Oakland school launches 'Transition Closet' to help students hide gender dysphoria from parents

"The goal of the transition closet is for our students to wear the clothes that their parents approve of, come to school and then swap out into the clothes that fit who they truly are."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

The Transition Closet has come to Oakland's Fremont High School. The concept, which began in an Arkansas church, first launched at the Good Shepard Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, is designed to let trans-identified youth circumvent their parents and socially transition without their knowledge.

The Transition Closet announced with glee the new chapter with Fremont High School, writing that "We are extremely excited to begin our journey in working with Fremont Highschool [sic] of Oakland California, alongside our favorite teacher of TikTok @justaqueerteacher," as was first reported by Twitter account Teacher Exposed. A video of the teacher was also shared.

"The goal of the transition closet is for our students to wear the clothes that their parents approve of, come to school and then swap out into the clothes that fit who they truly are," said Thomas Martin-Edwards, a Spanish teacher at the Oakland Unified School District and founder of the Queer Teacher Fellowship. Martin-Edwards previously served as the Assistant Principal of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

"And I use the idea that this is like Superman changing in a phone booth. But that idea actually goes a lot further than that. Because Superman isn't Clark Kent. Clark Kent is actually the disguise. And when Clark Kent goes into the phone booth, he transforms into Superman, who is really just who he truly is, Kal-El. So this gives our trans students the opportunity to be the superheroes that we know they are," he said.

The Facebook page for The Transition Closet spoke about the needs of the new Transition Closet. "The near future holds transition closet(s) and services throughout the school district for students of the Trans/Nonbinary/Intersex and additional LGBTQIA+ Community Members," they shared. "We are currently in need of clothing donations to help kick start the first School Based Transition Closet, and they gave information about where materials could be donated."

The Transition Closet, which features videos teaching girls how to bind their breasts so that they appear more masculine, recently received a grant from the Arkansas LGBTQ+ Advancement Fund. The grant will be used "To provide gender-affirming clothing and accessories for transgender and non-binary Arkansans." The Transition Closet thanked The Big Binder Project, which provides free chest binders to girls seeking to hide their breasts.

"The only requirements we have," The Big Binder Project notes, "is that you are in need of a binder, and have no way to afford or obtain one on your own." They write that they "are working hard to provide local binder services through Transition Closets, nationwide."

In discussing the plan for the installation of The Transition Closet at Fremont High School with Alexander Brodie Switzer, of VALID by Brodie, a group that works toward "establishing Transition Closets world-wide," Martin-Edwards said:

"My principal just approved our district's first Transition Closet. We'll be working with the organization The Transition Closet to provide clothes for transgender, non-binary and gender exploring youth, who maybe don't have the access or the safety to get those clothes in their personal lives. They'll be able to come to school and change into the clothes that make them feel more at home and more like themselves. And I just think that's lovely."

The Transition Closet hosts videos on how to use specific pronouns, such as "fae/faer," provides help on how to look more stereotypically masculine from a Saudi Arabian businessman, how to use the "Pronoun Dressing Room," and how to stretch before and after wearing a breast binder. Videos on how to put on a chest binder and why a person would choose to bind their breasts litter the page.

The Transition Project addressed a question as to what binding is and why a person would "choose to bind." They said:

"So first of all, chest biding is when someone uses a binder, like the one that I'm wearing now, or something safe like trans tape, to bind their chest to make it appear flatter. This can either make them appear more masculine or just less feminine. Anybody can choose to bind. That can be female-to-male transgender, transgender non-binary, gender fluid, or just cisgender feminine people who want to have a flatter chest. This can be because of dysphoria. Dysphoria is whenever a person's body part or body image makes them feel like they are not the gender that they feel inside. This can cause a lot of people to experience things like depression and suicidal thoughts."

It's unclear if Oakland's Fremont High School will also be facilitating getting binders to trans or non-binary identified female students at the school without their parents' knowledge or consent.

The Fremont High School has been reached for comment.


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