Transgender students at William & Mary who may not be able to shop for clothing due to cost, bias or other factors will have a new resource on campus this fall.
The Center for Student Diversity is establishing a “trans locker” with donated clothing and accessories so that transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming students may be able to dress in accordance with their gender identity.
“A lot of times, LGBTQ students have not come out to family and friends at home,” said Kimberly Weatherly, director of the Center for Student Diversity. “After they arrive on campus, it’s an opportunity for them to evolve and sometimes finally live their truth.”
But students on the LGBTQ spectrum may, due to bias, find it difficult to find places where they can shop comfortably and feel safe, and they are sometimes prohibited from trying on clothing in the dressing room for the gender that they identify with, said Weatherly. They may also find it financially challenging to replace large amounts of apparel to help them express their gender.
The center hosted a clothing drive among faculty and staff last week and, over the course of just two days, received more than 150 items, including gently used clothing and accessories. In addition, W&M’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science has been collecting items to donate, and alumni are mailing even more to the center. All of the items will be free to students who use the locker.
“I was very humbled that people were so gracious and so willing to donate,” said Weatherly. “We’re thankful to lean on faculty and staff – they came through in gangbusters.”
The trans locker initiative grew out of research that the CSD has been doing about best practices in LGTBQ services.
“We want to make sure that nationally, we are one of the most LGBTQ-friendly colleges,” said Weatherly, “so we’re taking an opportunity to research the needs of students and what’s going on throughout the country, and transgender lockers, that is something we can do right away to help students.”
Initially, the locker will actually be a closet in the basement of the Center for Student Diversity. Weatherly and her staff are still discussing how it will operate, whether students may use it by appointment for the sake of privacy or whether it will have regular days and hours of operation. Either way, Weatherly expects the locker to be open sometime in September.
Weatherly expects to hold another clothing drive in the fall, with more items expected not just from faculty and staff but also students who will then be back on campus. However, the center is open to receiving more items at any time. While they will accept gently used clothing and accessories, Weatherly said they especially need more new undergarments and chest binders.
“The chest binders are a big one because that enables some transgender men to better express their identity,” said Weatherly.
The center is also accepting donations of hangers — but not wire ones.
“We want to make sure it looks nice,” said Weatherly. “I don’t want it to look like a flea market. I want it to look like there was love and care and that you can visit an orderly space and shop – not just rummage through boxes. So I wanted to make sure it’s very neat and pleasing to the eye – that’s very important to me.”
The trans locker is the latest in multiple new initiatives from the center designed to help make all students at W&M feel welcome, said Weatherly. For instance, the center recently coordinated with Dining Services to put together breakfast boxes for students observing Ramadan. In the fall, the center will host a coat and blanket drive for students from tropical areas who may not be accustomed to or prepared for winter in Virginia.
“So this is part of a larger effort for the Center for Student Diversity to be visible and remind people that we are inclusive and we have people from all over, whether it’s faith, whether it’s identity, ethnicity, socio economics,” she said.“We are trying to show through the things we do that you belong here.”