“I Have A Dream” Boutique
By Anna Mackey, June 2015 Issue.
With an official ribbon cutting on Easter Sunday, the Rebel & Divine “I Have A Dream” Boutique trans-focused shoe and clothing closet opened its doors and began its mission of providing a safe space for trying on and obtaining gender-appropriate clothing for low-income and at-risk LGBT youth.
The driving force behind the boutique is Rev. Jeffrey Dirrim, Rebel & Divine’s founding pastor and executive director. The self-identified pomo- (post-modern) homo-genderqueer pastor took a break from chatting with the multitude of colorful people at the grand opening to chat with Echo about this new venture, which, he admits, didn’t even seem like it would work, at first.
“I had never heard of such a thing. It seems so obvious now. I was moved by the number of people who wanted to participate, particularly through the donation piece,” Dirrim said. “People gave from their hearts.”
Dirrim added that it didn’t take long for the concept to catch on with the youth either.
“They don’t really show up the first time,” he said. “They talk to their friends, ‘Was it safe? Was it OK?,’ and the next time you get three times as many.”
The boutique is located on the campus of First Congregational United Church Of Christ Phoenix, just south of Second Street and McDowell Road. Since Rebel & Divine, which Dirrim likened to a traveling band, has no permanent location, First Congregational offered to provide a room for the boutique at no cost, but Dirrim insisted on paying a dollar a month.
Inside the boutique, shoppers can find clothes to fit every size, shape, and gender identity. And, and perhaps most importantly, according to Mickale Burns, Rebel & Divine’s kindness coordinator, it provides an space where trans youth can shop and try on clothes without worrying about hostility.
“The boutique was inspired by the LGBTQ youth when we were trying to help them with shopping for prom,” Burns continued. “And there was a lot of pushback from the department stores.”
Many of these youth, left without support networks, face discrimination even on the streets – and it can be harshest for trans people.
“Part of what I’ve learned working with the LGBT youth is they are a bit skittish at first,” Dirrim said of the effects of rejection. “You have to build up trust.”
Rebel & Divine works to fill a significant need. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, a group working to prevent and end homelessness, up to 40 percent of the homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBT.
The transgender part of this population, according to the American Psychological Association, remains at risk of “discrimination, harassment, sometimes lethal violence and denial of basic human rights,” on top of an inner sense of lacking belonging.
“Just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean they’re not human,” Burns said.
The boutique operates unconventionally. Anyone shopping can pay for the clothes in cash, but – due to the dire financial situation many of these young people face – payment is not always possible. For these scenarios, youth are welcome to pay for their selections by exchanging clothes they no longer wear or by volunteering their time at the boutique.
For most other purposes, Rebel & Divine operates out of a church at 9th and Sheridan streets, informally referred to as the “917 Sheridan.”
There, for the past five years, Dirrim has worked to create a safe space where youth are served a hot meal and have access to counseling and showers every Sunday night. Overwhelmed by the amount of donations Rebel & Divine received in support of its Sunday night ministry, Dirrim realized the need to expand was imminent.
Today, the “I Have A Dream” Boutique may not house the prom dresses or suits that inspired this concept, but as the boutique’s staff and volunteers look to the future, they hope it continues to grow in both inventory and customers.
For more information on the boutique, or to donate or volunteer, contact Mickale Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit rebeldivingucc.org.
Rebel & Divine’s “I Have A Dream” Boutique
First Congregational UCC Phoenix
1407 N. Second St., Phoenix
Hours: noon to 4 p.m. Sundays