Gender Neutral Restroom: Coming Soon to City High

Coming Soon to City High

Zoe Tyne, Reporter

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A growing trend has nearly reached City High: gender-neutral restrooms.

The University of Iowa recently installed gender-neutral restrooms in the spring of 2016. After a graduate student brought up the need for a gender-neutral restroom, 40 volunteers worked together to finance the placement of 147 restrooms.

“Gender-inclusive restrooms help to create a campus that is safe, inclusive, and supportive to trans students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors at the University of Iowa,” Teri Schnelle, the Vice President of Student Life, explained. “Providing gender-inclusive restrooms allows people to more fully participate in campus life. The goal of this project is to create inclusive and accessible restrooms on campus for all University of Iowa students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”

Bihotza James-Lejarcegui, a junior at City High, spurred the change into action when she visited Brown University over the summer. While there, James-Lejarcegui noticed something that was lacking at City High: gender-neutral restrooms.

I believe that a gender-neutral bathroom will make people in our school feel more accepted in the building.”

— River Norman-Wikner

When she returned she made it her mission to see that they made it into City High. “I met with Mr. Bacon about implanting gender-neutral bathrooms at City High,” she stated. “He was very supportive and open of the idea.”

James-Lejarcegui is working alongside the Director of Equity on the School Board Kingsley Botchway, John Bacon, City High Student Senate, Monsieur Balcaen, and EQUALS Club members to ensure that by the end of this school year (beginning of the next school year at the latest) City High will be installing its very own gender-neutral restroom, just like the University of Iowa.

Student Senate is plans to place one gender neutral restroom on either the first or second floor so that is accessible to all students. In order to identify how many students will benefit from the bathroom, Student Senate is polling students about their opinions. Click here to access the survey. 

River Norman-Wikner ‘19 identifies as genderfluid and uses they/them pronouns, a choice that some other students do not understand.

Like some other students in our school, I don’t always classify as the gender I was born as,” Norman-Wikner explained. “I’m scared to use the men’s bathroom for fear of how others will react. I know that others are going through the same thing. I believe that a gender-neutral bathroom will make people in our school feel more accepted in the building.”

Maya Chadwick is a member of the freshman student body who believes in the benefit of gender neutral restrooms.

“Students may feel safer and more comfortable during school,” Chadwick pointed out. “That may improve their studies since they have one less thing to worry about at school.”

When the gender-neutral restrooms were placed in the University of Iowa, no backlash occurred, and students have opinions on how similarly the transition at City High should go.

“I think that having gender-neutral bathrooms placed in City High shouldn’t be anything controversial,” Mariam Keita ‘20 said. “Everyone needs to pee.”’

While there are those that do not find a gender-neutral restroom to be needed, information tends to change that. Mags Chavez, a sophomore, at first did not think gender-neutral restrooms were needed. Bathrooms should not be a big deal, Chavez thought. Yet, after she learned about what people have gone through, her opinion changed.

“I realized that students who are in transitioning feel uncomfortable (and have been abused before). Or peers around them feel uncomfortable,” Chavez continued. “Not ‘woman’ enough for the women’s bathroom. Not ‘man’ enough for the men’s bathroom. So adding a bathroom would help them feel safe. Because the minute you feel unsafe in a place that is supposed to be safe, something is wrong.”

Out of the students interviewed, many expressed support for the project.  “I feel like it shouldn’t matter to people how others identify,” Drew Owen ‘20 commented. “If that means different bathrooms, then put one in there.”

While many of the student body agree with James-Lejarcegui’s opinion on the need for gender-neutral restrooms, there are those who disagree. “I felt like people were uncomfortable when they first saw it,” Mark McLaughlin ‘20 said, recalling an experience with a gender-neutral restroom he had last year in Indiana. “I asked my sister and mom if they would go in there to go to the bathroom they said no. It seemed like men were the only people going into the gender-neutral bathrooms.”

McLaughlin stated he and others he knew were concerned about how many restrooms would be changed and where they would be placed. In an interview James-Lejarcegui explained the plan as it stands now. “Student Senate has proposed switching one of the men’s bathrooms on the first floor to be gender-neutral.” She continued to explain that men’s and women’s restrooms would remain in place, as per the law. “Each floor of the school must have at least one bathroom designated specifically for women, and one specifically for men.”

“It’s our job as a community to make sure that we don’t allow that hateful rhetoric to survive in our community or our school,” Keita stated simply. “You are free to be as you are as long as your freedom doesn’t restrict others from being free.”