Graduation Gown Change Has Been a Long Time Coming


Alexus McEldowney

Class of 2021 graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 29 at Stadium Field.

As of last week, PHS announced a switch to all red gowns for graduation. Many seniors have expressed their dislike for this change, but it could be helpful to the LGBTQIA+ and lower income communities.

I am well aware I am not a senior, but these issues do affect me even as a junior because I have been worried about graduation since I was a freshman. I personally identify as non-binary, which means I neither identify as a boy or a girl. As a freshman, finding out boys and girls were separated by cap and gown colors at graduation caused me to go into a panic. I didn’t feel comfortable being shoved into the girl category because while I present feminine, I do not identify as a girl. The separation caused me to panic, even as early as my freshman year, because I didn’t know what I was going to do. Last week’s announcement brought relief to me and my friends who fall under the transgender umbrella (gender fluid, nonbinary, genderqueer, etc). Having assurance that I won’t have to worry about it next year makes me feel relieved. It’s something that cisgender people may have never thought about, but the gender separation of the gowns is a big issue for the people who have a diverse gender identity. While the gendered gowns are tradition, it is outdated, especially now that people are more comfortable being out and who they are.

The change to all red can also bring relief to lower income families. The dress code for the white gown is so hard to dress for, seeing as the white gowns are see-through. It is very difficult to find a white dress to wear that is not see-through, too formal, or not expensive. Many girls cannot afford a brand new white dress, and any other color shows right through the gown. Several teachers I have spoken to talked about how they have to help so many students before graduation because of the see-through gown. Many female students don’t have the resources to find a dress, and many rely on the teachers to find one before graduation. PHS is a very diverse school income wise, so many had probably not thought of the kids who can’t afford the dress for underneath. The switch to red makes it easier to find something to go underneath it. Instead of struggling to find an all-white dress, students would be able to find a nice semi-formal outfit that won’t show straight through. Lower income families can rely on thrift stores in this situation, or reuse something they already have. All-white dresses that aren’t formal are very hard to find, and they’re usually very expensive.

Tradition is sometimes outdated and offensive, and can harm people. The tradition of gendering the gowns is harmful to students who neither identify as boy or girl, forcing them into the binary they don’t fit in. While this has always been an issue, it is more talked about now that it’s become normalized. Times change, and so do people. The change to all red will prevent students from being uncomfortable with the color they were assigned because of how they present, and not who they are.

While I do understand the frustration and the longing for tradition, this change has been long overdue.