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Section 4. Uniforms

This section focuses on how trans and gender diverse young people experience school uniforms. In the first instance, please watch the video about Ronan’s experience of uniforms and school life.

This section also contains key findings from research, impactful quotes from young people, starting points to think about what you can do as well as resources for further study. Please navigate through this section and complete the corresponding worksheet in the workbook.

From first year, I could wear pants, and I always did. I never owned a skirt. It was pants, shirt, tie, jumper. […] Nothing overly gendered, which was great. […] [It made it] a lot easier, yeah. If I had had to wear a skirt and they made me, I would've probably dropped out. Because at that time, that would've been a real trigger for me.

(Eoin, Age 21)

Research

Trans and gender diverse youth explained how:

  • Gender-specific school uniforms were a major issue of concern
  • School uniform policies restricted their gender expression
  • Wearing a uniform that was incongruent with their gender identity made them feel discomfort and distress

International research suggests:

  • Strongly gendered school uniforms are problematic for trans and gender diverse youth, since they impose gender binary stereotypes and leave little room for autonomous expression of gender (Jones, et al. 2016; Ullman, 2014)

And, that:

  • Reconsideration of gender differentiated uniform and haircut policies is an essential element of schools comprehensively supporting TGD youth (McBride and Schubotz, 2017)

Malachi told us that after his transition he was prohibited from wearing trousers, but permitted to wear the school tracksuit bottoms. He explained how:

that was fine for the time. And then, it started getting to the end of the year, and we had gone on a lot of trips and on every single one of those trips I was, ‘I look different to everybody else. Everybody's looking at me because I'm wearing the wrong uniform.’ I was going into school every day thinking, ‘People are looking at me.’ I could have spilt some yogurt on my skirt in the morning and I couldn't have worn it that day, that's what I looked like every day going into school. I know it was supposed to make me feel more comfortable, but it really didn't. It was fine for the couple of months that it was fine for, but after that it was, ‘I just look even more different. It's just making me stand out more.’

(Malachi, Age 16)

What you can do

  • Review your uniform policy and consider whether it: (a) is gender segregating, and (b) to what extent it restricts students’ gender expression
  • If your school does not have a gender-neutral uniform option, consider how you could introduce one
  • Hold a consultation process with students, parents and educators to explore their views on the school uniform. Based on this engagement process develop a non-restrictive uniform policy

Resources

Next steps

Please complete ‘Worksheet 4: Uniforms’ and continue to Section 5: Bathrooms.