Hera Molina ’22 is leading the way for a more inclusive campus at Gettysburg College for transgender and nonbinary students. Over the past two years, her creation of Hera’s Closet has positively impacted transitioning Gettysburgians.
The Music and Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies double major and Peace and Justice Studies minor from Los Angeles chose to attend Gettysburg College mainly because of the Sunderman Conservatory of Music. She remembers arriving on campus as a high school senior and immediately taking note of the friendliness and warmth of the Conservatory.
“Most of the other places that I auditioned for were very much ‘I’m going to beat you’ and very cutthroat, which was not what I was looking for,” said Molina. “Here, we help each other out. We’re all friends.”
At the beginning of her first year, Molina eagerly joined and participated in organizations like Latin American Student Association (LASA), Gettysburg African Student Association, the Admissions Office, Sigma Alpha Iota, and the Office of Multicultural Engagement (OME). Yet, amidst settling into her new schedule, another worry plagued her mind. Although she felt comfortable expressing her gender identity openly at the College, that same identity had not yet fully manifested itself in her appearance to the outside world. She remembers thinking that she would need to spend a small fortune on a new wardrobe to truly capture who she is.
Molina’s supervisor from the OME, Monique Gore, generously offered her clothing that she no longer wore, so that Molina could avoid spending her personal money. That’s how the inspiring idea for Hera’s Closet came to life.
“Hera’s Closet is a space on campus for trans and nonbinary students to have an escape. We take donations of new and lightly worn clothes so students have the resource of a second wardrobe,” explained Molina. “Hera’s Closet began partially because of my personal story. I thought it was great for me—and that other people might need and want this too—so I wanted to create it to help.”
Hera’s Closet has developed from the spark of an idea. Hera herself has noticed the positive effect it has had across the College community, especially among some of the current first-year students that she met as prospective students last year. Several of these students have said that it's rewarding to have such a helpful space devoted specifically to them, and that they are hopeful that inclusivity and belonging on campus will continue to progress.
A willingness to have open and honest conversations about different identities is a crucial step in this progression.
“There has been a lot of false information thrown out there regarding the trans community and it's up to every person to educate themselves as well as they can,” said Molina. “I love having these conversations with people, but it’s important to note that there can be two people who align with the same gender or identity and still have vastly different experiences. For example, as a woman of trans experience, I may fall under the same ‘category’ as someone else, but at the end of the day, my story will be completely different.”
Molina has bold ambitions for the future of Hera’s Closet. She would like to see the initiative host or co-sponsor a campus-wide event around transgender inclusivity. She also aims to reach out to nearby campuses to see if they have a resource similar to Hera’s Closet—and if they don’t, help them create one.
“Just because some trans people are not necessarily as open as some others doesn’t mean they’re not there,” reflected Molina. “For me, my personality is that I’m a presence and I’m here and I’m going to talk about these things. But it would be great to see spaces like [Hera’s Closet] all over, particularly for people who don't want to be out in the open and start the initiative, yet still need a safe space.”
To participate in Hera’s Closet, donate new or lightly worn clothes to the Office of Multicultural Engagement or the Women’s Center at Gettysburg College. Hera’s Closet also accepts monetary donations for resources like binders and tucking undergarments. Community support strengthens the institution’s broader inclusivity efforts of making Gettysburg College a home for all of its students.
By Delaney Adams ’21
Photos by Hera Molina ’22 and the Women’s Center