In honor of National Coming Out Day, the Gender and Sexuality Center held a clothing exchange for queer and transgender students on Thursday. For over a month prior to the event, the GSC collected clothing from the Brandeis community.

Adrian King, the Intercultural Center department coordinator, organized the event. “Often times, LGBTQIA youth don’t have access to clothing… that makes them feel authentic, and so we wanted… to bring clothing to students,” King said in an interview with the Justice.

According to King, the GSC organized the event by posting flyers and sending emails that advertised the event and asked for donations. King explained in the interview that the event was called an “exchange” and not a “drive” in order to emphasize the role of the community. “A lot of people who gave us clothing will also be the ones who come and pick up clothing. … It’s a community thing. We’re bringing our clothing together, we’re exchanging something,” they said. King added that they are hopeful the exchange will be held each semester.

King pointed out that that queer and transgender youth may encounter obstacles when it comes to finding clothes. “Oftentimes trans youth don’t have access to clothing or they’re told that they can’t wear certain clothes,” King said. “It’s hard to shop in different departments if you’re not used to [it],” King said. “We wanted to bring clothing here in order to kind of deconstruct that barrier.”

King explained why it is easier for cisgender people to go shopping and find clothing that is right for them. “Cis people and straight folk can often take for granted that they have clothing, or that it’s really easy to find clothing that fits them,” they said. 

Fashion can be a significant form of self expression for queer and trans youth, King explained. “Presenting yourself in a way that you think is authentic is so important,” King said, emphasizing the importance of dressing in a way that encourages confidence. “It’s not something that’s removed or remote or frivolous.”

One of the goals of the exchange is encouraging people to try new things, King said. “What I hope the most is that someone will walk in here and pick up something that … they’ve been either too scared to try on or were unable to try on,” they added. They described the clothing exchange as a “launch pad for people to just try something new and try something different,” while also finding things to wear regularly.

According to the email from Program Administrator of the GSC Ryan Mishler, the GSC was able to collect at least 20 each sweaters, shirts, dresses, jackets, pants and pairs of shoes. Mishler also wrote that 26 students attended the event. 

One of those students, Ash Taber ’21, said in an interview with the Justice, “It means a lot just to have the GSC do this… I donated some of my clothes, and it’s nice to have that feeling of give and take for the community.” 

Mishler also explained how the clothing exchange aligned with the GSC’s goals. “The Gender and Sexuality Center exists not only as a place of learning here at Brandeis, but as a support network for LGBTQIA students, staff, and faculty,” he wrote. “This event is a great example of the support we have provided and will continue to provide the Brandeis community.” 

Taber added that clothing and fashion can make a statement about one’s identity. “It just kind of gives me a sense of identity and a sense of connection with the rest of the community, and a way to identify myself as queer.”