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Ruby Alexander just wanted to go to the beach.
As a transgender 11-year-old, she struggled to find comfortable, well-fitting bikini bottoms.
So, her dad made them.
That was two years ago. And since then, RUBIES – the clothing brand the dad-daughter duo in Toronto created – has shipped over 500 pairs to transgender girls around the world.
The bikini bottoms incorporate compression spandex and mesh to provide a compact fit, so that transgender girls can feel comfortable doing the same activities as their cisgender friends.
“The response has been amazing,” Ruby said. “I am so happy to see all the kids that can get back into enjoying the activities they love, like swimming, dance and gymnastics.”
A childhood transition
At 3 years old, Ruby loved her mother’s high heels and the drama of Disney princesses – interests her dad, Jamie Alexander, called “gender-creative.”
“She would take a bed sheet and wrap it around her hair, and go up the stairs and throw the sheet down the stairs,” Alexander said. “This is when ‘Tangled’ came out. She was always the princess.”
Ruby’s parents had joined a group established by the Toronto public school system for parents of gender-creative kids.
When Ruby was 8, Alexander said, some of the kids in the group had begun to transition. Alexander told Ruby that she could too, if she wanted to.
Ruby told CNN she was excited about her dad’s offer – and impatient.
“Every day for a while, I’d just be like, ‘I want to be a girl, I want to be a girl,’” she said.
Soon after, Ruby come out to her entire school.
Some students, she said, stared at her or asked questions about her anatomy. But many applauded and cheered.
“That saying where there’s a weight and it goes off your shoulder … it felt like that,” she said.
Limited bikini options for trans girls
Ruby was 11 when she told her dad she wanted to wear a bikini like her friends, Alexander said.
Her parents bought her one, and Ruby was happy with it. But Alexander said they worried it would draw unwanted attention because of its ill fit.
When the family decided to take a trip abroad, they felt nervous about Ruby’s safety. They didn’t know if she’d be accepted there.
After returning from the trip, Alexander got to work. There were a few swimwear brands for trans kids, but none that Ruby felt comfortable in.
“I bought everything I could,” he said. “I even got certain things sewed…For Ruby, she didn’t like it. It didn’t feel like a bikini.”
With a background in tech entrepreneurship, Alexander created a bikini that he said both looked and felt like one. While other bikinis Ruby tried felt bulky, he said, the RUBIES bikini bottoms are made with a sleek and stylish fit in mind.
A global community
Today, RUBIES’ campaign, Every Girl Deserves to Shine, ships free bikini bottoms around the world to those who can’t afford them.
“Having a trans kid spans geographies,” Alexander said. “Depending on where they are, they might not have the supports that we have.”
Intent on reaching people around the globe, Alexander has recently translated the RUBIES website into five other languages: German, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Chinese.
Alexander said most people outside of Canada find RUBIES through Facebook support groups or by searching for “trans girls clothing” on the Internet.
He has shipped to countries including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain and Italy thus far.
It’s not uncommon, he said, to hear from people who seem “distressed” about their or their children’s gender identity. When this happens, he asks if they want to have a Zoom call.
“I’m always happy to do that,” he said. “To talk with people and share my knowledge.”
Ruby, now 13, said she keeps busy writing postcards to those who order a bikini, also weighing in on designs, fabric and colors for products.
Alexander said the process has been exciting for her, as opportunities arise and products – like a one-piece swimsuit and underwear – are being developed.
“My future hope is for trans kids to not be judged,” Ruby said. “I want all girls, and all trans kids, to just feel comfortable about their body.”