If any bathroom is going to be locked, it shouldn’t be the one for all genders


Izzy Willette

Pictured above is an illustration of a locked gender neutral bathroom door and open male and female bathroom doors. The locking of the gender neutral bathroom is especially impactful to some trans and nonbinary students because for some of them it’s the only bathroom they feel comfortable using. Sophomore M. Malo said access to the bathroom is so necessary, “because there are a lot of people who are questioning their gender, and it’s nice for them to have this space where they’re not going to be judged for going into there because anyone can go in there.”

Izzy Willette, Features Editor

Many of the bathrooms here at South get locked, but one bathroom above others needs to always remain open: the all-gender bathroom. This second-floor bathroom, which was transformed from female-only to all-gender in 2015, is meant to be a comfortable place where transgender and nonbinary students can have access to a non-gender specific bathroom. But because of the disrespect it faces from students and its common inaccessibility, for some students using the bathroom has become more of a privilege rather than a right.

Locking the all-gender bathroom can take away the chance to use any bathroom at school. As South English teacher Mary Manor said during a union mediation meeting between the MPS district and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT 59), “[I teach] students who, from the time they come into the building at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning till they leave at 3:30 or 4:00 in the evening, can’t use the bathroom….because they don’t have consistent access to a gender independent bathroom.”

Senior Reya Jones, who is a leader of both South’s Gender Equity Collective (GECO) and South’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), mentioned that “In GSA last year we talked to the security guards and [they] solved the problem for about a month… but it’s continued this year… one of the next things we’re focusing on is [to get the bathroom] open and accessible for students.”

Principal Aponte explained the situation from administration’s point of view: “They’re locked when, believe it or not, kids smoke marijuana in them. Then we close it to air it out and we call the engineer… it takes about an hour an hour and a half for the smell to go away.” Aponte added that “the other reason a bathroom would get locked if somebody has trashed it.”

“[The all-gender bathroom is] not being locked because I… or anybody wants to be mean,” Aponte continued. Yet while locking the all-gender bathroom may not be intentional in creating a less comfortable environment for trans and nonbinary students, it’s important to remember that not having restroom access can have a significant impact on a student when they’re at school.

As students we need to consider that when we occupy a space like the all-gender bathroom, it’s necessary to treat it with respect. If the administration justifies locking the bathrooms for reasons like drug use and “trashing” the space, students must take extra care to leave the gender neutral bathroom for its intended purpose: as a bathroom.

Sophomore Red Gustafson said in an interview that ”lots of trans students don’t know how they’ll be perceived in the [gendered] bathroom[s]. Some people are afraid they’ll get beat up or made fun of. It’s happened a couple of times here to me and to other students. I haven’t been attacked, but people will snicker [and] whisper about you. It’s not fun.”

As sophomore M. Malo explained, access to the bathroom is necessary “because there are a lot of people who are questioning their gender, and it’s nice for them to have this space where they’re not going to be judged… because anyone can go in there.”

He mentioned that when he was questioning his gender identity “the gender neutral bathroom was the only bathroom I felt comfortable using.” At times when the gender neutral bathroom was locked, he was forced to use the women’s restroom and it felt almost “degrading.”

“[It’s closed] because people use it as a bathroom just to have fun and just to go when they’re bored or… because people just hang out in there,” said Gustafson. Jones mentioned when people smoke or clog the toilets in the bathroom it’s not just fun and games: “It’s bad because people are left without a bathroom to use.”

Whether or not the disrespect the all-gender bathroom receives from being locked is intentional or not, it’s still there and this is a problem. “I don’t think they do it on purpose, but [the bathroom is] always kind of the last thing everybody thinks about,” said Gustafson.

According to Principal Aponte, when the all-gender bathroom is locked there is a “back-up bathroom” in the nurse’s office which is not gender specific. However, this bathroom is not conveniently located and most students don’t know about it. Aponte also mentioned that he is open to suggestion when it comes to the issue of the bathroom being locked and that, “if somebody has a better idea I’m down.”

In terms of truly solving the issue, Malo suggested, “I feel like there should be another one that could be open on the first floor, like one of the guys’ bathrooms that are there.”

If gender independant bathrooms are going to be locked, then a different gendered bathroom should be converted into another gender independant option. I don’t believe the student body would mind sacrificing one bathroom so that all students can have access to a bathroom where they feel comfortable.