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Leading Australian school introduces gender neutral uniforms

Think Change India
29th Feb 2016
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Laura McInerney wrote in The Guardian: “Ultimately, if we want equality in society, then dealing with the youngest is usually the best place to start. But, as these cases show, there is a natural resistance to those who wish to break down division. For some reason we appear wedded to the notion that girls should wear skirts, not shorts (“no tree-climbing for you”) or that boys have the inalienable right (or burden) of using a urinal. It would be nice to think that these small things don’t matter – but they do.” This was in 2014.

Image: The Sydney Morning Herald
Image: The Sydney Morning Herald

Now, students at a leading Sydney high school in Australia, have won a battle to change their uniform policy to allow students to wear boys or girls uniforms regardless of their gender. Students of Newtown High School of the Performing Arts lobbied the school’s administration to have the new uniform policy implemented last week. “Our aim was to remove the un-inclusive gender labels from the school uniform, and make it so that anyone could wear any aspect of the uniform without having to go through a long and difficult process,” said Jo Dwyer, a year 11 student at the school. “Before the changes were implemented, students had to go through the school with parental permission and notes from psychologists before they were allowed to wear the cross gender uniform, and that wasn’t really a possibility for some students whose parents aren’t supportive of their gender identity,” added Jo.

While the move has been welcomed by the LGBTI community, it has been condemned by Christian groups. A spokeswoman for The Australian Christian Lobby said the school’s policy could put students’ well-being at risk. “To encourage a guy to wear a dress would just be setting him up for bullying,” said spokeswoman Wendy Francis. “I don’t get it. It is a retrograde idea in my mind, there is no need to say we are going to allow boys to wear a kilt or girls to wear trousers, I find it almost laughable,” added Wendy.

Cassidy McDermott Smith, who graduated from the school in 2014, said Newtown High’s environment had always been inclusive of all gender or sexual preference. “I am so proud of [the school] as it continues to prove itself to be an incredibly progressive and open minded community. The students attending the school are extremely intelligent, politically aware, and are never afraid to voice their opinion to create uproar for the sake of positive change,” said Cassidy in a report in The Sydney Morning Herald.

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