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Does 'Opposite Gender Day' Liberate Students or Endanger Them?


Jackson High School in Michigan is holding a Homecoming Week "Opposite Gender Day" in which students are allowed to dress as the name suggests. Some students say it's liberating, but one professor says it puts transgender students in danger:

Nemecek "Julie Nemecek, a professor who made headlines for being fired by Spring Arbor University after saying she was going to become a woman, said a Jackson High School student struggling with gender identity expressed concerns to her. She sent an e-mail to school officials today saying the day was a 'very bad idea.' ...  'I think it demeans students that may be wrestling with issues of gender identity and puts them at risk,' said Nemecek, who was previously John Nemecek. 'They’re already at greater risk — bullying, the suicide rate is very high because of intolerance either at home or school.' In an e-mail to Principal Barbara Baird-Pauli, Superintendent Dan Evans and School Board President David Halsey, Nemecek wrote: 'Would you even consider having a ‘Disabled Day’ where students pick a disability to mimic all day?' Her e-mail says that being transgender is a serious medical condition. 'Please call off this very offensive and bullying-enabled day and replace it with some credible information about this serious medical condition,' Nemecek said in the e-mail."

The Gay-Straight Alliance, which planned the event, says it will open the doors to more tolerance and sensitivity.

Watch a student talk about the day, AFTER THE JUMP...

JHS student comments on "Opposite Gender Day"


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  1. So students plan a day during which the exploration of gender as a concept instead of a reified norm is socially permissible... and this is bad for people struggling with gender issues how again? Maybe we should all just stay in our gendered silos until those questioning their own gender find catharsis?

    I think the worst thing we could do for lgbt kids is to say "No. Keep to your gender norm. Any kidding around with this topic is Not OK."

    Posted by: Timothy | Sep 17, 2010 9:47:35 AM

  2. Well said, Timothy. Do we put a stop to Coming Out Day because our own coming outs were tricky? Or because there are gay people who aren't ready to come out yet?

    I get that the issues are different, and trans kids, God bless them -- wow, that's exceptionally tough. I even get that we should be speaking up and raising concerns.

    But when did everyone get so much sand in their underpants about stuff like this?

    Posted by: zac | Sep 17, 2010 10:02:53 AM

  3. I get where the gay/straight alliance group is coming from, but they're just stupid high school kids. Their advisor should know better. High schools have been doing this since my day when it was called "powder puff" football day. It was a thinly veiled excuse to gay bash and revel in stereotypes of both gays and women. Not a good idea to promote tolerance. This might be a good exercise for a more mature group, but teenagers? forget about it.

    Posted by: gaylib | Sep 17, 2010 10:07:13 AM

  4. 'I think it demeans students that may be wrestling with issues of gender identity and puts them at risk,''They’re already at greater risk — bullying, the suicide rate is very high because of intolerance either at home or school.'

    Bullshit, thats not how that works.It isnt intolerance that causes kids to kill themselves, its hopelessness, its when you make a wall to the kid and show them there is no other option. This is a discussion in the least and at most, Drama to HS kids. AND TEENAGERS LIVE FOR DRAMA.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Sep 17, 2010 10:12:50 AM

  5. I really don't understand what the problem is with this day.

    On the one hand people complain that gender roles are too strictly enforced and oppressive for those questioning their gender identity.

    Yet when a school runs a day when all students are free to express themselves how they wish, it is supposedly insensitive to those questioning their gender identity (and the organisers of the day are dismissed as 'stupid kids').

    FFS - there's no pleasing some people.

    I think the day is a great idea.

    Posted by: Martin Murray | Sep 17, 2010 10:49:27 AM


    How long has it been since you were in high school, Fenrox? If it's less than 20 years, you're being overly snobbish. If it's more than 20, you've forgotten that teenagers don't live for drama, their lives are drama. They - okay, we - see ourselves as the protagonists of our own movies, and every decision we make seems incredibly important for the rest of our lives.

    And calling the emotional trauma of transgender kids "high school drama" is at best ignorant and at worst transphobic.

    The fact that a transgender woman is calling for the cancellation of this event makes her argument more valid to me. It's motives may be noble, but it downplays the severity of trans kids' situations. "Everyone in Drag Day," "Everyone's a Tranny Day"... doesn't sit well with me, especially in high school, where kids can be so mean. Imagine a "Everyone's a Poof Day," where all the guys dress up in half-shirts and short shorts and prance around, fake make-out with each other, and then at the end of the day all pretend to die of AIDS. Who among you would be for that? I'm not saying that's what will happen here, but you can't deny that some of the most cruel-hearted people are 17 years old.

    Posted by: 7 | Sep 17, 2010 10:52:50 AM

  7. Am I the only one kind of excited for Everyone's a Poof Day?

    Posted by: Timothy | Sep 17, 2010 10:56:48 AM

  8. The is a proud gay tradition of making light of Terrible Things, without which they would remain as described. Having a little fun with something brings it into the open, lets the sun shine on it, and reveals it to be not so horrifying as originally supposed.

    There is a distinction between 'making light of' and 'making fun of' and it is a liminal space worth exploring.

    Posted by: Timothy | Sep 17, 2010 11:03:13 AM

  9. Any excuse to wear a dress. I'm there.

    Posted by: Joel | Sep 17, 2010 11:54:36 AM

  10. @Timothy, That sounds like a great idea!

    Posted by: Fenrox | Sep 17, 2010 11:57:03 AM

  11. My high school had Gender Bender Day during homecoming week over 20 years ago. I remember that day as being incredibly fun. It was the most popular event. The boys were dressed as cheerleaders and schoolgirls. The girls dressed as jocks and homies.

    There was one asshole, homophobic jock who was dressed up by the cheerleaders as Madonna. Maybe one of his teammates said something inappropriate to him. Because after that he was very nice to the GLBT students. I think he realized that his own words hurt others in the past.

    I'm all for Gender Bender Days.

    Posted by: Ili | Sep 17, 2010 12:07:14 PM

  12. It's all very tedious, but I don't see the harm in what they are doing.

    Posted by: anon | Sep 17, 2010 1:10:54 PM

  13. How is allowing students to break gender dress roles and play with gender identity for a day less offensive than labeling transgenderism a disability?

    To be sure there is bound to be some mockery and throwing about of stereotypes. But you cannot dispel misunderstandings by shutting them in the closet. Getting kids to dress in opposite gender clothing is a fantastic method to make them more comfortable with the idea of fluid gender expression.

    Not all of it will be pretty or respectful, but at least it will be discussed. Silence is the enemy, and familiarity breeds compassion. If they are familiar with the experience of cross-dressing that can make them more open to empathizing with peers who dress in a queer fashion on normal days.

    In other words, let them walk in someone else's shoes for a day - bring on the heels!

    Posted by: Mana | Sep 17, 2010 7:26:25 PM

  14. I think a "Pick a Disability Day" would actually be a great idea. That doesn't help the argument against this.
    I know in the Physical Therapy program several of my friends graduated from they were required to log so many hours in a wheelchair. It really made them understand "the other" and be more compassionate.

    Posted by: NoSleep4Sam | Sep 18, 2010 12:28:36 AM

  15. I agree with Prof Nemecek.

    I'm Intersexed, but Transsexual is close enough. I'm very, very glad that no such event was held at my HS.

    A bit like giving an alcoholic just one little drink.... I would have been unable to stop, and in those days, the "therapy" was electroshock and lobotomy.

    These days, all too often it's just a bullet from a bigot. It's just too dangerous.

    There's also the whole disrespect thing too, but YMMV on that. In a school that's going in the right direction already, it may be helpful. But in most, the opposite.

    I'd listen to the prof. If anyone should be able to judge, it's her.

    Posted by: Zoe Brain | Sep 18, 2010 9:40:39 AM

  16. I think "Opposite Gender Days" are well-intentioned, but they ultimately promote ignorance. They're just another way of reinforcing the fiction that gender is binary; it is not binary. There are (at least) three human genders. Transgender is as valid as male or female.

    Unfortunately, Julie Nemecek also promotes ignorance when she insists that Transgender status is a "medical condition". The woman has serious unaddressed self-esteem issues; there is nothing disordered about being born Transgender! What's disordered is the binary gender-fixated world that shuns people of blended gender and refuses to validate them. That prejudice is what needs to be treated, and as I stated in my controversial essay "Frankengender", the disease of transphobia won't be cured until it is.

    The stubborn refusal of so many Transfolk to accept themselves as natural and normal is like a stone wall holding back the Transgender movement. They haven't yet come to the place that Lesbians and Gay men came to in the '60s and '70s, the realization that their identities were not and are not pathological. It's necessary for them to do that. Consciousness wasn't truly raised among the Black population until African-Americans realized that Black is beautiful. Why is there no "Trans is beautiful" movement? People like Ms. Nemecek desperately need one. I'm sick to death of female-born boys and male-born girls being fed a message that they're abnormal. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Sep 18, 2010 12:47:21 PM

  17. This kid is totally gay.

    Posted by: Hughe G. Rection | Oct 22, 2010 11:09:45 AM

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