Brighton College scraps century-old uniform code to accommodate transgender pupils

The Telegraph, 20.01.16, uniform codes going back 170 years will be replaced by a “trouser uniform” and a “skirt uniform” for all pupils up to the age of 16.

A top independent school has scrapped its uniform code in order to accommodate boys who identify as girls outside school and vice versa, breaking with hundreds of years of tradition.

“Public schools are usually seen as bastions of conservatism but Brighton College feels it is time to break ranks,” the school said.

Richard Cairns, the headmaster, told students this week that uniform codes going back 170 years will be replaced by a “trouser uniform” and a “skirt uniform” for all pupils up to the age of 16.

Dysphoric girls will wear full tweed blazer, tie and trousers while dysphoric boys will wear skirt, bolero jacket and open-neck Revere blouse, the school said.

At least one pupil has already taken up this option and a handful of other families have made enquiries for their gender dysphoric children could dress accordingly.

Mr Cairns said: “This change follows requests from a small number of families. It ties in with my strong personal belief that youngsters should be respected for who they are.

“If some boys and girls are happier identifying with a different gender from that in which they were born, then my job is to make sure that we accommodate that. My only interest as headmaster is their welfare and happiness.

“The college’s approach is different from most other schools which have tended to give transgender children personal leeway with uniform. Brighton College has instead decided to abolish the notion of boys’ and girl’ schools altogether. Traditional uniform will be worn but the type of uniform will be a matter for the individual boy or girl, always assuming parental support.”

Parents with gender dysphoric children will be required to write to the headmaster advising him of the situation.

Sixth-former Fred Dimbleby said the pupils welcomed the move.

He said: “People say that schools should be tolerant places but I think that we are more than that. We encourage everyone and anyone to be who they are or who they want to be. I am really proud that I have been educated in a school where there is no concept of the norm, of conformity and of the expected way to be. Everyone has supported this move and I think that there is a real sense of unity, from the headmaster to the youngest 3rd former, about this idea. I also know that students who are gender fluid or for any reason, decide to change the uniform that they wear, will be accepted, supported and encouraged by the whole school.

Sixth-former Amy Arnell added: “There really is no negativity towards this new policy at school. To be honest, when the headmaster announced it, no one was really surprised – there is just no reason not to do it if it makes people feel more comfortable about themselves.”

In five years, London’s Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service, where British dysphoric children are assessed, has seen referrals increase by 50 per cent every year, from 97 new cases in 2009 to 697 in 2014.

Although no-one has accurate numbers of how many people experience gender dysphoria in the UK, a survey of 10,000 people by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2012 suggested that 1 per cent of the population was transgender.

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