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Event at Janesville clothing store caters to transgender customers

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Shelly Birkelo
August 16, 2013

JANESVILLE—Jenny hoped to learn about red wig options. She also wanted tips on how to paint her toenails with a polish she could easily remove, and she needed to figure out how women's clothing sizes fit a man's body.

Debbi Lynn, a male-to-female transgender, was searching for clothes to wear to church.

Both Rock County residents found what they were looking for Thursday night when they attended T-Girls Fashion Night, a night out for transgender customers and their friends at Perfectly Plus Women's Consignment, 32 E. Racine St.

Store co-owner Sarah Kopp decided to host the first-time event because the store “gets quite a few transgender customers.”

Many of them asked if it's OK if they shop in the store.

That angered her.

“That's not right. Anybody who wants to can shop here,” she said.

Perfectly Plus opened six years ago to serve plus-sized women. In the last few months, Kopp noticed more transgender visitors as the store grew busier with customers of every kind.

“So we decided to have this event as a way to hopefully make everybody feel welcome and to send a message, 'You don't have to ask if you can shop here.' I don't want anybody ever to feel like we wouldn't welcome them. We're all just girls here,” she said.

Kopp promoted the event to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender outreach groups in the area; to The Ruby Project, which offers support and services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community; and to several student groups for LGBT at area college campuses and to an LGBT magazine in Madison.

“We sent information out to all these people and to places that this specific segment would see,” she said.

In addition to providing appetizers, champagne, sweets and deals on clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories, Kopp brought in a local sex coach and a representative from The Ruby Project and AIDS Network of Rock County. Female impersonators Danielle Wasko and Jamie Cook from Madison offered makeup advice.

Kelley Blair Ostermann of The Ruby Project and AIDS Network said she was thrilled to help.

“Nobody should be made to feel ashamed. This is a way to distribute support and information,” she said.

Wasko and Cook said they jumped at the chance to discuss transgender issues and offer makeup tips.

“I believe in helping girls starting their transformation go in the direction they want by teaching proper use of colors, products and techniques to soften the face and still get the coverage they need,” Wasko said.

“We do what we can because when we started our (male-to-female) transitions, people weren't as open as they are today. We're more than happy to discuss hormone therapy, makeup and dressing issues,” Cook said.

As Jenny, a man with a fetish to dress in women's clothes, browsed for attire, event volunteer Gweneth Schuyler offered suggestions.

“What are you looking for?” she asked.

“A sweater, and I kind of like denim,” Jenny said as the two shoved hangers apart on the clothing rack.

“These are cute,” Schuyler said, holding up several skirts as she guessed Jenny's size.

“The cuts are different than what she wore as a man,” she said.

While Jenny was in the dressing room, Debbi Lynn found a black skirt.

“That would be classy for church,” she said, “and I like the elastic waist because it makes it easy to step into.”

Before the night was over, Jenny found a pair of black leather boots and sweaters with armholes big enough to fit comfortably.

Debbi Lynn found several pieces of clothing in her favorite color—pink.

Kopp said the store will offer T-Girl Fashion Night again.

“I want everyone to know they are welcome here,” she said. “This is a judgment-free zone.”



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