Okay, normally you’ll find me writing about sexuality and aging (‘cos I’m, you know, over 50 and somewhat disposed to thinking about that kind of thing), but I stumbled across an interesting article that now has me thinking about issues on the other end of the life scale.Just the title of the article from Sunday’s NY Times Fashion & Style section gives you an idea of what’s coming up:
In recent years, a growing number of teenagers have been dressing to articulate — or confound — gender identity and sexual orientation. Certainly they have been confounding school officials, whose responses have ranged from indifference to applause to bans.
Last week, a cross-dressing Houston senior was sent home because his wig violated the school’s dress code rule that a boy’s hair may not be “longer than the bottom of a regular shirt collar.” In October, officials at a high school in Cobb County, Ga., sent home a boy who favored wigs, makeup and skinny jeans. In August, a Mississippi student’s senior portrait was barred from her yearbook because she had posed in a tuxedo.
Other schools are more accepting of unconventional gender expression. In September, a freshman girl at Rincon High School in Tucson who identifies as male was nominated for homecoming prince. Last May, a gay male student at a Los Angeles high school was crowned prom queen.
Dress code conflicts often reflect a generational divide, with students coming of age in a culture that is more accepting of ambiguity and difference than that of the adults who make the rules.
But this paragraph really sums up the trend:
“This generation is really challenging the gender norms we grew up with,” said Diane Ehrensaft, an Oakland psychologist who writes about gender. “A lot of youths say they won’t be bound by boys having to wear this or girls wearing that. For them, gender is a creative playing field.” Adults, she added, “become the gender police through dress codes.”
Now, you’d think that this would be a Yay! moment for our society, and personally, I’m glad that we have a society that is, in some part, acknowledging the fluidity of gender and sexuality, especially at that age. But on the other hand, I’m reminded that not that many years ago some feminist and LGBT groups expressed concerns over the growing acknowledgment of lesbian sex by way of those titillating evening dramas in which lesbians were almost always portrayed as young, thin, and attractive by straight-appearing standards.The concern was that such media portrayals reduced the lesbian community into a stereotype no less restrictive than the old short-haired gym teacher stereotype that it seemed to be replacing.
Why am I reminded of this?
At minimum, more students are trying on their curiosity for size. Typically during “Mix ’n’ Match Day,” at Ramapo High School in Spring Valley, N.Y., students might wear polka dots with stripes, said Diane Schneider, a teacher who is a chairwoman of the Hudson Valley chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. But this year, she said, “about 50 kids came as cross-dressers.”
The point is that, teens being how teens are, it’s quite possible that many are simply adopting gender-bending attires for the sake of being a little rebellious, without giving any thought as to what it means for those who actually have sexuality issues.
Interesting, too, although not exactly surprising, are the comments seen on the several web forums discussing this and similar articles. Most of them can be summed up as such:
Yeah, it’s great and all, but guaranteed that kid will get the crap beat our of him on the way home from school next week.
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that, although unless something has changed since I went to high school back during 19*coff coff*‘s, somebody always got picked on after school. Maybe if some of the football players take to wearing skirts (Skirt? No, no, this is a kilt, I tell ya!) as a sign of rebellion, then eventually nobody will notice — or care — what anyone else is wearing, and we can get down to learning the more important skill of minding our own business.