St. Catharine's College At Cambridge University Amends 650-Year-Old Dress Code To Be Inclusive Of Trans Students

For transgender young people starting transition, there are a lot of challenges to deal with, many of which include possible issues with policies at their school regarding things like restrooms and dress codes. However, for students at one school, things just got a little more equal: St. Catharine's College at Cambridge University has amended a 650-year-old dress code to be more inclusive for trans students. So from now on, anytime someone says you can't change rules because of "tradition" or because it's "how things have always been," I will be pointing them to St. Catharine's, because that rule is older than our whole country.

Under the new policy, students at St. Catharine's will now be allowed to wear either masculine or feminine clothes at formal events without concern for the students' gender. Previously, men were required to wear nice pants, jackets, and ties at formal events, while women were expected to wear a dress or a skirt and blouse. Now, however, anyone can wear whatever they want, so long as their clothes are "suitably smart." Good for you, St. Catharine's!

For trans students, dress codes can be a major source of tension with school officials, along with things like restrooms and sports teams. As a New York Times article pointed out way back in 2009, "Dress is always code, particularly for teenagers eager to telegraph evolving identities," but when those identities and their expressions conflict with school officials' ideas about what is correct, problems often arise.

Still, although dress codes can be a battle, there have been a lot of victories for trans students all over the world in recent years. Here are just a few.

1. Bangkok University, Thailand

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Bangkok University School of Fine Arts just unveiled new, gender inclusive uniforms this year. Students are now allowed to wear either a boy's or girl's uniform, regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth, as well as to mix and match the various uniform components.

2. Rio de Janiero, Brazil

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When a trans girl was fined for wearing a skirt to Colégio Pedro II high school last year, the male students responded with a protest, wearing skirts to school themselves. The school has stated they are considering changes to the policy. You go, kids!

3. Oxford University, UK

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Oxford is another university with a lot of tradition, but in 2012 they changed their requirements for academic dress. Students taking exams or attending formal events are no longer required to wear formal clothing based on the gender they were assigned at birth.

4. New York City

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Yes, there are progressive dress codes right here in the good old U. S. of A., too. In New York City, for instance, the nation's largest school district, the official policy is, "Students have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity that is consistently asserted at school." In other words, trans students are covered. And with over one million students in New York City schools, that is nothing to scoff at.

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