'Wear the Rainbow'

LGBT Resource Center hosts annual clothing swap

By Ty Konell | 11/9/16 11:04pm

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GVL / Sara Carte Eric Lacerna studies inside the LGBT Resource Center on Sept. 29, 2015.

by Sara Carte / Grand Valley Lanthorn

In an effort to affirm the varying gender identities of students, the Grand Valley State University Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center held its annual event ‘Wear the Rainbow: a Trans and Genderqueer Clothing Swap.’

The yearly clothing swap, held in Loosemore Auditorium on the Pew campus, was held Monday, Nov. 7 and allotted students access to free apparel for any gender identity. The event offered dressing rooms for people to try on looks and maintain privacy.

This year, the center worked in partnership with the GVSU LGBT Alumni Chapter to put on the event.

Officials in the center said the event is important for students who want to explore and express their gender identity, but may not be able to purchase clothing based on varying reasons.

"This clothing swap provides an affirmative space for people to explore different expressions of gender presentation and to play with various looks,” said Marla Wick, assistant director of the center. “This provides needed access to items that may otherwise be unavailable to people due to financial burdens, personal safety concerns and other barriers.”

“Clothing swaps like this are important because it allows trans people to get clothes that make them feel more comfortable within their bodies,” said Ezra Smith, student worker in the center. “Also, since many of us are young and broke, we don’t have to worry about affording the clothes.”

Moreover, Smith said community events like the clothing swap can be a source of affirmation to transgender and gender non-conforming students.

“These events are validating because there’s other people in this space like you, which on its own is validating,” he said. “And there are also often people there to validate us and help us find ourselves through clothes.”

"Wear the Rainbow" also serves as a means of celebrating the history of the LGBT community and offering new ways for people in the community to help one another. The event has been a tradition for a least three years.

“Queer and trans communities have a long and rich history of sharing resources, and 'Wear the Rainbow' is an extension of that tradition,” Wick said. “'Wear the Rainbow' also seeks to be a celebratory space for people to be in community with one another and help each other find clothing items and styles to express themselves authentically.”

Wick said the event is a helpful resource for students who face challenges shopping for clothing in a traditional format, as presenting in public settings may prove to be challenging for transgender and gender non-conforming students.

“Wear the Rainbow provides an opportunity for people to find free clothing and accessories that align with their gender identities," Wick said. "Shopping for clothing can be a difficult and challenging process for transgender people, and the clothing swap offers an alternative to that."

For more information, visit the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center on weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

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