Texas School District Creates a More Gender-Neutral Dress Code

Posted on May 29, 2021 by


Trevor Wilkinson has been struggling with being himself in school. He tries doing so by getting a fresh manicure, but this also earned him a suspension. 

Wilkinson, 18, an openly gay teen in Abilene, Texas–about 140 miles west of Fort Worth–had been suspended several times from Clyde High School for wearing nail polish because it didn’t comply with the school district’s dress code policy.  The previous policy made distinctions based on gender. That included banning males from wearing makeup and nail polish, according to Wilkinson. He thought the policy should be made more gender-neutral–that it should allow for all students to feel included and accepted regardless of their identity.

¨I personally am not a fan of self-pity, but it is hard being gay in West Texas sometimes, and I never want to go back to where I was not even two years ago,” Wilkinson said. “So what, I paint my nails sometimes? I look and feel good while doing it. I´ve come so far with growing within myself and accepting and loving who I am…and when I get sent to ISS, (in-school suspension) it was like I was taking three steps back and I was regressing.”

On Monday, the Clyde Consolidated Independent School District voted to amend its policy, outlining new guidelines regardless of gender identity. The district will no longer punish boys for wearing nail polish or makeup. 

Wilkinson first painted his nails in October and was excited about going to school with his new manicure, but excitement turned to frustration when school administrators did not accept his form of expression.

¨It all started because I did the simple thing of going and getting my nails done, and when I came to school, I was told I was going to be dress coded,¨ Wilkinson said. ¨So I actually went home right away and went online for six weeks because I didn’t want to get made fun of but also didn’t want to get in trouble.¨ 

While studying online, Wilkinson said he kept thinking about wanting to get his nails done again.

¨I know it is just nail polish to others, but it’s my existence to me and how I express myself,¨ he said.

After Thanksgiving break, he returned to school with a new manicure and was suspended. When Wilkinson returned home that day, he said he started researching Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools. He started a change.org petition titled ¨Allow Males to Wear Nail Polish,” all in an effort to strengthen his case with his high school administrators.

¨Unfortunately, they did not take anything I found into consideration, and they told me I had three options: take off the nail polish and go back to class, go into in-school suspension until I take it off, or go back to online learning…so I went back to ISS.¨

But word of Wilkinson´s efforts started to spread after he posted a photo online of the nails that lead to his suspension, along with his administrator’s contact information.  With the help of Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Texas, Wilkinson went to school board meetings to advocate for a policy change. 

In December, the ACLU called on Clyde CISD to ¨do the right thing.¨ 

After four board meetings and several talks with school officials, Wilkinson said it agreed to change its policy for one semester. However, Wilkinson was not satisfied with the limited policy change.

¨I’m graduating this year, so I won’t be around to stand up for this and keep fighting,¨ he said. ¨So the lawyers got more involved and kind of guided them a bit, and my school did the great thing and made a committee to make this gender-neutral dress code and got it approved three nights ago.¨ 

In a statement to CNN, Brian Klosterboer, staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said, ¨Forcing students to follow gender stereotypes is outdated, unconstitutional, and harmful. We are thankful that the school district has changed its discriminatory dress code. This would not have been possible without Trevor’s advocacy and bravery on this issue.¨

¨It’s amazing,¨ Wilkinson said. ¨I think that the policy is inclusive to everyone, and I truly do believe that it is gender-neutral. There’s still a few things that we could change, but overall we are still making many great steps in the right direction. I’m so proud of my school and everyone that helped me get to this point.¨ 

Wilkinson’s fight garnered support from people around the country, but he said most of the backlash he received came from people in his community, those closest to home. 

¨It was hard when my classmates to mocked me and made fun of me for what I was doing,¨ Wilkinson said. ¨But at the same time, it’s been so amazing because I know there are so many people in my school that are so much more comfortable. I know that there are male students that wear makeup and paint their nails now. Some of the most severe backlash I received was from a local Facebook group trashing my life, bringing the Bible into it, saying I deserved to be beaten up, so many hurtful things coming from grown adults.”

Wilkinson said he is so grateful to have had his grandfather, Leroy Wilkinson, by his side during his battle.

¨My grandpa is my biggest supporter, 1000%; he’s been by my side throughout this whole entire thing,¨ Wilkinson said. ¨I know that he is so proud,  and if I can be half the man he is, I’ll be just fine.¨ 

In the fall, Wilkinson will be attending Texas Tech and plans to major in political science with a minor in psychology with a law degree in his future.

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