Bebashi Closet initiative provides support for transitioning

Bebashi Closet initiative provides support for transitioning

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Bebashi — Transition to Hope is aiming to be the city’s full-service, trans-specific resource center in the coming year.

To that end, the nonprofit, which provides a bevy of culturally sensitive services for Philadelphians, is opening the Trans Necessities Closet pilot program to provide the trans community with free binders, prosthetics and other gender-affirming resources.

For now, the Closet is available for Bebashi clients only, but organizers are planning to expand services and open them to the community, said Amanda Finnell, Bebashi’s director of development.

“We’re looking to find an individual, organization or company to develop a strategic, long-term partnership with us and invest their resources into making this a broader reality for more Philadelphians,” she said.

The program, which was announced last August, is the health and social-services agency’s solution to assisting transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals with transitioning, which is often not covered by insurance and can be pricey.

The Closet was designed to help affirm trans-identifying individuals with an emphasis on “ensuring dignity, building confidence and keeping people safe,” said Blaise Davi, Bebashi’s assistant-prevention navigator.

“We’re acknowledging the need for all of the pieces — both literally and figuratively — that go into being a trans person and what it takes to move through the world as a trans person,” Davi said. “Our commitment with this initiative is not just to provide items of need, but to provide quality items. We’ve always been aware of the possibility that these donations may be seen as hand-me-downs, especially if they’re gently used, but it’s all about quality.”

In addition to binding materials and prosthetics, clothing, makeup, wigs and breast forms also will be available at The Closet. Passional Boutique, GC2B Transitional Apparel, The Breast Form Store, FTM Essentials and Shape Shifters are among the companies that have committed to regularly donating to the program.

The Closet also will offer access to legal-service referrals for name and gender-marker changes on state-identification cards and driver’s licenses.

Keisha Gabbidon, Bebashi’s prevention-navigator supervisor who spearheaded the initiative along with Davi, said The Closet is Philadelphia’s first trans-specific resource program. Although other organizations offer similar services, Gabbidon said this program is unique in providing clients with free items needed for the transition process that can be costly. Binders can run up to $200 and prosthetics can be priced as high as $300. Insurance providers do not cover the cost of these items.

“One of the best moments is being able to properly give the clients what they need, especially if they’re not able to afford better-quality materials that come with an expensive price tag,” said Gabbidon.

Davi, who uses binding materials and identifies with the pronouns they/them, added there’s also the matter of going through the process of finding items that fit properly.

“As a person who binds, you go through a trial-and-error period for things like binders. That can be expensive when it comes to figuring out what fits,” they said.

Development director Finnell noted that the organization is already working toward making the program available to the community by purchasing a new space that will house the proposed resource center.

“We’re looking to build a space where people can hang out, receive educational materials, have access to navigation services as well as access to a food pantry for anyone struggling with hunger insecurity,” said Finnell. “We’ll also have free HIV, STI and hepatitis-C testing as well as free pregnancy tests. Our goal for the space in the next 12-18 months is to not be a closet, but a resource for trans-identifying individuals to be able to be themselves in a welcoming environment.” 

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