Openly gay Ocala, Florida high school student Justin Reynolds was well-received by his fellow students last week when he appeared for classes in (very casual) drag as way to highlight gender identity discrimination. But the school sent him home anyway.
Inside the halls of any typical American public high school, the outfit would hardly be construed as outlandish: a V-neck T-shirt, blue jeans and high-heeled boots, accentuated by earrings and a necklace. Worn by a male student, however, the outfit might raise some eyebrows. That’s what it did at Dunnellon High School, where last week 11th-grader Justin Reynolds showed up at school dressed that way, sporting eyeliner and mascara as well. His appearance led to his early dismissal by school administrators.
“It wasn’t anything overdramatic,” Reynolds said of his attire. “It’s an expression of yourself, no matter what. To dress out of your own gender shouldn’t be anything.” The 16-year-old student, who is gay, said he first ran the idea by his teacher a day beforehand. She discouraged it but gave him the opportunity to address his classmates that morning. “A lot of people responded to it well. I didn’t think I was causing that much of a disruption,” Reynolds said, recalling the cheers and high-fives that greeted him, especially after he spoke in tribute to Gwen Araujo, a transgender California teen brutally murdered in October 2002.
According to a school administrator, the Marion County Code of Student Conduct “clearly states” that students must dress in a manner appropriate to their gender. Reynolds points out that the lesbians at his school “dress like boys” whenever they like, with no repercussions.