Twenty-eight students can get gender-affirming clothes and accessories for free because of a bursary started by a Dalhousie society.
Dove Begleiter is one of the students who used the bursary. She planned to use it for breast forms, a garment used to enhance the appearance of the bust but ended up buying a gaff instead due to a shortage in breast forms. She said she wouldn’t have bought these items without the bursary.
“A lot of my experience, and I think a lot of experience of trans people, is one of waiting and delaying and trying to figure out ways to make things work … Something like this just makes it significantly easier to do things that can help you imagine your identity without worrying,” she said.
Begleiter isn’t the only one to find the bursary beneficial. Lily Andruschak used it to buy an additional binder after having left theirs at home in Vancouver when they moved to Halifax. They said they wouldn’t have gotten the item without the bursary simply because it’s too expensive.
“As a student $65 can go towards my groceries or my rent and since rent in Halifax is so high, it wouldn’t necessarily have been a priority for me. I would’ve loved to have one, but I definitely wouldn’t have been able to just go in and buy what I needed,” they said.
Aarun, who declined to provide his last name for privacy, echoed Andruschak. He found the bursary to be an excellent opportunity to buy the items he wanted but couldn’t afford.
“It was incredibly helpful because binders can be expensive and I started looking up the prices on the internet and I was like, ‘Oh crap, I don’t have the money for this,’ and my cards are tapped by my parents, so I can’t just go and buy that.”
After getting the bursary and buying a binder from Venus Envy, Aarun said they felt changed.
“It was like one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had because when I finally saw myself in the mirror I kind of burst into tears and I was like, ‘This is who I am’. For the first time I was incredibly happy to be in my own skin rather than hating the fact that I am a man trapped inside a woman’s body.”
DalOut, the 2SLGBTQ+ society at Dalhousie University, offered the bursary as a trial run from Oct. 19 until Oct. 28. Tess Martin and Liv Gardiner developed the bursary to help students from Dalhousie and the University of King’s College access gender-affirming garments, such as chest binders, packers, and genital gaffs, from Halifax’s Venus Envy, a store that caters to the LGBTQ community.
These items can range from $30 to $100. DalOut is using part of its funding from the Dal Student Union to fund this bursary.
“We’ve had people ask where to get these things but it’s just kind of something that all of us being a part of the community understood the need for … so, we just kind of understood that this was something that a lot of people would like to have, but can’t necessarily do for themselves,” said Gardiner.
Gender-affirming garments are designed to help someone who doesn’t identify as the gender they were assigned at birth feel more comfortable in their bodies by minimizing or enhancing body parts, such as breasts or genitals. These items “can help people feel more gender euphoria and more at home in their bodies,” said Gardiner.
Interest was overwhelming, said Martin and Gardiner, and they had to re-evaluate how they would handle the bursary. They initially planned on having recipients tell DalOut when they were going to Venus Envy so they could set something up, but that became too difficult. The program now runs on good faith, but Martin said that “all the people going there are people that I’ve been in communication with.”
Gardiner and Martin said they have an idea of how much money this initial run of the bursary will cost but they won’t know exactly how much until the end of November.
Venus Envy owner Marshall Haywood thinks this bursary is important.
“I think it’s really helpful to provide-gender affirming gear for people who might not be able to afford it. And it’s certainly really wonderful to be able to offer that support to Dal students,” Haywood said on Tuesday.
About the author
Angela Capobianco (she/her) is a Halifax-born journalist. She has a Master's degree in history from Queen's University and hopes to use her skills...