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Marsha’s Closet offers accessible gender-affirming items for trans and nonbinary folks

Jun 13, 2021 | Featured six, News | 0 comments

//Syah B browses through cardigans at the opening of Marsha’s Closet on June 11 at the Mile High Behavioral Healthcare center in Sheridan. The pop-up shop offers free gender-affirming clothing and products. Photos by Ali Mai | alimai@msmayhem.com

At the grand opening of Transgender Center of the Rockies’ Marsha’s Closet, a one-stop shop for gender-affirming clothes and products, shoppers left with more than garments. They gained community support and a safe space to express their gender.

Marsha’s Closet launched June 11 at the Mile High Behavioral Healthcare in Sheridan. Clothing, wigs, makeup and gender-affirming products, including binders and packers, are offered for free.

One of the program organizers, Ari Rosenblum, saw the need for accessible gender-affirming items as they started working as the Team Lead for NXT Queer Youth Program—a collaboration between MHBH’s Denver ELEMENT and Transgender Center of the Rockies. The pop-up shop is scheduled to run quarterly, and events will be posted on collaborating organizations’ social media.

Rosenblum said that before Marsha’s Closet, small clothing exchanges were already available through the Transgender Center of the Rockies. But since there was a large inventory of donations, they decided on creating a larger resource. Marsha’s Closet removes financial barriers to the items that affirm one’s gender. For Rosenblum, the goal is to help people experience “gender euphoria,” or the joy of living out one’s gender identity. It’s a rejection of using gender dysphoria as the defining experience for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.

“The way that people often express themselves and obtain this gender euphoria is through clothing, and accessories, and hair and stuff like that,” Rosenblum said. “And so being able to provide resources for people to experience gender euphoria, without having to stress about the financial burden of it is something that I think is really, really important in our community.”

The name of Marsha’s Closet is an ode to Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson, a Black transgender woman and key figure in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. Rosenblum added that the program name celebrates progress made for LGBTQ+ rights and a reminder to amplify the voices of people of color in today’s fight.

“It prompts [people]to consider the intersecting identities of the people who have been instrumental in our liberation,” they said.

Cynthia Ward and her two children left the grand opening with a fringe denim button-up, pink dress and dangly earrings for her 12-year-old, Phoenix. For Phoenix, they are glad they found a place where they can shop without judgment. Ward added that Marsha’s Closet has a wide variety, so her kid can explore different styles.

“It’s really useful, especially as they are figuring out some of their expression and figuring out what works for them,” Ward said. “Just to be able to find a large variety of things and look through it without having to worry about what other people are thinking, knowing that there is a safe place they can try things out.”

Marsha’s Closet is donation-based, but it aims at having various styles and sizes, Rosenblum said. In addition to clothes and accessories, the shop offers products purchased for the program, including stand-to-pee devices and dilators. Gender-affirming wearables including binders and packers are available, and Rosenblum is planning on adding gaff underwear. Marsha’s Closet plans on partnering with GC2B, an apparel company and maker of binders. The partnership would add returned GC2B binders to the donation inventory.

//Stacey Painter eats snacks at Marsha’s Closet on June 11 after she found a black skirt to take home.

While some visitors shopped at the grand opening, others sat at a communal table, chatting and drawing on coloring sheets. Stacey Painter hung around for a while after finding a floor-sweeping black skirt. She said it rounds out one of her punk-style outfits.

Even before Marsha’s Closet was announced, Painter has been following the Transgender Center of the Rockies, she said. Painter added that she always knew she was a trans woman, and that the organization is one of the first places she felt accepted. The addition of the gender-affirming shop is impactful on Painter.

“It really means a lot to me. It’s a sense of community and it’s a sense of being together,” she said. “And allowing others to be allowed to express their gender in a way that’s affirming for them.”

Marsha’s Closet is accepting donations. Items can be brought to 3460 S Federal Blvd., and overflow clothing donations will go to a homeless shelter in Mile High Behavioral Healthcare’s network. At the time of publication, reservations are needed to drop off donations. Appointments can be made by emailing Rosenblum at arosenblum@mhbhc.org or Marsha’s Closet co-organizer and behavioral health specialist Erin Lowrey at elowrey@mhbhc.org

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