Transgender nonprofit opens a thrift shop in Portland to create a safe, ungendered shopping space

On a Sunday afternoon in early June, Louis Smith and his buddy Solis Juarez-Like are browsing the racks at Safe and sound Combos, a new thrift shop in Portland.

It is not just any thrift shop, though. It was made by the nonprofit Maine TransNet with individuals like Smith and Juarez-Enjoy in intellect – transgender and nonbinary individuals who are on the lookout for a secure, welcoming and ungendered room to try on and get economical clothes.

Smith gravitates in direction of a red costume with white bouquets. Right after a couple seconds, he places the dress back on the rack and proceeds searching, casually chatting with Juarez-Love and Kai Cardinal, the thrift retailer supervisor. He would make his way again to the dress.

“I just keep coming back to this,” Smith suggests whilst holding up the costume.

“Grab it! Get it, acquire it!” Juarez-Enjoy encourages him.

Smith says it is not anything he would typically don, but lately he is been curious to experiment with his wardrobe.

“I think I’m like getting like androgyny in like newborn steps,” he states. “I’m getting there.” 

Cardinal, the shop manager, encourages him to check out it on. Smith considers this, appearing not sure as he seems to be back at the dress and then to Cardinal. Last but not least, he smiles and agrees to give it a check out.

Smith and Juarez-Really like head to the dressing room. Cardinal states the independence to experiment and test on whatsoever you want is precisely why Risk-free Combinations exists. All of the donated clothes is arranged by style – tops, bottoms, sneakers – and there are no male or woman sections.

“Part of the procedure for this was determining how to greatest rack almost everything as un-gender divided as achievable,” Cardinal claimed. “We really encourage individuals who have a pleasant large dressing area to test almost everything on as they go. It can be hard to determine out your sizing when you start off transitioning and begin presenting in distinct methods.”

Cardinal states Maine TransNet made the decision to open up Protected Combos just after years of listening to about damaging purchasing ordeals, like harassment, from the transgender group in Maine. Juarez-Adore states he’s felt anxious and worried shopping at some shops in the earlier. But not listed here.

“I can experience relaxed and risk-free [here], sort of hunting at whatsoever I want to glimpse at without having persons wanting at me and thinking what I’m doing and thinking what I’m executing like in their area,” Juarez-Adore says.

“I assume each trans individual has a story like that, specifically early into transition, the place you get informed ‘no,’ or you get stared at, or you get treated inadequately,” Cardinal states. “It can be a incredibly dysphoric experience to go as a result of and store at a frequent outlet store or at an additional thrift shop mainly because it truly is extremely community. And it can really feel like the full entire world seeing you.”

Hazel Johnson, a Maine TransNet volunteer, says getting an affirming put to store is incredibly crucial for trans people today as they begin to transition.

“You can go into any old shop and obtain a shirt that is going to in good shape you and include you and do its job. But it truly is tricky to go into a spot and discover a thing that is likely to make you really feel like you,” Johnson claims.

It is also high priced to buy an entirely new wardrobe, Johnson states, on major of any expenditures affiliated with a health-related transition. Experiments display that transgender folks are far more probable to have particularly very low incomes, compared to each the basic population and the LGBT populace. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey located that 25% of transgender people had been living in poverty in Maine. Advocates say having a risk-free and very affordable place to obtain a new wardrobe is important for the wellbeing of trans Mainers.

“To be ready to wander into a shop and be like, I have to have a shirt and I have $1, but I would also like to use my greenback for foods. So, to get a shirt for free of charge would be excellent, and to have that shirt be one thing that you just you feel fantastic in… that hasn’t existed below right up until now,” Johnson claims.

Safe and sound Combinations will also present bras and binders, utilized to flatten one’s chest, for absolutely free.

The store is located in the new Equality Community Heart in Portland, a shared office area with other LGBTQ+ companies in the condition. Middle supervisor Chris O’Connor claims owning a harmless haven for trans men and women is a lot more significant than at any time, referring to costs introduced throughout the region ranging from banning transgender girls from participating in youth sports to restricting transgender individuals’ capabilities to get gender-affirming well being treatment.

“We’re seeing specifically trans legal rights be attacked across the country and the reality that we have physical area that is ours that people today are not able to just take away… I haven’t skilled anything like that in Bigger Portland and even in Maine,” O’Connor says.

Many experiments exhibit that transgender folks encounter very high charges of poverty, harassment, violence, weak health and fitness, minimal job possibilities and isolation from their larger sized communities. The 2017 Maine Integrated Youth Well being Survey uncovered that trans high schoolers were being additional probable to knowledge wellbeing disparities, violence, and harassment and that additional than fifty percent seriously regarded as suicide. Maine TransNet says acquiring protected, welcoming areas, like Safe and sound Combinations, is a favourable phase in aiding trans Mainers feel a perception of belonging.

“To have something like a thrift shop like this so near by … it can make all the difference, you know?” Smith claims as he and Juarez-Appreciate come back again from the dressing place and get ready to check out out.

Smith experimented with on the gown, but didn’t like it. He suggests he is glad he tried using it, nevertheless.

“That was a massive step forward,” he says.

Cardinal states the possibility for Smith to try out on the costume, and set it again, is precisely the form of standard purchasing experience that trans individuals really do not normally get in common clothes retailers.

“That would be a terrifying ordeal when I initially came out to have absent and carried out at, like, a JC Penney or even a Goodwill. I would have arrive back again to that detail like 12 occasions, and I never ever would have experimented with it on,” Cardinal suggests. “And to just know that he felt cozy ample to do that in this article … it was, yay! That’s what we are right here for.”

Cardinal claims Safe and sound Combinations is presently confused with an outpouring of donations, but they will hold several donation fall off times afterwards this summer time, which will be posted on their website and social media. The store’s grand opening will be from 1-6 p.m. Friday, June 17, ahead of Portland’s Pride weekend.