When it comes to moulding our identities and shaping our basic views, our formative years are perhaps the most significant. It’s a time when we assimilate social ideologies and gender ideals – when we learn pink is supposedly for girls and blue for boys, skirts for women and trousers for men. But, breaking that restrictive mould, a top private school in the English town of Brighton has decided to ditch gender stereotypes by scrapping traditional uniform codes in order to accommodate transgender students.
Brighton College, whose intake of pupils begins at the age of eight, are offering boys the the option of wearing a skirt, blouse and bolero, and girls the option of dressing in trousers, a shirt, tie and blazer. The school said that it was “reacting to a changing society which recognises that some children have gender dysphoria and do not wish to lose their emotional gender identities at school. [Private] schools are usually seen as bastions of conservatism but Brighton College feels it is time to break ranks.”
According to the school’s headmaster, Richard Cairns, the move to recognise gender dysphoria – a condition where a person experiences a difference between their gender identity and biological sex – followed discussions with a small number of families and the school’s Gender Society fronted by Amy Arnell, 18 and Lilya Tata, 17, The Guardian reports.
Cairns said: “It ties in with my strong personal belief that youngsters should be respected for who they are. If some boys and girls are happier identifying with a different gender from that in which they were born, then my job is to make sure that we accommodate that. My only interest as headmaster is their welfare and happiness.”
While some girls at Brighton College have already been walking around campus in trousers since the uniform rules were scrapped at the start of term, so far there has been one boy who has expressed interest in wearing a skirt. Sixth-form pupil Amy Arnell told The Telegraph: “When the headmaster announced [the changes to uniform codes], no one was really surprised – there is just no reason not to do it if it makes people feel more comfortable about themselves.”
Time will only tell if the changes at Brighton College, which has formerly made headlines after the headmaster stated single-sex education was a “deeply unrealistic world”, will spark similar changes in other schools and institutions.
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