How This Trans Teenager Fought To Wear Her Preferred School Uniform
By: Nick Levine
Lily Madigan, an 18-year-old trans teenager in the U.K., began identifying as female when she was 14, and she came out to friends and family this past January. While those close to her were accepting and respectful, she encountered some issues concerning her school uniform.
In March, Madigan arrived at her school (St. Simon Stock Catholic School, a state-run institution in Kent) wearing the girls’ uniform for the first time, BuzzFeed Newsreported. However, she was stopped by an administrator who informed her that her outfit was breaking the dress code, and that she had to go home. “It made me feel that something was wrong with me,” Madigan explained. “It’s alienating. You think school is supposed to be there for you and when that happens, it breaks your trust.”
Madigan and her mother then attended a meeting at the school, arguing that administrators weren’t complying with the U.K.’s Equality Act of 2010, which protects citizens’ rights against discrimination, per BuzzFeed News. However, the school didn’t want to compromise, and told Madigan she had to continue adhering to the male students’ dress code if she wanted to stay enrolled. Madigan complied for weeks, which made her feel depressed. She handed over a petition signed by over 200 fellow students and legally changed her name to Lily, but administrators refused to amend school records to reflect Madigan’s chosen gender identity.
Undeterred, Madigan found a law firm in London that would take her case pro bono. Together, they sent a letter to the school saying that if the student’s rights under the Equality Act and the U.K.’s Human Rights Act of 1998 were not upheld (meaning that administrators didn’t respect Madigan’s legal name and pronouns or allow her to use female facilities and wear the correct uniform), Madigan and her lawyers would sue.
Two weeks later, the school apologized. “It was never anyone’s intention to cause hurt,” principal Brendan Wall wrote in a letter to Madigan (obtained by BuzzFeed News), saying the institution “always wanted to support you on this important journey that you are undertaking and remain committed to help you succeed in your education and be happy.”
Madigan is currently in her final year of school, and she can now go to class wearing what she feels most comfortable in. “I’m a lot happier,” she told the site. “It shows how much it affects someone when they’re being discriminated against.”
Earlier this year, another British school removed gendered uniform requirements, allowing students to choose a uniform based on their identity, not the sex they were assigned at birth. A push for a more gender-neutral uniform policy also took place in Puerto Rico last fall. While school uniforms and dress codes are a pretty consistently contentious topic, it’s promising to see examples of policy reform that acknowledges (and respects) the spectrum of gender identities students actually have.