It can be a challenge in a rural town like Alma for queer people to be visible and feel accepted. The Gender Affirming Closet of Alma College exists to help support the queer community express themselves and feel comfortable, offering access to free clothing for LBGTQ+ people on Alma College’s campus and the surrounding campus community.
The Gender Affirming Closet is open to the community Friday from 6 PM to 8 PM, Saturday from 10 AM to 6 PM and Sunday from 2 PM to 4 PM.
The primary goal of the Gender Affirming Closet is to “provide free, safe, equitable [and] appropriate access to clothes to all people.” said Sydney Powers, Americorp VISTA LBGTQ+ Support.
The “hope [in creating and maintaining the Gender Affirming Closet] is that [access to these resources] will inspire our queer community on campus to express themselves and feel that they are supported.” said Kate Stymiest (’22).
The Gender Affirming Closet strives to provide gender-affirming clothing options for non-binary students specifically. The closet achieves this in part by not organizing their clothing in gender-specific sections, a practice that is common in chain stores and boutiques.
The Gender Affirming Closet aims to give queer people options and encourages shopping without feeling pressured to conform to a particular gender. The closet stocks clothing for queer people of all shapes and sizes.
“The clothing supply is abundant and versatile. [We are] trying to cater to all styles, occasions, and body types,” said Stymiest.
The Gender Affirming Closet has been open for over a year as a part of the Alma College AmeriCorps Vista program.
Previously located in Highland Blush, a coffee shop in downtown Alma, the Gender Affirming Closet was recently moved to Tyler VanDusen. The closet is now located across from the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO). The move into Tyler VanDusen creates easier access for students.
Students are excited about what the Gender Affirming Closet offers to the campus community. “I think that it is amazing that the Gender Affirming Closet is on campus. I truly believe that this resource can be used to better the lives of the queer community.” said Sam Bjordal (’23).
The affordability of “fashionable” clothes is often a barrier to access for queer people. The cute, gently used clothing available at the Gender Affirming Closet is a great way for queer people to express themselves without overspending.
The Gender Affirming Closet is in need of a few specific types of donations.
“We do have a need for more binders, unopened cosmetics, jewelry, paper bags and tote bags for ‘checking out’,” said Powers. “Otherwise, we have more than enough clothes.”
If you are looking for a local volunteer opportunity, the Gender Affirming Closet relies on volunteers. Volunteers can help with several of the closet’s different functions.
“I had the…opportunity to volunteer at the Gender Affirming Closet,” said Jacob Keeley (’23). “[I helped with] washing clothes, organizing their inventory and locating resources for the [communities served by] the closet.”
To sign up and explore volunteer opportunities with the Gender Affirming Closet, please visit Alma Connect or reach out directly to Sydney Powers in the CSO. You can also drop off any donations for the Gender Affirming Closet to the CSO.