This story has been republished with permission from The Buckeye Flame.
Racks of neatly organized dresses, ties, suits, shoes, bras, baby and kid’s clothes, and even wedding dresses fill the storefront on W. 117 St. in Lakewood. A nearby glass display case holds wigs and makeup with the tags still attached. Trans and LGBTQ+ Pride flags hang in the windows.
It appears to be a typical resale shop from the street, but it’s quickly clear that Margie’s Closet, opening June 5th immediately after the Pride Ride, is so much more. A dream of Jacob Nash of Margie’s Hope that was put on hold due to the pandemic, the shop offers free and affordable clothing and accessories to members of the trans and non-binary communities in a bright, welcoming, ADA-accessible space owned by West 117 Foundation.
The Buckeye Flame talked to Nash about why Margie’s Closet is important and how you can support their efforts.
How will Margie’s Closet operate?
Anybody can come in and purchase clothing. If it’s someone from the trans or non-binary community, we’re going to be working with different organizations and groups on a voucher program. And if someone from those communities comes in and is not connected to those resources, we will help connect them because we’re going to have a pretty big resource area so that folks know what’s available. They might know they need new clothes. But, how do I find a doctor? Or what do I need to go to counseling? Can I change my name?
Most people want to see themselves visually as who they know that they are as the first step. Because seeing who they potentially can be, helps them start the ball rolling, and they’re able to go “Wow, okay, so I can do this.”
The voucher program is going to be $25 a month. So if somebody comes in and needs some clothing, with their voucher they’ll have up to $25 that they can spend and our prices are really reasonable. Certain things are going to be just for folks within the trans community, like wedding dresses, wigs, binders, and gaffes. We want to make sure that we have those items available when they’re needed.
But we’re also catering to anybody that wants to walk in, because in order to continue to do the work to provide those things for free, we have to sell things as well. The purchase of clothing goes right back into the community.
Why is Margie’s Closet needed?
Two reasons. First is safety and the second is financially. We know many department stores like Target and Kohl’s and other clothing stores are becoming more and more trans-friendly. But I can’t say that for the customers. About a year and a half ago, before the pandemic really hit, I was sitting in a TransAlive meeting and we were talking about clothing and accessories and how hard it is sometimes to find clothing that’s in people’s sizes, especially trans women. And that they’re also concerned about going into the store: Can they try things on? Can’t they try things on? So instead of doing that they’ve fallen on ordering things online, but they don’t know if they fit. So they’re ordering them, then sending them back and just encountering so many difficulties in finding materials and clothing that are suitable. People can come in here, and they can feel safe. We’ve got a dressing room that they can go in and try stuff on in, in the safety of their own community.
Financially, with the amazing clothes that have been donated, even stuff that’s brand new, we can then turn around and sell them for less than half of what it would cost in a regular store. So people are able to come in here and purchase the things that they need but there are also items that they can get for free if they need it. A binder can cost anywhere between $35 and $45 online. Here we have them because we have partnered with organizations that have donated a bunch of binders because they know that they’re going to people that need them. We want to be able to help our community know that they’re safe, that [the clothes are]affordable, and that we want them to be comfortable with who they are. And being comfortable is looking in the mirror and seeing that person. And it’s often the clothes.
What does this new space mean for Margie’s Hope?
It means expandability. Yes, we’re an Akron-based organization, but we’re really Northeast Ohio. This gets us up in the Cleveland-Lakewood area. It’s a fantastic location. The store is going to be open five days a week and we now have more of an investment in the Lakewood-Cleveland community. It really helps us to not only expand up here, but also help folks see that there are resources. Maybe someone is lacking a resource or they don’t know about the LGBT Center. They can come in here and get resources they need. We’re very closely tied with TransOhio and this would be a great location to have some of their legal clinics.
This space is the trans community space. This is not just Margie’s Hope’s space or Margie’s Closet. This space is the community’s space. We want people when they walk in this door to feel like this is theirs. This is their home, this is their place to come not just for clothing, but for connection. To find other resources that they need, to find people that are like them because I can guarantee you that some of the folks within the trans community that walk through that door have probably never met another trans person before.
I have heard from so many people in Northeast Ohio, especially now that the pandemic is letting up, who have come out during the pandemic, but they don’t know where to go now. With the pandemic, we have found more folks have come out because it was safer for them because they didn’t have to go anywhere. Now that the pandemic is letting up it’s like, okay, now I’ve got to step outside of my little box that I had been in. Letting them know that Margie’s Closet is here has really helped people feel a little bit more comfortable because they know they’re not having to do this alone.
How will you know if it’s successful?
To me, it will be successful when there are people in here gathering, whether they’re buying clothes, or they’re just sitting down and talking. Sure we want people to buy things, but to me, I want people to find community. I want them to find the resources that they need. I want them to be able to see themselves in one of the mirrors that we have hanging up and to know that this is a safe place. If people are coming in and communing, that means they feel safe. And to me, that’s one of the most important things for folks within our community.
I want people to come in here and get encouragement, to get support, to get the “wow, that looks beautiful on you.” The encouragement and the knowledge that they are wonderful and amazing. And that doesn’t matter what society says because they’re wrong. If we can help one person see their value, they’re gonna go out and tell other people. And they tell two people and they tell two people and they tell two people, and so on.
To me, that is a sign of success if people come in because they’ve heard it from somebody else. If we get allies that are coming in to purchase things because they heard about the work that we are doing and we continue to get donations, to me that’s success right there.
The other aspect is at some point, we’re going to have paintings and murals that folks within the trans community have done because we want the trans community to shine. We are artists, we are painters, we are entrepreneurs, we are business people. We’re all genders, we’re all races. We’re all sexual orientations. We’re all nationalities, we’re all diversities. We’re all ages, we encompass all of what society is. We want people to not just come in and purchase clothing, but maybe see something and go, “Who’s that?” And we can educate on who the community is and on those people that have made significant strides so that the community can be where it is today. I’m just so passionate about my community, and I want my community to feel safe and I want my community to find community.