The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Why a gender-affirming clothing closet matters

Illustration by Maliahguiya Sourgose on Monday, Nov. 7, 2023.

CSUN is home to a diverse student body that comes from a wide range of backgrounds and orientations. The university has made accommodations for these groups; however, providing services, events and resources will have little impact if students are not made aware of their existence. That is why CSUN should advertise the new clothing closet for transgender students in the Pride Center to raise awareness about this resource.

CSUN’s Pride Center has created a permanent clothing closet for students to donate clothes that will be redistributed to transgender students.

Currently, this closet is located at the back of the Pride Center office. Donated clothes are displayed for LGBTQ+ students to choose something that will better match their gender identity.

A permanent closet on campus is important because clothing is something that helps trangender people feel more comfortable with gender expression and achieve gender affirmation.

The Pride Center has hosted events that promoted the donation of clothing for transgender students prior to the establishment of this closet. Last November, there was a “Gender-Affirming Clothing Swap” event during Trans Empowerment Week.

In “Gender Affirmation: A Framework for Conceptualizing Risk Behavior Among Transgender Women of Color,” Jae M. Sevelius defines gender affirmation as “an interpersonal, interactive process whereby a person receives social recognition and support for their gender identity and expression.”

Gender affirmation can be achieved through numerous means, such as medical or social transitioning.

Gender affirmation has a positive influence on people’s overall mental well-being. It was noted in a 2016 study by the American Psychological Association that, “social, psychological, and medical gender affirmation were significant predictors of lower depression and higher self-esteem whereas no domains of affirmation were significantly associated with suicidal ideation.”

The denial of gender-affirming care, especially medical care, has been shown to have a negative impact on transgender individuals’ mental health. Currently, many states across the nation have passed laws banning or limiting gender affirming care. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 93% of transgender youth surveyed were concerned about being denied gender-affirming care due to such laws.

A UCLA William’s Institute study published in March found that “having one’s social status and rights publicly debated can have a negative impact on mental health, as do efforts to codify anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice into law.”

While access to clothing may seem like a small accommodation when framed against other issues trangender people face, gender-affirming clothing plays a significant role in how transgender people see themselves both internally and externally.

For instance, clothing is an important part of expressing gender identity and self-conceptualizing. A study done by the University of Rhode Island in 2022 affirmed that gender is central to people’s relationship and understanding with their body.

Closets for transgender students are not new phenomena on college campuses. They have been popping up in numerous universities across the country for years, but this is the first time a permanent transgender closet has been established at CSUN. This is a step in the right direction in terms of making CSUN a more accepting campus overall.

Having a permanent spot for students to donate clothes rather than a singular clothing drive event alleviates droughts in clothing options for transgender students. Ren Stone, the Pride Center supervisor, believes that a clothing closet would also serve as a helpful alternative to the more standard gendered clothing store outlets.

“You know, traditionally, clothing stores are gendered,” Stone said. “And so it’s really cool to provide something that is really not adhering to that in a way that can really encourage students to feel more comfortable shopping.”

It is one thing to have a closet, but it’s another to have students actually be aware of its existence. This closet is still a fairly new addition to the Pride Center, so without some attention being brought to it, the closet would achieve very little in serving the transgender population at CSUN.

Luckily, there is some effort being made in advertising the closet, as the Pride Center staff intend to advertise it more in future events, such as the weekly AS Farmers Market.

“We’re going to bring clothes out there and do kind of like a clothing pop-up, so that it’s not just people who frequent the Pride Center who might learn about the closet and access it,” said Stone.

Through such outreach, students at CSUN will hopefully become more aware that there are ways to help their queer and transgender colleagues through monetary donations. Advertising the closet would also be beneficial in making the queer and transgender students who do not regularly visit the Pride Center more aware of the resources being provided to them.

There are many pressing issues facing transgender people in the United States right now. In October, Wisconsin passed a bill that banned gender-affirming care for minors with Assembly Bill 465. With that being said, CSUN has made some effort toward creating an inclusive space for queer and transgender students for some time now by providing community events and other resources in recent years.

While it might not seem like a huge step in the grand scheme of things, small acts such as donating clothes can make a significant difference in someone’s life. Now it is up to CSUN and the Pride Center to make people aware that it’s possible to do a lot of good with very little.

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