It's April, and for many high school kids, that means prom and graduation are just around the corner! This also means that every year, preceding those events, is a small slew of articles about girls wanting to wear tuxes to prom, and pants to graduation, in schools that forbid them from wearing anything other than skirts and dresses. When I first started seeing these articles, I was shocked that schools in this country still have such rigid gender roles written into their policies. So, it's time to counter a lot of the arguments for these ridiculous and outdated rules, and write in support of these young women who dare to break the mold.
Argument 1: Students need order! If cross-dressing is allowed, all hell will break loose and guys will start coming to these events in dresses just to make a mockery of the school, and there will be no way to stop them!
Reality: I'd like to know of one school where this was an issue. Really, my guess is it's pretty easy to tell who's cross dressing because of gender identity, and who is doing it as a joke. And most (responsible) parents are heavily involved in the preparation for these events, including overseeing exactly what their kids are wearing. You mean to tell me a mom is going to shell out all that money just so her son can wear a dress to prom as a joke? Or that a dad would actually let his son walk across the graduation stage in a dress just for the fun of it. Nope, not likely. In fact, in parts of this country where these gendered policies exist, I'm willing to bet that most parents of transgendered teenagers wouldn't let them cross-dress for these events either.
Chances are, if these dress codes were changed to allow for trans students to express their gender identities (if they so choose) at these events, little would change. The vast majority of guys would still wear masculine clothing, and the majority of girls would wear skirts and dresses, with a few of them wearing nice slacks and blouses for graduation if they don't have the time or money to buy a new outfit for the ceremony.
Argument 2: These schools just want girls to look nice! What, should we really allow these young ladies to wear JEANS to graduation?
Reality: Wearing pants does not mean wearing jeans or dressing casually for girls anymore than it does for guys. If girls wore pants to graduation, they would still be nice pants, khakis or slacks, and not ripped jeans like the people perpetuating this argument seem to believe (or want others to envision). Looking nice shouldn't mean looking feminine.
Argument 3: It's tradition!
Reality: Well that may be, but just because something has been done for decades doesn't mean it's okay. Our culture - fuck, our world - has had many sexist, racist, and downright brutal traditions for centuries, and sadly, many still exist (think segregated proms). It's still tradition for a woman to be handed off from her father to her husband at her wedding, symbolizing the transfer of property - tradition? Of course. Sexist? You bet. We need to stop perpetuating sexism, racism, and heteronormativity under the guise of tradition - some traditions need to be done away with.
We need to start implementing policies that acknowledge transgender students, allowing them to express their gender the same way cisgender students have been able to do for centuries. Forcing them to dress not in accordance with their gender identity and ignoring their needs in school policies only allows them to continue to be marginalized and invisible. So this year, when a news article pops up about a girl who may not be allowed to attend prom because she feels more comfortable in a tux, be sure to show your support for her!