LGBTQ-friendly mutual aid project expands to Philly

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Operations Director Katherine Franco at the Convoy of Hope Orlando Community Event Credit: Nina Perez, creative director of Metamorphosis

Kayla Wilson founded Metamorphosis Mobile Boutique, a mutual aid project geared toward LGBTQ+ youth, families and allies. The project facilitates the giving and receiving of clothing, hygiene products and other resources to LGBTQ folks and the larger community. While it currently exists as a mobile pop-up which has taken place at various locations in Orlando, including the Orange County Public Library and the LGBTQ nonprofit Zebra Coalition, Wilson recently expanded the project to Philadelphia. 

Thus far, Wilson has been holding Metamorphosis pop-ups at private residences in Philly, but plans to team up with local organizations to host more events going forward. They are currently planning events in collaboration with Mina’s World, a new QTPOC coffee shop in West Philly, and will hold a pop-up at the Trans Day of Visibility Event at Alchemy Hair Lab in Fishtown later this month. 

In contrast to a charity, Metamorphosis serves “as a form of political participation, one in which participants take responsibility for the caring of one another and changing our political conditions.” 

Wilson, 24, who identifies as a transgender, nonbinary lesbian, initially formed the mutual aid clothing swap while experiencing homelessness. They cited the 2016 shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando as an impetus to really solidify the initiative and create positive change. 

“It gave me a sense of urgency I didn’t have before to make a real tangible difference in my community,” they said in an email. They first began the project in July of 2018 as a pop-up at their house, and held their first official pop-up later that year. 

Over the course of a year and a half, Wilson and the Metamorphosis team have given away $8,000 in clothing in a dozen events in the Orlando area, and received over $12,000 in donations that they plan to distribute between their two chapters, according to their website. They have also been able to raise a couple thousand dollars in crowdfunding to help people of trans experience obtain hormone therapy, stable housing and other necessities.  

“In the beginning, it was more about wanting to have a resource that was for youth by youth,” Wilson said. “It was about having something to directly help other people that looked like me, or weren’t receiving help in a way that felt good from other resources.” 

Metamorphosis is run by a group of volunteers who are all under the age of 30, and who have had experiences relating to homelessness, poverty and issues connected to their LGBTQ  identities. Katherine Franco is director of operations and Nina Perez serves as creative director of the Florida chapter. In Philadelphia, volunteers include Leaf Wicks, who works as social media designer, Cheyenne Autumn, the community outreach specialist, and Wilson, who is working on getting the Philadelphia chapter up and running and remotely collaborating with the Florida team. 

Franco first came to work with Wilson upon seeing a social media post calling for donations and volunteers. Her experience in business operations fit well with Wilson’s mission. 

“I love working with [Kayla,] they’re truly inspiring and extremely understanding,” Franco said in an email. “I think communities coming together to provide resources to those in need is extremely important work. We at Metamorphosis hope that as we expand we are able to provide even more resources and bring even more communities together.” 

Wilson is in the process of applying for 501c3 status with the help of a recent $1,000 grant that they secured after pitching Metamorphosis at the Culturati Summit organized by the nonprofit Peace First. After obtaining nonprofit status, Wilson hopes to gain enough funding to rent a brick and mortar space for the project. 

From there, they plan to expand the project’s care package initiative, which is geared toward directly donating clothing and other resources to trans individuals who live in cities other than Orlando and Philadelphia. Metamorphosis has been focusing on southern states that lack trans-inclusive resources and organizations. 

Wilson also plans to roll out a guide and curriculum describing the project and how it works. “Similarly to how Food Not Bombs has many different, loosely connected chapters across the United States, we want to do the same thing.”

Another of Wilson’s mini projects within the larger initiative is the Trans Beauty Fund, which serves as a mutual aid fund for trans individuals already receiving resources from Metamorphosis.  As a hairstylist who has worked in both for-and-nonprofit domains, Wilson realized that many trans folks who sought their services couldn’t always afford them. 

“I wanted to be able to give those services away for free without putting myself or another trans person in financial harm,” they said. 

Further down the line, Wilson plans to create a coalition that will provide collaborative resources — such as support groups and counseling — for LGBTQ youth.

“We want to put the people in charge that look like the people they’re serving, and make sure… those positions of power are accessible to the youth that are part of our mutual aid project.”

Further information about Metamorphosis can be found online at https://metamobileboutique.com