High school draws backlash for encouraging students to cross-dress

A North Carolina high school raised eyebrows after it encouraged students to cross-dress in conventional men's or women's clothing for "Gender-Bender" day, WTVD reports. 

A student government association at Reid Ross Classical High School in Fayetteville purportedly came up with the idea as part of its plans for the school's spirit week. By Monday afternoon, the event was canceled amid criticism from parents and LGBTQ advocates alike, according to the station. 

In an interview with WTVD, Valentina Graham, one of the first parents to voice concerns, said she felt that Gender-Bender day crossed a line. 

"I accept any child that chooses to cross-dress, but for a public institution to promote cross dressing, that's unacceptable to me," she said. 

Members and advocates of the LGBTQ community also expressed issues with the event — though for different reasons. 

"It's more so saying that people only express gender through dressing," Kori Hennessey, the education director at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, explained to the station. 

Hennessey additionally argued that the event did not take transgender and gender nonconforming students into consideration. 

"I'm sure there's students within this school that deal with some of these things, the mental issues and things like that and societal pressures telling them they have to be a certain way," Hennessey said. 

In a statement to WTVD that same Monday, Lindsay Whitley, a spokesman for the Cumberland County Schools District, said that Gender-Bender Day had instead been replaced with a different theme. 

"In an effort to promote inclusion and resolve some of the concerns raised, SGA leaders at Reid Ross met with the high school counselor this afternoon and decided to change Wednesday's theme," Whitley said. "It will now be Meme Character Day."