Nelson College for Girls students and GALS co-leaders Katie Greenaway and Sarah Eynon model the pants that will now be offered at the school. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Fancy pants

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After 134 years, Nelson College for Girls will allow students to wear long pants to school.

The decision has been described as a major win for the LGBTQ community.

Sarah Eynon and Katie Greenaway are the co-leaders of GALS, (Girls Alliance of LGBTQ and Straights), and have been at the forefront in the fight for their right to wear pants.

The seventeen-year olds say it has been a long process.

The idea was initially proposed to principal Cathy Ewing. Then students completed a survey before it was put before the school board.

“Happily, they saw it as a good addition to the uniform,” Katie says.

Katie and Sarah say the change was for students who didn’t feel comfortable with the gender restrictions of having to wear a skirt all the time.

Katie says there was very little resistance and they were quite overwhelmed by the support.

“It was actually a lot simpler than we thought it would be, we were ready to fight for it, but we seem to be at a point where people agreed it was necessary.”

Sarah says a lot of the students said even though they would not personally wear them, majority wanted to see pants as an option for other students.

“It’s 2018, so everyone should have the option to wear pants or a skirt and it’s great that the school has agreed.”

The first call for a uniform reform was made by former GALS leader Sophie Standford in 2017.

Katie says even though Sophie won’t get to wear the pants, she is happy that she helped pave the way for other students to wear them.

“We understand that there are kids in the school that don’t identify as female, we wanted to offer an option to make them feel a little more comfortable.”

They say it feels like a major win for GALS.

“It feels unbelievable and the school has been so awesome, never once did we feel like this was a bad idea.”

Katie says she will be wearing the pants once they arrive, but Sarah says they don’t suit her very well.

GALS was founded in 2009 with a focus on supporting anyone from a gender or sexual identity minority but also girls who are straight with LGBTQ family members or friends wanting to be there for them.

Katie says the next battle GALS face is the use of gay slurs.

“People don’t mean to, but often the word gay is thrown around as an insult and that’s something that we really don’t tolerate.”

Sarah says it’s become normal and GALS want to spread the message that it can be very harmful for people who do identify as gay.

“It has a run on effect, if people use gay as an insult then they will think things about gay people that aren’t true, it’s quite oppressive to hear.”

As LGBT students, Katie and Sarah both say they feel very accepted as part of the school community.

“There are changes that can be made but we have come a long way,” Sarah says.
One of these changes includes the use of girls as a collective pronoun.

“When teachers greet us they say, ‘hey girls’ when it can be as simple as saying ‘hey everyone.’”

While changing the name of the college may be a battle they can’t win, Katie and Sarah say these are small ways to make those LGBT students feel more accepted.