Opinion: Why We Should Take Gender out of Graduation


Class of 2020 (PHOTO FROM @mariemontschools)


For Mariemont seniors, graduation seems to be approaching fast. Many students are finishing college applications, and some are signing to college athletics programs. All are filling out forms for their graduation cap and gown, but one question on the form is isolating a couple members of the Senior class: Are you male or female? 

A couple decades ago this question wouldn’t have been perceived as problematic. But in our modern, more sympathetic, world it is problematic because our scientific understanding of the complexity of gender has dramatically changed. A person’s gender identity is their internal sense of gender, a person’s gender identity could be the gender assigned at birth, but it can also be another gender entirely. Some people can also identify as gender nonconforming meaning their gender goes beyond social expectations (some examples include: bigender where someone identifies with both the male and female gender, genderfluid where someone’s gender identity varies over time, or genderqueer where one’s gender identity goes beyond male or female). 

It is worth mentioning that a person’s gender is different than their sex. A person’s sex is based on a combination of bodily characteristics including chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive organs. Therefore, a person’s sex could be different from their gender identity.

With all this in mind, the gender question on the form is problematic because it is asking the Seniors to classify their gender identity as either male or female, disregarding the other gender identities that exist. For a student who is gender nonconforming this question is impossible, for it is asking someone who was previously not in a category/box to categorize themself. For a student who is questioning their gender, they will be forced to once again hide their true selves or confront a complex issue with an inadequate solution. By separating the students, an unwelcome environment is being created. If we were to take gender out of graduation it would allow everyone to be themselves. 

Therefore, I propose, for this upcoming graduation, we move away from gender-colored caps and gowns. I don’t propose that we move away from the blue and white color scheme, but away from a ceremony that is separating its students into males or females, while ignoring the possibility that other genders exist. 

This is an issue of equity. For everyone else, the color they wear to graduation and the gender they are assigned is insignificant, but for those who are gender nonconforming this is isolating. Below, Lu Gee, a sophomore who’s gender identity is nonbinary, shares their perspective: 

Hello everyone, my name is Lu Gee, and I’m a sophomore. I personally disagree with 

gendered robes for a few reasons. One being that it’s just unnecessary. If a woman gets the same grades and did the same activities as a man, why should we separate them by gender? Gendering garments is not needed when graduating high school, or life in general. It may be a tradition, but it’s outdated and serves no purpose. My second reason is that it enforces gender roles. As someone who is non-binary, meaning I don’t align with the binary genders (male and female), being forced to wear the “female” robe would be very uncomfortable. That would be all I could think about, rather than focusing on the ceremony. It would make the event less amazing than it is, because I would remember my graduation as severely uncomfortable. I want to remember my graduation as a celebration of my academic achievements, not being forced into gendered robes.


In the end, there isn’t a simple, straightforward solution to the problem of who wears what on graduation. But the current method of splitting the students by gender isn’t working. Whether it makes the most sense to move to one color or to assign the color based on the alphabet, a change should be made. For there are students who are being left out and isolated by having gender specific colors. If the school wants to be a welcoming environment, it must start by removing the question of “Are you a male or female” on the cap and gown form. 

For more information on different gender identities: