Transform was going strong right before the COVID-19 crisis hit. The nonprofit, which provides free clothes for transgender youth, had just moved in to a prime location downtown earlier this year.
“We moved here, and COVID hit the next week,” said co-founder Tristan Vaught.
Finally, after months of closure, Transform is once again open and serving the community. Like many other businesses, they’re operating differently because of the pandemic.
“We are requiring everyone to wear a mask and we’re limiting the people in the building at a time,” Vaught said.
The store accepts customers by appointment only three days a week, and the rest of the days are dedicated to cleaning.
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Vaught said it’s important now more than ever to be open, especially during Pride Month and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Protect trans kids and protect Black lives, and Black Lives Matter,” Vaught said. “We have to protect our most marginalized to be able to encompass everyone.”
Tuesday evening, on the last day of Pride Month, a Trans Black Lives Matter event is taking place in Washington Park. One of the featured speakers is Ariel Mary Ann. Her sister, Riah Milton, was killed in an attempted robbery in Liberty Township earlier this month.
“I think that my job is to make her voice is heard and to celebrate her death like she was celebrated in life as Riah,” Mary Ann said. “To highlight our voices that need to be heard in a very very big way.”
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Mary Ann, who is also transgender, said she doesn’t know if her sister’s identity made her a target for her assailants. Police believe the suspects wanted to steal her car. But she knows that Black transgender women are among the most vulnerable groups in American society — to unemployment, to poverty, to homelessness and to physical violence.
The American Medical Association described anti-transgender violence as an epidemic in 2019, noting that most victims of transphobic murders were women of color.
“My sister Riah, she was a joyful person,” Mary Ann said. “She loved her family and she loved her friends. She was just a joy to be around.”
Tuesday’s event in Washington Park begins at 6 p.m. and features multiple speakers talking about ways to bring awareness to the Trans Black Lives Matter movement.