Image by Rhys Holman and Mira Bohannan Kumar

“No One Was Told:” On the Temporary Closing of the Gender-Neutral Bathroom

February 13, 2019

Going to the bathroom. It’s something everyone needs to do, and it can be agreed upon that one should not be forced to withhold going to the bathroom. Yet on Friday, February 1, I went to use the gender-neutral bathroom, the only bathroom in this school that I feel okay going into, the bathroom in which I feel like I have the lowest chance of being judged–simply, the only restroom I feel safe using–and I found it locked. So, a mild panic started building. I checked again on Monday the fourth. Still locked. After that I went to GLOW, the club which I lead, and I found my sponsor Monsieur Balcaen on the phone. I assumed it was just a normal phone call that teachers make, but when he hung up, he informed us that the gender-neutral restroom was locked due to something inappropriate that happened, and it would remain locked until they “get to the bottom of things.”

The entire group that uses the gender-neutral restroom went uninformed.

No one was told anything.

There wasn’t even a sign.

Now, I am not claiming overt discrimination. I am not claiming hatred. But what would you do if you went to use the restroom and it was locked? What if you were forced to go into a restroom you don’t feel comfortable in, and you had to keep your face lowered, hoping no one would notice you as an outsider? This all happened suddenly and you just need to pee. Furthermore, due to societal impacts, transgender and gender nonconforming people have higher risks of anxiety and depression. Unexplained incidents that suddenly revoke your right to pee in peace can cause anxiety and just the general feeling that you are not cared about in the community. In fact, according to the Human Rights Campaign, 40 percent of transgender youth are depressed.

We live in Iowa City, go to City High–both of these places that claim to be so great and inclusive, but are they really? Is all of the compassion just a facade for social standing that when one little thing happens allows people to take a step back in progress? After more than a year of fighting to just get the bathroom installed, people leapt at the chance to pedal backwards.

If you think that this is just a general school policy, ask yourself, would a “normal” restroom be locked if students misused the bathroom? If vaping is the issue, kids vape in class, so how about we shut down classes until they stop using the classrooms to vape? Do you genuinely think that closing the restroom is going to stop the behavior you dislike? Just because we have a club, does that make you think we are treated equally?

After three full school days, the bathroom has been unlocked. But how do we know that this won’t happen again? How do we know that at any given moment we won’t have a place we feel safe to go to the bathroom?

The locking of the gender-neutral restroom removed the only bathroom many trans and gender nonconforming students felt remotely comfortable using.

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