By Rachel Savage
LONDON, Jan 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.S. singer Cher, transgender army whistleblower Chelsea Manning and U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have backed a British YouTuber who played a video game for 58 hours to show support for a British transgender children's charity.
Hbomberguy, whose real name is Harry Brewis, began his fund-raising gaming marathon on Friday by playing "Donkey Kong 64" on the livestreaming platform Twitch following public criticism of the British charity Mermaids and it quickly went global.
Critics of Mermaids have accused the charity of campaigning for children to be given prohibited sex-change treatment without evidence it was safe for them.
But Mermaids has countered the criticism by saying that it did not give medical advice and only informed parents and young people of treatment options.
The row has come amid an increasingly heated debate in Britain on trans rights with trans advocates arguing for the right to determine their gender while others feared self-identification would make women-only spaces unsafe.
"I find the media discussion surrounding this issue in my country, especially in its tabloids, to be woefully misinformed," Brewis said in a video posted to his 300,000 YouTube subscribers.
Brewis' fundraiser received boosts on Twitter from Cher, actress Mara Wilson, who played Matilda in the eponymous 1996 film, and Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. soldier who passed almost 750,000 classified documents to Wikileaks.
He ended up raising about 266,000 pounds ($340,000), or about two-thirds of Mermaids' income in 2018, which the charity's Chief Executive Susie Green said would probably be spent on staffing.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, a recently-elected Democrat congresswoman whose use of social media has won her legions of millennial fans, said the prejudice trans people faced compounded issues such as poverty.
"Discrimination is a core reason for economic hardship," she said in a guest appearance on Brewis' livestream.
Brewis said his fundraiser was triggered by Graham Linehan, a British TV writer, who rallied critics after 500,000 pounds was awarded to Mermaids by the Big Lottery Fund, a public body that distributes funds raised by the National Lottery.
Big Lottery subsequently announced it was reviewing the grant with its decision expected later this month.
Linehan did not respond to a request on Twitter for comment.
($1 = 0.7759 pounds) (Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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