Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.
~ Albert Einstein
I was in a conversation the other day with a co-worker whose child is enrolled in a private school. She was discussing the fact that her son was being rebellious the last day of the kindergarten school semester by not wearing his school uniform of khakis and an embroidered polo-style shirt. Being a product of the public school system, I was not versed in the in’s and out’s of wearing a uniform during class. Everything I ever learned was from Jack Black’s “School of Rock” and the sexy Halloween costumes for women and girls. To me they look stuffy, hot in the warming spring months, and bland. This mother of two boys touted the fact that wearing the uniform allows for the child to focus on the classroom lessons instead of focusing on what someone else is wearing. If everyone is wearing the same thing, then there is not the issue of paling in comparison to another student with the most fashionable brands and accessories.
I took the role of devil’s advocate, chiefly because male to female crossdressers are more so defined or validated by the clothes they wear. There is traditionalism in feminine attire that allows the male crossdresser to achieve their best presentation for their female forms. Plus, as a public school kid (as I mentioned before), I grew up in an environment where everyone dressed in different ways that best individualized or epitomized their expression of self. In my day, there were jocks, preppies, geeks, nerds, stoners or burnouts, goths, outsiders, band geeks, and brains. In the public school system, there was also an obvious social structure that, I assume, is less prevalent in a private school setting. I lived through the desire to wear the prestigious varsity jacket in the hopes that my stock would rise within the popularity hierarchy that high school typically produces. “The Breakfast Club”, “Mean Girls” and “Thirteen Reasons Why” all convey a bit of truth in their portrayals.
My most impassioned argument was that the structure of school uniforms eliminates the child’s sense of individuality. Kids will roll up their uniform shirt sleeves, girls can roll over their plaid skirts over until the hemline drops way above their knees and way above what is appropriate, and both may style their hair in a way to ‘stick it to the man” as best as they can. Basically, kids will always try to exert their own sense of individuality, even if they are held to a strict dress code. Some people may try to show their individuality by parroting others, but, in the end, they are still drawn to that specific style for some reason.
Now, all of this was a preamble to trying to better understand how the idea of structured uniforms relates to the trials and tribulations of the male-to-female crossdresser. We tend to show our individuality by emulating the styles of others (celebrities, models, trendsetters, friends we aspire to be like), whether with make-up or clothes. Many enjoy dressing like June Cleaver from ‘Leave it to Beaver’ or a 1950s pin-up model or sport lingerie like Betty Page. Others try for more modern fashions. A crossdresser’s style is based on trial and error, the fashions they have admired, hand-me-downs, and thrift store finds for a long time before they perfect their own individual style that makes them ‘them’. Some dress to be passable and fly under the radar, while others gravitate through a more drag and garish presentation. All personas are derived from something seen that came before them.
If all of us are dressed the same as everyone else, will that extinguish our development for discovering what makes us unique? If the school uniform for boys and girls are specific, will a young boy who sees himself as a young girl be allowed to wear the blouse and skirt that was defined for the girls? Would it follow the dress code or would that be considered distracting to the other students? Could the use of a gender-specific, strict dress code uniform retard the development of an otherwise gender fluid spirit as they go through adolescence? While I am a big proponent of better education, more engaged minds, and the development of the creative and logical mind, should uniforms still be instituted if a young person’s personal identity is possibly stunted until way later in life?