28 Dec 2018

Aunty Dana's op shop

From Summer Times, 10:45 am on 28 December 2018

If Aunty Dana's Op Shop had been around when Anahera Rangitawa was a transgender teenager, it would have been a perfect place for her to hang out, she says.

Anahera is a volunteer at Aunty Dana's – a central Wellington shop that supports transgender communities and is simply "a nice safe space for all of our wonderful rainbow people to come."

Working at Aunty Dana's just felt like a good thing to do, she says.

"It’s a store designed for transgender, gender-diverse and intersex people, so obviously that covers the LGBTQI rainbow. And I thought it would be really good to put my energies towards that, like, it’s helping back to my own community.

"Being transgender, we often have a lack of support in society so by volunteering here and being able to help create a community-based place which is a nice safe space for all of our wonderful rainbow people to come, it just felt natural."

Anahera works there about once a week, on Fridays. 

“Actually I normally do two shifts. We have a morning shift and an afternoon shift so it’s actually broken into two separate parts.

"If volunteers want to they can actually come on the day that suits them. A morning shift is only from 10 till 2 – so that’s four hours – and an afternoon shift is from 2 till 6." 

Anahera says Dana's would have been a perfect place for her to hang out when she was younger.

"Back when I was a teenager there wasn’t much support round for any of the LGBTQI people so it would have been invaluable to me to come to a place like this and get information on name change documentation and also medical information about going on hormones and that kind of thing."

Most importantly, the shop provides a space where transgender people are comfortable being themselves, she says.

"It’s not as easy to be forward or open about who you are or issues you're going through with people who don’t necessarily … understand." 

A shopper named Talia agrees. 

"It can be uncomfortable being LGBT and shopping in the mainstream especially when it comes to transgender or crossdressers, and so to have a space where they can come and shop and feel comfortable enough to try on the clothes without any judgment is real awesome. 

"Also it’s fundraising for a local cause, The Gender Centre, which is ... amazing."

The shop is named after Dana De Milo, who was an advocate for the Wellington transgender community for 30 or 40 years before her death earlier this year, Talia explains.

"We all love Aunty Dana, so to carry on her spirit is really important."

"She was amazing, she was inspirational, she could tell stories for Africa, Egypt, India. She was an empowering woman, she was just a really strong lifeforce in the transgender sisterhood."

Anahera says volunteering is a good way to not only honour Dana's legacy but give back to the community. 

"Places like the Red Cross, where I used to work, it’s all volunteer-based and without volunteers there’s no Red Cross."

Second-hand shops are a perfect place to do it, she says, and also "s really good way of being able to access cheap and affordable homeware and clothing and second-hand shoes and that".

Demand for donations is as high as ever.

"We’re going through this big phase of getting rid of plastic things … trying to be reuse as many items as we can.

"Otherwise it obviously ends up in the landfills and the oceans and that’s definitely not good so I would definitely encourage recycling clothing and going shopping from op shops rather than buying brand new. 

"You won’t be wearing things that are ‘trending’, you’ll be finding things that suit your specific style, so that’s quite neat. 

"Some drag queens have donated to Aunty Dana’s store and oh, the shoes are just amazing. They're absolutely the most beautiful high-heeled shoes I’ve ever seen - and corset tops and costume jewelry … in fact, I think most of what I’m wearing actually comes from this store." 

If people don't have time to volunteer regularly, there are flexible options, Anahera says.

"They might have a few hours available, we encourage them to come to like a working bee event where we’re doing, like, organising through donations and sorting through things. 

"They don’t necessarily have to be constantly returning but if they came to a working bee that would definitely help to keep this place more organised and keep the stock up to date and out on the shelves where we can sell them to the public."