"Why is it against dress code for a man to be comfortable with his masculinity and defy the gender norms society has imposed on us?" the teen asked.
Content warning: Homophobia
A Texas teenager who was suspended for wearing nail polish to school gave a powerful speech on inclusivity at a local school board meeting where he spoke about how he is being denied an education due to outdated gender stereotypes. "This isn't about me anymore," Trevor Wilkinson, an openly gay 17-year-old, said at the meeting. "It's about a discriminatory, sexist policy that needs to be changed." As we previously reported, Wilkinson — a senior at Clyde High School in Texas — was suspended by his school after he returned from Thanksgiving break with his nails painted.
The teen was informed that he had violated the school's dress code which bans male students from wearing nail polish and make-up. He was given an in-school suspension (ISS) and was told he would stay in ISS until he removed the nail polish. However, Wilkinson is not giving up without a fight. "I got my education taken away from me for something as minor as painting my nails because it’s against the dress code," he told the Clyde CISD school board, sporting the allegedly incriminating nail polish on his fingers. The teen said that the ACLU had already sent a letter to the school district even before he got his ISS that their dress code might violate civil rights laws.
"Why is it against dress code for a man to be comfortable with his masculinity and defy the gender norms society has imposed on us?" Wilkinson asked. "Why is it harmful for me to wear nail polish? If it’s not harmful for girls to wear it, why is it harmful for males?" The young man whose story went viral after he started a Change.org petition to change the school policy, then proceeded to explain why the discriminatory policy is harmful to LGBTQ students; especially at this age.
"Having a double standard like this only shows that Clyde doesn’t accept kids for who they are and they shouldn’t be themselves because the very people that are supposed to create a safe environment can’t accept them," he said. "It’s not too late to be on the right side of history and I dare ask you guys to join. I understand that you guys have traditional values and I respect that, but to get respect you also have to give it. America is progressing, we’re staying up-to-date with trends, we’re modernizing as a whole and nothing will stop that."
"Traditional values are great, but change is inevitable. At what point do we look at the bigger picture and realize that this isn’t 50 years ago? We’re all supposed to be equal, not having our freedom of expression suppressed, not having our voices not heard because grown-ups are taking three steps back instead of forward," the teen continued. "Diversity is what makes this country so beautiful." In a statement following Wilkinson's suspension, the Clyde Consolidated Independent School District said that they "conduct a diligent and thoughtful review" of its dress code policy on an annual basis and that the "review process results in the development of a final dress code that is consistently implemented and enforced during the next school year. Parents and students are provided a copy of the dress code prior to the start of each new school year."
However, despite the widespread support for Wilkinson — his petition has received over 347k signatures — the school board isn't budging. "As set out in Board policy, Clyde CISD believes students should attend school in a safe and supportive environment that promotes equality for all, and the District takes all appropriate measures to ensure its actions align with that policy. While the District expects students to abide by established rules of conduct, the District is also always open to reconsidering policies or rules that do not reflect the District’s intentions," Superintendent Kenny Berry said in a statement. "To that end, the District will conduct a thorough review of its dress code when it performs its annual review of the Student Handbook and, until that time, the District will assure that no student is treated in a discriminatory or inequitable manner."