Photo: Saints LGBT+
Photo: Saints LGBT+

Saints LGBT+ have launched a clothing drive for students who are trans or struggling to reconcile their gender identity.

The group have been collecting clothes at various events, including their Gender Non-binary stall and their “TRANS FEST!” events. In the description of the event for the first drive, the group said, “There are many difficulties that one faces when reconciling gender identity with the gender that is assigned at birth; psychological distress, social stigma, and cultural boundaries.

“It’s an incredibly difficult time, and with the poor provision that the NHS provides for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, one that is expensive.

“Clothing is something that cis-gendered people often underestimate, and that is inherently gendered. Finding a sense of style and identity within the clothing selections that are made is a hugely important step in expressing one’s gender, yet one that is highly expensive.

“Adapting to a changing body is difficult, and developing a sense of true style that has always been inhibited by societal oppression, even harder.”

The committee’s Sexualities and Gender Officer, Talah Anderson, spoke to The Saint about the reason for the drive.

“Trans people tend to realise very early on how coded clothing is. Transition is a wonderful time because it allows trans people to take agency over the ways in which they present themselves,” Ms Anderson said.

Ms Anderson went on to say, “However, as I’m sure everybody knows, clothing can be very expensive. The clothing drive initiative is crucial because it means that Saints LGBT+ will be able to ease this scary process.

“Costs aside, going into a shop and buying a skirt or makeup or any other heavily gendered item is scary if your gender presentation doesn’t yet align with what people expect from those buying such items. The clothing drive will allow trans people in St Andrews to experiment in a space that is safe and non-judging, easing these very formative first steps.”

[pullquote]Costs aside, going into a shop and buying a skirt or makeup or any other heavily gendered item is scary if your gender presentation doesn’t yet align with what people expect from those buying such items.[/pullquote]

Ms Anderson also discussed Saint LGBT+’s “TRANS FEST!” events, describing it as an “acknowledgement (and a celebration) of trans presence and trans experience. When the trans flag flies from Sallies tower over the weekend I hope that people (queer or not) are able to look up and see that, even in times such as these, there can be progress if people are willing to fight for it.”

The flag was flown from St Salvatore’s Tower yesterday.

Ms Anderson went on to describe some of the problems that still exist for trans people, saying, “The fight for trans rights is ongoing, but people must remember that trans visibility is trans vulnerability.

“The NHS generally requires trans people to wait over a year before they are even able to have an initial assessment. Realising that you are trans is difficult enough, and it is unfortunate that so many people have to delay acting upon the desire to medically transition once they are sure that it will alleviate their pain.

“A major problem with the waiting list is that it requires trans people to have a year’s worth of lived experience in their desired gender before they are seen. However, “passing” as the gender of your choice can be very difficult without medical intervention — and a trans person’s failure to pass generally leads to misgendering, verbal harassment and even violence. That’s another reason why the clothing drive is so important. Passing isn’t necessarily desirable on an aesthetic level for trans people, but it is often crucial for feeling safe.

“I think the biggest thing is complicity – I think people need to be more aware of the criteria by which they categorise people, and recognise that the systems most people choose to live their lives by simply do not work for some people. They cause pain. I think if more people could learn to accept that a person’s body doesn’t necessarily need to characterise a person’s gender identity we would be a lot further. Let people live, y’know!”

trans

Association LGBT+ Officer, Lewis Wood, also spoke about his enthusiasm for TRANS FEST! and the clothing drive.

“There are many difficulties that one faces when reconciling gender identity with the gender that is assigned at birth; psychological distress, social stigma, and cultural boundaries,” he said.

Mr Wood also went on to add, “It’s an incredibly difficult time, and with the poor provision that the NHS provides for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, one that is expensive. Clothing is something that cis-gendered people often underestimate, and that is inherently gendered. Finding a sense of style and identity within the clothing selections that are made is a hugely important step in expressing one’s gender, yet one that is highly expensive.

[pullquote]There are many difficulties that one faces when reconciling gender identity with the gender that is assigned at birth; psychological distress, social stigma, and cultural boundaries[/pullquote]

“Adapting to a changing body is difficult, and developing a sense of true style that has always been inhibited by societal oppression, even harder. We’re trying to alleviate some of this burden by creating a discretionary clothing supply for people in this position.

“TransFest is about raising awareness of the transgender community, and celebrating the right to self-identify gender, but it’s also about letting trans and gender non-conforming people in the town know that we’re here to support them in any way we can.  I hope people get the impression that we care, and that there truly is a place where they can express themselves without fear of judgement or prejudice.

Mr Wood also spoke about his disappointment with the current support that exists for transgender people in the UK, “Government support for transgender people is abhorrent, and is a huge flaw in our welfare state; it makes the work of charities like the Association all the more important, and is why it’s so crucial that we carry out initiatives like this when we have the resources to do so.”

The committee will continue to collect clothes at tonight’s showing of Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson – a film about one most famous activists who helped lead the Stonewall riots.

The showing will be followed by pier walk to commemorate transgender day of remembrance, in memory of the trans people killed in the past year.

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