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Westerford High School takes inclusive step by giving all pupils the option of wearing pronoun badges

The Westerford High School principal said the school treated matters of this nature very seriously. Pictured above is the PLUS society at the school. Picture: Supplied

The Westerford High School principal said the school treated matters of this nature very seriously. Pictured above is the PLUS society at the school. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 9, 2022

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Cape Town - Showing a move towards transformation in South Africa’s education system, Westerford High School has given pupils the option to wear a badge with their preferred pronouns on it, for R5.

“Our PLUS society felt that it would be good to allow pupils and staff the option of displaying their pronouns, as cisgender people, in order to show support for the trans community. It also allows those who are trans to be gendered correctly,” said deputy principal Alison Gray.

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With a large number of their community wearing the pronoun badges, Gray said it also meant that trans people did not stand out on their own, but formed part of a bigger supportive group.

“There has been a positive response from pupils. More than 170 pupils have indicated that they would like to buy a pronoun badge and some are buying them not only for themselves, but for family members and for friends at other schools,” said Gray.

Gray said their school has, for a long time, been open to having these conversations and they were hoping that by increasing awareness of those who define themselves using other pronouns, that this would spread an understanding that there was more to human beings than the binary boxes that society has normalised.

The school was still in the process of ordering the badges, but they anticipated close to 200 pupils wearing the pronoun badges around school.

“Pupils have also bought badges for their family members and for friends at other schools. So hopefully the initiative will spread,” said Gray.

Parent Marion Stevens said the pupils have been wanting this for a long time, to make children feel a lot more comfortable in the school setting and reduce gender dysphoria or feeling anxiousness when people refer to them or misgender them.

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Stevens said this inclusivity made her, as a parent, feel better about leaving her child in the school environment – especially as her child was bullied tremendously during junior school, which caused enormous anxiety and depression.

By having cisgender and trans people displaying their pronouns, we hope that this 'normalisation' of people just being who they are will result in a safer space for all,” said Gray.

Triangle Project research, advocacy and policy manager Estian Smit said schools had an obligation to create a welcoming, respectful and safe environment for all pupils and staff, which included respecting and protecting every pupil's right to their gender identity and gender expression.

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“Enabling pupils to state their pronouns, in ways they feel comfortable with, is an important affirming step, but needs to be accompanied by education of the broader school community on gender diversity, equality, and dignity of all pupils and staff.

“At no point should pupils feel marginalised for stating their pronouns,” said Smit.

Smit said it was important to listen to and consult marginalised pupils on any steps to create more inclusive environments.

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Gray added: “We are proud of our PLUS society for moving forward with the initiative, in an effort to reflect a school space where all people, regardless of their differences, feel that they belong, and that the space reflects who they are.”

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Cape Argus

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