The Malta Independent 26 September 2017, Tuesday

Gender neutral options for uniforms 'will benefit more than just LGBTIQ individuals'

Joanna Demarco Wednesday, 13 September 2017, 13:48 Last update: about 12 days ago

When it comes to uniforms, having more options in favour of gender neutrality will benefit more than just LGBTIQ individuals, according to Silvan Agius, Director for Human Rights and Integration within the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality and Member of the LGBTIQ consultancy council.

Contacted by The Malta Independent, Agius elaborated on the benefits of having uniforms which are not constricted to just ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories.  The term ‘gender neutral’, which has been re-surfacing more often  across local media of late, means not being confined to the two genders, but rather, being open for more categories, or none at all.

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“Thinking beyond gender non-conforming people for a moment, there are some women who do not feel comfortable in skirts,” said Agius, who explained the situation from a different angle, “whilst women wear skirts frequently, others may prefer wearing only trousers,” he said. “In my view, the fact that some women who never choose to wear a skirt are suddenly made to wear skirts for work is discrimination, being forced to wear something which you may not feel comfortable in.”

“At the end of the day, being comfortable could potentially help them perform their job better,” he suggested, adding that, “the issue needs to be addressed more thoroughly.”

Asked whether a gender neutral uniform mean one uniform which is worn by everyone, or the option to have a choice to wear either of the typically gendered uniforms, Agius replied  that he would opt for having more than one option, and would remove the ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories on the uniforms. 

“I would go for the latter and I would also remove any unnecessary differentiation,” he said.

The topic came into discussion following a Facebook post by Police Union Chief Sandro Camilleri, who expressed his support for gender neutral police uniforms, after a police officer, assigned female at birth, requested to wear the male police uniform, occurring for the first time within the police force.

“We have the first case in the police where one of our shop stewards is seeking to not wear the female cap and wear the male cap instead,” he said.

He also stated his support to remove gender differentiating titles that are present within the police force, namely ‘PC’ and ‘PWC’.

Commenting on the issue of gender segregation within the police force, Agius said that the issue is “broader” than just uniforms. “Police men and women have different roles, and their titles are different,” he said. “That in itself indicates that the issue is broader than uniforms, but it is more of a gender divide that needs to be bridged, it is a very specific context.”

Asked what could be a reasonable implementation within a workplace when it comes to gender neutral uniforms, Agius suggested to have all options available to employees.

“A workplace could, for example, make all options available to the individual, and it will be up to the employee to pick and choose what suits them best,” he said, explaining that options could be more than just skirts and trousers, but, perhaps also trousers which are more feminine.

Aguis gave another example where this would be beneficial. “If I am a transgender individual in the process of transitioning into a woman but I am not feeling comfortable wearing a skirt yet, I could opt to wear the more feminine trousers,” he said, concluding that “equality is not about reducing the options, but rather, adding more options.”

 

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