As a North West LGBTIQ+ learner has experienced, many schools in South Africa continue to apply a rigid gender-binary uniform policy
There’s a fresh report of another LGBTIQ+ learner who was sent home for not wearing the school’s gendered uniform, this time in North West.
According to Taung Daily News, the principal of the Marubising Secondary School in Cokonyane village, near the town of Taung, is alleged to have mocked and discriminated against a 15-year-old lesbian-identifying pupil.
The girl’s father claims that on 18 January, his daughter was “chased out” of school by the principal because of her gender expression.
“My daughter grew up as a lesbian and wears boys’ clothes. However, the school principal insisted that she must wear a skirt,” said the parent. “Now, last week, my daughter refused to go to school because she was forced to wear a skirt, which is something that she is not comfortable with.”
The parent also alleged that the principal said that he “only welcomes female and male learners at his school, not ditrase [an anti-queer slur].”
As has happened in some previous cases, the authorities have chosen to defend the principal and blame the parents.
North West Department of Education spokesperson Elias Malindi told Taung Daily News that the LGBTIQ+ learner was never denied the right to attend school at any point and that the principal had simply called the child’s mother because the girl “was not wearing a proper uniform as expected by the school for all girl learners”.
He further claimed that “the parent didn’t come to the school to make the principal and management aware of the learner’s sexual orientation”.
Efforts to make schools safer for LGBTIQ+ learners have come under fire from conservative groups
This incident is similar to one we reported on in October last year in which the parents of a 12-year-old LGBTIQ+ learner from Limpopo also alleged that she had been sent home and denied her right to education because she refused to wear a dress.
In that case, Limpopo Department of Education Mike Maringa alleged that the girl’s mother was dishonest and had lied to us about the learner’s sexuality, a claim she vehemently denied to us.
In both instances, the education departments insisted that the school had not discriminated against the learners because they were not aware of or denied the pupils’ LGBTIQ+ identity.
This implies that unless a young person is willing to identify themself as a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, they will not be permitted to deviate from their school’s rigid gendered unfirm policies.
In November, a furore erupted after the Department of Basic Education’s proposed new LGBTIQ+ guidelines were leaked in the media.
Intended to create a more inclusive and affirming environment for LGBTIQ+ pupils in schools, the guidelines recommend pupils be permitted to wear the gender uniform of their choice and that schools should also allow for a gender-neutral uniform option.
Conservative political parties and religious groups condemned the guidelines, describing them as “woke” and intending to promote a so-called “LGBTQ agenda”.
In the wake of the suicide of several bullied LGBTIQ+ teens, civil society groups insisted that the guidelines are necessary to ensure “safe, equitable, and socially just learning environments for all learners, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics”.