One of the areas of our society in which gendered clothing most prominently features and differentiates between people is school uniform. From a very young age, children are forced to align themselves with a particular set of clothing, chosen from (typically) one of two prescriptive lists. This is binary reinforcement at its strongest, and it is hard to unpick this at a later age.
This highlights how unusual it is for a school such as Highgate School in London to open a dialogue about allowing all children to wear a number of different options, including normally gendered garments, according to their choice. This, along with unisex toilets, are generally being more and more favoured, especially among young, progressive-minded people.
What is most encouraging about this shift in attitudes is that it seems to be driven by responsive teachers listening to outspoken students, including more and more students who are questioning their own gender and feeling able to communicate this. This is
partly brought about by a significantly better access to information and ideas on this subject, including through the internet.
Recognition for these ideas is also gaining momentum on a wider scale – notably, student Charlie Whitehead, of Impington Village College, recently received an award for challenging school uniform rules, while other cases have also hit the headlines.
Perhaps over time these brave youngsters challenging perspectives will allow for a more inclusive and understanding educational system.