Cooperative Care: Queering Self-Care

December 4, 2019


By Mandy Taylor


Self-care is vital to our mental health and wellness. However, many of us in the queer community have limited resources as a result of discrimination, family rejection, and health disparities.

Illustration: Cloudy Thurstag

While our social determinants of health impact our access to traditional “self-care” options, our exposure to minority stress increases our allostatic load which in turn means we NEED care and rest and support even more than our straight, cis, white, abled-bodied, male counter parts. This makes it extra frustrating then when providers and other well-meaning folks tout self-care but provide options that REQUIRE RESOURCES WE DON’T HAVE.

But if our community is anything, it is resilient and creative! We have figured out amazing ways to come together to support each-other, pool resources, and build cooperative capacity.


Examples of Cooperative Care:

Femmes to the Front: Care centered events that include scholarship options and accessibility support

Transgiving and Queersmas: Creating safe and supportive spaces during hard times

Queer Clothing Swap: Clean out closets and welcome ALL bodies to find clothes that work for them without judgments about size or gender expression.

Want to know another thing our community is good at? Community led movements for change! We propose that you, YES YOU, have capacity to organize cooperative care that supports you and your community.

Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection.


Cooperative Care YOU can organize:

– Feel overwhelmed by household tasks? Organize a group of friends that rotate houses each week/month, working as a group to get the tasks done.

– Do you have non-normative finances and could use some solidarity figuring sh!t out? Single parent, sex-worker, fixed income, multiple nesting partners, gig economy or street economy income – We see you! Set up a monthly meet up where folks can come together and keep each other company while they make their budgets, or pay their bills, or share saving strategies.

– Too many things you don’t need and not enough of the things you do? Host a swap at your place, a friend’s, or a local org. You can choose who (open/invite only) and what (clothes, kids’ items, household stuff, etc.). Anything left over can get donated to a local thrift store.

– Is your doctor transphobic, queerphobic, ableist, racisist, etc. but you need to go see them to take care of yourself? Tag in a Health Buddy! Ask someone(s) in your community if they can come with you as a support person to your medical appointment. Support people can help identify and resist –isms and micro-aggressions, they can take notes or remember for you if anxiety impairs your executive functioning during the appointment, and they can be your advocate. Offer to be a Health Buddy! It is often easier to navigate health issues when they are not our own. Or maybe you’ve been through something similar and can use your lived experience expertise to advocate for another community member.

– Who has time, energy, and money for a spa day? Not this queer! But you know who is really good at pooling resources together to make something great? QUEERS! Schedule your own Queer Spa Night. Make masks and scrubs using DIY recipes online, soak your tootsies in some warm salt water using containers from around the house, take turns painting each-other’s nails using whatever polish folks have hanging around to bring, light the candles gathering dust in that one friend’s closet. We deserve to be pampered after dealing with the world’s nonsense, so let’s pamper each-other!

– You know eating healthy is an important part of self-care BUT you’re too broke to eat out, cooking at home takes too much energy and you’re tired, you are busy surviving by working multiple jobs and just don’t have time to stop for cooking or eating. Throw a Meal Prep Party! Each person brings a recipe and ingredients to make a meal that freezes well. You prepare all the meals, box them up in single serving containers, label and date, then each person brings home some of each meal to keep in the fridge or freezer.

– Want to see all of your friends but the bar scene isn’t working for you and dinner out is too expensive? Don’t miss that quality time, it is good for your soul! Instead Plan a Potluck. You can add activities like board games or cards or have a fun theme like “bring your favorite childhood comfort food.”

– Fighting off macroaggressions in your weekly staff meeting or just feeling down? Think about establishing an Affirmation Group Message where you can share uplifting words, funny memes, and encouragement for each other when the world is rough.

– Another option for when you just don’t have capacity to be in a group setting, let safe folks know you could use some low engagement encouragement – maybe they can surprise you with a homemade gift or baked goods left on your porch or maybe they could leave you a post-it on your windshield or at your desk. There are lots of creative and free ways we can gift each other good thoughts!

*Do you have other examples? Please add them in to the comments!


For those of you who are not able to connect with other queer folks for cooperative care (because you live in a geographically isolated place, you don’t feel safe being out, you prefer solo care, or another reason), we are also including some ideas for free things you can do by yourself.

Free Self-Care Ideas:

Mental Health Self Care Resources for Queer and Trans POC

Holiday E-Care Package (I signed up to verify. It really is free and it really is amazing!)

Minority Stress is Real: 5 Self-care tips to help you survive and thrive

You are Not Alone: Self-care tips and resources for trans folx

5 Awesome Immediate Self-care Resources for When You Feel Like Actual Garbage

Five Essential Self-care Habits for Queers

Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping with Stress (good list to print and post up somewhere visible)

100+ Free Self-care Ideas to Help You Flourish in Life (another great list for printing out)


You are worthy of care, kindness, and consideration. Go forth and love on yourself and others!