"It's a sign that people out there are rooting for you, and want you to be okay and comfortable in your own skin," says Beck Swanson, who helped create the nonprofit Diverse Xpress. Swanson, along with sympathetic volunteers, makers and artists, is creating a crowdfunding campaign to help bring care packages to teens and others in need.
It was an idea born of Swanson's work with the Harry Potter Alliance, which uses the wizarding world as a jumping-off point for social activism, and her own journey in navigating gender identity. "I started exploring [gender issues] a couple of years ago and found that "agender" was the term that best indicated how I feel," Swanson says. It was a revelation that had been building for a long time, and it soon led to a greater awareness of LGBTQA issues. On a Skype call with friend and fellow Harry Potter Alliance member Beka Gurney, the idea to found a nonprofit to support LGBTQA youth came up. "We were both like, 'Oh, man, that's dangerous for us,'" Swanson recalls. "We get super-passionate about what we do."
Swanson posted a survey on Tumblr asking what the trans and non-binary community needed, and received hundreds of responses. In the process of reaching out to LGBT centers across the country, as well as Canada and the U.K., Swanson and Gurney decided to found Diverse Xpress as a crowdfunded social enterprise. Contributors to the IndieGoGo campaign can get a box for themselves or someone they know while funding one for someone in need. These care packages will include custom buttons, stickers and keychains, many provided by Etsy crafters drafted to the cause, as well as toiletries, clothing and listings of national and local resources. Most critically, the boxes provide hard-to-find items like stand-to-pees, gaffs that conceal male genitalia, and binders that help with flattening bust lines.
"I knew what would have made me feel better, but I wanted to make sure that it wasn't just about one identity or one person," Swanson says. "All of these boxes are custom, because everybody is in their own place with their transition and how out they are, everything like that." Youth centers are a major focus of the campaign, but anyone can nominate someone to receive a box — or nominate themselves. As the service takes shape, Swanson plans to partner with the DIY subscription-box company Cratejoy to provide a regular dose of affirmation.
"I've already had a couple people reach out and ask if the boxes were being sent out, because they really need access to a binder and such," Swanson says. "There's been a ton of support, and not necessarily from people I know very well, which is amazing to me. It's something that they've rallied around, even though they don't have a personal tie to me or Beka."
If you want to support Diverse Xpress and its mission, check out the crowdfunding campaign at IndieGoGo before it closes on April 9.