Nonprofit rings in Pride Month with free clothing care packages for transgender Virginians

·4 min read

Online shoppers typically don’t get to order items with $0 price tags, but this nonprofit’s e-commerce site provides more than merchandise.

The homepage welcomes visitors: “Free gender affirming clothing for trans people in Virginia.” The care package program is an empowering extension of the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia, or TAP VA. The organization’s mission is ending transgender homelessness in the state.

“There is such a need for trans people to have clothing that they feel comfortable in and that they feel aligns with not only their gender identity, but their gender expression as well,” said Sarah Noffsinger, the program creator and the nonprofit’s director of development.

Since Tuesday’s launch, the care package program has received 36 orders — at least one from every region in Virginia. Clothing donations come from Nomads Clothing Exchange in Norfolk, and the nonprofit receives grant money from the Tegan and Sara Foundation, an organization that works to improve the lives of LGBTQ women and girls led by famous queer musicians Tegan and Sara Quin.

Janice Dulay, manager of Nomads, is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and said she is thrilled to be partnering with TAP VA. Having grown up in a conservative Asian household, she said there wasn’t always an outlet so she is excited to be able to help provide one.

“Gender-affirming clothing is very important,” Dulay said. “We wanted to create a space not only in our own brick-and-mortar, but for all over the community.”

TAP VA is made up entirely of grassroots volunteers. The trans-led organization maintained for a couple years a popular clothing closet in Portsmouth where transgender people could come in and browse for clothes at no cost, Noffsinger said. COVID had shut down the in-person closet, but it reopened by appointment, welcoming 150 people so far.

The idea to move the closet to an e-commerce model came at the start of this year, when Noffsinger saw a post by a trans person in a Richmond-based LGBT Facebook group asking for clothes. She offered to go to the Portsmouth closet and mail some items. With that, a pilot program began.

Participants filled out a Google form with information such as their personal fashion style, size and attire needs. Noffsinger and her wife went to the Portsmouth closet, selected five to seven items per order, and shipped them at no cost to the recipient.

Seeing such a need and interest, Noffsinger built an e-commerce platform where people can browse items, put them in a shopping cart and check out for $0. She said she wanted the experience to feel exciting, like the person is getting a gift.

“I didn’t want it to feel like it was a charity thing,” Noffsinger said. “I wanted them to feel empowered to pick out the clothing that they wanted and have a normal online shopping experience.”

TAP VA’s social media posts about the care package program reached thousands of people on Facebook and Instagram, Noffsinger said. Within the first 24 hours, nearly all of the 100 items they started with had been claimed.

“It definitely blew up,” Noffsinger said.

The program received about 50 offers from people wanting to donate clothing within the first two days of posting, she said. Though the closet is currently full, TAP VA will post soon with specific sizes and items it needs with the goal of being size-inclusive. The operators want to ensure sustainable management of the donations. In the meantime, people wanting to donate can email transactivistva@gmail.com.

TAP VA is also attempting to raise $2,000 with 200 donors by June 30 as part of a national “Give OUT Day” fundraising campaign at Giveoutday.org/organization/tapvirginia.

The online shop at Tapvacarepackages.com is open from the 1st to the 10th of every month while restocking and shipping occurs for the rest of the month. The site will have new clothing on July 1.

The launch was symbolic because it coincided with the beginning of Pride Month, an annual celebration of LGBTQ pride with events like festivals, parades, and memorials for those lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDS.

“I do wish people took the time to educate themselves about LGBTQ issues year-round,” Noffsinger said, “because once a year is not enough to fully understand the scope of the community and the issues we face.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting