STRICTLY-enforced gender requirements for school uniforms are having a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of trans* and gender diverse students, according to leading advocacy organisations.

 Safe Schools Coalition Victoria and trans* and gender diverse youth advocacy organisation Ygender have launched Gender is Not Uniform, a campaign to raise awareness of the issue, calling on schools to challenge transphobia.

Ygender interviewed a number of young trans* and gender diverse people about the impact of strictly-gendered school uniform policies, and many interviewees said being forced to wear a particularly-gendered uniform was an awful experience.

One student said taking the issue to the school administration had not helped.

“In a private school the uniform policy is really strict, so I don’t get to wear the uniform I want, even though the school principal knows I’m trans, he wouldn’t let me wear the guy’s pants,” he said.

“I tried to ask and the principal required me to have an assessment via a children’s psychiatrist. And once I have that assessment done they will discuss with the principal boards and arrange a management plan, but currently I still have to wear the girls’ pants to school, which I feel like crap in. I feel bad a lot of the time.”

The interviews revealed the strict policing of gendered school uniforms is widespread.

“Boys have to wear pants or shorts at my school and the girls have to wear skirts, dresses … They won’t sell the pants at the uniform shop to the girls,” another student said.

Roz Ward from Safe Schools Coalition Victoria told the Star Observer the campaign wasn’t calling for an end to school uniform altogether, but it stood against the strict enforcement of gendered uniforms.

“Even the issue of girls wearing pants to school is a lot more controversial than you might expect,” Ward said.

“And for students who are gender diverse or genderqueer or gender non-binary, it’s obviously a massive issue if you have to present as strictly male or female according to the uniform you wear.”

Ygender’s Cannon O’Saurus told the Star Observer the focus of Gender is Not Uniform was on young people feeling safe and valued.

“Ultimately we hope to live in an Australia where all trans and gender diverse young people have the opportunity to feel valued in our communities and are able to lead safe and fulfilled lives,” he said.

The campaign has the support of a broad range of LGBTI community organisations, including Minus 18, Zoe Belle Gender Centre and Transgender Victoria.

Gender is Not Uniform will launch at Wyndham City Civil Centre this Friday, the day before the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).

A collaborative project between Ygender and Transgender Victoria called “What Makes an Ally?” will also be launched on the same day, with a rainbow flag raising in support of IDAHOT following the event.

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