Closet for clothes | Penn Today | Popgen Tech


Down jackets, black leather jackets, summer jumpers and stacks of sweatshirts were neatly stacked, organized by section in a meeting room at the LGBT Center, ready for the Center’s inaugural clothing exchange. The event marked the beginning of a new clothing closet that will be a permanent resource for the community.

Located in the recreation area of ​​the LGBT Center, the closet will be open to visitors from November 28 on Mondays and Fridays from 11 am to 4 pm and from 6 to 9 pm on Tuesdays. Students, faculty, staff and community members can drop off used, freshly laundered clothing or browse the racks to take home a new outfit.

The clothing closet is presented in partnership with Wellness at Penn, which commissioned tote bags and notepads reminding closet visitors to “wash before you fall and after you change,” all designed by Wellness student interns.

Julia Mills Burton, nurse practitioner and head of gynecology at Pennsylvania Student Health and Counseling Wellness, is the chair of the LGBTQ Wellness Task Force. Students told her they needed more access to affordable clothing, Burton says. “Sometimes there are financial difficulties, especially when people are going through a gender transition,” she says. This program will “give them access to clothing that can be gender-affirmed for them.”

Jake Muscato, the Center’s new associate director, and Wes Alvers, a graduate student in the School of Social Policy and Practice and an intern at the Center for Social Work, worked together to create the space.

According to data collected by Penn Diversity in 2020, 1.6% of students identified as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming/diverse. The transition can be expensive, Muscato says. In addition to health care costs, the price of new clothes may increase.

Piles of clothes on folding tables in the foreground, students in the background

Students examine clothes laid out on folding tables.

Muscato and Alvers also partner with Wellness for binders, shapewear, pull-up underwear and pull-up tape. “Trans people use a lot of different types of clothing that we can’t find in a store,” says Muscato. The group hopes to offer these subjects to students in the spring semester.

For now, they are focused on clothing. Muscato and Alvers started the day with 18 large bags of clean clothes, which they received from donations from a wide range of people, including Burton’s local Buy Nothing group.

“Having a range of styles was really important to us,” Muscato says, “so that people can feel euphoric, comfortable and excited at different times of the day.”

Gender affirmation isn’t exclusive to trans people, Alvers says. “People often assume that trans people or members of the LGBT community are the only ones who express their gender through clothing. CIS people and heterosexuals do it too.

“Gender expression is for everyone,” they say. “Everyone should feel validated and validated. This space is meant to open up that larger conversation.”

Penn has people from all over the world and from all walks of life, Muscato says.

“We are working hard to create the Center as a space where people feel seen and represented. We want everyone to feel that there is something here for them,” he says. “And we need clothes. People need clothes.”


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