CINCINNATI — In the heart of Cincinnati, tucked away behind the facade of Over-the-Rhine beauty bar BRIDEface, lives an organization that works to change the lives of transgender children in the city through simple acts of kindness.
Transform helps transgender kids obtain a new, free wardrobe to fit their gender identity all in an inclusive — if dusty — space.
"We cleaned it a few times," said Tristan Vaught, co-founder of Transform. "It's got mold, it's got dust, it's got dirt. So we have to actually keep all the clothes in bins."
But it's a sacred space.
The organization is looking to expand to a new location. But for the time being, they offer a sanctuary for kids to choose the clothes that fit their lives in a comfortable and non-judgmental space.
"Can you imagine when you're transitioning, trying to go to a department store, and where do you go to actually change?" Vaught said.
Vaught is gender-queer and, alongside Ella Dastillung and her mother Nancy Dawson — the owner of BRIDEface — the trio created Transform. When Dastillung's younger sister came out as trans, it sparked the idea.
"I was right there next to her, trying to help her pick out clothes. She was stealing my clothes," Dastillung said.
Transform specifically caters to the transgender community. Each client fills out a form by answering a few questions about themselves, and the stylist has a stack of clothes waiting for them to choose from.
"When children come out, parents want to be able to support them, but if you just bought an entire wardrobe for school and you're already strapped for cash and you want to support your kid, what are you going to do?" Vaught said.
That's why the services at Transform are free; all the clothes are donated. The organization just needs to find the right home.
The organization is working to raise funds for a new space for their services and clothes, but Dastillung said the most important thing they're hoping to supply is validation.
"We want to make them feel validated," she said. "We want to make them feel affirmed in their genders."
The organization is currently by appointment only, and only serves transgender kids aged 6 to 18. They said they're hoping, with expansion, that they can also begin to help those over the age of 19.
This story was originally published by Raven Richard on WCPO in Cincinnati.