Question: Discrimination At School

A reader asks…

I may be starting a new school in September for my A-levels. It is a private school however, and it seems as if their uniform rules prohibit girls from wearing trousers. For obvious reasons this would make me feel extremely uncomfortable. I need some sort of official sources to back me up. I have heard about a new Equality Bill for 2010 which says that ‘requiring pupils to wear gender-specific clothes is potentially unlawful’ however I cannot find a copy of the actual report.I was wondering if anyone had any information on gender/transgender discrimmination laws in the UK? Could anyone help me out? I only want to feel comfortable at school.

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on April 24th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 10 comments »

10 Responses to “Question: Discrimination At School”

  1. Will

    Hi Zory, the Equality Bill is now the Equality Act 2010. However, it isn’t ‘in force’ yet, which means that the law doesn’t apply until the Act is ‘commenced’. The part of the law which cover schools is expected to come into force from October 2010, but it may depend on what happens after the general election! There’s nothing in the Act about gender specific clothes. It would be very unusual for the law to be that detailed. It does say that the school mustn’t discriminate against a pupil in the way that it provides education or other services (s85 of the Act). So, once it comes into force, you might have an argument under that section. You’d probably need advice about whether you argued sex discrimination or ‘gender reasssignment’ discrimination (which under the Act only covers you if you have undergone, are undergoing or are ‘proposing to undergo’ transition).
    You might have seen something about gender specific uniform and other issues affecting schools on the EHRC website. They have a report about the provision of goods and services to trans people which includes some examples of good practice – you could try showing this to the school. If you search under ‘uniform’ on this site you will also see that the EHRC think it could well be sex discrimination to refuse to allow a girl to wear smart trousers as an alternative to skirts. (Although, interestingly, it might not be possible to argue for skirts for boys – because they are not ‘conventional’ dress).
    Good luck and I hope that you are able to reach a solution – it’s so important to make people realise the implications of rules like this. You could try giving the ERHC a ring as well and see whether they can help you further.


  2. Dylan

    I too wish I could be able to wear trousers at my school (I’m currently in sixth form). Every time I have to wear my school skirt it reminds me of how people perceive my gender and expect me to behave based on it, and the black-and-white views people tend to have about gender.


  3. Mike

    One guy (ftm) I knew in my high school, which had, and still has, exceedingly strict rules about ‘girls’ having to wear skirts (not even culottes. I asked when I was 11..) was exempt provided he wore the tracksuit he used for rugby. I don’t think the teachers approved but I think he had a parents/doctors’ sanction allowing it.

    Sadly, the decision to be nice about such things is very much down to the individual school. I know that even with the note, he got a lot of crap for it, and for anyone without Official Sanction it was never allowed (believe me, i tried!)


  4. Gold.

    I have nothing helpful to add except best of luck to you. I hope schools across the pond are more tolerant than ours in the States. Good luck with your studies, also.


  5. chanel

    I’m forced to go to this ultra conservative cult like church every Saturday with the people I live with and I remember a few weeks back when the minister was giving the “global update” he spoke about this equality bill in the UK. He said they were trying to establish this so that the transgendered would not be offended and then went on to say “Well brethren, this is as sick as it gets in this cruel cruel world we are living in today, It’s completely sick.” This pulled at my heartstrings and the dramatic irony was too much for me, I wanted to stand on my chair and yell at everyone in the room. I applaud this bill and wished it was enforced this very moment. I know this wasn’t very helpful, but I wish you the best of luck and hope in the near future you are able to wear what makes you most comfortable.


  6. Lucie

    Hi, as Will says the Equality Act has not yet / may not come into force, however current legislation may be on your side, as given “current conventions” it may be less favourable treatment on grounds of sex to deny the option of wearing trousers.

    Here’s a link if you haven’t already searched it out.

    I agree it’s worth seeing if the EHRC can help on your behalf. Good luck with it and your A levels, I was at a school where the girls were allowed to wear trousers and almost all chose to do so.


  7. Alice

    I attended an all boys school for reasons unknown, and in my final year i begged the headteacher to allow me to wear a skirt to school. I was denied, but I wore blouses and the occasional corset, much to the joy of my other teachers.

    If in doubt, ask your teacher and fully explain how you feel. They may be in fear of being sued for being unequal, and may comply. I also understand that all girls schools are far more likely to allow trousers, than an all boys school to allow skirts.


  8. Jessica

    Can you find a psychiatrist our counselor who would support an opinion that your conformance to the dress code would be emotionally damaging? Di you try talking to the school administration? If you can wear the male uniform impeccably and without comment, why not?

    Of course, if they’re hide-bound pedantic assholes who are more interested in the maintenance of tradition regardless of its effect on the students, then maybe you could find another school?


  9. El

    You might like to mention that 230 years ago trousers were invented.

    They were invented for women who worked in fields and robes and skirts were awkward.

    You will note that trousers are anatomically designed to meet the female body – that is no dangly genitals. Kilts, Robes, and other like clothing was worn by men – they don’t want the dangly things squished up – prevents good seed being generated.

    Men took up trousers for fashion about 50-80 years later.

    Do some research. Most MEN are cross dressers by the mere fact that they wear trousers.

    The opposite applies to high heels. Invented by a French King because he was short. Eventually other men in the kings court wore them and 50 years later women took them up as fashion.

    The sooner we get the idea that clothing is not gender based the better. What happens in 50 years when men wear dresses and women wear pants and shirts?

    BTW the human species is the only specise on the planet where, now (evilving over the last 200 years) women wear clothing more colourful and attractive than men.

    Look at the oldest still prcaticed cultures on the planet and the women are ‘covered up’ and ‘garbed’ in drab. Yet the men are on display.

    Now look at Fish, Lions, Birds, insects, lizards, snakes … which are the prettiest?


  10. El

    Just one other thought.

    Stand up for yourself. Just wear what you require that is detailed in the overall school uniform policy.

    Make a statement. Get Detention. Make a statement. Get Sanctioned. Make a Statement. Get Expelled.

    THEN – scream aout EVERY CHILD MATTERS and the 5 criteria that you are being denied! Or worse, they are persecuting you! *smile*

    The LAW and the Government policy is already in place, USE IT but use it with intelligence.

    Keep to simple things that the system you are encumbant in already KNOWS and is being indoctrinated every week about. Teachers and schools won’t know about the Equality Act till someone ‘inservices’ them, and then it will be nothing more than something like ‘The New law means you can’t do this or that’ which is not what law says. Just like when people quote “I can’t because of the data protection act” – doing that is in fact a breach of the Data Protection Act!

    If you need to, feel free to contact me and I’ll support you with your stance. I was made to go to an all boys school as a child. They called me ‘Girl’ every day of my life. I left in year 10, and I’ve NEVER looked back since.

    Kick Ass and Kick it with a smile!


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