Oxford University has recently altered subfusc regulations in order to respect the needs of transgender students.
The decision, which will come into force on 4th August, will see subfusc becoming gender-neutral and will allow transgender students to wear what they wish without needing to obtain permission from University Proctors before sitting exams. All students will be able to make their own decisions about what they wear to exams and formal university occasions and will be free to choose whether to wear a bow-tie or ribbon, or a skirt or a suit.
The campaign, led by OUSU’s LGBTQ Officer Jess Pumphrey, was initially passed by OUSU in February and was then taken to the University Proctors for further information. Pumphrey told Cherwell, “This is an important and very welcome change, which will greatly improve the experience of transgender students, particularly during the exam period.”
They added, “This change allows transgeander students to fully, comfortably and safely participate in the tradition of subfusc, without worrying about whether their gender will be scrutinised by examiners.”
Simone Webb, President of LGBTQ Soc, also told Cherwell about how the changes would benefit transgender students, saying, “I think this is a brilliant change which, while small, will lessen the stress which transgender students face around exams.”
Former Trans rep for LGBTQ Soc, Gail Bartlett, also welcomed the changes, adding, “The real motive of this change is that students who may be transitioning gender will no longer have to have the added stress of worrying that they will be challenged on their clothing”.
They both expressed disappointment over how the news had been covered in the national press. Webb commented, “I am saddened by much of the national reporting on the changes, which has misleadingly claimed that the new rules are aimed at facilitating cross-dressing”, whilst Bartlett told Cherwell, “much of the popular press has missed the point, with provocative and inaccurate headlines such as ‘men in dresses’ and ‘gay dress code’”.
Although the University was unable to offer an opinion on the changes, a spokesperson said, ‘The regulations have been amended to remove any reference to gender, in response to concerns raised by Oxford University Student Union that the existing regulations did not serve the interests of transgender students.’
The changes have met with positive reactions from students. 1st year Keble Biology student, Jessica Norris, said that the changes would “bring subfusc up-to-date’ and that ‘people in today’s age should be able to express themselves how they wish and not be constrained”.Â She added, “I don’t think the new rules should be abused though but I don’t see how that could be policed”.
One first year at Magdalen, who did not wish to be named, continued, “The rules just allow people to wear a different set of clothes so I don’t see why they would cause anyone to get upset. One concern might be misuse, which could undermine the integrity of subfusc, but is that really a bad thing?”