists wrote an article denouncing the UK editorial as “advancing transphobic viewpoints that are driving attacks on trans rights in America”. Clearly, there is a long way to go to securing acceptance and rights for trans people, especially here in the UK.

This is where things get a bit weird: a few months ago, the National Lottery Fund announced a £500,000 grant to Mermaids, a UK charity that provides mental health support for transgender and gender diverse children. This was met with praise from the progressive parts of the political spectrum, and disdain from one Graham Linehan, the creator of shows such as Father Ted and The IT Crowd (yep, we are in a weird timeline). Linehan, known as @Glinner on Twitter, proceeded to rally transphobes on Mumsnet (again, it’s a weird timeline) to spam the National Lottery Fund with faux concerns about the charity until they announced they were carrying out a review of the grant. Glinner and the Mumsnet transphobes rejoiced, thinking they had won the war. This is where we finally get to January 14th 2019 – enter Harry Brewis.

Hbomberguy is a UK YouTuber with almost 350k subscribers, creating videos ranging from video essays on gaming, to ‘Measured Responses’: well-researched videos tackling the arguments of the alt-right, the YouTube ‘skeptic’ community, and even flat earthers. He is part of a new wave of YouTubers referred to as ‘LeftTube’, or ‘BreadTube’ (after The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin), which includes other creators such as ContraPoints and PhilosophyTube, and is forming a sort of counter-culture to the wealth of right-wing reactionary content often found on YouTube.

Last Monday, hbomberguy announced that he will be livestreaming a 101% playthrough of Donkey Kong 64, a Nintendo 64 game from 1999 that he had never completed before. In his announcement video, he said that in order to spite Glinner, the livestream will be raising money for Mermaids. The livestream commenced 8:30pm last Friday on Twitch, with an initial target of $500. He vowed that the livestream would not end until the game was completed, unbeknownst of what lies ahead.

This initial target was smashed as the livestream gained immense popularity. On Twitter it gained a lot of traction, with the livestream reaching many people who had never even watched a Twitch livestream before, and who had never heard of hbomberguy. Harry ensured that the event was not all about him; with background work from trans Twitch streamer Casey Explosion, and with fellow YouTubers Shaun and Dan Olson, the stream became a platform for voices from the trans community, both well known and unknown. People would join the Discord call and talk to Harry and each other on the stream while he exasperatedly tried to beat Beaver Bother, a minigame in DK64. Guests included Lily Madigan, who is the first trans woman to become a woman’s officer of a UK political party (Labour), and Chelsea Manning, the former United States Army soldier and whistleblower who leaked a wealth of classified documents and was sentenced to 35 years in prison, transitioning while in prison before being freed by President Obama on one of his last days in office. Natalie Wynn of ContraPoints also showed up as part of the ‘Skeleton Crew’, a group of YouTubers hosting conversations on the livestream while Harry got his much-needed sleep.

Guests also included fellow YouTubers Oliver Thorn from PhilosophyTube, Adam Conover of the Adam Ruins Everything webseries, game developer John Romero, and Guardian writer Owen Jones. The stream had raised $160,000 by 2pm on Sunday, and was already deemed a massive success. However, on Sunday evening, it was retweeted by more traditional celebrities such as Neil Gaiman and Cher, before reaching and being retweeted by newly elected Congresswoman for New York’s 14th congressional district, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Immediately the chat went wild with a flurry of ‘AOC!’ comments appearing. Ocasio-Cortez has been a rising star of the American left since she unseated Democrat incumbent Joe Crowley in a primary election back in June, and proceeded to become the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress. Her popularity has only been boosted by the attacks on her from right wing media and politicians which she expertly responds to on Twitter. It was no surprise to see her popularity amongst this audience, and shortly after her retweet she joined the call and the crowd went wild. Harry himself was shocked that he was conversing with Ocasio-Cortez 50 hours into a Donkey Kong livestream.

The livestream ended on Monday morning having raised over $340,000 for Mermaids in a massive act of solidarity with the trans community. It has since been covered extensively by the media and has provided a voice to a neglected and abused section of our society. All expectations were exceeded, and it will certainly go down as one of the best online moments of 2019.

Harry Brewis and Oliver Thorn will be joining the Labour Society and Left Forum on Tuesday, at 6:30pm in SAF G16, to discuss Politics in the Age of YouTube. Expect discussion on this ground-breaking livestream and more – you don’t need to be a member to come. Get your ticket for free at