Nonprofit goes virtual to support the LGBTQ community during COVID-19

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The Metamorphosis Mobile Boutique is a volunteer-run nonprofit based on a mutual aid model that provides clothing and other resources to at-risk LGBTQ youth. With 18,313 current confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia, nonbinary founder Kayla Wilson is pivoting to provide for the LGBTQ community in other ways including virtual sales and care packages. 

According to a 2017 study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, LGBTQ youth make up 40% of the homeless youth population, even though they represent only 10% of the general youth population. Because of widespread homelessness, LGBTQ youth often cannot afford or procure essential items like clothing. Metamorphosis believes these youth deserve to look and feel their best. “A gender-affirming outfit can change their whole day,” said Wilson. 

The Metamorphosis Mobile Boutique emerged from a time of hardship for Wilson. After experiencing homelessness, Wilson moved to Orlando, Florida, where they had to navigate homelessness and the everyday bureaucratic nightmare of procuring state social services to meet their basic needs. 

Wilson decided to start a trans-focused clothing swap. In a period of only six months, it grew rapidly into its current incarnation as a gender-affirming free clothing store that holds popup events in libraries, youth shelters and community centers. 

According to Wilson, Metamorphosis is changing the culture around giving and receiving —  that’s the whole spirit of mutual aid. “It’s really about not having a power dynamic between the person that is giving and the person that is receiving. In the traditional charity setting, there’s a handful of very wealthy people that give crumbs to poor people, and [poor people] can’t really ask for accommodation, they can’t have autonomy in that situation. Beggars can’t be choosers, we’ve all heard that. It’s disgusting.” The act of asking for charity, said Wilson, often precludes choice. “Metamorphosis is a resource that maintains autonomous choice,” declared Wilson. 

Wilson moved the nonprofit to Philadelphia last year, where they said they received a lot of inspiration from the city’s strong sense of mutual aid and grassroots organization. Then, COVID-19 happened. As the pandemic forced many other businesses and nonprofits to recalibrate and learn how to exist in a no-contact, virtual space, so too did Metamorphosis. 

Metamorphosis recently held its first live virtual sale on May 10. Wilson plans to hold twice-monthly live virtual sales which can be accessed via their website or social media pages. Wilson is also embarking on a mission to make masks out of donated clothing. Wilson is a hairstylist and is certified in sterilization techniques. While Wilson would love to outsource the sewing of masks, they are not keen to do so because they cannot make any assurances on how sterile another person’s workspace would be. So far, Wilson has handsewn prototype masks but is unsure if the stitching will hold up if one were to wash them. What Metamorphosis is really lacking and what would make this goal of making masks an actuality, said Wilson, is a sewing machine. To carry the community through this pandemic, Wilson is focusing all energy on creating care packages that contain not only clothing, but hand sanitizer, masks, and other PPE. 

“While people are sharing [our posts] on Facebook and [saying] kind words,” said KJ Scott, Wilson’s executive assistant, “we are lacking volunteers and supplies.” Wilson stated that they are exploring ways in which people can volunteer remotely. These volunteer opportunities would be managing their social media and website, brand promotion and making phone calls on their behalf. Metamorphosis currently has more clothes than it can give away, but monetary donations are needed and welcomed. 

To support or volunteer with Metamorphosis Mobile Boutique, visit https://metamobileboutique.com/join-our-cause

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