A San Francisco elementary school will be replacing gendered bathrooms with neutral facilities in an effort to be more inclusive of transgender, queer, and non-gender-conforming students.
According to principal Sam Bass of Miraloma Elementary School, this change is meant to meet the needs of around eight non-gender-conforming students who have been brought to his attention. He said:
There’s no need to make them gender-specific anymore. One parent said, “So, you’re just making it like it is at home.”
The bathrooms of kindergarten and first grade classrooms, and an additional central bathroom, are now gender-neutral. Bathrooms for older children will soon follow suit, writes Jill Tucker of SF Gate.
There has been no parental outcry in protest of this decision, according to Kiri Blakeley of the Daily Mail. In fact, many parents have expressed enthusiastic agreement with the plan.
One first grader identifies as a cisgender boy, but likes to dress and look like a girl, with long hair and feminine clothing. His mother shared that when he went to summer camp, he chose not to use gendered bathrooms at all, resulting in an accident and subsequent embarrassment and isolation, as well as an example of how stressful gendered bathrooms can be for young non-gender-conforming people. She said:
I think most people don’t think about how difficult it can be, going to the bathroom for someone like my son. He was just struggling with it quietly. Now he can just use the restroom without thinking about it.
Another student, Ari Braverman, identifies as a boy, but wears both boys’ and girls’ clothing, and refuses to be tethered to a particular gender presentation. His father, who approves of the change, said:
As parents, you eventually realize it’s not your job to change your child’s personality. It’s not my job to identify and pigeonhole my children’s genders, and certainly it’s not the school’s.
Ari himself said:
I think it’s nice because then people don’t have to be separated just to go into bathrooms. It’s just easier to go to the bathroom if there’s just a bathroom.
The needs of transgender people are increasingly in the national spotlight after the high-profile name change of Caitlyn Jenner, and the fame of stars and activists like Laverne Cox (actress in popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black) and Janet Mock (former People.com editor). This is by no means a new movement — it can be traced back to the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and a strong tradition of outspoken activists since — but as the larger LGBTQ movement becomes more successful, transgender people are being granted more rights and more attention to their needs, including in schools.
A law passed in California in 2013 requires that students be allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, a policy that San Francisco adopted a decade earlier.
Schools in Ottawa are also instating gender-neutral restrooms, writes Dayna Evans of the Cut.