Closet helps LGBT com­mu­nity come out

East and Bays Courier - - OUT & ABOUT - SHANI WILLIAMS

A com­mu­nity wardrobe in Auck­land is lit­er­ally help­ing peo­ple come out of the closet.

Rain­bow Youth (RY) Aotearoa last month opened a free com­mu­nity wardrobe for Auck­land’s queer and gen­der di­verse peo­ple want­ing to try on iden­tity af­firm­ing clothes.

Cloth­ing, shoes and ac­ces­sories are avail­able to try on in a non-judge­men­tal en­vi­ron­ment and take home free of charge.

RY is a na­tion­wide char­ity founded in 1989, with more than 300 mem­bers, that sup­ports queer and gen­der di­verse youth.

RY com­mu­ni­ca­tions manager Toni Duder said cloth­ing stores had clearly de­fined men’s and women’s sec­tions.

‘‘For a gen­der di­verse per­son, or trans­gen­der per­son, this can cause stress and anx­i­ety be­cause they may not fit into that bi­nary split of men’s or women’s cloth­ing or they might want to try on cloth­ing typ­i­cally seen as be­ing worn by the op­po­site gen­der,’’ Duder said.

‘‘Re­tail work­ers of­ten laugh at you, in­sult the clothes you pick out or refuse to serve you,’’ she said.

Duder said the com­mu­nity wardrobe was per­fect for youth ex­per­i­ment­ing with gen­der ex­pres­sion.

‘‘They may want to dress up in more fem­i­nine or mas­cu­line cloth­ing but can­not at home be­cause their par­ents would find out.’’

RY mem­ber Max Odey iden­ti­fies as gen­der fluid and prefers to be re­ferred to as they or them, rather than he, him, she or her.

Iden­ti­fy­ing as gen­der fluid means they feel like a dy­namic mix of fe­male and male - they fluc­tu­ate be­tween the two, some days feel­ing more boy than girl and vice versa.

The com­mu­nity wardrobe helped with com­ing out to friends, Odey said.

‘‘I can come and pick up an out­fit be­fore I go and meet with friends with­out my mother know­ing,’’ Odey said.

RY mem­ber Lind­say Dan said it was good to feel ac­cepted some­where.

‘‘I can try on clothes in a set­ting where I do not have to worry about which chang­ing room to walk into or any­one com­ment­ing on what I am pick­ing out,’’ Dan said.

The com­mu­nity wardrobe is open week­days from 11am to 5pm and is lo­cated at 11 Ed­in­burgh St.

The RY drop-in cen­tre also has a queer and trans li­brary, couches, free Wi-fi, snacks, quiet room, gen­der neu­tral bath­rooms and a tele­vi­sion.

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