Thanks to the effects of COVID-19, queer youth in Nova Scotia are more isolated than ever before, potentially cut off from support systems or school friends and forced to spend more time with families who aren’t always accepting. But thankfully, there are still people working to provide 2SLGBTQ+ youth with support, education and resources.
Halifax-based organization The Youth Project runs an initiative aimed at helping nonbinary, trans, gender-questioning and gender-fluid youth feel more comfortable in their own bodies. The Gender Affirming Garment Program offers undergarments including binders (chest compression shirts), packers (padding for the groin area) and gaffs (compression and tucking underwear) to Nova Scotians aged 25 and under, free of charge.
“Gender affirming garments are worn underneath clothing to non-permanently alter the shape of someone’s body,” says a post from The Youth Project. Carmel Farahbakhsh, TYP's executive director, says the program provides about 20 garments each month.
Gender-affirming garments are a helpful for a lot of people: those early in their transition, those who can’t afford medical costs, those under the age of 18 who can’t yet access gender-affirming surgery or those who simply don’t want a permanent surgery.
“We find that the garments not only help bolster general confidence and feeling much more able to access social spaces and public spaces, but also can potentially increase a students’ access to attendance in school, taking risks, meeting new friends, and just feeling generally comfortable in their skin,” says Farahbakhsh. “This program allows for youth to of course experience really important things like gender joy or gender euphoria and help combat the realities of dysphoria that can be really really alienating and hard to navigate, especially as a young person.”
Garments like binders and gaffs are safe alternatives compared to things like duct tape and bandages, which are sometimes used by those without access to resources. “We hope that by providing these resources for free, it can reduce the need to bind and tuck through alternative methods that may be more restrictive and/or painful,” says the post.
But these garments can often come at a price of $25-$60 each, so the program offers one for free to anyone under age 25 in Nova Scotia who can’t otherwise afford it. “A lot of the time access to money and even just coming to a central Halifax location where you may be able to buy these items is a barrier,” Farahbakhsh says.
The program is also hoping to get garments to everyone safely, and because everyone’s situation is different, the garments are sent in discreet packaging to a location of the recipient’s choosing like a friend’s house, school or counsellor’s office.
“Youth that we’re working with may not have supportive home spaces and so it can be really important for them to have access to these garments in a way that respects that privacy,” says Farahbakhsh. “It’s also just important for sending the garments to a school or GSA for example that it’s in discreet packaging so the student doesn’t have to be outed in that process.”
For more information around sizing, safe wearing, garment care and ordering, visit the Gender Affirming Garment page.