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Guest Opinion: The Need for a Gender-Neutral Bathroom
An open letter concerning the need for a gender-neutral bathroom at City High.
May 8, 2016
A gender-neutral bathroom should be made available at City High. Using the wrong-gendered bathroom is both degrading and potentially dangerous to transgender students. Many transgender students feel that using either bathroom puts them at risk of being physically harmed or assaulted, and we believe this is a reasonable worry, especially considering previous encounters.
Centrally located bathrooms have become a necessity.
For anyone transitioning from female to male, going into a men’s bathroom can involve verbal harassment, threats, and physical altercations. These students are told they aren’t “real men”. Multiple transgender male students confess that using the men’s bathroom “feels like I’m asking for a bad situation to happen” and they “don’t feel safe using the men’s [bathroom].” One student admitted to being physically assaulted because someone in the men’s bathroom perceived him as a woman.
However, someone transitioning from female to male can’t safely use the women’s bathroom either – he can face verbal and emotional harassment. For example, one student said, “It is humiliating and stressful.” For another student, using the women’s bathroom results in “at least one person asking if I’m a boy and why I’m in the girl’s room.” But that’s not even the worst part. A student confessed, “Multiple girls scream bloody murder upon seeing me in a women’s bathroom. They accused me of being a pervert. One time a girl threatened to report me for sexual harassment.” Just for using the bathroom. Women tend to see transgender men as men, but men tend to see transgender men as women, so neither bathroom is safe.
Other transgender students who need gender-neutral bathrooms are nonbinary and genderqueer students, especially if their gender expression is nonconforming to either binary gender. With androgynous gender expression, a person’s gender can be ambiguous, which exposes us to the emotional disturbance and lack of personal safety as someone who is transitioning from female to male, or vice-versa.
The administration always emphasizes how a school should be a safe environment for all students. This includes bathrooms. As of now, the safest bathroom is located in the Fine Arts wing, more commonly known as “the dungeon.” It is a single women’s bathroom in the back corner of the floor. This location is in the far reaches of City High and is extremely inconvenient. It’s not accessible to all students, as some don’t even know of the bathroom, or the location.
It is critical to our safety that a well-maintained and appropriate unisex/gender-neutral bathroom be provided, preferably one with stalls. We realize people are worried that separate bathrooms will seclude transgender students rather than including them; however, none of the students we talked to felt this way. On the contrary, being provided a safe bathroom is a small but incredibly significant step towards inclusion.