Who are we?
We are a community empowerment, Muay Thai and self-defense training movement. Over the past three years, we have taught many Muay Thai and boxing classes to the queer community. We have also led self-defense training workshops for Hackney council, Project Indigo, Dalston Superstore staff and the LGBTQ+ centre.
We began in early 2020 out of the Queer Night Pride demonstrations organized to Reclaim the Streets For LGBTQ People, and with rising hate crimes, we wanted to do something more integrated and regular.
According to a report by Galop, an anti-queer violence charity, three in five LGBT+ people experiencing hate crimes want and need help, but only one in five can access any support. Worryingly, the number of incidents reported is increasing — UK Home Office figures show that the number of LGBT+ hate crimes reported has grown at twice the rate of other hate crimes over the past two years. You can imagine the knock-on effect this has on depression and anxiety rates.
Since then, we have trained over 40 people per week; we had to cap our numbers because so many kept turning up: there is a growing demand for our training. Our amazing trainers want to go more full-time, so we need your help! We are not interested in getting sponsorship from any corporation that exploits their workers or land (see Nike or Adidas), and we will not accept donations from them.
Our classes are not just about self defence: they are mainly about joy, community building and providing a space where queer people can release burdens and anxiety through movements. We make sure that trans-feminine people in particular have access to our spaces as a response to the hostile movement to exclude them from competitive sports.
We hope to raise £12,000 to support our trainers to hold a year's worth of regular training for cheap prices for our community so they are accessible for all. We have raised 1/2 of the £££ so far! Please help us to keep going!
Your generous support will help us to …
Pay our coaches to: plan the lessons, teach, and make sure that TERFS, SWERFS and bigots don’t have access to our Instagram platform.
Get some equipment to teach the classes such as: shin pads, kick pads and boxing gloves.
In terms of funding this is how we are going to use your donations:
£10.660 will be used to pay the coaches per class they teach, this amount will cover their payments for a whole year.
£1.340 will be used to buy new equipment to teach out classes and to create more slots available for people to join. At the moment we have to keep our numbers low because we lack training equipment.
We would LOVE to build partnerships with other LGBTQIA+ grassroots movements and organisations - please do get in touch.
"As queer people, we can often become detached from our bodies; they can become prisons. Boxing can help you appreciate what your body can do for you and what it can take." Clarisse, 31
"As a queer trans person with chronic health conditions, most exercise or sport spaces felt inaccessible, as well as gyms spaces felt intimidating or unsafe. However, I've been coming back to Bender Defenders every week (almost!) for 9 months now, as it is a space that feels welcome, open and genuinely supportive.
The coaches are considerate of people's different physical limits and capacities, and they guide and adapt the teaching to different people's needs. I get to learn new techniques, feel more safe and confident in myself and in my body, as well as be in a non competitive space that it affirming of trans and queer identities.
I feel comfortable and relaxed and I have met lovely people and found a real sense of community here. Thanks so much to the coaches Luca, Cat and Trevor who have put in so much time and energy for free to create such a great space over the past two years.
It would be great if you are able to donate as this kind of community run class in London is special and rare!
It will really help enable more trans and queer people to come together, feel safer and more confident in their daily lives. If we can continue sustaining this space, then I hope Bender Defenders will be able to welcome even more queer and trans people to join in future!"
"As a trans person, Bender Defenders is the first place I've felt comfortable enough to be fully myself while exercising, which has kept me coming back all this year - it's a really important part of my week! I really appreciate the confidence and mental calm that doing combat sport has given me and I'm super greatful to Luca, Cat and trevor for the work that they do to keep this a welcoming space where queer people can work towards a healthy relationship with exercise along with others in our community"
"Bender Defenders has created a LGBTQI+ fitness pace where people can feel comfortable and encouraged to exercise together, learn new skills and make friends. Traditional gyms can be hugely problematic spaces and BD creates an inclusive community of joy through exercise.
Personally, as someone queer and neurodivergent, I have found a community and a true belief in my own physical strenght for the first time. All with thanks to the coaches who give their full time and energy to us all each week"
"Having tried a couple of different martial arts classes in the past and not finding them to feel to be particularly friendly environments for a queer person, I was very glad to find Bender Defenders. From the first time I felt welcomed in both by the instructors and those attending the class.
I do Muay Thai with Luca and as instructor, who always succeds in delivering a fun class with a good structure to it. I love it that he manages to make it accessible to new comers like me, but still enables progression for those who have been going for a while.
Luca, Cat and Trevor have created something really special with Bender Defenders, donations would help to protect their ability to continue providing brilliant classes at very affordable rates"
"The Bender Defenders classes are a great place to learn about self defence, helps boost your confidence and allows you to meet new people from the community.
People should donate as places like Bender Defenders are rare and the amazing instructors Cat, Luca and Trevor deserve support for their time
The vibe of this club is always positive and supportive. I highly recommend it!"
"I started attending Bender Defenders in December and it has been hugely beneficial for my overall well being, as a trans person there are limited spaces to access sport. I have found it to both improve my dysphoria and help me feel more confident in myself. Walking through the world as a trans person is scary and having the skilled gained through Muay Thai for self defence really helps to manage some of my anxiety.
I have always left feeling energised and happy. Bender Defenders is a vital group for the queer community in East London that is accessible and affordable, donating will help more trans people find joy in our bodies"
"I come to Bender Defenders so I can get fit and learn how to protect myself as a woman and to release some stress. I love Bender Defenders because it is an intentional inclusive space for LGBTQIA with very high standards of coaching which is rare to see. People should donate to keep the space going, because this space has saved many people amongst the queer community. It has created a family for people who don't have one and I can see that amongst the folks. People should donate so we can go more because now we have limited numbers and it always get booked so fast lol!"
Read more about us here