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Free clothing closets helping transgender individuals' mental health

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Posted at 8:58 AM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 14:30:07-04

DENVER, Colo. — March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility. It's a day to raise awareness about the discrimination trans individuals face.

One big component of that prejudice is being judged on appearance, and for many trans youth, that can be damaging to their mental health.

Clothing is helping young trans individuals across the country find acceptance. The Transgender Center of the Rockies opened Marsha’s Closet. It provides free clothing and gender-affirming supplies like wigs, shoes and binders to help trans individuals find confidence and happiness.

Alma, a native of Colorado, frequents Marsha’s Closet and has found a home away from home in the community at the Transgender Center of the Rockies.

Shopping at Marsha’s Closet was a completely new experience after she tried to find clothes at the mall.

“You get discriminated, especially if you're barely in your beginning of your transition and you're still not technically the physical, the physical appearance,” said Alma. “It's awkward. It, it's very awkward, and it's very uncomfortable.”

She wanted clothes that made her feel beautiful.

“I was in a time where I felt alone,” said Alma. Marsha’s Closet changed that.

“This is kind of a one-stop-shop for gender-affirming clothing and items,” said Danielle Bono, the director of the Transgender Center of the Rockies. “Our hope is here to really uplift and center trans people.”

Items like wigs and binders, a garment to flatten the chest, can be expensive, but Marsha’s Closet takes that burden away. The closet lets people focus less on how they look and more on living the life that makes them happy.

“Really humanizing that they exist, that they matter, that we really are working alongside them to make sure that trans rights are human rights,” said Bono.

For Alma, shopping at Marsha’s Closet gave her more than just a new wardrobe.

“This place brings me my confidence and brings me joy. They came in the room, and they just told me how beautiful I was. Amazing. It's awesome. They just made me feel welcomed and loved,” said Alma.

Wearing a dress for the first time made Alma even more excited to honor the woman who inspires her most.

“I actually got my name from my beautiful grandmother. She's a strong, independent woman, and I take all my style, my confidence, everything is from her. And that's why I chose her name,” said Alma.

Alma is now hoping more people, especially trans youth, get the chance to find a place like Marsha’s Closet.

“There's so much need for places like this because, like I said, everyone here makes you feel welcomed,” said Alma.

These closets are starting to pop up across the country to help trans youth find acceptance and improve their mental health.

Universities in California, Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, West Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey opened closets in just the last couple of years.

“I really view gender-affirming clothing as suicide prevention,” said Bono.

Studies have shown having a gender-affirming safe space does lower suicide attempts in trans youth. The most recent study by the Trevor Project, a non-profit working to reduce LGBTQ+ suicide, showed these supportive spaces dropped suicide attempts by 25%.

That’s why Bono and her team here are reaching out to help open more closets across the country. Because as these resources grow, they know, so will support from the community.

“They just give me the confidence that I can make a change in the world myself, too, and if I know I can do it, then I know anyone could do it, too,” said Alma.

The Transgender Center of the Rockies is holding a Transgender Day of Visibility celebration on Friday, April 1 2022 in Denver, Colorado. The entire community is invited to join. For more information, click HERE.