FULLERTON, Calif. — What used to be an old storage closet is now being used for something new.
"To be able to pick out genders, expressions and their presentation, that's really important. That's what we want," said Nat Betancourt Arellano, who runs the LGBT Queer Resource Center on campus.
Betancourt Arellano is a Cal State Fullerton alum. Her office will soon be home to the Gender Affirming Closet — a place for transgender or other gender non-conforming students to find free clothing and experiment with different looks in a safe space.
"It can be scary going into department stores and going into sections where it might not align with how you present and sometimes people will experience judgement," Betancourt Arellano said, who knows those struggles all too well, born female, but identifies as they/them.
"Although my presentation is very masculine, being a woman and femininity is still part of me, and so being non-binary is truly more true to me and who I am," Betancourt Arellano said.
"I didn't feel confident until I really came into my own style, my own presentation," Betancourt Arellano said.
The idea began as a student-led single-day clothing exchange, and then Betancourt Arellano had an idea to make it more permanent.
"We've got this closet. What if we just made this a thing all the time?" Betancourt Arellano said.
According to Betancourt Arellano, it's only the second Cal State campus to have a similar program. The closet is scheduled to officially open on Sept. 3, which is when students can sign up online for an appointment.
"They are 30-45 minutes, and so they get to come in here one-on-one with a staff member and get to have that privacy," Betancourt Arellano said.
They can take home up to three outfits a month for free. So far, clothing donations have poured in from throughout the community—both on and off-campus.
"It's like a right of theirs to feel comfortable in their own body," said Monica Lomeli, a fourth-year CSUF student majoring in psychology.
Lomeli is also a student worker at the resource center and found a cardigan she adores.
"It's long, and it's like perfect for the winter, and the sleeves aren't too long. They're the perfect length," she said.
Lomeli said she feels it's an excellent first step to becoming a more inclusive space, especially in a historically conservative area.
"We'll certainly take anything that is gently used and clean," Betancourt Arellano said, who hopes the clothes will give some queer students a sense of belonging in a world that can often judge too quickly.
"As long as we continue to pour into this as a community and take from it as a community, that's really what's important."