Transgender students in Puerto Rican public schools will for the first time be allowed to wear uniforms that match their gender identity. Up until the announcement this week, students would be punished for breaking the rules if they didn't stick to the tradition of girls wearing skirts and boys wearing pants.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is taking a small and simple step towards LGBT … http://t.co/4hKgcJI6l3
— LGBT Space (@LGBTSpace) October 13, 2015
"It's a bit late, but it was approved, which is important," Cristina Torres, director of a high school in Ponce, Puerto Rico's second-largest city, told the Associated Press. "Changing people's mentality from one day to another will be hard…The most incredible thing is that young people can accept this with an open mind, but it's the adults who discriminate."
There have been a series of changes in support of LGBTQ rights under the current administration in Puerto Rico. In August, the government outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Earlier the year, the justice department dropped their official opposition to same sex marriage, and approved state photo IDs that accurately reflect the genders that transgender citizens identify with.
"Everyone knows my religious beliefs, but it is not for political leaders to impose our beliefs. We must push for progress in civil and human rights for all citizens equally. As Governor of Puerto Rico, that’s my duty," Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said at the time.
Advocates hope the new measure of freedom with uniforms in schools will mean that LGBTQ youth on the island will feel more supported and protected in coming out.
"Our responsibility is to protect students' rights," Torres said.