Are We an All-Girls School?

By Sydney Andrews Paterson

When BSS was founded in 1867, its purpose was to educate middle to upper-class, white, Anglican girls. Clearly, as times have changed, these requirements were removed. Only one remains the same, being a girl. Being a girl is rooted in all aspects of school life, whether it’s the list of important attributes known as the “Signature of a BSS Girl” or calling former students “Old Girls.” This may be fine for most, but not everyone at the school identifies as a girl. There are many who, while born female, have realized that they are male, nonbinary, or a variety of other genders. So while the school’s goal of empowering the next generation of women is important, it can alienate its non-female students, which brings up the question: how should BSS address gender?

The school has made strides to be inclusive, such as using the practice of asking for everyone’s pronouns instead of assuming. Some student titles have changed to be gender-neutral, i.e. “Head Girl” to “Head Prefect.” However, this doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. Some teachers still use gendered language when referring to classes. Some students joke about the changes made to accommodate everyone, saying that “it’s pointless.” Even with the uniform, it is considered weird to wear pants instead of skirts. Either due to lack of education or unwillingness to learn about gender identity, both faculty members and students alike can make the environment unwelcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. For example, when asked their opinion, one student whose gender falls under the nonbinary umbrella said that “it’s easy to feel outnumbered and kind of like the odd one out… The second you say you’re anything that isn’t she/her, every head in the room whips around to stare at you like some creature they have heard about but never seen. I don’t think we talk enough about the different gender identities not only within the queer community but BSS Community as well.”

It is so crucial for the school to have an open dialogue with its student body in order to educate itself. Not just on the various gender identities, but also on ways to make its LGBTQ+ students feel more accepted. That way, it can become normalized to be anything other than cisgender. As well, there should be active discouragement against those who commit transphobic actions, such as not respecting someone’s pronouns or making fun of their identity. After all, Bishop Strachan may be a girls’ school, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do everything in its power to accommodate its trans and nonbinary students.