Free gender-affirming gear, a “life changer” for rural trans people

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Two years ago, when Jace Pierce received his first schoolbag, it took six months to wait.

He asked for the article, which squeezes the upper body to give the appearance of a flat chest, through his therapist. But the request had to go through a bureaucratic process of funding approvals and letters of recommendation before getting the green light.

Jace Pierce, 18, says having easier access to gender-affirming articles is good for his mental and physical health. (Submitted by Jace Pierce)

Today, thanks to Transformation Closet, a program on the South Shore that offers free and paid items for gender affirmation, Pierce can simply walk to the South Shore sexual health office in Bridgewater, ON. Nova Scotia, and easily pick up the equipment he needs.

“I have binders, packers, packing underwear, things like that. Someone else I know also got gaffs and breast foams so her breast could look bigger. and stuff like that.… The Trans closet definitely made a big impact. “

Pierce said when he finally got his first binder he was emotional.

“I cried for a good hour because my chest was flat. I’m not even going to lie, I cried. I was so happy.”

Julie Veinot, executive director of South Shore Sexual Health, said people in rural Nova Scotia, especially young people, may struggle to get gender equipment. Stores that sell these items are scarce, young people may not have a driver’s license or vehicle access to visit a store, equipment can be expensive, and ordering online requires a credit card.

“And unfortunately, some of these young people have parents who don’t support them in their transition,” Veinot said. “So… asking a parent or guardian to purchase these items is not always an option. “

Veinot opened the closet two years ago, helping 32 clients in the first year.

Users of the service, who range from pre-puberty to adults, have only grown since then.

Julie Veinot is the Executive Director of South Shore Sexual Health. (Jace Pierce)

The project was funded the first year by the Nova Scotia Mental Health Foundation and the second year by the CUA Credit Union. Veinot uses the funding to purchase items from reputable suppliers and in some cases receives additional free material from suppliers to add to the closet.

The program operates on approximately $ 5,000 per year – a considerable proportion of South Shore Sexual Health’s core budget of $ 35,000 per year.

But Closet recently received a much needed influx of funding when it won the Helen and Fred Bentley Awards of Excellence, a national award that recognizes innovation in sexual health and leadership. The prize comes with $ 9,000.

“It was truly a lesson in humility,” said Veinot. “It’s nice to know that we’ll have stock for the next person who knocks on our door.”

South Shore Sexual Health recently received an award valued at $ 9,000 which will be used to purchase items for the closet. (Julie Veinot)

Veinot said that getting articles that allow people to authentically express their gender can make a big difference to mental health.

“A lot of people talk about gender dysphoria, which is a kind of discomfort with your body. And instead of talking about it, there is now the concept of gender euphoria, which is finding joy in your body. kind.”

Using items from a trusted source like the Trans Closet also means young people won’t turn to dangerous options, says Pierce.

“Adhesive tape is very common, which is extremely dangerous. “

For Pierce, having access to gender-affirming equipment helps her feel healthy and comfortable.

“I really think it’s important for mental health. I found out that before the Trans Closet started and I had a hard time getting gender affirming articles, I certainly didn’t have good health. mental. I was very angry with myself. I didn’t like the way my body looked, “he said.

“It changed my life. I mean, I can comfortably use the men’s bathroom. I couldn’t do that three years ago.”

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