By Charles Johnson
When Zoey Grieder moved to Seattle a few years ago, her partner started to transition. They quickly found out that it was hard to afford a new wardrobe even with thrift shops and other clothing exchanges.
The experience was Grieder’s inspiration for the Queer and Lesbian Clothing Exchange Seattle, which was formed in May 2015.
The exchange is a bi-annual clothing swap event that took place last week after a yearlong hiatus. While the event isn’t the only LGBTQ clothing exchange around, Grieder says that others aren’t always as trans-competent .
Donations for clothes come from all around Seattle, with donation bins placed in local business and campuses.
Grieder held events at Gay City in Capitol Hill, and then Pipsqueak Gallery in 2015. The following year they had some logistical problems.
“In 2016 we negotiated and then subsequently loss three spaces, and weren’t able to put an event that year,” Grieder said.
This year they secured a location at Washington Hall in the Central District, which is their largest venue yet. With the space, they were able to offer tailoring and makeup for free. Volunteers and donations powered the event.
“We have a lot of houseless folks, so it’s important to us that they are able to access gender affirming clothing at no cost,” Grieder said.
Monetary donations are collected to pay the deposit for future spaces. If there are surplus funds, they’re used to buy in-demand items such as binders, a constrictive material used to flatten the chest, which aren’t commonly found at other exchanges.
There are various reasons for an LGBTQ-exclusive exchange. For a lot of LGBT people, shopping outside the community can be uncomfortable, especially people who suffer from body dysphoria, a mental illness that affects your perception of your appearance.
Trying on gender affirming clothes for the first time can be hard to do in public. These spaces can provide a safe place to do that.
Another reason is that when many organizations give clothes away, they tend to give clothes to people based on gender
“A lot of times when people give clothes away they want you be strictly female or male, and they get to judge which one you are, not you. Like say we just give you a girl’s bag, and if you don’t really wear girl clothes, whatever those are, it’s going to be more offensive than if you just said, ‘go pick your things out,’” said Ahkia Torres, a volunteer who was doing outreach for her organization, Peace for the Streets by Kids From the Street.
But most importantly, the event is just a place for people to meet up.
“It takes us to meet each other,” Torres said, “and what better way than over clothes?”
For updates and more information on the project, go to facebook.com/QTexchange.