Scroll To Top

U.K. College Rewrites 650-Year-Old Dress Code to Accommodate Trans Students

U.K. College Rewrites 650-Year-Old Dress Code to Accommodate Trans Students


St. Catharine's College at the University of Cambridge broke with tradition after listening to student campaigners led by trans woman Charlie Northrup.

St. Catharine's College at the University of Cambridge , one of the United Kindgom's oldest colleges, has shown itself to be anything but a stodgy, formal institution blindly adhering to "tradition."

The shool demonstrated this week just how up-with-the-times it is by revising a centuries-old dress code to accomodate transgender students.

St. Catharine's students are required to wear "smart dress" to all formal occassions, which was formerly defined as "smart trousers and jacket with tie" for male students, and "a skirt and blouse or dress" for female students, according to Reuters.

Now, college dean Mark Elliot has reworded the 650-year-old policy to read, "'Smart dress' is defined without reference to considerations of gender identity or expression."

The dress code update follows a successful campaign led by classics doctoral student and trans woman Charlie Northrup, 25, who told U.K. news station ITV that the change was specifically meant to accomodate nonbinary and gender-nonconforming students. She explained that the former policy had included an "unwritten" understanding that all self-identified women (including trans women) were allowed to wear dresses, and all self-identified men (including trans men) were allowed to wear trousers.

Now, Northrup explained to school newspaper Varsity, "Men can wear dresses, women can wear suits, and nonbinary people are free to define the outfits that feel most appropriate to them in a formal setting."

In 2013, Cambridge similarly updated its policy for graduation attire after pressure from student group CUSU LGBT+, dropping "gendered" requirements for the event's clothing. Still, at the time, the group's trans* representative told Varsity that "much more is needed throughout the University to support and include transgender students. The vast majority of staff lack all but the most basic knowledge about trans* people, and with no guidance available they continue to make the same mistakes every year."

But two years seems to have made some difference. Northrup commended her school for being so understanding, telling Huffington Post U.K. that she's finally been able to transition openly since the beginning of the school year, after moving from Indiana.

"It was when I got to Cambridge that it really became possible," she said. "The university is inspiring and full of such supportive people."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Mitch Kellaway