The Care Series Hosts Trans Closet Clothing Drive

The Trans Closet of the Hudson Valley and the WGSS Department hosted a clothing drive at the Lecture Center.
The Trans Closet of the Hudson Valley and the WGSS Department hosted a clothing drive at the Lecture Center.

How long has it taken you to build what makes up the entirety of your closet? Likely years. What would you do if you had to start all over? Trans people are faced with this as they reestablish their wardrobe with fashion that suits their gender. This process is often expensive and intimidating. The Trans Closet of the Hudson Valley is here to help. 

On Friday afternoon, the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Study (WGSS) Department hosted the Trans Closet in a pop-up clothing drive at the Lecture Center. Bins overflowed with thick sweaters and different patterned skirts that the Trans Closet volunteers encouraged participants to explore with handwritten “Please rummage!” signs. Pretty lace bras colored baby pink and purple hung on the rack alongside clothing for every occasion — from mundane slacks to animal print tops. 

Everything was free, and the event included more than clothes. Dozens of zines spread out on tables that contained how-tos on performing practices like chest binding and using certain products including gaff underwear that hides bulges or a “packer” to create a bulge in ones pants. Volunteers laid out gaffs with the motto: “every girl deserves to shine” attached, prosthetic breasts, menstrual products and makeup supplies. A pink and blue squishmallow octopus —  the trans flag colors — sat next to the supplies. Attached to it was a “Hello my name is” sticker designating it had “any pronouns.” 

The event is part of the department’s Care Series, which according to WGSS professor Dr. Leigh Dodson is to “make visible the care that we do for queer, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming students on campus.” Dr. Dodson organized the event by reaching out to their former student and one of the Trans Closet founders Elliott Eminizer (xe/hir).

“It can be really difficult to be shopping and on the you know — other side — of the store, or to find affordable, especially gender affirming supplies and accessories like binders or packers or transtape,” Dr. Dodson said. “All of that stuff is here and brand new and free for people. This is life saving and liberating work because we know that trans folks are experiencing a lot of persecution.”

Right-wing politicians have politicized the existence of trans people and singled them out in laws — a group that faces disproportionate violence to cis people and a greater risk of mental health issues. The ACLU is tracking 429 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S. from this year alone that seek to censor and eliminate literature and language that affirms the existence of trans people and queer culture. In recent years, Florida has led the charge in legislation that targets the LGBTQ+ community with bills referred to as “Don’t Say Gay” and “Don’t Say They” that took effect in 2023. These bills prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation as well as teachers referring to students by pronouns that do not correspond to their assigned gender at birth.

Eminizer, a New Paltz alumni, is one of the founders of the Trans Closet. Xe connected with other volunteers and began organizing in Dr. Dodson’s 2019 Gender Utopia course, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed their efforts. Beginning in late 2020, the Trans Closet began hosting events with clothes on a smaller scale than the clothing drive that took place on Friday. In addition to popping up to events like the Care Series, the organization has a request service. People reach out via email or Instagram to volunteers who access and distribute clothing and accessories for free via mail or an in-person meetup. In addition to free services, the Trans Closet has a permanent space at the Dutchess County Pride Center in Hopewell Junction, where people can access free clothing and accessories when the Pride Center is open. On the first Saturday each month, Trans Closet volunteers host drop-in hours from 12-3 p.m. and perform mending and alterations on the spot. 

The Trans Closet steps in to cover the costs of gender-affirming attire and aims to access as many people in need across the Hudson Valley. “As soon as we started, we found that the need was enormous. Clothing for trans people is a source of euphoria and joy and excitement,” Eminizer said as silver eyeshadow glittered above hir N95. “It’s also a very basic source of safety. Particularly gender affirming accessories like packers, breast forms and tuck kits that make you more likely to be read as the gender you are.”

“When you are a trans person who is newly starting to move through the world as yourself, a whole new wardrobe is a ridiculous expense. Even if you think about buying new clothes for the season, or if your body changes size that can be hundreds of dollars for things that will get you through a few years,” said Eminizer. “Another thing we try to do is help people build their wardrobes so that every day they can wear something that they like, and they can present consistently as the person that they are in a way that not only makes them happy and helps them connect with other trans people but also keeps their bodies physically safe.”

Dr. Dodson said, “We have a huge queer community on our campus. And we need more for them. We need more resources, more support. We need more resources in WGSS so that we can maintain these spaces and these commitments to these groups.” 

The Chair of the WGSS department Dr. Karl Bryant said a Queer Resource Center would be an important addition to campus. “A center that is part of student services, that is a safe space that students or any member of the campus community can go to get information to find resources,” he said. “It would be like a clearinghouse that would do programming, support organizations and all kinds of initiatives like this.” LGBTQ+ Centers exist in U.S. colleges like Cornell and Vassar, but SUNY New Paltz does not have one. 

Organizer Ann O’Brien said, “When I started coming and getting things from trans closet, I wasn’t openly trans. The impact is seeing adults and people who are happy and alive and have things and then being like, ‘Oh, I can do that and get that care.’ It’s great. It’s also community.”

As I left the event, Eminizer presented Dr. Dodson with a friendship bracelet. “I make them for every organizer I work with,” xe said before Dr. Dodson threw their clipboard to the floor and wrapped hir in a hug.

Dr. Bryant said, “The work that they’re doing is lifesaving work. This is what keeps trans people alive.”

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About Lilly Sabella 58 Articles
Lilly Sabella is a third-year student from Queens, NY. This is her first semester as Features Editor and her fifth semester on The Oracle. Previously, she served as News Editor. You can reach her by emailing sabellal1@newpaltz.edu and read more of her writing on Substack at barbierot.substack.com.