Bakersfield College (BC) held its first official Transgender Clothing Swap for Trans Awareness Week.
The event was hosted by the LGBTQIA+ Initiative and Office of Student Life (OSL). Students and community members were instructed to bring pre-transition clothes, shoes, and accessories prior to the event. Organizers stressed that everything provided and displayed was free.
Traditionally clothing swaps are a place for people to donate old or gently-used clothes, and then pick up other pieces at no cost. Most college campuses and community organizations have adopted this textile trade. It’s promoted as a fun social gathering or a way to a second-hand shop and be earth friendly.
“Urban areas, like Bakersfield or Tehachapi, which is where I’m from, they don’t really have a lot of resources, especially if you don’t have a car,” said Cecil Dexter, a current BC student, and employee for OSL. He further explained that more low-income and secluded areas need events like clothing swaps.
After Dexter and other students came forward with the idea for the event Adrianna Oceguera Donahue, BC Campus Prevention Specialist and Consent Project Club facilitator, knew they had to make it happen.
“I’m gender-fluid and I need things that work for my identity, and I know that my daughter, who is a trans woman, needs things for her identity to feel confident in who she is,” said Donahue explaining how important it is for their children feel comfortable. “Being okay with who they were no matter what – I love that. That’s the one thing I could see as they were growing up was that they didn’t care what other people thought, it was what made them feel good.”
They explained that they didn’t want the kids to experience the hardships they did especially while growing up in a small town.
One surprised student asked Donahue for a hug after being told everything was free. Another named Dulce Gervacio said that “[the clothing swap] just makes it seem more normal, it’s not scary to show you need help, it’s okay – its a sign of bravery.”
Partnerships on campus with groups like Renegade Nexus, which offers support services for basic needs, and with community members have made it possible to get continued financial support plus visibility amongst students.
“We did have a lady that brought 10 bags of clothing in… the lady is a mother of a trans man, and she was doing it in honor of him. She was very happy to help the community.” Donahue shared this fact while reminiscing on the planning process.
Donahue and their student workers envision creating a community space that resembles closely to what The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity in Downtown Bakersfield provides. You can find trans-friendly doctors for H.I.V. and other S.T.D. testing, affordable counseling, and educational information on laws to protect LGBTQ students.
For national coming out day in October, the LGBTQIA+ Initiative had a Light the Night event. Rainbow-colored lights along campus greenery encouraged students to feel seen. Now the OSL team has become excited about future events like the upcoming H.I.V. and AIDS awareness outreach.
Donahue wanted to remind the public that “ we need to be treating humans as humans. We need to be accepting and loving and make sure that everyone is supported. Our community is our community – it’s all of Kern County.”