In November, the Victoria Foundation awarded the Island Sexual Health Clinic (ISH) a grant to increase access to gender-affirming apparel for people in the community. To start the program, ISH surveyed the community on what supplies were most needed.
“The top item that was needed was chest binders,” says Trista Knight, the Administrative Coordinator/Store Manager at Island Sexual Health. “Then it followed up with gaffs, packing and tucking underwear, bras, all that kind of stuff. But, definitely, binders were the main item that folks were wanting to have more accessibility to get access to.”
Knight, along with her coworker Whitney, administer the new gender-affirming apparel program. Chest binders are used to minimize the silhouette of the chest while the other items are used to either simulate or conceal external genitals. These items can be difficult to find locally and many people, especially youth, don’t have the means to order them online.
“So we took the funding that we had and did the best we could to utilize brands properly. We went with a local brand in Vancouver called Your Open Closet,” says Knight. “They’re made locally, which is nice, quicker turnaround for shipping and all that kind of stuff, special orders if we need to.”
Being a non-profit with funding constraints, ISH had to make some choices about which items they were going to carry.
“We had to start small,” says Knight. “We’d want to have anything and everything possible in regards to the apparel. But, because of our non-profit status and just using the funding in the best way we saw fit, those were the items that were put on the line.”
Knight says that starting the program during a pandemic has been a challenge But she’s glad the program has had time to launch without being overwhelmed. They currently have several appointments a week for fittings and to discuss the products.
“I’m happy at the way it’s building now. I don’t want to have to make people wait just because of the small amount of appointments we have. It would be unfortunate to be like ‘yeah we’ve got this service but now there’s a month’s wait.’”
Knight says she hopes that folks won’t be intimidated by the medical setting and that they are doing everything they can to make the process comfortable and unintimidating. They are also working to remove any other barriers that would prevent people from getting the help they need.
“We wonder if some folks are nervous to reach out to us and to have that conversation because of the cost. We want people to know that there are options. We don’t have anything set in stone, but there are options. I don’t want anyone doing anything unsafely, binding unsafely, they can come to us and there are ways that we can work around things to access the things they need.”
This service is much needed on the island and Knight says it feels good to provide this support.
“It is one of the most gratifying parts of my job. One hundred percent in every aspect, I am blessed to be a part of this job. It means a lot to me, and I know it does to all our staff here, to be able to help those in need.”
A link to book appointments can be found in the bios of the ISH Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as on the clinic’s website.
Retail Prices of Items: