“I knew people would look at me badly,” Gómez said in the TikTok that’s been viewed millions of times since he posted it last October. Still, Gómez says he didn’t expect so much backlash. As reported by LGBTQ Nation, when he told the psychologist he was not a trans girl, he said the psychologist told him to simply wear pants. The student said his parents punished him for wearing the skirt as well.
Following Gómez’s experience, a number of cisgender male students across Spain wore skirts to school in solidarity. More recently, as reported by Seventeen, Manuel Ortega and Borja Velázquez, two teachers at Virgen de Sacedón, a public school in Valladolid, Spain, say they overheard one student calling a peer a homophobic slur because of a sweatshirt he wore to school. The teachers wanted to show their students both that words can be harmful—the student in sweatshirt apparently took his sweatshirt off after hearing the slur—and that people can wear whatever they want.
In an interview with El País, Ortega, an elementary school teacher, explained he was inspired to wear the skirt to school for the entire month of May. As reported by Teen Vogue, Ortega brought up his skirt idea to Velázquez, head of studies at the school, and Velázquez ended up not only supporting the idea but wanting to participate as well.
Across Spain, students are staging protest days where cisgender boys are wearing skirts to school as a coordinated effort. Male teachers, too, are sharing photos of themselves in skirts in the classroom and offering some personal context on why the movement is so significant.
“20 years ago, I suffered persecution and insults for my sexual orientation in the institute where I am now a teacher,” Jose Piñas, an openly gay math teacher in Spain, shared on Twitter, as translated by Out magazine. “Many teachers, they looked the other way. I wanted to join in the cause of the student, Mikel, who has been expelled and sent to the psychologist for going to class with a skirt.”
Especially in a school setting—where, generally speaking, students have to be there and can’t simply leave—it’s hugely important to see teachers and staff members support both LGBTQ youth and those who are challenging gender norms for any reason. (Even if that reason is simply that they want to wear a skirt!) Reports have shown that in the U.S., a number of teachers do support LGBTQ youth and want to be effective allies, but that they don’t feel equipped to actually step in when it comes to bullying in the classroom. The hard contrast to that point is that we know acceptance and affirmation can be literally lifesaving for queer youth, and especially for trans youth.
Like many issues, it comes to structure and support: Teachers (and coaches, and staff members, and so on) deserve access to training and educational opportunities on LGBTQ issues so they can be effective allies. And students shouldn’t have to wait around in the dark, hoping the person leading their classroom that happens to be someone who won’t misgender them or report them to the office for dressing a certain way.