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Thursday 10 November 2016

The birth of the Wellington Binder Exchange

Posted in: Community
By Sarah Murphy - 9th April 2016

The Wellington Binder exchange is launching this week and we chat to Coordinator of the exchange, Charles Prout about transitioning and the importance of community exchange.

Currently in their last year of a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Science, Charlie is also a facilitator at Transform.

As someone who has looked into transitioning and who bought their first binder at age 17, Charlie knows all too well that this can be a hard process for many young trans people. Using their tax return money to buy a binder, Charlie says, “I received questions from my mother when it arrived to why I was getting something from the States, as I had not yet come out to my family.”
With excess money from a fundraiser that Charlie was looking to put to a good cause, the Wellington Binder Exchange was born.

“Being trans costs a lot of money,” says Charlie. “Changing names and identity documents, assessments, hormones and doctors’ appointments all add up.
“Giving youth free binders was one less costs for trans youth. It is something the majority of transmasculine people need but they are expensive and often hard to find the right size. People often give a way old binders online and this process is fragmented and individualistic. With the permission from those who originally donated I started work towards getting this off the ground.”

Through the exchange, Charlie hopes to avoid young people being placed in desperate situations where they are outed in the process of obtaining a binder or have to put themselves through financial strain.

“This is a safety concern for many young trans people,” says Charlie “Along with the health risks of using alternative binding measures such as ACE bandages.”

Charlie says the binders the exchange are providing cost $50 each, including shipping at the lower end of the market, with prices going up in the hundreds.
“There is nowhere that I am aware of to obtain a binder within Wellington that is not via an online platform.

“The people we are aiming to help with this project are under 18 and/or still living with their parents. This makes it very hard for these youth to obtain binders due to cost reasons and not having a credit card to buy binders with. On top of this, receiving thing in the mail for overseas may create questions from parents. If a youth is not out as transgender to parents, it is incredible difficult for them to have the finances or means to obtain a binder.”

Charlie says they felt a need to help their community because they didn’t feel they had support when coming out. “For me, when I came out at 18 as transgender then moved back to Wellington from Scotland I felt like there was very little support.

“Transmen often are stealth and I felt there were very few role models and older people to help me understand the consequences and the process of transitioning. I never thought I would get to this point where I would feel comfortable enough in myself that I would be able to help youth.

“I want to be the person I would have needed when I came out. There are so many hurdles for trans youth to overcome from healthcare to employment to acceptance from their friends and family and the best way to help with these issue is to create community and intergenerational connections to show youth that despite being trans, you are able to be a successful full member of society that is loved despite the messages we receive from media and the wider world.”

After a few years, Charlie says they found support through Evolve and Mani Mitchell and says with out the help of people like Evolve youth worker Kassie Hartendorp, they would have never had the skills, resources or confidence to put this together.

“Evolve is very supportive of youth creating ways to help other youth and Kirsten Smith, the manager at Evolve, was on board from the start.
“Evolve is the first stop for trans youth in Wellington, so it only made sense to store them in the Outerspaces office at Evolve meaning the staff would be able to access binders for their patients who needed them.”

More than anything Charlie hopes this project will be sustainable without monetary donations.

“I would like it to be able to give out binders to all the youth in Wellington who need them solely from donation from older transmasculine people who no longer need them - people in the community giving back,” says Charlie. “I would like it to highlight the needs of trans people in access to healthcare and work with DHBs and government to create better policy around transgender people.”

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Sarah Murphy - 9th April 2016