‘Authentic self’: AIDS Resource to open free boutique for trans/gender-nonconforming people

MARTY WEAVER/Sun-Gazette Along with free clothing, the Brian Spies Boutique will offer snacks, condoms and other trinkets for free.

Transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the Williamsport area will soon have a place to be themselves.

AIDS Resource will soon be opening the Brian Spies Boutique, a private location for people to find clothes that match their gender expression — for free.

“We’re creating a boutique where people who are transgender or gender-nonconforming can come to a safe space,” said Kirsten Burkhart, executive director of AIDS Resource.

The boutique is expected to open in early June to coincide with the start of pride month, Burkhart said.

The Brian Spies Boutique is named in honor of a local artist. The titular Brian Spies (pronounced “Spees”), standing at 6-foot-8 and decked in bright eyeshadow and nail polish, recently experienced a large amount of harassment simply for wearing what they like to wear.

MARTY WEAVER/Sun-Gazette The words "You are awesome" greet patrons upon entering the Brian Spies Boutique.

So, the folks at AIDS Resource took action.

“I wanted [Spies] to feel the love,” Burkhart said.

The goal is to “create an inclusive environment,” Burkhart said, for people to be their “authentic self” away from prying eyes.

To achieve the necessary privacy, the location of the boutique will not be publicized.

Office manager Liz Fink emphasized that even the small details are meant to make those using the boutique as comfortable as possible. Along with clothes, shoes and accessories, AIDS Resource provides free condoms, snacks and other necessities free of charge.

MARTY WEAVER/Sun-Gazette Racks of clothing, shoes and accessories line the wall in the Brian Spies Boutique.

There are even condoms and information about HIV/AIDS in the dressing rooms in case visitors are uncomfortable taking those in front of anyone else in the building.

Anyone wishing to make use of the Brian Spies Boutique when it opens must set up an appointment by emailing boutique@aidsresource.com, calling the AIDS Resource office at 570-322-8448 or reaching out to AIDS Resource via social media.

The boutique will thrive off of donations, starting with clothes, shoes and accessories for now, though the boutique might be open to taking other donations in the future, Fink said.

Though, they are “always” looking for monetary donations, Burkhart said.

Donations may be dropped off at the AIDS Resource office at 500 W. Third St., Williamsport. All donations, whether they be clothing or cash, are tax-deductible, Burkhart said.

MARTY WEAVER/Sun-Gazette From left, Liz Fink, office manager; Brian Spies, local artist; and Megan Bloom, marketing and PR coordinator, show off the nearly ready space.

AIDS Resource is a nonprofit organization that started in 1988 out of concern for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Lycoming County, according to its website. It provides resources, testing and education in Lycoming and surrounding counties.


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