From the day you are born you are assigned a sex, either male or female. With this assigned sex comes a predisposed set of rules and expectations that the individual gets almost no control over. For most people if you are assigned the sex of female at birth you tend to follow the predisposed rules of the female gender that has been dictated to you (same with most males and the male gender). For those people their lives are easy and “natural” because they fall into the roles society has already laid out for them.
What if you don’t fall perfectly into this role? Gender may be influenced as soon as one is born but it is not ssigned like sex is, and therefore it is often fluid. People find where they fall on this “gender spectrum” as they age. Many people find this concept of gender fluidity confusing. Kate Bornstein in her research “The Health of Sexual Minorities” explains this issue “What makes a man-testosterone? What makes a woman-estrogen? If so, you could buy your gender over the counter at any pharmacy. A critical period of developing a person’s identity and their placement on the gender spectrum often comes in their teens, years where a person spend the majority of their time in school and extracurricular events. Schools and their policies often have great influence on a teen’s self-expression and development. This becomes a significant issue because a person’s gender fluidity is hindered by schools dress codes. When you fall into the same gender as sex this is not a main concern but it is for transgender students.
Standard school uniforms are slacks and a shirt for males and a skirt and a blouse for girls, with little room for exception. If a person’s sex matches their gender there seems to be little issue, but complications arise when this isn’t the case. With obvious complications many wonder why dministrators wouldn’t change the dress code. The article “Can a Boy Wear a Skirt to School? ” by Jan Hoffman of the New York Times explains why administration is less inclined to change policy. Hoffman makes the point that this issue has a “generational divide” (2).
Millennials and people younger have a better understanding of gender fluidity and are more accepting. This change of mindset is revolutionary but it is not the students that make the rules, it’s the generation above them. It is up to each school individually how to handle the dress code and its effects on the transgender people. Some schools choose to ccept the students and support their decisions but most schools seem to punish the transgender students. The main point of rules produced by any school is to keep students safe.
Some dress codes are clear and need to be in place. Dress codes are needed to stop students from wearing clothing with gang affiliation or other harmful activities. They are also needed to make sure that a student’s body is covered in an appropriate way. Although the dress code system implementing uniforms seems to have the safety of the student in mind, can dress codes still cause harm? The inability of one to be expressive of heir gender and sexual orientation can cause one to be in serious mental harm.
The repression of one to expression their gender by the school and other influential leaders in the community directly affects young people’s perspective. The punishment transgender students get for their violation of dress codes paired with their breaking of social norms leads other students to think that being gender fluid is wrong. Students follow the rules implemented by the school systems because they believe that is the right thing to do. If the rules are targeted towards a group of students, much like the dress code against ransgender students, it will be reflected in the student.
This may cause students target that same group and make them believe that transgender people need to be punished because of their constant violation of school uniform. Hoffman shares that Lawrence King was a known crossdresser from Oxnard, California. He was known for wearing high heeled boots, makeup, and other items deemed feminine. As a result of his self-expression another student shot him to death (2). Death isn’t always the result. Stephen Russell, a professor at the University of Arizona who studies gay, lesbian and transgender ouths, conducted a survey of about 1,200 California high school students.
When asked why those perceived as not as “masculine” or “feminine” as others were harassed, a leading reason students gave was “manner of dress. ” (Russel qtd. in Hoffman 5) An AJN report, “Helping Transgender Children and Teens”, states that according to the National Schools Climate Survey “64% of middle and high school students identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender reported being verbally harassed in the year prior because of their gender expression. ” Despite the statistics most educator’s reasons for the harsh mplication of school dress codes has little to do with the safety %3D of the student.
Hoffman state a main reasons is that “All this is too much for educators, who say high school should not be a public stage to work out private identity issues. School, they say, is a rigorous academic and social training ground for the world of adults and employment. ” The implications of the dress code are also supported by some students. Hoffman quoted Kay Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, to put their view better into perspective “It’s hard enough to get kids to concentrate on an algorithm n lipstick and fake eyelashes.
As the quote states some students find these students self-expression as distraction from the learning process. Again the point comes down to the academia of school, but in discriminating against these transgender students they disrupt their advancement in the academia. Although some educators think this issue needs to be repressed but others have a differing view and take steps to help their students. The article “School Scraps Uniform Code for Transgender Students” on The Daily Telegraph looks at Brighton even without Jimmy sitting there College’s approach to this controversy.
Headmaster Richard Cairns took action to change the dress code that had been in place for 170 years. The change in dress code allows transgender students to wear the uniform opposite of their sex. When the college was questioned about their change and dress code they explained “Reacting to a changing society which recognizes that some children have gender dysphoria and do not wish to lose their emotional gender identities at school. Public schools are usually seen as bastions of conservatism but Brighton College feels it is time to break ranks.
Cairns also says he believes all schools should make accommodations for their ransgender students. Although Cairns new policy seems to be perfect it has one flaw, the parent of the transgender student must send in a letter to the headmaster verifying their support of their child’s identity. This is an issue because not all parents support their children’s’ identity change. The lack of support from parents not allowing their children to dress according to their preferred gender is only the start of issues.
The ANJ report states that “The National Transgender Discrimination Survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 51% of ransgender adults whose families had rejected them had attempted suicide. ” Events revolving around transgender student and their right to self-expression are beginning to cause legal issues for schools. Schools have the right to make dress policies and have uniforms as long as they do not violate anti- discriminatory laws.
The National Center for Transgender equality states “You (transgender students) have the right to equal educational opportunities regardless of your gender identity or expression or your race, nationality, or disability. This includes not being punished or excluded from school activities r events because you are transgender or gender non- conforming. ” The National Center for Transgender equality also states “You have the right to present yourself in a way that is consistent with your gender identity, so long as you follow rules for how to dress that apply to all students. This may be easier said than done. Many school uniforms have almost no wiggle room when it comes to transgender expression. If boys must wear pants and a shirt and girls must wear a blouse and a skirt there is no way for self-expression. If this dress code is broken by a transgender student it is the institutions fault. A person’s identity cannot be fully discovered and achieved if they are under constant control and scrutiny from the students and administrators alike.
Schools imply strict dress codes and uniforms. On the other hand students use tactics like bullying to show their disapproval. These dress codes cause mental stress and harm to transgender students and can create a hostile environment for these students. Although there are laws in place to protect these students they aren’t always upheld. Schools are supposed to make rules to protect their students but some rules are causing more harm than good.