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Gendered Graduation Robes Stand Out to Students as a Tradition to be Changed

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Gendered Graduation Robes Stand Out to Students as a Tradition to be Changed

Zarifeh Patterson has been contacting administration about the issue regarding gendered graduation robes since his sophomore year. “I just want every trans person or non-binary, or any LGBT that is struggling to identify, or any minority for that matter, [to know] that I adore you and I love you and keep fighting,” Patterson said.

Zarifeh Patterson has been contacting administration about the issue regarding gendered graduation robes since his sophomore year. “I just want every trans person or non-binary, or any LGBT that is struggling to identify, or any minority for that matter, [to know] that I adore you and I love you and keep fighting,” Patterson said.

Aayushi Chaudhary

Zarifeh Patterson has been contacting administration about the issue regarding gendered graduation robes since his sophomore year. “I just want every trans person or non-binary, or any LGBT that is struggling to identify, or any minority for that matter, [to know] that I adore you and I love you and keep fighting,” Patterson said.

Aayushi Chaudhary

Aayushi Chaudhary

Zarifeh Patterson has been contacting administration about the issue regarding gendered graduation robes since his sophomore year. “I just want every trans person or non-binary, or any LGBT that is struggling to identify, or any minority for that matter, [to know] that I adore you and I love you and keep fighting,” Patterson said.

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Red for the girls and black for the boys. That’s how it’s always been for graduation robes for outgoing seniors. However, for some students at Westside, gendered robes stand out as a tradition that needs to be changed. On graduation day, a time for celebrating accomplishments, students said gendered robes can single out people who are non-binary or bi-gender.

When senior Zarifeh Patterson learned as a sophomore that robes were gendered, he said he felt bothered as many of his friends are non-binary or figuring out where they identify on the gender spectrum. Patterson said he felt like he had a responsibility to contact administration and advocate for change.

“I don’t think that gender is an efficient way to divide things anymore considering that the gap is closing,” Patterson said. “A lot of people would also ask me why do I care so much? But the only reason that I care so much is because some people like to say ‘it’s a tradition’ and I’m like yeah and traditions are fine until they’re hurting somebody. That’s why I care so much. It’s hurting some people’s feelings or it’s making some people uncomfortable.”

During Patterson’s contact with administration, he proposed solutions that would prevent non-binary or bi-gender students from feeling isolated by the choice between red and black. He proposed to have everyone choose their own colors or simply have everyone wear the same color.

Senior Lyndsay Gunther realized they were non-binary at the beginning of high school and said they have been dreading making a choice on robe color ever since. They said they feel like this tradition no longer makes sense for Westside given how progressive they believe Westside has become. Gunther commented on the possibility that people rooted in tradition would oppose change.

“Honestly I respect their opinion,” Gunther said. “I respect everyone’s opinion and it’s not really fair if I were to insult them or attack their opinion. I do see why they would keep it like that because it is tradition, it’s something that they’re used to and everything. I feel like it’s also nice to try new things as well.”

Similarly to Patterson, Gunther said they feel like an advocate for the issue. Gunther also said that Patterson has had a huge impact on their life and helped them to realize that they feel passionately about speaking out about the problems with this tradition. Gunther said they have been challenged and attacked in public restrooms before for their gender identity. As someone who has had to overcome struggles that come along with their identity, Gunther said they wonder if the gendered robes is a form of oppression against them.

“I am still Lyndsay, I am still me, but you know I am non-binary. I am not a woman,” Gunther said.

Vice Principal Trudi Nolin has been working at the high school for 25 years and said that the tradition is merrily the way that the color scheme looks. On the form that outgoing seniors fill out, they have the option between checking male or female, but Nolin said seniors who feel uncomfortable reaching out to the Balfour representative, are welcome to talk to administration about other options.

“We’re always open if [students] want to come talk to us about any of those different kinds of things as far as with the colors of the gowns,” Nolin said. “We certainly are open to help them out, whatever will make them feel more comfortable.”

Patterson said he feels like other solutions to the issue need to be taken more seriously by administration. He said he also encourages people to come talk to him, learn about the issue, and to not ignore him and the community.

“I know it’s uncomfy and I know it’s going to take a lot of time, but everything takes time and everything changes,” Patterson said.

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About the Contributors
Emily Kutler, Wired Co-Editor-In-Chief

Hi my name is Emily Kutler! I am the Co-Editor-in-Chief for Westside Wired this year. I am currently a senior and this is my third year on Wired. If you...

Aayushi Chaudhary, Feature Editor

Hi my name is Aayushi Chaudhary! I am a Feature Editor for Westside Wired this year. I am currently a Sophomore and this is my second year on Wired. If...

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