These companies are working together to bring affirming clothing to as many trans youth as possible
Jamie Alexander is the epitome of a supportive parent. Since his daughter Ruby came out as trans as a young child, he has done everything in his power to ensure she is loved and affirmed and can lead a happy life as her authentic self.
And that includes launching an entire company so that Ruby would have something to wear to the beach.
Tanius Posey said some negative comments have come from trans people who think he’s making them “look bad.”
Ruby had been having trouble finding a bikini that fit her well. For her own safety, her parents had insisted she wear board shorts to the beach. But Ruby eventually grew frustrated and just wanted to wear a bikini like her friends.
There wasn’t much on the market to meet Ruby’s needs, so Alexander decided to change that. Three years ago, he launched Rubies, which sells form-fitting bras, underwear, and swimwear for trans girls. It’s slogan: “Every girl deserves to shine.”
“One of the design points for Rubies was creating underwear and swimwear that feels the same as clothing cis people are wearing,” Alexander told LGBTQ Nation. “If you’re not physically comfortable, that gets in the way of you feeling comfortable overall.”
Over the past three years, Alexander has sent out more than 10,000 packages to trans girls in over 40 countries. He has spoken on panels, guided employee resource groups, and Zoomed directly with parents seeking advice on supporting their own trans children.
Alexander has also done several collaborations with LGBTQ+ groups, most recently partnering with Alexander Switzer’s Affirming Wardrobe, a program (through Switzer’s nonprofit Valid USA) that works with schools to supply gender-affirming clothing and undergarments to middle, high school, and college students.
In addition to running an Affirming Wardrobe in Tucson, Arizona at the University of Arizona Lutheran Campus Ministries, Alexander has largely worked with schools in Northern California, namely with the Oakland Unified School District.
He met Alexander when Rubies donated some merchandise to the organization, and the pair quickly knew they wanted to continue working together.
“I really liked what he was doing,” Alexander said, adding that working with Switzer has allowed Rubies products to reach a different cohort of young people – those without supportive parents that must seek out gender-affirming attire themselves.
Last month, in honor of the Transgender Day of Visibility, Alexander donated a slew of merchandise to Switzer.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to expand even further [and reach] older youth and be able to do some good, help these people in another critical time in their journey,” he said.
Both Switzer and Alexander praised the immensely positive effects their work has had on the kids they serve.
“A lot of kids have withdrawn from doing activities they love,” Alexander said. “And I don’t know about you, but for myself, you know, being able to go swimming at the beach, go to camp and feel comfortable, it’s kind of an essential part of growing up. So people say it’s life-changing for them and their kids.”
“Right away when a kid tries on their first bikini… They get that, you know, that twirl, like ‘Hey, I feel like myself.’”
Switzer, a trans man himself, told LGBTQ Nation that based on feedback he has received from the Oakland Unified School District, trans students who have access to the Affirming Wardrobe have had better attendance and even improved grades.
“They’re more interactive with their peers, they’re happier. They’re showing up for school every day. They’re showing up for club meetings, for events in the community… It’s really brought a lot of people, a lot of students, a lot of kids just so much joy.”
Both companies hope to continue expanding their reach as much as possible. Switzer is hoping to do so through college campus ministries.
“I grew up in the Christian church and was loved and welcomed, and then I was queer and I was a sin… So I strayed away from being with any kind of religious groups for 11 years and then [found] this very welcoming group of young people… They were super excited and welcoming of the idea of the Affirming Wardrobe. So with the partnership of the other church that we work with, they were able to give me space there.”
“Now we’re looking to connect with additional campus ministries at additional colleges to try to open space at their church or their college. I connected with my pastor, and we’re going to reach out to the over 100 different groups throughout the different universities.”
And now that Ruby is 15, Alexander has been expanding the company’s product line to grow with his daughter. He introduced a bra last year, for example, and he is working on creating other, more teen-centered undergarments as an increasing number of older kids also show interest in the brand.
“There’s always more to do,” he said. “Much more to grow Rubies into for sure.”
While both founders have experienced the inevitable backlash that accompanies supporting a marginalized group, they said they do their best to focus on the positive.
“The backlash, it just sort of falls off me,” said Alexander. “I knew going into this that there are some people that hate on the trans movement. They’re going to be there irrespective of what I’m doing. I really don’t focus on them at all. Rubies is really about celebrating these great people, the great community, the kids, it’s all positive…. What Rubies and I personally try to do is really just bring some joy to this community.”
“We don’t want you to be shocked,” Switzer added. “We want this to be normal. We’re just giving our kids what they need to succeed.”
He recalls a special Affirming Wardrobe program in San Francisco that paired 18 trans and gender nonconforming kids with 18 drag artists for a shopping spree at the LGBTQ+ thrift store, Out of the Closet.
“Just helping them shop and find what really makes them feel comfortable. We had a shy, shy youth come in that at first was very hesitant. And after, they had just the biggest smile on their face. They just broke out of their shell. And it was just… it drives the work.”
As someone who regularly witnesses the positive impact trans kids experience when their gender is affirmed, Switzer has a message for the GOP legislators seeking to limit trans kids’ freedom: “Just leave us be. Let us do what’s going to make us happy. We’re not hurting anybody. We are doing things within our lives to fulfill what we need to be to be happy.”