Tag Archives: scottish liberal democrat autumn conference

Why gender neutral school uniform policies matter

One of the highlights of Scottish Liberal Democrat conference yesterday was a motion calling for:

The requirement that schools provide inclusive, non- prescriptive, gender neutral school uniform policies.

The government to provide support and advice to schools adapting or changing their policies to make them more inclusive.

Awareness of the detrimental effect that discriminatory school uniforms have on girls, and to a heightened extent, on transgender and non-binary pupils.

Adequate training for school staff on how to review and improve their school uniform policies.

It was submitted by Jess Insall, a 15 year old who only joined the party in June this year. She gave an amazing speech proposing the motion. At Spring Conference there is an award for the best speech of Conference. Sadly, we don’t award it in Autumn. However, I can reproduce the speech in its entirety here.

It was one of those speeches that, when the red light came on, you wanted to continue. In fact, Jess kind of ignored it and so did the session chair.

Deputy Leader Jo Swinson also spoke in the debate and talked about her campaign when she was at school to have trousers permitted for girls. She mentioned a story about girls, forced to wear dresses, being stopped from doing cartwheels because it wasn’t lady-like.

If a uniform stops you doing cartwheels, then it’s the wrong uniform.

Jess’s motion passed by a huge margin. Here is her speech:

Our society is moving in the right direction. As a feminist, I am proud that gender equality is becoming a realistic goal for the future. As an LGBTQ+ rights activist I am proud that transgender and non binary people are finally starting to get the rights and recognition they are so long overdue. And as a Scottish Liberal Democrat, I am proud that the fair, free, and open Scotland we believe in is continuing to stand up to hatred and bigotry.

We are winning the battles, but the war is not yet over.

Our schools are being left behind, and there is one problem that causes so much harm, but is so simple to fix.

Uniforms.

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?

Girls are faced with discomfort, discrimination, and complete disregard for their physical and mental health.

Boys are desensitised, forced to conform to strict stereotypes, and often discouraged from being themselves, or expressing their feelings.

Non binary pupils are completely disregarded, disrespected, and denied recognition and basic human decency.

This must change.

As a feminist, I am angry about the harm that sexist uniforms are doing to young girls. 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. Instead of saying “girls wear this, boys wear that” schools can simply say “pupils may wear either this, or that”.

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