David Sowinski ’25 (He/Him)
Clothing is one of the most visible, and therefore most important, ways a person can express themselves. Oftentimes, little conscious thought is given to the clothes a person is wearing when you see them in passing; nonetheless, simply by seeing what someone is wearing, one makes judgements about the individual’s class, personality, sexual orientation, and gender, among other things. For the wearer, whether or not you make an intentional decision about the image you want to portray through a given outfit, you are giving all who view you material to craft a snapshot of who you are.
Therein lies the struggle of the LGBTQ+ community: the society we live in does not cater to the free expression of persons who don’t inhabit heteronormative, cisgender categories.
Consider a transgender woman being scorned for shopping in the women’s section; or a non-binary person conflicted by not knowing which section they “should” be shopping in. While it may be difficult for those who fit more or less neatly into these “cis-het” categories to understand, occurrences of such external scorn, and internal conflict, are harmful to those who don’t fit in as neatly.
In a similar way that “girls’” and “boys’” toy sections were challenged, so too must we challenge the organization of clothes along the gender binary. Personally, I have always felt restricted by this division, and I know this to be a feeling shared by innumerable queer, trans, and non-binary individuals. It was this feeling that led me to organize the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s Queer Clothing Swap on October 21st.
While Davidson is a safe space for many in the LGBTQ+ community, it still has a ways to go in making all of its members feel valued and included. An event aimed at breaking down the gender barrier of such a prominent medium of expression can aid in this process of promoting a more inclusive environment. I am glad to have hosted the event during Queer Visibility Week especially, as I think it underscored the intent that this was a chance for queer and trans people to celebrate their identities.
I was extremely pleased with the way the event went, especially to see that it fulfilled the goal I set for it. Several people approached me during and after the event, remarking on how much they appreciated the freedom to browse clothes entirely without the labels of “men” or “women”—to simply pick out what they liked, because of how it looked or how they felt wearing it. The multiple times I was asked when such an event might be held again is a testament to how important it is to the LGBTQ+ community to feel seen and respected.
It is worth remembering that Davidson is these students’ home, and the comfort of feeling safe in one’s home is a luxury that not all queer and trans people enjoy, but that all deserve. The onus, then, is on Davidson, and organizations like the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, to take steps like this one in breaking down gender barriers where they have caused harm, and cultivating an environment where everyone’s self-expression is unlimited and defended.
David Sowinski ‘25 (he/him) is an undeclared major from Chicago, IL. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.