new initiative aims to provide free gender-affirming products to students in need | UB today

A BU student who asked to remain anonymous recently shared what it was like to wear a chest cincher, a compression garment that can create a flatter chest:

“Receiving this product has helped me feel more comfortable and confident in my body,” they said. “Gender-affirming products are so crucial to treating body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria. When I wear my product, I can look in the mirror and see someone who looks more like the person I feel inside. interior.

The student is one of about two dozen who have benefited from the new gender affirmation product program, run by the Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Advocacy Committee (TGNC), an offshoot of the Queer Activist Collective (known as Q). Launched this semester, the program’s goal is to raise funds to help transgender, gender nonconforming, and intersex (TGNCI) BU students who need help getting free gender-affirming products like waist belts. chest, underwear and women’s underwear.

In 2019, The Trevor Project conducted a national LGBTQ youth mental health survey that found that 54% of transgender and non-binary youth said they had seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 29% had attempted suicide. Gender-affirming care has been shown to help reduce self-harm and mental health issues in transgender people, underscoring the importance of a program like this.

In addition to helping students purchase products, the program also offers consultations with gender-affirming product experts, raises awareness of gender-affirming products, and addresses what they see as gaps in BU’s support for students. TGNCI. The initiative will have a table at today’s BIPOC Wellness Fair at the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground. Students can sign up to receive free gender affirmation products, and Q members will be on hand to answer questions and provide measuring tapes and products will be on display and can be ordered. Those unable to attend the show can contact Q directly for information on how to order product.

These products can be important and life-changing for trans and non-binary youth, says Q Vice President Kris Berg (CAS’22). “The presentation is really complex,” she says. “It’s a very individual experience for each person, but it’s a very concrete and meaningful way to have such a big impact and provide such an important resource.”

Berg says the idea for the program came from conversations she and other leaders had with trans and non-binary students who struggled to find and purchase gender-affirming products. Some p’s are expensive (breast prostheses, for example, can cost upwards of $200), making them hard to afford for many students. Also, they may not know how to carve properly or what product is best for them.

“A lot of people are still trying to figure out what makes them tick and what products are best for them,” she says. And since products usually have to be ordered online or have strict return policies, she says, that’s a lot of money to spend on something you’re not sure you want to keep. Additionally, some transgender people fear for their safety if a member of their household finds out that they are purchasing one of these items.

“So there was a demand,” says Berg, “but not a resource to help solve the problem.”

The TGNC Advocacy Committee circulated an interest form last May to see how many students would benefit from a service like this. Within 48 hours, they received over 30 responses from students who said they faced one or more barriers to accessing gender-affirming products and noted that they would greatly benefit from the program.

Armed with this information, the team began looking at potential financing options. The team entered [email protected]’s Community Impact Challenge last semester, a competition where teams of students come up with innovative ideas focused on emotional, social and physical well-being, and won $500. The Student Government Mental Health Committee provided financial support to provide merchandise at the LGBTQ+ Wellness Fair in November. And they were amazed when they received a $10,000 grant in December from the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth.

“We are so, so grateful to the Commission and the Community Impact Challenge because we couldn’t have done this without their support,” said Christa Rose, president of Q.

Organizers say that while there are similar programs that distribute gender-affirming products based on need, fulfilling a request can be a long and complicated process. When they checked to see if other colleges were using similar models, they found none.

Students can place individual orders through a detailed order form on the Q website. Rose says they have a few sample products for students to try, as well as measuring tapes, since most stores that sell these products are online only (wherever possible, the group works with small, trans-owned businesses).

Students helping students

Berg says Q’s mission is to support members of the LGBTQ+ community. The group is pushing the University to create a professionally staffed resource center for LGBTQ+ students that would provide them with resources and community building opportunities similar to the LGBTQIA+ Center for Faculty and Staff that opened the last fall.

The group has created several comprehensive and frequently updated resource guides dealing with mental health, sexual health, housing instability issues and financial needs. Hundreds of students have accessed the guides, according to Berg, demonstrating that non-binary transgender students are an underserved population. “Students regularly fall victim to gender errors and dead names,” she says. “And I think most of us have experienced some form of LGBTQ+ microaggression in the classroom.”

The long-term goal of the gender affirmation product program is to secure funds that allow it to continue years after the current leaders graduate. “I think there are a lot of people who are really concerned about how we make sure this is going to survive this group of people,” says committee member Lena Broach (CFA’25). “We try to put in place real programs, rather than just initiatives.”

Broach says there are hundreds of videos on YouTube of transgender people trying on a breast band for the first time and seeing “their chest flat and as it should be, and the emotional reaction they have breaks my heart.” , she says. “So I think that’s really why it’s important.”

Q’s gender affirmation product program will be featured at the BIPOC Wellness Fair, Wednesday, February 16, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, 808 Commonwealth Ave. The event is free and open to all members of the BU BIPOC community. A BU ID, green badge and mask are required for entry. Can’t attend the event or want to talk one-on-one with someone? Email [email protected]

The Howard Thurman Center is accessible to mobility devices. Bathrooms for all genders are on the first floor of the building. Contact Q at [email protected] with questions about accessibility or to request an accommodation.

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