Saturday, October 17, 2009

CROSSdressing / Upholding the Legacy

As a proud student of the Atlanta University Center (a consortium of schools that include Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University, of which are so close they share the same library), I am particularly attracted to the current debate going on at Morehouse College. Recently the school launched its "Appropriate Attire Policy". this policy has caught national attention due to a clause that specifically bans the wearing of "women's clothes, makeup, high heels, and purses..". This policy is a new attempt to address ALL inappropriate attire. It also bans "the wearing of hats in buildings, pajamas in public, sunglasses in buildings, and etc."

If you frequent Atlanta, GA, you are probably well aware of its growing GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, & Transgender) community. And, if you have your eyes open to pop culture, I am also sure you are aware of the growing acceptance of the GLBT community, such as the acceptance of gay marriage in some states, the entrance of "Vogue Evolution" on America's Best Dance Crew, and the popularity of Dwight of the Real Housewives of Atlanta (pictured above on left, taken from ESSENCE magazine). This growing acceptance has crossed over into our educational institutions. Is this a bad thing?

Morehouse, an all male HBCU, has several notable Alum, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is consider amongst the community as the "Ivy League" of Historically Black Colleges & Universities. One student of the college insists that Morehouse College has "a legacy that we are trying to uphold". Therefore he agrees with the current policy in place. Some students are in limbo, and do not agree with some of the policy, as far as how students are allowed to dress on the campus outside of the classrooms. The college confirms that is was only a handful of students that dressed according to their GLBT lifestyles, and admits that students who do not adhere to the new rules will not be allowed in class and if a repeat offender, you will be subject to suspension.

As an Alum of Spelman College, I know how important the traditions are. For Graduation we ALL had to wear flesh tone hosiery and black closed toe shoes with WHITE dresses. I wasn't to happy about it, but I could set aside my selfishness for THREE DAYS to uphold a magnificent tradition of educated Black Women who came before me, but what about an entire school year, or four?

Being of the AUC, I cant imagine how my professors would react if a Morehouse student attended class (students frequently take classes at all three institutions throughout their matriculation) in heels, red lipstick, and a gucci bag, let alone the male professors at Morehouse College (I have one in particular in mind). I wonder if the other schools of the AUC are adhering to this policy? Can a Morehouse student take all their classes at Spelman (which I encouraged my Morehouse brothers to do, because you get 4 credits/class rather than 3 at Morehouse), and dress as they would on Morehouse Campus before this initiative was passed? For those of you who are currently in school, would a cross-dressing student distract you from obtaining your education. For those of you who are in the work field, would you hire an educated Black man that wore heels to a job interview? How much is too much? You have to draw the line somewhere right? But where?

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  1. I think the policy is insensitive to the diversity of the human race and personal pursuit of happiness. However as they are a private university, I guess it is within their rights to set the expectations of the student body. The policy involves more than crossdressing and I take issue with some of those as well. I personally would not be distracted from my education if I had a crossdressing classmate.

  2. I am a Morehouse Man (for those who aren't familiar with the lingo/jargon I am a graduate! lol yes I'm still that proud) as well as a passionate advocate of expression and urban culture. My Spelman sister enjoyed informing me of how my traditional Morehouse saunter was sprinkled with my C-Side Rich City bounce as I made my way across the stage to receive my degree during the Commence exercises. I have showed up to hip hop events in business casual attire, as well as accepted academic achievement awards in a White-T & jeans (during high school). I have given inspirational speeches in throwback jerseys and I have freestyled in ciphers in a suit. The dichotomy of me as I call it lol. With that said, I am somewhat on the fence with my opinion about the policy that has caused so much controversy. I am slightly puzzled as to why it has drawn so much outside/national attention. I almost feel as if we have allowed our "family business" to be scrutinized by those who are not of the branches of our family tree.

    First to address a few issues. I have never seen a Man of Morehouse wear a dress to class. Be it in jest or a serious part of their personal expression. I'm not saying it hasn't occurred but within the four years of my matriculation (lol why do we abuse that word so often?) I have not witnessed such. Second of all, I somewhat understand the administration felt the need to institute the policy in regards to events that hold more gravity such as Crown Forums. Note I said "somewhat." Crown Forum often grows to be mundane and loses its meaning. There are time when the event holds an apparent weight when there is a guest to be honored. At these times, I somewhat understand. As for sagging. I will come out and admit I have been guilty of sagging. Growing up in the environment I grew up in I was often chastised for wearing form fitting pants or "nutters" as we referred to them (it's funny how nutters are in style now...I don't think I can walk in stride with that trend). So when I got the chance to purchase or choose my clothing they were always oversized. As a result my pants would sometimes fall slightly, and I emphasize slightly below my waist side. However, my undergarments never showed being that my equally oversize shirt was never tucked in. Amongst my peers, within the comfort of my neighborhood and in appropriate venues this was my attire. I also knew when to dress in a traditionally acceptable manner. Morehouse is home to all of its students as well as dwelling quarters to a significant number of students. I understand the need to feel comfort within a place you invest so much of your time. Whether that be urban attire or PJs on your way to 8am class...

  3. I heard an argument advocating the policy from an older Alumnus asserting that it is training for the real world. The Alum continued by stating members of the current generation would be at a lost without the proper discipline the policy would affect upon the student body. He held that such training would build good habits when preparing for careers within Corporate America. Hypothetically, the students would be knowledgeable to look a certain way when competing for internships or career position within established companies. Morehouse Men and Men of Morehouse are amongst the best of the best. The paragon of the Talented Tenth W.E.B. Dubois described within Souls of Black Folk. It is borderline offensive to insinuate that we don't know better. As if we are oblivious to the acceptable dress practices beyond the walls, be it physical or metaphorical, of Morehouse.

    I also heard an advocating argument for the policy will affect uniformity in order to uphold a certain image...Is that necessarily a good thing?

    Morehouse is an undergraduate liberal arts institutions. Individuality should be celebrated. MLK, one of our most famous alumni and greatly responsible for that great image to be upheld, was as individual as they come. He dressed accordingly however he thought differently. Maybe Morehouse doesn't cultivate such individual thought. If you review Dr. King's transcripts he didn't very well academically while enrolled at Morehouse. Don't get me wrong I love Dear Ol Morehouse and what it represents but it is the people. Special people. The people who don't necessarily fit in. The people where the concept of normality doesn't sit well with them. These people make up the name that carries so much weight internationally.

    Homosexually is prevalent at Morehouse. This is not a secret. Again I've yet to see someone wear a dress to class. Nor have I seen a transgender student enrolled in any of my classes. I consider myself to be extremely open minded. I've always thought that the national question of homosexuality in regards to Civil Liberties and Civil Rights has always been an unnecessary one. Homosexuals are human beings with that said, should be afforded such rights and liberties. That simple. What someone does with another person without harming another should be left to that person's prerogative. Now...with that said lol, I'm not gonna lie hypothetically I wouldn't be comfortable sitting next to a transvestite or trans gender. It's my own homophobia that I fight within myself being that I came up within a traditional urban black culture, rich with bravado and machismo.

    I'm sure I'm missing some points I wanted to make I'll post them later as they come to me.

    Much love to Super Relle


  4. I agree with the imposed policy I could care less about your sexual orientation.But college is a professional environment where men are prepared to lead. And Morehouse has set the standard and will continue to do so.

  5. As a current student at Morehouse, I feel as if in instituting this policy it is less about GLBT lifestyles and more about simply enforcing the "stereotypical" Morehouse man and reinforcing doctrines and principles to that end. No one is trying to deny anyone's sexuality, but what purpose is there in expressing it in an academic setting? To what purpose do stilettoes and purses serve in a classroom? I fail to see the basis for crossdressing academically, and so I support the dress code.