Elessar Younglove (They/She/Fae)
This article is written by a nonbinary and bisexual person. As such, personal comments will be written from that perspective.
International Transgender Day of Visibility was March 31st. The observance is intended to raise awareness about the discrimination faced by transgender people, but it’s also a celebration of transgender people and their contributions to society. This is my first year celebrating trans day. I woke up with a tickle in my spine and a smile on my face. It was like Christmas morning, but queer!
In celebration of Trans Day of Visibility, the Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan hosted a gender affirming clothing swap. Students donated lightly used clothes of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I myself donated clothes, though I brought them in after the specified deadline due to a continuous dryer breakage. But that’s a different story!
Located on the third floor of the Union building is the Spectrum Center. It’s filled with friendly faces and, on trans day, racks of clothing. Floral skirts and David’s Bridal dresses are recommended for the approaching queer prom. But there are also sweaters, pants, suit jackets, shoes, etc.
I spoke with a Spectrum representative and official, Alyssa Garcia (she/her) about the inspiration behind this event. Alyssa has worked at the center since the beginning of fall semester 2019. She told me the idea of a clothing swap began this fall semester. Originally, the event was a group effort from FreshSpective for freshman and first year transfer students to get acquainted with the campus.
“The whole goal is to remove barriers for gender affirming items for queer and trans folk,” Alyssa said. “There are a lot of reasons why clothing and makeup can be unaffordable or inaccessible, and we really want to help queer and trans folk, trans folk specifically.”
International Transgender Day of Visibility is a day of celebration and discussion about trans people. Trans people face unique challenges, especially in terms of clothing. Clothing is expensive, and searching for gender affirming clothing is its own journey. The dressing stalls can be intimidating, even mocking, to a trans person.
Alyssa said these options were essential to the event. Today, the Spectrum Center was filled with donated clothes. But the event didn’t stop there! The clothing swap offered a variety of options like makeup, underwear, pronoun pins, etc.
“We firmly believe gender affirming products and care are life saving,” she said.
The hype team consisted of several spectrum members, including but not limited to: Alyssa, Lio, Jamie, Grey, Thea, Spencer, and myself. The hype team, which fluctuated in numbers throughout the day, encouraged myself and others to model their chosen clothes. One young woman stepped out of the dressing room in a purple David's Bridal dress. I donated the dress and was excited to see who would take it home. The girl in this dress was positively glowing. She looked beautiful.
Another young person, Lio, tried on a short blue dress. The straps hugged him in all the right places. They were met with oohs and ahs from everyone in the center. Their smile was its own reward. The sentiment was echoed by Alyssa and other staff members.
“All of the trans joy has been my favorite part,” she said. “The sheer unbridled trans joy, people hyping each other up, finding things that make them happy [and] feel their best selves. It’s been great.”