25 August 2016

UK Introduces Gender-Neutral Uniforms for a Powerful Reason

Originally published on the 24th August 2016 here.

In the last few months, schools across the UK began adopting gender-neutral uniform policies, as part of a new Government-funded incentive called Educate & Celebrate, to reduce gender discrimination and to promote gender equality among the young generation during one of the most vulnerable and valuable stages of their life. The incentive provides funding to enable schools across the country to put measures into place to ensure improvement in the lives of LGBTQ students and so far 80 schools nationwide, including 40 primary schools have adopted the gender-neutral uniform policy. A primary school in Birmingham, one of the man schools apart of the curriculum, have introduced a policy that allows students to select the uniform they want to wear to school, and in doing so, have ‘aimed to promote each child’s right to express their gender and personality in whichever way feels right for them.’

This is a big accomplishment for a changing society, as LGBTQ students can choose to dress accordingly without having to abide to gender norms while eradicating homophobia and putting a much needed emphasis on gender equality in the school system. Gender-neutral uniforms could potentially become a gateway into the discussion of gender and sexuality-based discrimination in an authentic way where students can feel comfortable to voice their opinions and thoughts during a very important time in their adolescences, especially following the Orlando gun shooting at a gay nightclub in an act of homophobia back in June.

Although some have criticised this policy and have questioned the notion of ‘boys wearing skirts’ as a trivialising way to enhance educational values, this policy mars an important step into considering the needs of students and individuals who are subjected to discrimination due to their preferences, both within and beyond the school gates. Celebrities have also been open and supportive of the genderless-clothing movement, with Jaden Smith been most famous for sporting a skirt from the Louis Vuitton womenswear campaign, as well as various designers like Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood pushing the boundaries of what genderless is by effortlessly creating skirts and dresses for men to wear – and in a desirable manner too.

Of course there will still be hatred and discrimination, no matter what steps are taken to try to improve the understanding of gender equality and LGBTQ rights, however it is important that the education system adopt and take the necessary steps to properly educate students towards an inclusive society to eradicate these attitudes at a young age. All students, no matter gender, preference or other deserve to be recognised and importantly, protected for the better of the future – the new policy within the UK is expected to encourage discussion and break down stereotypes and non-normative gender tropes.  Is it high time that Australia followed suit too in the name of gender equality?