A formal process

I still say people are confused about this.

Campaigners have welcomed a decision by a private girls’ school to allow students to use boys’ names and wear boys’ clothes should they wish under a new “gender identity protocol”.

Oh golly, a girl can wear jeans and call herself Jack. Couldn’t she do that before? Perhaps the school had a very narrow uniform policy which meant she couldn’t wear jeans, and now the school has made it less narrow. Good, but that’s not “a new gender identity protocol.” It’s just wearing trousers instead of skirts.

St Paul’s girls’ school in west London, whose former pupils include the MP Harriet Harman and the actor Rachel Weisz, will now consider requests from students from the age of 16 to go through a formal process to be known within the school either as boys or as gender-neutral.

Thus making it seem as if girls who don’t go through “a formal process” are girly-girly all the way down. I’m still not convinced that’s a gain.

The move is a response to pupils questioning gender identity and an attempt to ensure the safety and wellbeing of pupils who “don’t want to identify as one gender or another”, the high mistress Clarissa Farr told the Sunday Times.

But it’s not questioning gender identity – it’s reinforcing it.

Sue Sanders, chair of Schools Out UK, called it a “sensible and smart” move. While enabling students to decide which gender they wanted to be should automatically be protected under the Equality Act, it was a positive move to be welcomed – particularly as it came in LGBT History month, she added.

“The gender fluidity of young people has become more pronounced in the last three to four years; there is a growing confidence in young people to challenge binary constraints,” she said. “This is really about organisations keeping up with how people are perceiving themselves – this is part of the whole process of exploding those gender boxes.”

But it isn’t. It’s the opposite. Saying girls who don’t want to wear skirts are therefore not girls is the opposite of challenging gender constraints. Making girls who prefer to wear trousers – and calling that “wearing boys’ clothes” – is not “exploding those gender boxes,” it’s locking people into them and throwing away the key.

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