FARMINGTON – Southwest Rainbow Youth, an LGBTQ+ youth initiative, has joined a national project to provide additional support to transgender, nonbinary and two-spirit people during the coronavirus pandemic to help them maintain their gender identity.
The Trans Clippers Project, started by Imagine Water Works in Louisiana, provides free hair clippers to the LGBTQ+ community as many people have limited access to salons and barbershops. Southwest Rainbow Youth has joined the project to deliver the clippers in Southwest Colorado and northwest New Mexico.
Trennie Collins, co-founder of Southwest Rainbow Youth, said she first learned about the project on Facebook and thought it would be an amazing way to support the LGBTQ+ community in the area during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Often our transgender, nonbinary and two-spirit people get overlooked, and for me, it was something that made them feel like they mattered, because they do matter,” Collins said.
Many people rely on specific hairstyles to “pass” as their identified gender for safety reasons, according to the Trans Clippers Project. So when the pandemic first shuttered salons and barbershops, the project was created to provide clippers to people who needed them but did not have access to them.
“They don’t have to experience misgendering or dysphoria during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Collins said.
Gender dysphoria is the distress people feel when there is a mismatch between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth. For many, it can lead to mental health challenges or can even be dangerous.
“It’s important to our mental health, as many of us experience profound dysphoria with certain hairstyles,” the Trans Clippers Project website says. “Individuals in our community are also being increasingly misgendered while trying to perform life-sustaining tasks, like getting food, going to work or taking care of each other.”
While Southwest Rainbow Youth announced its participation in the project this week, Collins said it already had two people from the area reach out about receiving clippers. She said the group is providing clippers within an hour’s drive of Durango, Ignacio, Bayfield, Cortez, Mancos and Farmington.
“We definitely want to make sure we’re hitting our Native American reservations and not leaving them out, too,” she said
Collins said while many salons and barbers are opening up, the No. 1 priority for the organizations is to make sure people feel safe.
“I wouldn’t want trans, nonbinary and two-spirited individuals to feel ashamed or out of place,” she said. “If they don’t feel safe going out, I don’t think that’s OK.”
People who want to help can give financially to Southwest Rainbow Youth or the Trans Clippers Project via their websites or contact Collins to donate clippers locally.
Collins said the organization is also providing resources, food and hygiene assistance to the LGBTQ+ community during this time. People who need help of any kind can fill out a Google Form on the organization’s website or Facebook page.
“If there’s anyone that can use help in this time, we are more than happy to help,” she said.