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Trans+ Student Union holds Gender Affirming Clothing Swap

The Trans+ Student Union created a thrift store experience for those who might be uncomfortable shopping in traditional retail stores. ORACLE PHOTO/ULIANA LEARNED

Among hundreds of clothing items separated by tops, bottoms and accessories displayed on top of several chairs in rows, the Trans+ Student Union (TSU) aimed to provide a safe space for over 45 students in attendance to explore their gender expressions through fabric.

The Gender Affirming Clothing Swap event was held at the Marshall Student Center on Tuesday evening.

Although it was not a requirement to participate, students were asked to bring clothes that no longer served them.

Participants of the event engaged in fashion discourse throughout the night, laid clothing items on the floor to get a better look and exchanged reassuring compliments.

Senior and TSU executive board member Lee Davis said the connection built between students while donating clothes to one another creates a sense of comfort and intimacy.

“A lot of people have a sentimental attachment to the items they are giving out, so it gets passed on instead of just purchasing random items that may or may not be poorly made,” Davis said.

Since retail stores often have gendered clothing and dressing rooms, Davis said the clothing swap provided a space where transgender and nonbinary students could browse and “shop” without feeling uncomfortable.

The free access to “new” clothes provides more room to explore gender expression, according to senior geography major and participant Sarah Davis.

“When you are shopping at a retail store, you are expected to fit into the boxes that society expects from you,” they said. “Here, you can pick up any item of clothing and ask someone you don’t even know ‘What do you think of this?’ and get support.”

Junior studio art major Mai Lew said the economic and social anxiety relief that events like the clothing swap provide are crucial to those experiencing gender dysphoria.

“It’s the visibility aspect,” they said. “No one is going to look at you strange if you feel like you shouldn’t be in the men or women’s section in here.”

Estelle Long, a senior environmental science and policy major and TSU executive board member, said even behind the friendly atmosphere, the event is a combination of her love for environmental sustainability as well as expanding queer visibility.

“It is really fun to see the intersection between queer topics, with the gender affirming side of it, and the sustainability with the exchanging clothes aspect,” she said.

Long said most transgender and nonbinary people find it easier to experiment with gender-affirming clothing in special events, such as halloween or cosplaying at conventions.

Some college students, in the LGBTQ community or cisgendered people, are experiencing freedom for the first time, according to Long. Long said they should feel comfortable exploring aspects of life during young adulthood. Holding this event on a college campus is something that encourages students to pursue that freedom of expression.

“People have homophobic, transphobic or otherwise bigoted families and cannot get away with trying new clothing or experiencing new things,” she said. “They couldn’t do that whatsoever in that type of environment.”