WARNING: THERE WILL BE CURSING. If you’re easily offended you can leave, I’ll wait. Okay, last chance. Here we go-
I don’t blog often because quite frankly I’m busy as all hell. And when I do blog, it’s usually about something going on in the writing community but I have to address this local issue.
This past week there has been an absolute, all-out-shit-storm over the color of the graduation robes at Greenwich High School.
In the past, “Traditionally”, boys have worn red robes and girls have worn white robes.
This is me the day I graduated from GHS and I can honestly say the last thing on my mind that day was the color of my robe. Any one who knows me, or knew me in high school, knows that I was just glad, and mildly shocked, to have graduated.
It’s a different world now, as you can clearly see by my choice of hair style in 1987, which I totally and freely admit is hilarious. I wish this post was also going to be funny because that’s what I like to write, but it’s quite the opposite.
On Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, Head Master Christopher Winters sent out an email stating:
“In a break from previous GHS graduations, this year all graduates will wear the same color gown, Cardinal red with a white stripe on the sleeve. Why the change?” I’m going to paraphrase most of what he said to spare you from having to read for an hour.
“First, at Graduation, except for class officers and Valedictorian/Salutatorian, all students come in together and sit together as one unified class. It’s a day when we honor all for graduation.”
His second point for the change, and I think (just my opinion) this is the one that freaked people out, “Second, we are increasingly aware of student choices with gender orientation. In an effort to respect all students, we will cease using separate-colored gowns for males and females. We strive for GHS to provide a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all. This small change of tradition demonstrates our commitment to those principals. It is very common for colleges and high schools to have all graduates wear the same color.”
And by God, he was right…I found photos to prove it!
I thought Dr. Wintters explained it all perfectly. I was very proud to be part of such a forward thinking school. Dr. Winters also said, in keeping with tradition, students would still be able to decorate their caps any way they liked to express their individuality. Brilliant! We are trying to get these young men and women to move to the next level and as a bonus we are all-inclusive.
THEN THE SHIT-STORM.
I saw petitions about keeping our “traditions” and parents asking the question why do we have to change? I read people bashing Dr. Winters and his decision. In general–people freaked-the-fuck out.
So, on Thursday, Feb. 25th, Head Master Winters reversed his decision. You can read the entire story at http://greenwichfreepress.com/schools/gender-neutral-graduation-gown-policy-at-greenwich-high-school-graduation-stirs-controversy-59615/
I asked him via email how the change came about. Dr. Winters responded that he sent a poll/survey to the students with three choices: All red gowns, all white gowns or a choice to wear red or white. Headmaster Winters said that 89% responded (in about 20 minutes) to the third choice.
Now this seems reasonable. But is it? We should be shouting, hooray, the majority wins!
Let’s talk about who loses; the 11%.
I can’t help but think about the fabulous words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” So I went to the small community that Dr. Winters was trying to be inclusive of… which I applaud you’re efforts, sir!
I interviewed several people from the transgender and nonbinary community. I explained I have two children, one girl, the other a boy, both heterosexual and have no gender issues, so I do not know any of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) struggles, or the struggles of their families personally. I wanted to represent them properly for this piece. This is what they had to say to me.
#1: “It’s not fair to any of the students, because they’re being forced to conform to traditional notions of gender just by being told what they can and cannot wear. Being fair and inclusive of trans-kids gives everyone more freedom to be themselves. There’s already so much pressure to conform in high school, and so much ridicule if you don’t.”
#2: “I feel like having all students wear the same color would be more trans-friendly as a means of not forcing people out of the closet before they’re ready. I feel like if students could choose red or white, many transgender males will stick with red and transgender females will stick with white, which would kinda out us back to square 1.”
#3: “Having one robe color is the absolute best possible thing the school could have done. ‘Allowing’ students to choose, isn’t really a choice at all unless the young person has come out about how they feel about themselves. Having one color robe doesn’t impact cisgender (people who identify with the gender they were born into) at all, but it does worlds of good for the trans-people. But that’s some how wrong.”
So, what we’ve done by keeping our precious “tradition” is we’ve made everyone who is part of this transgender/nonbinary community feel ostracized. Yay us!
I went on to research how exactly these young people feel at http://www.yspp.org/about_suicide/statistics.htm.
*At least 50% of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
*More than 1 in every 10 high school students reported having attempted suicide; nearly 1 in 6 students between the ages of 12-17 have seriously considered it.
*More than 30% of LGBTQ youth report at least one suicide attempt within the last year.
So, you see for some it’s just upholding tradition. But, for others it may be the last straw, the icing on the cake, the final “you don’t belong.”
I also interviewed a PsyD (child psychologist) from another district who said, “Students should all wear the same color. Graduation should be a time of celebration as a group with your peers. This shouldn’t be a time to point out individual differences or to be put in a position in which you have to make a choice whether or not to expose your gender choice.”
Diversity means, variety, many different types. Aren’t we striving to be a diverse community? A diverse nation? Maybe that’s just me. But whether you agree with or understand or support the transgender community, ignoring them isn’t going to make them go away and could contribute to the sad suicidal statistics.
Compassion and empathy are not just politically correct words to use at parties, they are ways of life.
I’d like to point out the things I saw bouncing around on social media were not being said by bad people. They are people I know, people who may at this very moment be un-friending me, and that’s okay, but they’re good people. Maybe they’re just not considering how the other people involved in this are feeling.
Some of you know me as a CCD teacher. Isn’t this the “Holy Year of Mercy”, per Pope Francis? Past my being a Christian, I’m a human being, and I can certainly feel for those struggling with things I couldn’t possibly understand. And for me personally, I don’t ever want to be part of the statistics above. “Love everyone as I have loved you”.
I think the “choice” for this year is a done deal, but I certainly hope Headmaster Winters revisits and reconsiders for next year and the years to come.
I welcome respectful conversation on this blog, but please know, if there is any bashing or attacking of anyone I will remove/block you from everything I am on. I have diverse followers who I am grateful for, and I will not have them disrespected on my site.
We are all wonderfully and beautifully different. Let’s embrace our differences. We all lose when we don’t.
PEACE & ACCEPTANCE