“If nobody shows, you stay, if nobody walks in the doors, you keep the doors open. Because eventually the people will find you.”
That’s what Jacob Nash, co-founder and president of Margie’s Hope, said when he started his non-profit in 2011.
Today, Margie’s Hope facilitates support groups and youth programming for transgender individuals and their loved ones and runs a “closet” where trans people can purchase clothes that support their gender identity.
Jacob, a transgender man who had been brought up as an activist since a very young age, didn’t know what he wanted to do career-wise until he tried to get married in 2002. After being outed as a trans man on local television while trying to get a marriage certificate, Jacob stepped up and became an accidental activist for trans people around the country.
For five years after that, Jacob facilitated a trans support group in Cleveland, and started noticing that many members came up from Akron to get resources. Jacob and his spouse Erin launched Akron-based support group Trans Alive in 2007, and it grew into Margie’s Hope in 2011.
Jacob and Erin came up with the name of their non-profit when reminiscing about a long, heartfelt conversation they had with Jacob’s mother Margie. Although Margie didn’t necessarily understand Jacob’s gender identity, she always supported him and recognized that his relationship with Erin made him happy. Margie’s hope for her kids, always, was that they would be happy.
Margie’s Hope was made in the image of a mother’s love, Jacob says. “It truly was. And for many trans individuals whose family members have put them out, have not talked to them in years, simply because of who they are, they then can find hope.”
Now 10 years old, Margie’s Hope has three different support groups as well as a youth program. All met at the Fairlawn United Church of Christ before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Trans Alive is still the overall support group; anybody can come to Trans Alive. “It’s for trans folks, but also for family members and friends and supporters that want to come. We invite [social service] providers to come. We invite students to come. We invite different organizations to come and listen and learn more about who the community is,” Jacob says.
Margie’s Hope also has a parents group known as Margie’s Pride. “Parents need to be with other parents that understand exactly what they’re going through,” Jacob says. This group is currently looking for a parent of a transgender child or young adult with the time and passion to lead it.
To provide resources for the partners and spouses of transgender individuals, Margie’s Hope created the Together We Can support group. Jacob explained that, when people are transitioning, their partners are going through a transition as well and may now see their partners and relationships in a different light. Having a support group to process the transition is important because resources are rare for spouses and partners of transgender people.
Finally, their youth program is named Margie’s Kids. Margie’s Kids gives transgender and gender expansive kids a chance to just be kids with other kids like them. They have two age groupings, 6- to 13-year-olds and 14- to 18-year-olds, where the kids can talk about what’s going on in their lives and focus on their gender expression.
Margie’s Kids is led by six volunteers from across the gender spectrum: cisgender, transgender and gender expansive people. Jacob notes that this is important so kids “get to see adults that are like them. They get to see adults that are living their dream, like musicians, or someone that does karate, or somebody that does IT or somebody that runs a nonprofit, that they too can follow their dreams.”
Before the pandemic, participants in these groups had expressed that they didn’t know what to do with their old clothes from before their transitions. They began donating them to Margie’s Hope. By February 2020, the organization had 13 long tables full of donated clothes that they intended to give to the gender expansive community for free.
Although the pandemic made that dream a lot harder, Margie’s Hope has now secured a location in Lakewood for a Margie’s Closet store front where people can get gender affirming clothing they like. “We are making history for being the first trans-owned, -operated, -specific clothing store in Northeast Ohio,” Jacob says.
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At Margie’s Closet, trans folks can get clothes, binders and wigs for free, and cisgender and transgender people alike are invited to shop the store to support Margie’s Hope financially. Next door, there will be an alterations professional who is partnering with Jacob and his team to provide alterations for job interview-ready clothing once Margie’s Hope opens the store in the spring of 2022.
That isn’t all Margie’s Hope wants to accomplish, either. Jacob envisions a large space to have an office for staff, a rec area for Margie’s Kids, another Margie’s Closet location, as well as transitional housing for transgender people over the age of 18. There would be employment specialists and life coaches available for anyone who needed support. With the help of donations, volunteers and grants, Margie’s Hope plans to grow to provide more services in Akron in the years to come.