Seattle high school's graduation goes gender neutral

Graduates will now proceed down the aisle in alphabetical order to avoid male-female pairings.

The school believes asking men and women to sit with their gender puts transgender students "in a tough spot."

This graduation season, the young men and women at Franklin High School in Seattle will not be seen marching down the aisle side-by-side.

To create a more gender-neutral ceremony, the high school will forego its longstanding tradition of pairing young men and women together for their commencement procession, a practice that allegedly puts transgender students ‘in a tough spot.’

“Our traditional ceremony is wonderful and beautiful and formal, and it will continue to be that. It will just take a different shape,” the school’s principal, Jennifer Wiley, told the Seattle Times.

Members of Franklin’s Gay Straight Alliance worked with faculty members to push their school to eliminate male-female pairings, designated green or black graduation gowns for each gender, and separated seating arrangements.

According to the Times, advocates for a more gender-neutral ceremony said male and female students shouldn’t have to sit in their respective seating section if they don’t identify with that gender. Forcing them to do so could push them to “reveal something about themselves that their family may not know.”

“I’ve been to a lot of graduations in 32 years, and I don’t really see the clear value of boys on one side and girls on the other,” said David Ehrich, a language arts instructor who heads the school’s instructional council responsible for approving the gender-neutral adjustments.

Seniors at Franklin will now proceed down the aisle in alphabetical order, paired with whoever comes before them regardless of gender. However, students may still be asked to wear gender-specific green or black gowns since the school already submitted its order.

Students and instructors who pushed Franklin to revise the graduation ceremony were eager to say good riddance to traditions the saw as “pointless.”

“[S]tudents see the tradition as a vestige of a bygone era where gender norms went unquestioned,” reported the Times.

Although Franklin has adjusted its ceremony to be more gender-inclusive, five other high schools in the area will proceed with gender-specific gowns and traditional male-female pairings during their commencement ceremonies.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @gabriellahope_