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Celebrating Pride: Dell Darnell

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan is proud to celebrate Pride throughout June. We’re thrilled to welcome Dell Darnell as guest author.

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My name is Dell Darnell (they/them).

I am the Owner and Carpenter/Contractor at The Dapper Hammer, Michigan’s first queer and trans-owned teaching woodshop. I work on home renovations and make custom furniture. Further, I teach woodworking classes to youth, adults, and those not traditionally represented in the trades: youth, women, queers, trans and non-binary folks, and people of color.

Additionally, I am a Certified Transgender 101 Facilitator. I provide facilitated training on gender identity and creating inclusive spaces for businesses, organizations, schools, and medical/social service providers.


I grew up as a pastor’s kid in the conservative south. Because of my upbringing, I didn’t have knowledge of, exposure to, or language for gender diversity or sexual orientation. I knew I felt different, but I didn’t know why.  

As I entered my teens, I finally learned the terms “gay,” “lesbian,” and “homosexual”… all followed closely by the term “sin.” It was several years later when I began to untangle my faith and identity and explore my own relationship with gender and sexuality. The freedom that has followed is one of the greatest joys of my life.


Through each season of trauma in my life, I have had at least one mentor who was a safe person – a soft place to land when life felt hard and heavy. Each of these people reminded me of my inner strength and pointed me back to my community of support.

Knowing I’m valued and not alone has saved my life more than once.


I am passionate about helping others gain access to information about gender diversity. I work hard to create environments that are safe, inclusive, and welcoming for people of all genders and orientations.

The Dapper Hammer is an inclusive educational space for LGBTQIA2S+ folks, women, youth, and others not traditionally represented in the trades to learn basic carpentry and woodworking.

None of us fully understand the lived experience and identity of another person. Even still, we can choose to honor and respect their humanity. Informing ourselves about different ways people identify can help cultivate compassion and empathy. 


I hope that through everything I do, the people I interact with know that they are loved, valued, and beautiful. There isn’t much representation for folks who exist in the margins of our white, cisgender, heteronormative society. For those folks, I will continue to shout from the rooftops that the world is better with their presence.

And for everyone else: there is room for us all to be better allies. To love on the people in our life that are hurting, that are experiencing racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. 

To my trans family – I see you. I love you. You are worthy, strong, and beautiful. We can do hard things – together.