Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism unveiled its new Gender-Affirming Room for Belonging in the basement of the George Sherman Union at a launch party and fashion show Nov. 6.
According to CGSA’s Instagram, GARB is “a private physical space for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people to explore and affirm their gender identity and expression.”
When visiting the LGBT Center at Tufts University last year, CGSA director Kaylan Comenole, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said they were inspired by a similar service Tufts provided.
“I started doing research and there are things like this at a lot of colleges,” they said. “I just thought it was like a really great idea, and I had never heard of it before.”
GARB was formerly a storage closet, but is now a private room for BU students to access vanity supplies such as clothes, makeup, wigs, binders and other accessories. All supplies are donations, funded by grants or from the CGSA’s funding.
“Having a physical space for people to actually use (products) and explore their gender identity and presentation is more important because even if you have a binder or something, you may not have a place to actually use it,” Comenole said.
Comenole said getting supplies is the most challenging aspect of GARB, and the majority of the CGSA’s funding has been allocated towards resources for GARB.
“The amounts that we got for everything were somewhat arbitrary,” Comenole said. “The toughest logistical stuff is getting the money for it because everything is very expensive.”
CGSA Co-Student Organizations Coordinator Ia Iarajuli, a junior in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation, said she sees the need for a safe place to explore gender-identity — a place to access STP packers, binders, bras and make-up.
“Initially, going through the process can be a little scary because you don’t know what to try on or what is the most affirming to you,” Iarajuli said.
CGSA Health and Education Coordinator Yeelin Bacchus, a graduate student in the School of Public Health, said it is important to create a physical space for students to explore their identity versus merely providing gender-affirming products.
“We were able to create this community for students who are looking for gender-affirming products, but not only have them available to students but create a physical space where they could come and use it,” she said.
CGSA member Michelle Abramovich, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences who modeled in the fashion show launch party, said as a nonbinary person, they felt their experience with GARB was “really empowering.”
“It is really nice to have a space that’s made for people that are gender non-conforming,” Abramovich said. “It’s definitely fun, it’s expressive, it allow you to dress up and be who you want to be for the day.”
Abramovich said they specifically love the accessories in the GARB room..
“Having binders, having access to things like trans tape, binders, like sports bras, etc., it’s just really nice to be able to have that like access and not have to spend like $50 on another website,” they said. “It shows that a club like this appreciates and accepts people by providing us a space like this.”
Comenole said exploring yourself can be incredibly vulnerable.
“I think that’s something that we’ve learned and just in general from having CGSA is having that physical space that people can go and feel affirmed and comfortable in is important in general, but especially for such a vulnerable thing like this,” Comenole said.