Does this Incentive Cross the Line?

Adjunct Writer Avery Young discusses the issue with the Harvest of Love’s incentive plans.


Avery Young, Adjunct Staff Writer

In our society, crossdressing has always been somewhat taboo of a subject. Historically, it has been used to emasculate black men through the era of slavery and jim crow laws. Crossdressing is also heavily considered to be inherently sexual, which ties into the reigning perceptions we have today about the queer community and sexuality as a whole. More recently, crossdressing has become something of a joke, as watching a man walk around in a dress is in itself apparently a divine comedy. Now, with increasingly diverse and open communities giving way to a more fluid perception of gender, sexuality, and how it all comes together, we have come to a crossroads. Every day we have to ask ourselves what is and isn’t okay, where the line is, and who gets a say. These are just a few of the questions that have come up with the fast approaching Harvest of Love and subsequent possible award to students of “something about Mr. Muth and a dress” according to an email sent to all Coronado staff about the Harvest of Love’s reward for $5,000 in fundraising.

The Harvest of Love is indeed upon us. Students are encouraged to bring canned goods and cash to their cougar connection teachers to help those in need for the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. The campaign aims to let no one in our community go hungry and supply families with the basic necessities. It never fails to bring students together in bouts of friendly competition, with bribes of the classic pizza and ice cream parties and the pure joy of embarrassing teachers. In years past, teachers have been duct taped to walls and pied in the face. Last year, Ms. Jacobs wore a dress. The promise of Mr. Muth in similar attire has attracted some attention. It does, however, beg the question – why is this embarrassing?

A long prevailing hallmark of queer culture has been crossdressing. With the nuances between transgender women and drag queens, as well as the cultural blending of those two identities, there arrives the conflict both in and outside of the community. With the impacts of movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Silence of the Lambs, both of which feature crossdressing antagonists, the entire idea receives an amalgamation of responses in our society. It is simultaneously a joke and a valid expression of identity, a form of sexual freedom and a confirmation of evil.

The distinction between drag queens and transgender women has long been ambiguously dressed. The difference is difficult for some to grasp, especially with the association of dress = woman. What is it about a skirt that seems to be so confusing? For many, there are issues with personal attraction and what that may mean. The fact of the matter is that there should be no shame in wearing a dress, regardless of gender identity. The break between one’s sex, gender, and presentation is one that many find difficult to grapple with at first, even for those that have been in the queer community for years. However, that is not an excuse to forego making an attempt to respect if not understand the differences between the three.In 2017, with heightened awareness regarding the LGBT+ community, people only have more questions that not everyone is happy to answer. Whether or not it is okay when it is appropriate, and why some situations need to be regarded with a different attitude than others are such difficult topics that no one has the complete answer to because one simply does not exist.

The issue with crossdressing is that is often looked down upon or done in a form of shame. The idea that someone is automatically “less than” for the fact that they are wearing a dress is deeply rooted in our society, no matter what the intention of this particular situation may be. We are socially obligated to ensure that students are coming first in high school, and allowing for a situation that is basically public humiliation to escalate without at the very least acknowledging the impact it may have on members of our community is inconsiderate and irresponsible.

In this situation, we have to ask ourselves if the idea of Mr. Muth wearing a dress in reward for raising canned goods is on par with the other “rewards” students have received in the past; shaving beards, pies in the face, etc. How does a pizza party compare to what is in store for Mr. Muth if students are able to raise the required $5000 for the Harvest of Love campaign?

There is also the question of another similar past event; is there really an inherent difference in Ms. Jacobs wearing a dress, as she did for the Harvest of Love in a previous year, compared to Mr. Muth? Initially, no. A dress is in reality just a piece of fabric, like everything else we wear. This does not mean that there isn’t meaning to it. The context, that this will be the enjoyment of students in name of poking fun at a teacher is interesting enough. The parallels of this occurring with more masculine teachers who would normally never wear a dress in their place of employment make a reasonable argument for it. However, the way this will be received far differs from one case to the next. As impressive as it would be for there to be no issue with this, as should be the case, there is too much happening socially within the walls of the school and beyond for there to be no possibility of recourse.

While it could be argued that finding fault in a teacher crossdressing for student enjoyment and a charitable cause is making a bigger issue out of the situation than there otherwise would be, we can not allow it to happen without striving to ensure the establishment of a comprehensive perspective. The historical and social connotations simply cannot be denied and to do so would be an injustice to the Cougar Nation.

When students feel ostracized by their own community, it’s time to stop and think. While no one may be hurt, it is important to remember that we are supposed to offer the youth who may be struggling with so much more than many of us can begin to imagine as safe of an environment to learn and grow in as possible. At this moment, we have to consider the impact of this decision and question whether or not this is really about the Harvest of Love, a cause which aims to fulfill the base needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. While there is nothing innately wrong with crossdressing, or even embarrassing teachers, combining the two sends a possibly harmful message about Coronado’s sensitivity to transgender and crossdressing students that should at the very least be acknowledged as the challenge to raise $5000 cash commences. To fail to err on the side of caution could be a disservice to the Harvest of Love, the Coronado Student Body, and the diverse community we have built here at Coronado High School.