Non-uniformity

08/09/2017 13:31

I delighted in dressing my four year old daughter up in her new school uniform this week - a pinafore and cardigan and frilly socks to go with her black patent Mary Jane shoes. And she loved getting ready as well - choosing her hair accessories the night before her first day at school! After having two boys before her - dressing my daughter in a dress for her first day of school was a novelty. But if she hadn't wanted to wear a dress she didn't have to - she had a choice. Her school offer girls the option of wearing a dress or track suit. In the school uniform shop we chose one of each - so she could decide! So far she's only opted for the dress - but I'm sure one day she'll go for the trousers.

But the key word here is choice. Now a school in East Sussex has just taken away that choice by changing its uniform policy and requiring every Year 7 pupil to wear trousers. Why? They say it's to accommodate the growing number of transgender pupils - oh and to deal with complaints over the "decency" of short skirts.

Let's take on the second reason first. Ever since school uniform came into existence I imagine girls have been trying to shorten their skirts. I know I did when I was at school 30 years ago. And I know I would get told off for doing so. But hey - it's just what me and many of friends did. And it wasn't as if it was to get the attention of boys - I went to an all-girls school! Kids often like to rebel against/adapt their uniform - not everyone likes to look the same! Obviously some people don't want to look at children wearing bottom skimming inappropriate skirts - but I know of schools who deal with it by simply punishing the children who contravene the rules - come down hard on them first and see if that works. Don't deal with it by simply taking away choice.

The bigger issue here is of course the transgender one. Every parent wants their child to feel comfortable and accepted in their own skin - and school uniform - of course they do. But why does that mean taking away the choice for other children?

My kids are in primary school and in one of their classes they have a child of lesbian parents, a child of male gay parents and a child of a gay mum and donor gay dad. They all know this and all accept the children for who they are and the family situation they come from. They are growing up in a world thankfully where everyone, whatever their LGBT orientation is accepted.

But do we really, age 11, have to force them to think about their gender?

My daughter has a gender - it's female - it's not neutral. If she chooses it to be otherwise when she is older, then so be it. She likes wearing a skirt and sometimes she may like to wear trousers. Not all girls feel comfortable wearing trousers - what about their rights? At the end of the day I want it to be up to her

Obviously the issue becomes more complicated if you're a boy. A teenage boy going to school in a dress or skirt may well provoke bullying and discrimination from other children. But if the real objective is parity - surely boys that are identifying themselves as girls should be in turn allowed to wear a skirt in the same way that girls identifying as boys are given the opportunity to wear trousers.

I understand that for a child with gender identity issues it can be traumatic but it doesn't mean we have to take the rights away from others and introduce young children to something that may not even have crossed their minds - to give into the PC brigade.

Furthermore, not conforming to society's expectations is at the very heart of allowing people to be who they want to be. Making the children conform to one uniform surely contradicts the underlying principle that in today's society we accept that sexuality exists in "many-forms".

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