Spencer Parizek, '23
I am non-binary, and I attend an “all-boys school.” The dress code, never mind our institution, acts under the presumption that all students are cisgender, which is blatantly transphobic and anti-inclusionist. Every bullet point or paragraph in the dress code (Student Handbook, page 11) specifies its application to “boys.” As no students are exempt from these passages, the Handbook implies that every single student, without exception, is a boy. This ideology leaves no room for the possibility of students being trans-gender; it implies that the gender, despite its fluidity, of all students, must align with the sex they were assigned at birth.
My own experiences as an STA student have only confirmed these values. When I approached the school about GSA’s ideas, I was told that the “mission” of St. Albans is to specifically prepare boys for the world ahead. I proposed changes to school-wide policies, but members of the administration offered to help me as an individual, rather than the wider school community. In a group meeting between me and two adults, the person I was primarily talking to phrased it as concern for my own mental health, as the meeting also included Dr. Friend, but I recognized an undertone of resistance from said unnamed adult. He concluded with his comment about the school’s “mission” with the possibility of exceptions on a student-by-student basis. At first glance, this may seem helpful, but it requires students to be open about their gender and sexuality. As there are two students in the LGBTQIA+ affinity group at STA, these personalized exceptions leave the vast majority of closeted or questioning students to be exposed to the trauma of “brotherhood.” This means being misgendered daily by students and faculty, whether it be terms like “gentlemen,” “boys,” or “brother.” The result for trans students, like me, is a sense of personal disgust, discrimination, and exclusion.
Over the past few months, I have been victim to this type of language and other seemingly aggressive acts towards my interpretation of the dress code. Teachers have applied double standards, calling me out when others are breaking the dress code often to a greater degree. Students have stared at my clothing, snickering under their breath. My peers have rolled their eyes when I discuss matters like these. Many have come to my defense, and for their assistance I commend them. But I often spend thirty minutes to an hour planning my outfit every night because I have to balance school-dress and my gender identity. Often, I am forced to wear a blue blazer—the very symbol of “brotherhood” and “masculinity” I try desperately to avoid. While this may seem insignificant to cisgender readers, I compromised my identity. Daily, I think about being misgendered, and the tropes of “brother,” and “St. Albans Man.” The dress code, a short policy in the Handbook, is emotionally draining and distracts from learning.
While it would be better for my own mental health if I leave STA, that would be selfish. Future students will endure the same trauma I have. One of which I personally met during the STA open-house. A mom and her male, feminine-presenting child (who wore sparkly, pink shoes), approached the “Diversity and Inclusion” table, and asked Ms. Elliot, Ms. Denizé, and I about STA’s progress with gender. I told them inclusion was our priority, but in truth, throughout STA’s history, its “loving, accepting, brotherly,” and transphobic culture must have left hundreds of students with trauma and gender-dysphoria. My goal, along with GSA, is not to take away freedom of speech. Instead, we aspire to make space by broadening the school’s language, so all students at STA feel welcome and valued. GSA wants to broaden the dress code, eliminate the necessity of the tie, and open up for substitutions for the blazer. Blazers and ties, being typically male pieces, are incorporated into feminine fashion and “all-girls” schools, so why hasn’t the reverse, like skirts, been true for that of masculine fashion and “all-boys” schools? Our goal is inclusion, not the restriction of language. The dress code makes room for athletics but not gender. St. Albans compromises the sense of “professionalism” it prides itself on to allow varsity seniors to wear letter jackets. It even allows for sneakers instead of dress shoes. Clearly, said professionalism isn’t invincible to exception. Why are comfort and school pride anomalies but gender isn’t? Is “tradition” worth the jeopardization of the mental health, identity, and authentic familial bonds of St. Albans and its student body?
A Note From The Editors-in-Chief (Updated Nov. 8, 2021, 3:56 P.M. EST):
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