Metro, James Haley VA, CAN hold second annual Trans Fashion Expo

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Metro Wellness and Community Centers, CAN Community Health and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital will present the second annual Trans Fashion Expo at Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) Tampa Nov. 17 from 12 – 6 p.m.

LGBTQ+ veterans, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are invited to step into the inclusive space for the free event. They’ll learn about available resources from local community leaders, advocates and vendors as they participate in raffles and select clothing from a full, professional boutique of attire in a safe and affirming venue.

“The Trans Fashion Expo was actually born out of a conversation that happened at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital,” Metro LGBTQ+ Program Manager Cole Foust recalls. “There was a trans veteran that didn’t feel comfortable going out to shop for clothing that matched her gender identity and how she wanted to express her gender. The VA reached out to us to launch a partnership event so that we could offer a safe space for people to find clothing and resources for the trans community.”

“This event is important because many trans individuals don’t have access to clothing that aligns with their gender identity,” Metro Trans Services Division Manager Lucas Wehle says. “We recognize that developing a professional wardrobe is the first step in paving the path for a successful career. We are happy to connect community members to resources they need.”

“People can come in and get professional attire at no cost to them,” Foust notes. “There’s no limit; we’ve really worked together as a community to collect donations so that people can take what they need that day.

Wehle advises that 2017’s inaugural gathering drew 80 attendees, something that led to this year’s expansion at MCC. “We’ve more than doubled the giveaways that we’re having,” he says, noting that prizes include gc2b chest binders. The company notes that its chest binders are “designed by and for trans people” and that it is “dedicated to providing the gear needed to help you safely achieve your ideal form.”

“They’re a part of the wardrobe for masculine identifying individuals,” Wehle adds. “It’s part of the wardrobe for being able to look and feel comfortable in clothing, so it’s kind of like that baseline. There’s a huge need for those who suffer from that type of dysphoria.”

In addition to clothing, two simultaneous workshops will be offered hourly, the first at 1:10 p.m. and the last beginning at 5:10 p.m. “Hello My Name Is,” which provides interview skills and helpful tips and “Chair Yoga,” detailing deep breathing techniques in a casual form of yoga, kick things off.

“Resume FAQs,” which seeks to enlighten attendees on how to showcase their true self’s professional experience, as well as “Mental Health & The LGBTQ+ Community,” continue at 2:10 p.m. “Inclusive Real Estate,” which will offer an explanation on transcending the barriers of home ownership and “Advanced Directives,” showcasing the importance for designating health care surrogates, begin at 3:10 p.m.

“Spirituality IS Inclusive” will review creative ways to connect spiritually and begins at 4:10 p.m. alongside “Everyday Beautiful.” The latter will highlight how to achieve “the perfect look through wig styling.”

“Social Justice” and “Financial Health” close out the day at 5:10 p.m. The former will cover transgender and gender non-confirming equality and the latter will specialize in “making your bank account as fabulous as you are.”

“The workshops are just another example of the community coming together in support of this event,” Foust says. “They’re all led by agencies or individuals who have knowledge that they want to donate.”

“People who are early on in their transition or have recently come out may not have any idea where to get this kind of information,” Wehle says. “Having it all accessible in one place and at one time can be a huge benefit – and it’s free.”

For those who may not be ready to attend, Foust and Wehle stress that Metro is always available. “Stay in touch,” Foust says. “Even if it’s online. Be aware of the resources available to you because it can get really difficult when you’re going through things alone and you don’t feel like you have people that understand you.”

“We’re here,” Wehle adds. “If later on you want to be connected to resources or need someone to talk to about coming out, reach out to us. We’ll be happy to connect you to resources and the support that you need throughout your journey.”

The second annual Trans Fashion Expo will be held at MCC Tampa, located at 408 E Cayuga St., on Nov. 17 from 12-6 p.m. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page, or email Photo via Metro Wellness and Community Centers.


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