Yesterday, The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Alexis Stevens wrote an article about Jonathan Escobar, a 16-year-old who attended North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia wearing feminine clothes.
The article reported that the school told Escobar he had to dress in a more “manly” fashion—or leave to be home-schooled. The assistant principal allegedly told Escobar that his style of dress caused a fight between students; on his second day of school, Escobar says, a police officer came to school over concern about Escobar’s personal safety. Two days later, Escobar withdrew from high school.
The school’s student handbook can be found on their website. The handbook states that students “will refrain from any mode of dress which is distracting to classroom instruction.” An utterly practical guideline. However, sometimes when the world changes, it causes a bit of distraction.
Until the 1850s, women were expected to wear skirts. When early feminist Amelia Jenks Bloomer developed the first version of pants for women—bloomers—the world was shocked and outraged. Women were much-criticized for even considering wearing such an indecent article of clothing.
It wasn’t until eighty years later that pants became acceptable for women, when Marlene Dietrich appeared in film wearing them. By the end of the decade, Vogue magazine was declaring, “Your wardrobe is not complete without a pair or two of the superbly tailored slacks of 1939.”
I am waiting for the Marlene Deitrich of pink boys to popularize wearing gold lame flats to school. If women’s history is any indication, it’s going to be quite some time before boys like my son and Jonathan Escobar make any headway.
In the mean time, we can think on a few questions. Like: should a pink boy change because other people are freaked out by him? Should he be asked to leave school because other students are so riled up that they pick fights with each other? Might we consider, perhaps, some anti-violence and anti-bigotry training for certain students, and perhaps even for certain key school administrators?
In addition to asking questions, we might want to consider taking action. Here are just a few ideas:
Join the “Support Jonathan” group on facebook.
Purchase a hot pink “Support Jonathan” t-shirt on the “Support Jonathan” facebook page.
Write to Jonathan’s school administrators and tell them you expect them to allow diversity of gender expression at North Cobb High School: Phillip.Page@cobbk12.org, Greg.Barilow@cobbk12.org, Traci.Blanchard@cobbk12.org, Shauntice.Bryant@cobbk12.org, Steven.Butler@cobbk12.org, Jose.Colon@cobbk12.org, Melissa.Faklaris@cobbk12.org, Jackie.Turner@cobbk12.org
Speak out at your own school in defense of boys who are different.
Bone up on the challenges faced by transgender students by reading GLSEN’s Harsh Realities for Transgender Students.
And, in addition to asking questions and taking action, might we simply take a moment to marvel that this particular battle is taking place in the Bible Belt?