By Julia Glum
An increasing number of high schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, were working this year to make graduation gender-neutral. Three schools -- Damascus, Sherwood and Walter Johnson -- decided to have all students wear the same color robe for the ceremony, rather than divide them by gender. Five more schools plan to do the same for next year's graduation, the Associated Press reported.
“They are all Class of 2015,” said Jennifer Webster, the principal of Damascus High School, to the Washington Post. “Why differentiate?”
They're not the only institutions breaking the cap-and-gown tradition. Members of the Gay, Straight, Transgender Alliance at Kennet High School in Conway, New Hampshire, convinced their local school board in March to allow transgender students to pick their robe colors for their graduation ceremony. In 2013, a student born male but living as a female in Fostoria, Ohio, was allowed to wear girls' robes to graduation.
“It’s a tricky situation,” Fostoria Board of Education President Thomas Guernsey told LGBTQ Nation at the time. “It’s probably going to happen more and more as society evolves in this manner, and this probably won’t be the last time we deal with this.”
But progress hasn't been universal. Two years ago, Albuquerque transgender student Damian Garcia skipped his St. Pius X High School graduation ceremony because the administrators told him he had to wear white -- the color girls were wearing. Though Damian's legal name had been changed, his birth certificate had not, and the school refused to budge on its policy. The University of New Mexico's LGBTQ Resource Center threw Damian a personal ceremony after the event.
In Maryland, students wrote letters and campaigned for their schools to change their cap-and-gown rules. At Walter Johnson High School, which recently renovated a gender-neutral bathroom, principal Jennifer Baker told the Washington Post she looked at cost and gender equality before making the call to allow single-color robes. "We all care deeply about our kids and want all of our kids to feel comfortable,” she added.