TRANSCRIPT: Lives At Stake, Devin Norelle on ‘Shopping Trans for the Holidays’

Imara Jones: Next up is Devin-Norelle, Who like Batman made it just in time for this segment. Next up is Devin-Norelle, who runs the Bye Gender Survival Trans Fund which is a funded with sales apparel and uses the sales from apparel to support an array of trans activities that focus on social responsibility and meeting the needs of our community. Devin is also a model, an activist, a writer and an actor, and I’m gonna stop there because there are more things and we don’t have that much time. Devin, thank you so much for joining us. How are you?

Devin Norelle: Of course, can you hear me?

Imara Jones: I can hear you and I can see, and I’m glad that you were able to make it from whatever latest famous audition you were on to be able to be on tonight. Thank you so much.

Devin Norelle: Oh, of course. It was so funny that Jayla is on the show as well because it reminded me I’m in Dasia Smith’s house right now. So it reminded me to tell her you should use BatMe Cosmetics since you are a makeup artist. So I would let her know that if you were still watching.

Imara Jones: Absolutely. Hopefully Jayla saw that. So I wanted to just start out with the fact that Bye Gender, of course, didn’t start out like a business. So Jaylas’ business started out as a commercial business. We wanted to feature a range of type of entrepreneurial models tonight. So Jayla started out, it’s a commercial business focused on makeup to make money Bye Gender actually is a non-profit and mutual aid support program that decided to then sell products. So I’m wondering if you can just tell us about Bye Gender overall, the fund and then how you decided to get into selling apparel.

Devin Norelle: Yeah, sure, so Bye Gender, well, I’ll just go on with how it started. I was raising funds for myself for my own Top Surgery and was having issues with my insurance. I don’t wanna get into all the details and basically Top Surgery is expensive and continues to rise this year, I had saved about half and needing to figure out how to pay for the other half because my surgery date was rolling up upon me pretty quickly. And a friend approached me, the friend ran a party called Werk These pecs and it was very trans masculine send here. The party that was functioning as a fund raiser, and within one night they would raise money for one particular person’s Top Surgery. And I ended up raising through that party the other half of the funds that I needed. And so when I finally had my surgery recovered came back to, I mean that was a Top Surgery is not one of the worst surgeries that you can have when you’re medically transitioning. When I finally came to and felt comfortable with my body you could say, I wanted to give back, I wanted to pay for it. 

And so I asked the previous owner, Jason how can I become involved? We had played the throw more parties, it didn’t end up being that. And so from there it kind of evolved into other things, right? So that’s where the T-shirt mind came from. We aren’t throwing as many parties with other things in other ways, can we utilize to raise funds for people who need money for their Top surgeries and then their rent or their medicines whether it would be tests of testosterone, estrogen or HIV medicine, for food, whatever it is that a trans person who might be in need of we were raising money for them. And so we needed to find another way outside just a party that we can raise funds year round and that sort of T-shirt line came out. I chose T-shirts because everyone or a lot of other people, most people wear T-shirts, in baggy T-shirts and want statements. It’s an easy show that you can throw on and say out loud and I’m proud of who I am, but also it’s a statement to me. 

Fashion makes as much of a political statement as say raising a fist at the Olympics in the ’70s right but our Trans Is Beautiful. This is my political statement, and so it encompasses all of these things while also raising funds for other trans people in need. And in the other part, that is the audio mouth quote and say this Bye Gender Survival Fund as well as black transplanting relief that are both mutual aids in which funds are raised without the selling of T-shirts or other items.

Imara Jones: Yeah, so the T-shirts that you sell, come in all shapes, some are short ,some are long some are tiny tops, they’re all different and they have Bye Gender on them and also Trans Is Beautiful. And I’m wondering, did you decide, do you design the T-shirts yourself and how did you decide to do that? I mean, I joked with you once, I was like, oh, why didn’t you sell mugs? And you were like, well, I almost thought of start selling mugs, but I opted on T-shirts. So do you design them and how did you decide to sell T-shirts?

Devin Norelle: Yes, so I designed both the Trans Is Beautiful and Bye Gender. Obviously, the Marin Cox was the person that essentially coined Trans Is Beautiful and we’ve all taken it and run with it clearly.

Imara Jones: Exactly.

Devin Norelle: I absolutely live by and it’s a very uplifting message but to answer your question. It kind of goes along the lines of something that I mentioned earlier in that is something that you can wear. And some people will see outwardly and you can make the statement. I can’t bring my mug outside, I mean, I love my mug to drink tea every day. It is one of my favorite things to do with multiple glasses of tea. But I think that part of wearing the shirt is being trends out loud and being proud of who you are and unimaginably for your experiences and where you came from and how it has made you the person you are today. And so that’s why I went forward with the T-shirts and also you can sell more T-shirts and raise more money through the sales of T-shirts as opposed to mugs. And so if I’m raising more money that’s more people that I can find through Trans Is Beautiful and Bye Gender.

Imara Jones: Yeah and I think it’s interesting that you’ve mentioned before that not only trans people buy your apparel, right? But people who want to be supportive of trans people buy it. They want to support the fund, they buy it or they like the design and that it starts conversations for them on the street. So people will ask them if they are trans or not, and so, what you’re doing and designing because it does have this pro-social aspect to it, a lot of people buy it and are engaged in it who are not trans right?

Devin Norelle: Right, because this is this whole idea of like you’re not gonna know what the person is trans or not. We all have this assumption that we know what a trans person will look like, but honestly, we don’t, I don’t look like you don’t look like me and I obviously don’t look like any other trans person. And how can you tell that I’m trans, like you’re not going to know unless I actually say it. And in most cases, people just assume that if you look different on what they expect you to look like as trans, and you must be trans, right? And then come to find out that this person might not identify as trans or maybe just dresses out for instance, in drag, right? And that drug doesn’t fall under the trans umbrella but these people might not identify as trans and that’s important. But the other thing is that if you have your allies out there wearing the shirt and having these conversations they don’t do it to lay before you, right? Because I’m sure we’re all tired of saying, okay, I’m trans, trans is what trans is. It’s a story and a bio that we have to tell over and over and over. I mean, it’s basically us coming out multiple times as we will continue to do probably into the data and it gets tiring. So it’s great to have allies out there to say ‘I’m not trans, but trans people were this and trans people are that’ we need to respect trans people and respect trans rights and treat trans people like people because that’s just what they are. And so I do encourage these people to buy the shirt for that reason. I don’t believe it is appropriating, but I also encourage them, what happens pretty often is that these people buy the shirt for their trans friends. And that happens more often than these people buying it for themselves, but they do buy it to wear it out in the street and say, ‘Hey, I’m not trans but let’s have this conversation.’ And it’s great that there probably are parts of the world and say, I’m so I’ve sent shirts out to the Philippines and to Thailand. And there probably are people in parts of the world having these conversations that I don’t know about, but at least tap.

Imara Jones: Wow, wow, this is just a reminder to send your questions in or comments for examination, questions or comments with Devin in our last few remaining minutes with Devin. One of the things I wanted to ask you about more broadly is that you’ve actually written a lot in focused on trans entrepreneurship for a while. And I’m wondering if you can just talk for our audience for people who may not be familiar with entrepreneurship, why business ownership is so important for trans people overall? What makes it vital to our community?

Devin Norelle: Well, I think the most important thing that any of us need is equity. And it’s something that we don’t really have without what we’re slowly building. And that’s what we can build through businesses and by supporting one another or encouraging our allies to support us. And the reason why I write about this a lot is because the places where these articles would be in place a lot of eyes see this. So if I’m saying here are- I think the article I wrote last year was about maybe 20 businesses. These are 20 trans businesses that people did not hold about and now these are 20 trans businesses that are going to get a lot of support. I recall Jayla was actually BatMe Cosmetics was actually going with this as well as another T-shirt line and it’s slipping my mind, of course. But I remember speaking to some of these people afterwards and hearing from them, “Oh my God, I got so much business from just that one article.” And I said to them, this is just the first of many, because if I have to add you to another article, two years later I will, with a point of doing that is you’re getting more customers, you’re getting more equity. 

And that’s a better way for us to support one another after the fact. We have more financial gain, more equity, we don’t need to go to anybody else and say, Hey, I need help with rent, or I need help with this. We can just go to one another, we can create, we can buy our own land, we can buy our own houses and with the money that we have created on our own throughout businesses. But if people are not there to support our businesses go nowhere. We need to stick just as much as any other person does. And as I’m saying this I am remembering in my head too that the Google searches for SEO are so anti-black so anti-trans and always prioritize why since this people over any other business and so we need to reverse that. And part of that is writing honestly, and so that’s why I’m constantly talking about here’s a shop trans, shop black. This creates the equity that we need. 

The thing is I don’t really know any other people outside of trans people are writing these articles. And that’s the other reason why this is important, right? It’s like not only do we need these businesses to exist, well we need those people to write it. And oftentimes the person that’s writing that article is also trans. And it’s unfortunate that we have people that call themselves our allies, but think that allieship is for instance maybe just putting a black square on Instagram and that’s it, nothing else. Honestly writing an entire article does a lot more than saying, Hey here’s a black square, like I support you Go put your money where your mouth is, support the trans people ’cause you don’t know how you might be helping this person’s life or the people that they’re supporting. We need equity, it’s important that we have equity and something to claim as our own so that we can support one another.

Imara Jones: That’s right, well, Della Michelle just is giving you big handclaps from your returning the snaps out in the internet. And lastly, I have kind of a practical question. We’re gonna go from that. So if people order from Bye Gender today or tomorrow will they be able to get the gifts by Christmas? Is that possible?

Devin Norelle: I’m literally sending out everything tomorrow, so I’m gonna say yes, but it’s up to USPS and we all know what a hot mess that is- everything that is bought at least by 1:00 PM tomorrow even by 5:00 PM tomorrow is going to the post office. Sorry, let me correct that by 4:00 PM tomorrow because that gives me a one hour window to get to- because if I’m in the post office which by the way, it closes at 5:30 but if I hand over these packages at five they’re closed for the day packages in terms of spending things I learned the hard way that they don’t send things after five, if you hand it to them after five they postage that thing for the next day. And so I’m not trying to risk it, I mean, you can put an order on Saturday I’ll still send it out on Saturday but put your orders in by 4:00 pm the latest tomorrow. 

And I will get to the post office which is only 200 feet away from you, by the way and make sure that it’s sent out what happens from there, I don’t know, everything is a mess right now. I mean, considering what has been going up in this past year and the way that they have the Trump Administration has completely undermined the US spheres which delivers rain, snow, or sunshine. They have completely messed it up but I am fingers crossed that it will get to you at least by Wednesday, at least by Wednesday. If you live in LA it would definitely get there, I think by Wednesday. Or if you live in the Midwest or on the West coast it will get there by Monday or Tuesday. So please if you would like to order something, go run there now, put your order in and will go out tomorrow .

Imara Jones: So all right, so that means you heard it everybody you have basically to one clock tomorrow to get in your orders. If you are…. I’ll put you–

Devin Norelle: Four tomorrow.

Imara Jones: Okay four, four tomorrow to get in all of your orders, so if last minute, so your order has a really limited list of who it is anyway. And so you have by eight it shouldn’t take you from BatMe and then to order your stuff. So, that’s that. Well, Devin, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate all of your work and all the ways that we specified in the intro. Thanks so much for the Bye Gender trans survival fund and also for the Bye Gender Apparel line and for all that you do and thank you so much for coming on because you need to be putting T-shirts in boxes .

Devin Norelle: Well, I’m not gonna be doing that just yet, that is about to film for them for an article about Chad’s makeup in trans hairstylists, again supporting businesses and letting other people know about trans businesses. But thank you so much for having me on the show and for also for all the other guests and everyone else that is watching and thank you for your support. And again, I will try to get those orders out by 4:00 PM, 4:00 PM tomorrow. And so tomorrow, to give them out.

Imara Jones: 4:00 pm tomorrow Eastern standard time for all you West coast people, that’s one O’clock your time. That was Devin Norelle who runs the Bye Gender Trans Survival Fund and the Bye Gender Apparel Line. You are watching lives at stake.

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