Yearbook Incident Highlights Educational Institutions’ Tendency to Police Gender

A transgender student’s picture was almost cut a mere two weeks before her school’s yearbook was set to be published. According to reports, Jeff Roberts, principal at Southwood High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, claimed that Kami Pham’s photo violated the school’s dress code because she wore a wig and makeup, and because she was not expressing the gender identified on her birth certificate. The principal also threatened to ban Pham from walking at graduation if she showed up in “feminine” attire.

This event, unfortunately, highlights how LGBTQ students are frequently the target of gender policing. Strict dress codes that include gender-specific attire often trap LGBTQ students into stressful situations at a time when so much of the country seems focused on mental health. Such tactics also reinforce the idea that not conforming to one gender is unacceptable. Meanwhile, many high schools host “gender swap” days and make jokes out of boys dressing in feminine attire, while failing to provide a supportive space for nonbinary students.

With the encouragement and support of her peers, a petition demanding an apology and change was put into action on Pham’s behalf. Eventually, the Caddo Parish School Board agreed to allow her walk at graduation in her preferred attire, with her picture finally printed in the yearbook.  

Further reading:

Principal claims transgender student’s yearbook photo somehow violates dress code


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