A Transition for a Tradition

Char Esser

The class of 2016 has reached senior year, and I’m sure that many of us are looking forward to the pot of gold at the end of this “rainbow” year: graduation.  This event is an important rite of passage, marking the transition to a more independent, adult lifestyle.  Although it is about starting a new life and moving toward the future, the graduation ceremony itself is saturated in tradition.  For example, like in many other high schools, the caps and gowns are colored by gender; boys wear maroon, and girls wear white.

So where does that leave everyone else?

With the rise of the LGBT+ movement, many have come to realize that there are more than two genders.  While one’s genitals determine one’s sex, a person’s gender is an intrinsic mental state.  For some people, myself included, gender and sex do not match up.  

With this new understanding in mind, it is time to analyze and update traditions as needed so that everyone can comfortably participate in this significant ceremony.  Let us ask ourselves: why are caps and gowns unnecessarily gendered?  This tradition may stem from a time in which there were few women attending college, and school administrators wanted these students to stand out with pride.  While gender-neutral colors for the caps and gowns would be ideal, I can understand why some might want to hang onto this long-honored tradition.  Therefore, I propose a compromise: add a third color option for gender nonconforming students, such as the traditional black. 

Clothing is a form of self-expression; therefore, it is also an important aspect of gender expression.  It is important to be comfortable in one’s own skin, and wearing clothing that expresses one’s gender is a key component to feeling confident in one’s appearance.  Forcing me and other gender-nonconforming students to dress as their biological sex would be humiliating.  Therefore, adding another option at graduation would allow students of every gender identity to shine.  

I plan to talk to guidance and to get in contact with our administrators in order to discuss this issue; this article is meant to help the Radnor student body understand why this problem is so important.  I hope to have your support in this effort to make Radnor High School a safe and comfortable place for future non-conforming students.