Once upon a time, San Francisco Renaissance person Sarah Dopp wrote a guest article for Queercents. Sarah juggles a number of projects aimed at creating community for queers–such as MCing and behind the scenes work for Queer Open Mic at Modern Times Bookstore, as well as being a contributing performer. Now, two years later, we’re bringing her back to hear about her new project aimed at creating online community and resources for people who are gender variant. I was able to catch her during the first round of fund-raising for this new project, in which she managed to raise $8,490 from people interested in supporting the Marketplace. Thanks to her tireless promoting, the fund-raising reached its initial goal within only two weeks of fund-raising. Expect to see Sarah contributing again in the future with more on the Marketplace, Genderfork and advice to young entrepreneurs. On a personal note, as someone for whom a trip to buy new clothes can often be laden with anxieties about fit and appearance, Sarah’s new project sounds like it will definitely be a great resource to have.

Elizabeth: So first off, what prompted you to start the marketplace?

‪Sarah: ‬ ‪For the last three years, I’ve been organizing Genderfork.com, a volunteer-run community expression blog about gender variance. While the space aims to be entirely supportive and celebratory, a common complaint kept creeping up everywhere: the world of clothing is kinda broken for us. The Genderplayful Marketplace is the end result of many many conversations with staff and community members on how we can work together to find and create clothes that fit well, look great, and represent how we see ourselves.

Elizabeth: ‬ ‪Sounds like a great project. What do you see the Marketplace looking like?  I think you had said sort of like Etsy, right?‬

Sarah: ‬ ‪Yep. It will be Etsy-style selling, but with a different culture and product guidelines than Etsy has‬.  There will also be a strong emphasis on discussions, tip-sharing, requesting custom things, and other community-building interactions. Ideally, the whole site will just as buyer-oriented as it is seller-oriented. The goal is to creatively and collaboratively find ways to meet unmet needs.

Elizabeth: ‬ ‪So it’s not just a marketplace, it’s really a community center that can provide clothing and resources?‬

‪Sarah: ‬ ‪Yes!‬ The community aspect is critical. It won’t work unless people feel like it’s theirs. And that’s part of why the fundraiser has been so effective — hundreds of people feel like they own the project now.  And in a lot of ways, they do.

Elizabeth: ‬ ‪How would people go about getting clothes that match their gender expression through the site?‬

Sarah: At the start, they’ll be able to find things by‬ ‪browsing through categories and tags, by looking through the community blog,rah in the by hearing about things from friends, or by posting that they’re interested in something and asking the community for recommendations.‬ Once we’re a little further along, we hope to build out awesome features like collaborative “style collections,” automatic “related items” links, and other sexy features that make the discovery process richer and more serendipitous.

Elizabeth: How would the Marketplace function in relation to Genderfork.com?

Genderfork and the Marketplace are separate projects. They will have have separate management and staffing structures, and separate sets of goals. We’re calling them “sister projects” for now — there’s a lot of audience overlap, and the two projects will probably continue to support each other over time, but we want to make sure they’re both autonomous enough to be able to follow their own paths.

‪Elizabeth: ‬ ‪What is the vision of the marketplace that you would most like to see fulfilled?‬

‪Sarah: ‬ ‪I want anyone to be able to come to the site and find a piece of clothing in a style they love that will fit them for a reasonable price.‬  We have “hip fashionable clothing” goals, and we have “social justice / meeting basic human needs” goals, and the sweet spot will meet them both.

‪Elizabeth: ‬ ‪Sounds like a pretty awesome vision. How can people follow up what’s going on at the marketplace, since it’s currently in development?‬

‪Sarah: ‬ ‪We’re going to keep posting updates at genderplayful.tumblr.com.  And anyone who’s (a) donated or (b) filled out the form that tells us their interested will get email updates as the site progresses‬.

‪Elizabeth: ‬ ‪Sweet. And how can people who are interested contribute to the project?‬

‪Sarah: ‬ ‪Our fundraiser officially ended on January 15th (we raised about $8,500), but we haven’t closed off the ability for people to donate yet. The buttons to donate via PayPal or Google Checkout are still posted here, and the donation perks will stay available until we take the buttons down (which will probably happen closer to launch).

‪Elizabeth: ‬ ‪Are there any other things you want to share about the marketplace?‬

‪Sarah: ‬ ‪The main things I want people to understand are that (a) the goals here are broad (anyone who struggles with clothing fitting well and looking right) and this project will affect and help a LOT of people, (b) the solutions will come from within the community — and will only be as strong or as creative as the individuals involved, and (c) the community already exists. We are real, and this is happening.‬

Thanks Sarah, for joining us again at Queercents and I, for one, cannot wait to hear the latest updates on the Marketplace.