Is “Opposite Gender Day” Offensive or Helpful?

For many high school students, homecoming week is an opportunity to dress silly and have fun. Aside from the homecoming football game, students participate in themed days of the week, such as twin day or school colors day. Each day of the week, students can show their school spirit by choosing their outfit in line with the day’s theme.

At some schools, one of the days is “Opposite Gender Day,” where students essentially dress as if they were transgender. Jackson High School is one of those schools — but some have raised objections to the event.

Are these “Opposite Gender Days” offensive to transgender students? According to one student at the school and Julie Nemecek, a professor who was fired by Spring Arbor University after announcing her transition plans, the answer is yes. The student is concerned that the day teaches students to mock transgender people.

The student alerted Nemecek of the event and Nemecek contacted school officials to let them know the day was a “very bad idea.” According to Nemecek, “I think it demeans students that may be wrestling with issues of gender identity and puts them at risk.”

But is it possible the day could help transgender students, rather than putting them at risk? It provides people with an opportunity to explore their gender expression with less risk of teasing or harassment. If done properly, it could raise awareness about transgender issues and make people more accepting of transgender students.

Jackson Public Schools spokeswoman A’Lynne Robinson responded to concerns that the event is “opening the door for acceptance and tolerance and maybe going as far as building some appreciation of differences.”

In Nemecek’s email to school officials, she wrote: “Would you even consider having a ‘Disabled Day’ where students pick a disability to mimic all day?”

While Nemecek has a point, that doesn’t necessarily mean that “Opposite Gender Day” is offensive to most transgender students. I would imagine that responses to the day may be divided between those who consider being transgender as a medical condition and those who view gender identity as fluid or not as a binary.

In contrast to Nemecek’s position, the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance does not object to the event and wanted to help make sure the event wasn’t negative.

Whether or not the event goes well, should it exist in the first place? The event has the potential to offend and alienate transgender students, or it could help students understand aspects of the transgender experience and appreciate gender diversity. Which way do you think it will go?

Photo credit: bcmom