Students leaders at Exeter University have warned that dressing in drag could be deemed as being “as offensive as blacking up”.

Male students squeezed into borrowed women’s clothing with badly applied make-up seems like the norm on many university campuses across the country, particularly amongst sports teams and partying undergraduates.

Exeter University’s Student Guild have however sent a message out to all of its members this week before events to celebrate diversity on campus, stating that dressing in drag was unacceptable, and would be considered as offense by “gender-queer” students.

The message sent to students said that: “The Guild is aware that there are several trans-identified students at Exeter University and more who express their identity as gender-queer. To parody this appearance is crass and offensive on the same level as ethnicity.
“The Guild is not demanding that all such performances stop. We are merely asking for your consideration in making sure that your own individual behaviour is not harming, insulting or mocking another student.”

Jess Bayliss, LGBTQ Students Representative Officer at the University of Sussex, commented: “While I agree with the sentiment that Exeter students should ensure the behaviour of themselves and their peers is not harming, insulting, or mocking any other student, I do not think that the banning or disapproving of cross-dressing per se is a particularly constructive endeavour.

“It is the behaviour of transphobic individuals that is more likely to harm trans or gender-queer people, not necessarily what they wear.

“It is difficult to comment on their judgement without knowing exactly what sort of behaviour Exeter SU are referring or reacting to.

“I will stress however, that the policing of gendered clothing could be seen as a step in the wrong direction, by reinforcing gender conformity and stereotyping.”

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