Andrew Spiers, a therapist at Morris Home, discusses triggers that can lead to relapse during a group therapy session. | Aaron Windhorst TTN
Last spring, Julie Seidman and two fellow members of Lambda Pi Eta parked their tiny silver sedan, which was filled to the brim with clothes and toiletries, in front of a brick corner house in Southwest Philadelphia.
Seidman and her companions had been dropping off donated items from their honors society’s collection drive for Morris Home, a safe haven for transgender and gender variant individuals who are in the process of recovering from addiction.
“We came with a carload of [donated items], and they were just astounded,” said Seidman, a senior communication studies and Russian double major. “It was just amazing that we actually surprised them with how much work we put into it.”
This spring, Lambda Pi Eta, Temple’s honors society for communication studies majors, will once again collect items for Morris Home. Seidman, now LPH’s co-president, is leading the drive.
Seidman has taken a special interest in queer theory and has focused some of her research on the many issues facing transgender people.
“Trans issues are where the gay and lesbian issues were 30 years ago,” Seidman said. “And now we’re getting to the point where people are starting to talk about [them] more.”
Last year, when LPH began looking for an organization to serve locally, Morris Home first caught Seidman’s attention.
“Morris Home creates a space for [trans people] that’s safe, where they can go to recover from abuse [and] drug addictions [or] if they’re transitioning between genders or between sexes,” Seidman said. “I don’t know of any other organization like it in Philadelphia.”
While Morris Home assists residents in a number of ways, like guiding individuals through transitions and helping them find jobs, it mainly serves as an addiction recovery house, Morris Home Director Laura Sorensen said.
“We know from research that trans people and gender non-conforming people are likely to avoid treatment or delay going into treatment because of fears about potential discrimination or harassment,” Sorensen said. “Morris Home is able to offer a safe and affirming place where folks can work on their recovery in an environment that is looking at them holistically.”
Shane Rubin, the president of Temple’s Queer Student Union, said Morris Home is beneficial to many people. As a non-binary trans man, Rubin personally knows of the struggles that face the transgender community, Rubin said.
“Within a society that so often neglects and abuses us, we need to know that there is at least one place where we are safe,” the junior anthropology major said.
The QSU has praised LPH for its collection drive and for showing support for the transgender community.
“The fact that a non-queer group even knows about the Morris Home, not to mention cares enough to help those of us in the transgender [and] gender non-conforming community … means a lot to me,” Rubin said.
Many QSU members have shared the drive’s Facebook page online, and some have even made donations.
“I am donating all of my old feminine clothes from before I came out to Morris Home through [LPH’s] drive,” Rubin said. “It makes me so happy to think that the clothes that used to make me feel so trapped are going to give a trans woman the chance to finally express who she is.”
LPH will be collecting clothing, toiletries, make-up, used books and art supplies for Morris Home until mid-April. A giant, colorful box in the Annenberg Hall atrium was nearly overflowing with donations last week.
Alexandra Fleming, the co-president of LPH, has gotten her fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi, to join in assisting Morris Home too, and the students have been making donations every semester.
“We had one night of collection where we asked everyone to bring in clothes,” said Fleming, a senior communication studies and Italian double major. “And we collected over 200 items in just one sitting.”
Sorensen said Morris Home is pleased with not only the donations provided by Temple’s organizations, but also their support of the trans community.
“We know that trans people … experience greater rates of violence, discrimination [and] poverty,” Sorensen said. “This community has been underserved for a really long time and it’s really great to see the Temple community taking an interest in providing extra support that will help our members succeed.”
LPH hopes that through this drive, LGBTQIA issues become more prominently discussed on Main Campus.
“Not everyone easily can identify as male or female,” Fleming said. “And it’s important that we take that into account for many reasons.”
LPH’s co-presidents already have high hopes for this year’s collection drive for Morris Home. Seidman said she can barely contain her excitement as she shares her goal of surpassing last year’s sedan-full of donations.
“One of our members has an SUV,” Seidman said. “And she already agreed to drive.”
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.