Clothing can represent many things to people. A day-to-day outfit can constitute everything from comfort to functionality to one’s inner self. For many students on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, the clothes in their closets don’t necessarily reflect their true persona, and some don’t have access to clothes that match who they are.
For students who want gender affirming clothes, the team at the LGBTQA+ Center created a place to discreetly get free identity-affirming clothing and accessories. The Lavender Closet will have its grand reopening on Friday, Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. on the third floor of the Nebraska Union.
The Lavender Closet first opened in 2020, but when Jay Cleveland, engagement coordinator and junior fisheries and wildlife as well as grassland ecology and management double major, started at the resource center this year, he decided to give the closet a facelift and reorganize the clothing. According to Cleveland, having access to identity affirming clothing is important for a person’s daily success and happiness.
“It makes you a happier person when you get to dress how you want and in a way that makes you comfortable,” Cleveland said. “Without that, people just don’t feel like themselves, and when you don’t feel like yourself, you’re not living life to the fullest.”
Ashley Turner, a graduate assistant at the LGBTQA+ Center, said that they have seen a lot of interest among students in the closet’s reopening.
“A lot of people have shown interest in just knowing that there is a place for them to come on campus and have access to those resources without family members finding out or others they don’t want to know finding out,” Turner said.
While the closet is meant for UNL students, faculty and staff, the Lincoln community can also use the closet. The resource center asks if you are not part of the university, to bring an item to donate per item taken.
Additionally, the average UNL student can also help and get involved in the closet by donating. Currently, the resource center is looking for masculine clothing of any size and feminine clothing sizes XL or larger, all in good condition. Students can check for updates on what the closet is in need of on the resource center website.
“It’s kind of similar, like how you would donate to Goodwill or any other thrift store, donate it here,” Cleveland said. “That’s how we run the closet, is through donations.”
Any donations can be brought to the LGBTQA+ Center in room 344 of the Nebraska Union.
The grand reopening on Friday will give students the opportunity to explore not only The Lavender Closet, but all of the other resource centers available to students on the third floor, such as the Women’s Center and Center for Advocacy, Response & Education office.
“We’ll be having hors d’oeuvre set up in the hallway,” Turner said. “All of the offices will be open. People can pop in and meet the center’s staff along with the Women’s Center staff and the CARE office — kind of check out what we have to offer up here.”
Both Turner and Cleveland said that they are hoping they will be able to expand the closet’s presence on campus as well as expanding the closet itself.
“We just want to get it better advertised,” Cleveland said. “It’s been here for a year and people don’t even know that it’s here in the first place. The goal is to show people that this is a resource that is needed and make it accessible to everyone.”