This week, officials at Oxford University announced that they have rewritten the strict academic dress code to reflect the needs of trans students. Traditionally the style of academic garb worn during exams, called subfusc, was determined by gender alone. Female students wore a skirt or trousers, a white shirt, stockings and a black ribbon. Male students wore a dark suit, white shirt and a white bow tie under the black, traditional gowns, the Guardian notes.
The new rule will allow students to choose if they want to wear skirts and stockings or bow ties and suits during exams, and will go into effect this week. Before the new dress code, any student who wished to wear subfusc that went against their assumed gender had to ask for a special dispensation in order to wear what they felt more comfortable in. Students who broke the rules and wore clothing outside of the limitations could be severely punished.
Executive officer of the LGBTQ Society, Jess Pumphrey, told the Guardian that she felt the decision was a positive step:
In future there will be no need for transgender students to cross-dress to avoid being confronted by invigilators or disciplined during their exam.
Officials at Oxford University had been pressed about the issue for most of the year. The LGBTQ Society had presented the amendments to the students’ union, which passed the dress code change easily at the beginning of the year. Officials at Oxford told the BBC:
The regulations have been amended to remove any reference to gender, in response to concerns raised by Oxford University Student Union that the existing regulations did not serve the interests of transgender students.
Oxford is famous for its conservative and time-honored traditions. The new dress code allowance, while it may seem like a small change on the surface, means that not only trans but the whole LGBTQ community can feel more comfortable and accepted in such a traditional environment.
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