“It was terrible!” said Ms. Sturgis, an honors student, band president and soccer goalie, who has been openly gay since 10th grade. “If you put a boy in a drape, that’s me! I have big shoulders and ooh, it didn’t look like me! I said, ‘I can’t do this!’ So my mom said, ‘Try on the tux.’ And that looked normal.”
via New York Times, by Jan Hoffman
By now, most high school dress codes have just about done away with the guesswork.
Girls: no midriff-baring blouses, stiletto heels, miniskirts.
Boys: no sagging pants, muscle shirts.
But do the math.
“Rules” + “teenager” = “challenges.”
If the skirt is an acceptable length, can a boy wear it?
Can a girl attend her prom in a tuxedo?
In recent years, a growing number of teenagers have been dressing to articulate — or confound — gender identity and sexual orientation. Certainly they have been confounding school officials, whose responses have ranged from indifference to applause to bans.
Last week, a cross-dressing Houston senior was sent home because his wig violated the school’s dress code rule that a boy’s hair may not be “longer than the bottom of a regular shirt collar.” In October, officials at a high school in Cobb County, Ga., sent home a boy who favored wigs, makeup and skinny jeans. In August, a Mississippi student’s senior portrait was barred from her yearbook because she had posed in a tuxedo.
Other schools are more accepting of unconventional gender expression. In September, a freshman girl at Rincon High School in Tucson who identifies as male was nominated for homecoming prince. Last May, a gay male student at a Los Angeles high school was crowned prom queen.
Dress code conflicts often reflect a generational divide, with students coming of age in a culture that is more accepting of ambiguity and difference than that of the adults who make the rules.
“This generation is really challenging the gender norms we grew up with,” said Diane Ehrensaft, an Oakland psychologist who writes about gender. “A lot of youths say they won’t be bound by boys having to wear this or girls wearing that. For them, gender is a creative playing field.” Adults, she added, “become the gender police through dress codes.”
Dress is always code, particularly for teenagers eager to telegraph evolving identities. Each year, schools hope to quell disruption by prohibiting the latest styles that signify a gang affiliation, a sexual act or drug use.
But when officials want to discipline a student whose wardrobe expresses sexual orientation or gender variance, they must consider antidiscrimination policies, mental health factors, community standards and classroom distractions.
And safety is a critical concern. In February 2008, Lawrence King, an eighth-grader from Oxnard, Calif., who occasionally wore high-heeled boots and makeup, was shot to death in class by another student.
Read the rest.