gender norms

School Cancels Opposite Gender Day For K-8 Students. Is There Any Way To Have Kids Cross-Dress Responsibly?

Students at King City Public School in Toronto were all set to cross-dress on Friday as part of Opposite Gender Day — and then school officials abruptly canceled the planned event, which encouraged K-8 students to attend classes in gender-bending apparel. The day, which was actually proposed by the Student Council and approved by the principal as part of a series of “Spirit Days,” “has been cancelled in the wake of concerns of parents,” school board member Ross Virgo said in a statement. “The idea of (kids) experiencing being people of the opposite gender has offended some people in the community, and the school does not want to do that. … [Students] discussed the fun that the day might generate, plus how the experience might help boys and girls understand a bit more what what it felt like to be a member of the opposite sex…That was the plan.” Ah yes, the inevitable debate as to whether Opposite Gender Day helps kids develop understanding of gender roles or reenforces things like transphobia.

“I am 13 and on student council at this school,” says a Toronto Sun commenter identifying herself as Jessica. “As a student council group we decided to hold a fun spirit day (opposite gender day). It was only meant to be fun. No one was meant to be offended by it, it was optional. Our school is a great school and please, if you don’t have anything nice to say about our school then please don’t say it at all. I love our school and I’m sure many others who are currently attending or have attended will agree with me.” But what might be “fun” for some students might be torture for others. Notably, those whose gender identity doesn’t mesh with the norms of others.

So how do let kids express gender roles in an environment free from mockery? That’s an almost impossible scenario; these are kids, after all. (Not that I’d expect much more from gown adults.) But for the same reasons we should encourage trans students to freely express their gender identity in school, there’s definitely a benefit to encouraging gender normative kids to put themselves in the shoes — literally — of others for a change. The challenge, of course, is doing it in a way that’s responsible, rather than in a way that will have children throwing around words like “prissy,” “queer,” and “butch” in what’s guaranteed to be a derogatory manner. An impossible task? Maybe.

But while some parents and children think playing dress up is just a silly game, being bullied for not dressing in your gender can be a reality for some kids. And don’t we want schools to be safe spaces for all?

[photos: Opposite Gender Day at Storm Lake High School in Iowa, via]

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  • Zzee

    Did anyone else’s school have this during Spirit Week? Mine did. As a somewhat goth-y disciple of Ani DiFranco, I didn’t much participate, but most the popular kids did. And to my recollection, none of the jocky boys were “made gay” by wearing a wig and an ill-fitting skirt. Then again, I went to a super-liberal school where it was a huge mega crisis when the four token girls in Bible Club decided to hand out pro-life literature.

  • Evan

    For a trans kid, every day is “opposite gender day.” (shrug) I didn’t find these offensive, just a little silly…when my school had them, I couldn’t decide which gender to call the “opposite,” so I dressed as a drag queen.

    But then, I’m gay and trans male and can afford to have a sense of humour about this stuff. For the women, it’s more serious business, I suppose…

  • rodrigo

    Yes queerty, I “would not expect that for gown adults too”! uhm proof reading anyone?

    I think that the whole thing was blown way out of proportion. This was probably intended to be a day where kids could dress up in different clothes and probably take pictures of each other and out do each other. Too bad that people get offended by something so harmless. I mean, in all seriousness, a boy dressing up in girls clothes for one day, then decide that he likes them and then decide to become transgendered or something? I think not.

    I dont know if this would have happened in my HS but like Zzee said, when it was a powder puff game time nobody raised any eyebrows at the guys dressing up as girls…

  • alan brickman

    Canada is just as crazy as the US…go figure….

  • Josh

    I don’t get it…are we offended that it was canceled or offended that it was planned (but just for different reasons)?

  • den

    I grew up in a tiny town in Arkansas – we had it once a year during homecoming. The guys dressed up as the drill team and the girls played a “Powder Puff” football game. This was back in the 80’s. I was surprised when I was home this Christmas and my sister-in-law showed me pictures of my 12 year old nephew dressed as a cheerleader. So they are still doing it in rural Arkansas and no one is throwing a fit – which is a little shocking.

  • justiceontherocks

    We had a “Powder Puff” football game when i was in high school. The girls played football and the boys were cheerleaders, dressed in drag.

    I was a cheerleader. That must be why I’m on Queerty.

  • Francis

    I can understand, at least from the perspective of a trans person, why this is offensive, and also why it’s affirming.

    THIS situation I don’t approve of since the day was canceled due to ignorance. Personally, I think it could be a fun day and potentially very educational, if done correctly. Or, it could turn into immaturity and crass exploitation. It’s too bad that this wasn’t given a chance because of ignorant parents.

  • Jackie

    Well i definitly agree with the article. I really don’t agree that their should be a Opposite Gender Day. For many reasons because it’s kinda offending religious people. I’m a freshman and my school will be having this on September 29 which will be 3 days from now and I’m not so proud of what my school’s student council students did. /:

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