By Kian McKoy and Remi Schott
On the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, The Phluid Project, the first ever gender-free retail store located in SoHo, Manhattan, is hosting an open mic night to honor the day.
The event tomorrow adds to previous ones hosted in the store and is geared towards starting conversations and educating individuals on LGBTQ-centered policy. Tuesday, customers gathered for an improvisation show titled “Thank You for Coming Out.”
“We do panels here about sexual health or trans women of color…anything to bring people in and teach them about what’s going on in the [LGBTQ] community and to have a place where people can talk about things that they can’t always talk to people about,” Michael Holden, third key at The Phluid Project said.
1.4 million adults in the United States identify as transgender, according to an analysis conducted by the Williams Institute. The number of individuals identifying as lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender continues to increase, according to another report from Gallup which sites 3.5% of Americans in 2012 up to 4.5% in 2017.
This increase in people of all ages identifying as something other than male or female has started many debates in the courtroom and on the Senate floor over how to accommodate non-conforming individuals.
President Trump has banned transgender people from entering the military. Transgender people’s access to public bathrooms has also been challenged for years. In many cases, it is not legal for non-conforming individuals to obtain driver’s licenses, birth certificates, or passports that match their preferred gender identities. And in 2018, only 20 states have statutes that protect against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the public and private sector.
“We’re trying to encourage young people to vote, so we’re working with platforms like Motor Vote [and] Your Voting Date,” Preston Souza, buyer for The Phluid Project said. “We’re trying to think of creative ways to get young people involved and empowering them with their own voice.”
The first and only brick and mortar store was opened on Mar. 1 and has an online store for customers. The website touts that it is more than just a clothing store, but also ‘a safe space that challenges boundaries with humanity.’
“There is finally a place where you can go and shop freely, and not have to face the pressures of shopping as a man or a woman, but just as yourself, whoever that may be.” Brian Brigantti, a queer artist based in NYC said. “In reality, gender is a spectrum and we should have the freedom to explore however we want.”
Alongside the racks of unisex clothing items is a community space, which includes bleachers, a coffee bar, and a gender-neutral bathroom. The downstairs of the building has an office space that different groups can freely rent for meetings. This space is also used for the monthly ‘Tuesday Talks’ that The Phluid Project hosts.
“This is where the future should head as the ‘gender’ of clothing is all socially constructed,” Paul Alberti, a resident of Brookhaven said. “I think this should be a basis of normalizing the controversial idea that there is more than one gender and clothing should not be put on the binary. This may also help with the idea of increasing the amount of gender-neutral bathrooms there are.” Alberti’s preferred gender pronouns are he, his, and him.
Recent legislation in favor of the LGBT community includes the 2015 Supreme Court declaration that same-sex marriages are legal in all 50 states and a New York law signed Oct. 9 including gender ‘X,’ a neutral option, on birth certificates. Though hailed as a step in the right direction, some people think this new law is just one step in a long process.
“You may be a New York City-born person who identifies as gender non-binary, in which case you may elect to change your gender marker on your birth certificate to X, however when you apply for any federal identification or licensing, the gender choices are still only listed as M/F, so translating that across on a federal level can indeed cause them great anxiety and unrest,” Jeremy Moineau, transgender model for The Phluid Project said.