A 15-year-old has told politicians to support gender neutral school uniforms, saying that gendered uniforms were restrictive for all pupils.
Addressing the Liberal Democrats at their most recent party conference, 15-year-old Jess Insall told the politicians that gender neutral uniforms would make a ‘huge difference’ to the lives of pupils of all genders.
According to the BBC, Insall criticised the “harmful gender stereotypes that sexist uniform policies promote.”
The member of the Young Liberal group addressed the conference and said: “I’m not telling anyone to take away their skirts, I’m telling you all that pupils should have the freedom to dress appropriately for their personal identity regardless of their gender.
“Is it really acceptable that we dictate the way our children dress based on only their gender, or in many cases the gender that society forces them to conform to?”
The teenager added: “The minute a girl walks into a primary school she is shown that the boys have more freedom to run about, she is told while she has to wear a skirt the boys don’t, she is told to take inequality for granted and to respect it as the norm.”
“Gender-neutral uniforms will make a real impact on pupils’ school lives. When pupils feel comfortably and appropriately dressed it boosts self-esteem.
“This, in turn, boosts mental health, which means pupils will be happier and more productive in schools. This leads to better exam results which can lead pupils to better jobs.”
At the conference, the Liberal Democrats backed a motion to press for “inclusive, non-prescriptive gender-neutral school uniform policies”.
Responding to the support for the motion, Insall said: “It’s a small step forward but it will make a huge difference.”
Earlier this month, seven Liberal Democrat MP’s including deputy leader Jo Swinson, signed onto a motion in Parliament backing a campaign for gender-neutral school uniforms in UK schools.
The proposer of the motion, Ms Moran MP, exclusively told PinkNews: “Having a gender-neutral uniform policy in schools would send a strong signal across the country that everyone is welcome and accepted at school, no matter their gender.
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“This is about children having a choice about what clothes they wear without judgement. Many schools have some unisex clothing, but that rarely extend to allowing boys to wear skirts or skorts, even if girls are allowed to wear trousers, and that is discriminatory.”
Many groups have campaigned for gender neutral uniforms for years, often citing comfort, equality and inclusion of trans and gender non-conforming students.
In 2016 the school of Labour party activist Lily Madigan threatened to suspend her for wearing a skirt, an example campaigners say would not happen with inclusive policies on uniform and accepting trans students.
Last summer’s heatwave brought protests against gendered uniform standards, with boys in one school wearing skirts during the extreme temperatures.
The Trousers For All campaign had pressed schools over gendered rules that forced girls to wear skirts, and LGBT-inclusive education group Educate & Celebrate has also backed calls for change.
Elly Barnes of Educate & Celebrate said: “At Educate & Celebrate we believe that sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia all stem from our perceptions of gender from the get go.
“Therefore, if we eradicate the stereotypes associated with gender then we can eradicate the ‘isms’ and ‘ophia’s’. This is why we encourage and advocate for all educational establishments to work towards a gender-neutral model in all aspects of school life.
“We recommend that all schools adopt a gender-neutral uniform where schools simply specify which clothes their students can wear. We know that not all students identify with the binary or fall into gender stereotypes.”