Gender neutral bathrooms would be more inclusive

Ruby Dennis, Staff Writer

Let’s be frank: the world has a lot of progress to make regarding gender issues. Violence and discrimination towards transgender and non-binary people (those who are neither male nor female, or are more than one gender) is rampant. Life’s difficult for people whose gender doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth.
Bathrooms being separated into “male” and “female” stems from the common belief in society that a person must be either male or female, with no other options. In other words, the dreaded gender binary. This concept of only two genders needs to go.
“I don’t think we should dichotomize people like that,” argued senior AJ Gerick. “There are more genders than just male or female, there’s all sorts of genders in between that. There’s people who identify as a gender other than what they were born in… We should consider it less of a binary and more of a continuum.”
While it might not sound like the most important problem, introducing a gender-neutral restroom would improve many students’ wellbeing. “Having a bathroom that’s gender neutral would allow people a space where they wouldn’t have to feel the need to identify in that most basic level of just being a person,” said Gerick. “If you have a gender neutral space, then you don’t need to be like, ‘OK, well I am either this thing or this thing, and I really have to go to the bathroom. So I really have to make a choice right now.’” A student simply looking to relieve themself should not have to worry about feeling comfortable.
“Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity,” declared the U.S. Department of Education in a statement released April 29th. South should be following this to the letter by giving everyone a place to relieve themselves.
Gerick, who is transgender, hasn’t used the bathroom at school for a year and a half. “I don’t feel comfortable going into the men’s restroom because I feel like there could be awkward looks… not necessarily everyone would know that I belong there. I also don’t feel comfortable going into the women’s bathroom, because I look like a guy, and that could be really uncomfortable for girls who are in the bathroom already,” he explained. It’s ridiculous that people feel uncomfortable just using the restroom that best fits their gender identity.
Some may argue that adding a new restroom to the school is expensive, and therefore is not an option at the moment.
However, such a step isn’t necessary at all. “You wouldn’t really have build anything new, just kind of change the signs,” suggested freshman Ella Barnhill. People who make these arguments are simply “being silly,” they added.
Unfortunately, other opponents of a gender neutral bathroom could simply be “uncomfortable with different perspectives and ways of being, like people who probably think that all people should be cisgendered,” said Gerick.
Anyone could to make use of such a space or decline to, regardless of gender. The point is to ensure South students’ comfort and safety. Therefore, people who object the usage of gender neutral bathrooms would not be affected, and have no reason to be uncomfortable with the idea.
Grant High School in Portland, OR, received media attention for its conversion of six bathrooms to gender-neutral. This was lauded by students and staff alike. Grant’s principal, Vivian Orlen, told the school’s student magazine that “it helps [Grant] be a better school for everyone.” When public high schools such as Grant make this step and find success, their example should be acknowledged and followed.
South has many gendered bathrooms. There would not be any marked impact if one or two were converted into gender neutral spaces, which could be accomplished in less than an hour, by changing the sign from “Women’s” or “Men’s” to “Restroom.”
The idea that gender must match up to one’s genitalia is commonly expressed in the separation of men into bathrooms with urinals and women into those with stalls, incorrectly reinforcing the concept that gender and assigned sex always match up.
Arthur Campbell, a sophomore, is currently writing a paper for Ms. Manor’s English class about the subject of gendered restrooms. Campbell will propose in the essay that “in general… we don’t need to have two separate bathrooms, we could just consolidate them into one.”
Converting any of the building’s restrooms to one free of gender constrictions will not free us from the gender binary or stop transphobia, but it would be an enormous improvement in the safety and comfort of South students.
“It would be just so useful for anybody who… doesn’t really identify with either gender or isn’t comfortable with going to a bathroom for either gender, AKA labeling themselves as one gender or another,” Barnhill explained. “[But] it doesn’t exclude regular people from using them. It’s a win-win!”