Creation of gender neutral restrooms necessitated in efforts towards greater inclusivity

Creation of gender neutral restrooms necessitated in efforts towards greater inclusivity

The GBS faculty has been addressing gender related problems of students by forming the Gender In Schools Committee, a committee that brings together teacher volunteers who discuss how to aid safety regarding student sexuality and gender fluidity, according to Principal Lauren Fagel.

Fagel said the purpose of the committee was to “expand [the faculty’s] understanding of gender identity to enhance the safety and support of all students.”

The Oracle Editorial Board commends and appreciates these efforts. The Oracle Editorial Board wishes to recognize the substantial progress GBS has created regarding the learning and acceptance of the LGBT+ community. However, one issue that we believe remains to prevail is the installation of gender-neutral restrooms for those who wish to use them.

Thus, The Oracle Editorial Board proposes that GBS administrators make more gender-neutral facilities, continuing with restrooms. The construction of such spaces would stand as a physical symbol of the school’s acceptance while also providing a space for those questioning their sexual identity.

According to Gary Freund, associate principal for administrative services, private changing spaces in both girls and boys locker rooms will be created this summer. He notes these areas are intended for all students who wish to use them. The Oracle Editorial Board celebrates this development that will make students of every gender orientation feel more comfortable and safe within the walls of South.

Other than conversations about locker room spaces, there have not been any other plans to create gender-neutral facilities, according to Freund. Freund cites that GBS’s expanding population may be an issue regarding the creation of a restroom specifically for non-binary students, evident in the long lines formed in the restrooms during passing periods.

However, to currently accomodate for non-binary students, Fagel said that GBS’s Student Services personnel (guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists, school nurse) create individualized plans in regards to what is most comfortable to them.

According to Fagel, the nurse’s restroom is considered a facility that acts as a gender-neutral restroom, but The Oracle Editorial Board suggests that GBS make at least one more gender-neutral restroom in addition to this facility. The facility provided in the nurse’s office is not only inconvenient for students who are in class, but also typically designated for students who are physically ill. Therefore, creating a separate space encourages a less-discriminating area for non-binary students while considering the urgency of this arising problem.

The Oracle Editorial Board calls this issue urgent because of the necessity to consider the safety  all students, including the minority who are non-binary. When prompted with our solution, Freund said that he couldn’t comment without additional meetings with the administration. The Oracle Editorial Board recognizes the administration has already demonstrated interest in accommodating non-binary students, so we encourage further discussion.

Another reason why it’s important to have gender-neutral restrooms is to decrease discrimination from students against their non-binary peers. In an unscientific Oracle conducted survey, we recorded the responses of GBS students regarding their opinion on gender-neutral facilities. While some students supported the idea, we collected a number of comments that demonstrated various degrees of intolerance among the student population.

“It is not logical to risk the privacy of many for a few,” one sophomore male said. “I don’t really see a problem with how it is right now,” said another.

These viewpoints highlight the discrimination and transphobic views many students often fail to confront. Many don’t realize the degree to which struggling with their gender identity disrupts the teenage years; some blatantly don’t believe these struggles to be real.

However, senior Ashton Box’s situation exemplifies the vulnerability and insecurity in which such situations place LGBT+ students. As a transgender boy at GBS, he finds it difficult to safely and honestly convey his identity.

“Me going into the girl’s bathroom is very stress-inducing [and] anxiety-inducing because it makes me feel like I’m not who I think I am,” Box said. “It forces me to confine myself to be what everyone around me sees, which is a girl, even though that’s not who I am.”

The lack of gender-neutral facilities also leaves students like Box with a difficult choice: be uncomfortable, or risk discipline from authority figures. When Box attempted to use the boy’s restroom, he was informed that he was breaking a school rule.

“It wasn’t like I was making anyone uncomfortable, but […] I got yelled at, and they said, ‘If that happens again, you’re going to get in a lot of trouble,’” Box said. “I will get in trouble for being where I’m comfortable.”

Encounters such as Box’s add to the need for a conversation about each student’s gender rights. According to Fagel, there is no rule regarding who can use each gendered restroom. However, Box’s experience proves that this is not necessarily common knowledge among faculty and students and that there is an obligation to address the needs of students who don’t identify with either gender.

Box explained that he is not able to truly express his identity the way the restrooms are now. The idea of gender-neutral facilities thus makes Box hope for a better and safer environment as a transgender boy.

“If there was one [restroom] in between, where even it’s just one [restroom] in the entire school, that’d be really cool because then no one needs to know my gender,” Box said. “I don’t feel like I need to lie to myself.”

Katrina Prockovic, Gay Straight Alliance sponsor, also addresses this issue by noting the relatable perspective of the explorative and frightening experience of being a teenager.

“We all know what it’s like to be a teenager,” Prockovic said. “It’s hard, period, being a teenager, even if you are cisgender*, add to that if you’re gender questioning[…] having to pick or expose yourself to an uncomfortable situation by walking into  a certain restroom or changing room, that really spikes anxiety. And if we have the resources to minimize that, we should.”

GBS administrators have undoubtedly grown in their attempts to understand and protect their students. The addition of inclusive restrooms would be only a small step to complete acceptance for which we’re all striving. Other students may not understand the intricacies of gender acceptance; however, teachers and administrators, as the ones cultivating the great minds of the future, we hope you can continue to demonstrate interest in understanding the needs of non-binary students.