Exploring Gender Through Clothing

How the LGBTQ+ resource center is hoping to help students feel more comfortable in their bodies

Sarah Doherty [and Derk Poortenga] sort clothes in preparation for the Trans Closet event. Photo by: Amelia Reed | Torch Photographer

On Friday, Oct. 15, the LGBTQ+ Resource Center hosted their first gender exploration and trans closet event.

The gender exploration and trans closet event was designed to give students the opportunity to explore a new gender or find clothing that fits their identity. In general, the event was created to provide a resource to students where they could take clothing items that would help them be comfortable in their own skin and authentically be themselves.

Sarah Doherty, the coordinator of the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, suggested having a gender exploration and trans closet for all students on campus. Hoping to give students, who are transitioning or questioning their identity, a safe place where they can replace pieces of their wardrobe to better reflect the gender they identify as.

“Access to clothing that better reflects their gender is what makes them feel good in their bodies, [it’s] what helps with being seen as their actual gender by the people around them,” Doherty said.

Doherty said the center received huge donations of clothing over the summer and over the past few weeks from the community. Each item was washed before being put out for others to potentially take home with them.

Junior Rebekah Berthold is a lesbian who came to the event to find clothing that would make her feel better for the individual that she is.

“The main reason is because at home I’m not out to my family. So I can’t always dress the way that I would necessarily want to,” Berthold said. “Normally I go shopping with my stepmom, so I don’t always necessarily get to buy the clothes that I would want to buy because she’s there, and I’m worried that she’s going to ask me questions, so I don’t get to dress as “gay-ly” as I would like to.”

Berthold thinks the event was an opportunity for individuals to get the things they are comfortable wearing. Stating that having events like the clothing closest and access to the LGBTQ+ Resource Center is important for individuals because they can serve as judgement free zones. 

“For me, it’s nice to be able to find people who are like you,” Berthold said. “It’s nice to be able to do that in a way that isn’t walking up to someone and saying, ‘Hey, so are you gay?’ It’s nice to be able to have a common group where you know that people are like you, and you don’t have to go through the process of asking them right away.”

Spaces in which individuals won’t be judged, especially for their appearance, are important to have in one’s community, as Berthold described. For the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, they hope to be that safe place for students.

Jack Davis, a junior working at the Resource Center, believes a person should feel better about themselves when wearing clothes they have picked out.

“This event is to help spread awareness that clothing isn’t gendered,” Davis said. “Clothing is just cloth, and you should feel good about your body, regardless of what you are. So we are giving [clothing] out, so trans people in our community [can] feel a lot better about themselves.”

While the gender exploration and trans closet was aimed to provide resources for the LGBTQ+ community, all individuals were welcomed to check out what the center had. While this was the first major closet event the center put on, it was not the first closet they have ever had.

The Resource Center has a closet of its own that is open all year round for students. The closet has clothing, brushes, binders, packers and other essential items students might need. Similar to what they handed out at their event on Friday.

What made their event so special, although they already have a closet running, is that this was an opportunity to spread the word to students, and let them know this resource is here for them.

“I always hope with a resource showcase like this [that] folks will better understand what the Resource Center has to offer,” Doherty said. “Maybe folks will make connections and community together, but I want folks who need, [or want], resources to have the opportunity to try some stuff out and take something that works for them. That makes them feel more affirmed in their gender, whatever their gender [may be].”

The LGBTQ+ Resource Center has a lot to offer individuals of all kinds, from community support to ally information. The most important thing the center hopes, as Doherty says, is that students take up their offer of getting resources to succeed, not only on campus, but also in the world.

To a few students, it’s important that the center is here for them. Sophomore Archimedes Esparza believes the center can be a place for individuals who are just now exploring their gender identity in a place where people care.

“It’s very important that people know about this, so that no one feels lost or helpless,” Esparza said. “They can always come and see someone and figure out things and get anything that they would need to either progress with acceptance or with their new gender identity.”

Whether it be obtaining clothing to embrace a new identity, answering questions on sexuality or just needing a safe place to be able to talk to someone, the LGBTQ+ Resource Center is ready to welcome students and answer any questions they have and support them for the future.

For more information on upcoming events or on how to get involved with the center, students can head to their office in the lobby of the CLACS office.