To Orange, to White, or to Look Beyond Style

Caden Hansen, a Woodside junior, submitted a letter to the editor in response to the opinion piece “To Orange, to White, or to Not” by Noelia Arteaga.

Traditionally, the colors of Woodside graduation robes have been based on gender.

Michelle Le

Traditionally, the colors of Woodside graduation robes have been based on gender.

Caden Hansen, Guest Contributor

Recently, the discussion on gendered graduation robes has been opened up by Woodside’s GSA, the Paw Print, and many others. Some people have been quick to dismiss the mission to eliminate stereotyped colors as trivial—or a mere matter of “aesthetic style,” in the words of Paw Print reporter Noelia Arteaga—but this blase attitude entirely disregards the deeper social issues the robes represent.

Changing the robes is not about enforcing new rules that strictly dictate what can and can’t be worn, but rather the opposite: changing the robes is about equality, freedom, the beginning of the end of stereotypes and norms that lock people in a box and don’t allow them to breathe. Arteaga’s article “To Orange, to White, or to Not” misrepresents this entirely; it shoves social justice under the rug in order to focus on a personal desire to look good, “style wise.” This isn’t journalism; this is superficial. This is selfish.

All opinions deserve to be heard—and I appreciate the Paw Print for providing a platform where Woodside’s diverse voices can speak their truth—but I stop respecting someone’s opinion the second they use it to disrespect someone else’s existence. And, in her article, Arteaga rather grandly disrespects my existence, disrespects the identities and validity of much of her fellow LGBTQ+ community. As someone who openly identifies as nonbinary, both at school and at home, I’m in a place of relative privilege. I know that my family and friends support who I am and what I stand for, and that I have safe spaces where I don’t need to fear backlash for failing to wear either orange or white. Not many people can say that. In fact, most can’t.

I considered and still do consider the Paw Print to be one of these trustworthy safe spaces, but with my attention brought back to “To Orange, to White, or to Not,” it’s easy for that to be corrupted, for the lines between bold journalism and blatant offense to be blurred. Beyond a lack of sensitivity, understanding, and support in every sentence of her piece, Arteaga’s main argument is that nonbinary, genderqueer, trans, and otherwise non-conforming students’ comfort is inferior to fashion. She claims that “style” and “aesthetic” must come into play while our safety is unimportant; lesser. Her gown complementing her dress on graduation day? Essential. Someone’s basic human right to expression without discrimination and involuntary action? Maybe some other day.

Frankly, this sickens me. I know that not everyone on the Paw Print staff agrees with her article nor the execution of said article, but leaving it up implies that it is endorsed and supported by the Paw Print, that our substantiality as human beings is overlooked in the name of fashion and ignorance by a newspaper intending to be the voice for all of us. Even the minorities.

I know the Paw Print is supportive and accepting; I know that no one there has harmful intent. But with an article like this at the forefront of Wildcat Opinion pieces? That’s hard to believe. For some, it could be impossible. It creates stigma and uncertainty, alienates those who more than anything are desperate for validation and representation that doesn’t drip with disdain and indifference.

Please remember this while you discover, read, and form your own opinions on the article and the deeper, more pressing issue at hand. Nothing is ever truly black and white—or, in this case, orange—so take this into consideration before believing everything you read. “To Orange, to White, or to Not” causes more harm than help, and, most notably, it makes me fear who has the power to be my voice, to be all of our voices. Or, at least, who has the power to claim that they are.

This was written in response to “To Orange, to White, or to Not,” an opinion piece by Paw Print reporter Noelia Arteaga.