This article analyzes the operative fears informing protests of gender non-conforming K-12 students’ challenges to school bathroom, locker room, and dress code policies in the United States. It argues that anxieties raised by parents, administrators, and commentators can be understood not just as transphobic, but as mobilizing rhetoric centered on fears for the child or children as a vulnerable social category and proteophobia, or fear of the ambiguous, uncategorizable, and changing. In light of this language, and of the youth of K-12 gender nonconforming students, dress code battles specifically may allow T/GNC advocates to further a conception of gender not just as an identity, but as an expressive practice of self-fashioning or exploration.

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