school spirit

Will A High School’s ‘Opposite Gender Day’ Mock Trans Students, Or Give Heteros A Chance to Play Queer?

Jackson High School’s homecoming week event “Opposite Gender Day” will not be canceled despite one transgender local resident of the Michigan town — who was fired by a local university after coming out as trans — claiming the event will mock people like her. “I think it demeans students that may be wrestling with issues of gender identity and puts them at risk,” says Julie Nemecek (pictured), whom a possibly-trans high school student reached out to. “They’re already at greater risk — bullying, the suicide rate is very high because of intolerance either at home or school.” True! But also, is something like Opposite Gender Day also a chance for young people to actually break out of their own gender norms, so masc jocks can put on heels and act out their inner Mean Girl? That actually sounds … progressive! Also: Ripe for awful and offensive stereotyping!

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  • Sceth

    I think there’ll be lot of humor and stereotyping on the day it’s done, but the discussions it’ll provoke will be surely worth it.

  • Steve

    Michigan is actually fairly progressive (I blame Canada) and opposite gender day, at least when my high school hosted it, actually did occassionally provoke discussion on who and what men should be and who and what women should be, and not everyone went for the super macho man or the fallaciously weak female. So if this event can help people see their inner sexism, then I see no problem.

  • PopSnap

    I actually loved stuff like this in HS. At band camp each year, we had a drag show (ironically enough, I didn’t even participate because it’d clash with my shy personality) and for once I didn’t feel like the gayest one in the room. Hey, at least I’m not in a dress.

    Anything that opens up people’s boundaries is a good thing.

  • Simon

    Spirit week was a time for me to play with my identity in ways that I wouldn’t have thought of doing otherwise. Was I offensive in my portrayals of certain identities? Probably. Would I do the same thing now? No. Did it help me establish a more nuanced sense of self? Absolutely.

    So, I honestly don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing.

  • Whiz

    Just like racism, ignoring something doesn’t make the thing itself go away. Being able to laugh at issues and inspire discussions about it are pretty important.

  • DR

    From Nemecek’s complaint to the school:

    “Her e-mail says that being transgender is a serious medical condition. “Please call off this very offensive and bullying-enabled day and replace it with some credible information about this serious medical condition,” Nemecek said in the e-mail.”

    Or maybe it just creates a day of fun and possible discussion and learning? Sounds like someone is getting a bit too sensitive about this thing.

  • gina

    Dear Queerty:

    Re: your headline

    There are straight trans people. There are non-queer ID’ing trans people. Being trans has nothing to intrinsically do with being gay vs. straight. Most gay people are not trans… some are.

    someone who is yet again disgusted by
    your blog’s lack of knowledge about the
    trans community.

  • Frankster

    I feel bad now for we used to have things at my college like “Drag BIngo” “Drag SHows” and “Drag Racing”

    We also had a bathroom crawl which upset one transgender student.

    Wish they would of interviewed Julie to find out more of her response. Someone from the community just has to speak out. Otherwise it’s just a stay behind closed doors issue.

  • Yellow Bone

    Yeah…if someone had “act gay for a day”, I’m pretty sure that everyone wouldn’t be defending it.

  • Melissa V

    While I see the opportunity for widespread stereotyping, seeing the stereotypes acted out ALSO precipitates discussion. Students will gain an insight into what their peers regard as core to their opposite gender. It is also an opportunity to bring gender issues of all sorts into the open. I hope the faculty takes advantage of the opportunity and opens discussion in class among the students. I see the greater potential as one for education and enlightenment.

  • gina

    @Melissa V:

    The mere act of seeing stereotyping means nothing and doesn’t guarantee any productive discussion. There were minstrel shows for a nearly a 100 years and they didn’t create “productive discussion.” If they really want to learn/discuss gender, maybe they need a teach in along with the “swap gender day” merriment?

  • sophi

    the kids who participated in the opposites gender day spirit week activity at my school were the same kids who absolutely were not ok with me showing up to school on the last day in a skirt and some makeup.

    i’d say that without additional influences, opposites gender day just relegates crossdressing and to the ranks of wearing silly hats for a day. it makes it a joke, and it’s ok for students to participate in it as a joke… but if you’re transgender for real… that’s sick and wrong, and you’re going to hell.

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