Town-and-gown goes transgender

New Oxford dress code allows men to dress as women, women as men. Photo: Shutterstock
New Oxford dress code allows men to dress as women, women as men. Photo: Shutterstock
Published August 2, 2012

The University of Oxford has relaxed its rules on formal academic attire in deference to the transgender community. As of Aug. 4, Oxonian men can attend formal occasions, write exams and matriculate in skirts, blouses and stockings, while women can do the same in suits and bow ties.

Under the old formal regulations-known as subfusc (“somber”) male students were required to wear dark suits and socks, black shoes, white bow ties and plain white shirts and collars under their black gowns.

Female students had to wear dark skirts or trousers, collared white blouses or shirts with black ribbons tied at the neck, black stockings and black shoes.

If a transgender student wanted to wear subfusc of the opposite sex, he or she had to seek special dispensation from university proctors.

The new rules were sparked by a motion earlier this year from Oxford’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer society (LGBTQ Soc), which was passed by the students’ union.

Advocates of the new rules point out that transgender students will no longer have to cross-dress on stressful occasions such as writing exams.

According to an university spokesperson: “The regulations have been amended to remove any reference to gender, in response to concerns raised by Oxford University Student Union that the existing regulations discriminated against transgender students.”





  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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