Surprise, delight, and joy

Five long fluorescent lights shone brightly overhead, illuminating six clothing racks of assorted styles on the second floor of the Center on Halsted, where gods closet was hosting its November pop-up. DJ Blesstonio stood in black pants and red stiletto boots behind a table, noodling with his DJ comptroller, intently bopping his head while a dark remix of Drake’s “Chicago Freestyle” combined with Jersey club remix blasted through the speakers, complimenting the already ecstatic energy in the space. 

A mix of twenty guests and stylists mingled and excitedly grasped onto new items of clothing as they encountered them. Most were trying on items in the open space and either modeling for people whose opinions they sought on the outfit, or for the tall mirror so that they could judge themselves. 

Wing Yun Schreiber (they/he), a 28-year-old who tends bar in the West Loop and does communications for a local church, founded gods closet in January 2022. The organization provides a community clothing hub and hosts monthly pop-up events that provide gender-affirming clothing to trans and nonbinary people. gods closet (which stylizes its name in lowercase) focuses on college-aged youth and brings LGBTQ+ stylists, makeup artists, tailors, and DJs to their monthly pop-up events throughout Chicago in an attempt to “create a celebratory environment for folks to try on different kinds of gender expression,” said Schreiber.  

Schreiber is light-skinned and stands at five-foot-eight, with short dark hair, and an athletic build. Today, he’s dressed in a black, cropped, fishnet tank top rimmed with pink. Below it is a yellow bra, and above it a “Hello, My name is Wing Yun” announces that he is an organizer for arriving guests. His dark gray bucket hat, an assortment of chain-style jewelry, black cargo pants, and an assortment of tattoos testify to their proclivity for fashion.

Wing Yun Schreiber Debbie-Marie Brown

One might think finding donations of fashionable clothing would be a challenge, but Schreiber says that’s been the easy part because so many LGBTQ+ community members have volunteered their own clothes once they hear about the effort from the organization’s Instagram @godscloset.chi or by word of mouth. 

The team is made of a couple of volunteers plus Schreiber and his friend Stevie (they/them), 22, who helps handle logistical matters such as event planning and social media. Stevie also jumps in at pop-ups as a stylist and occasional DJ. Stevie and Schreiber met at the bar they work at; they’re the only trans people on staff. They soon found they shared a desire for greater community and spaces where they felt more seen. “I have access to, like, a utility van,” Stevie said, which is the core reason for their partnership in the community closet.

gods closet rents storage space, and volunteers help sort through donations for events. Many venues have generously allowed the crew to hold their events free of charge. The group is planning a fundraiser at the SoHo house in January so that they can eventually pay their volunteers. 

When sorting through donations, the volunteer crew is intent on making sure that what they select for a pop-up is cute, trendy, and stylish. Stevie says that when curating the clothes, they always ask themselves, is this something that someone would be excited about getting rather than just something that someone else doesn’t want? “With my work with other volunteer teams it’s like, people, rather than bringing in clothes that they like but haven’t worn in a bit, [they’ll bring] clothes from ten years ago,” Stevie said. “Okay, well, if you don’t want it, somebody else probably doesn’t want it either.”

For Schreiber, one of the sweetest parts of running the pop-ups is watching attendees approach at the end of their shopping, arms full of new outfits, asking, “How much do we owe you for all of this stuff?” 

“And it’s like, nothing, this is all free, as it should be,” Schreiber said. “So just seeing the surprise and delight and joy in people’s eyes when they realize that yeah, that they’re just given access to these things, is really huge.”

Stevie said it’s always fun to put people in clothes that they wouldn’t necessarily grab for themselves, and then watch them try them on and decide to take them home. “I wish that there were more spaces [like this],” Stevie said, “and [that] it was just more prioritized at large for people to be able to get things that they want and need and not have to worry about paying for it.”

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