Administration makes plans to install new gender neutral bathrooms

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Administration makes plans to install new gender neutral bathrooms

Sneha Gaur

Updated Oct. 21: A previous version of the story that appeared on Oct. 21 included an incorrect pronoun. The misstatement of gender has been corrected.

Story by Sneha Gaur and Jessica Xing

Two mauve doors, labeled boys and girls, confront junior Olivia Wu. In order to use the restroom, Wu is forced to pick between two genders — genders that they don’t identify with.

Wu identifies as agender, meaning they don’t associate with any gender and use the pronouns they/them. Because MVHS doesn’t currently have unisex bathrooms, Wu is forced to choose between the male and female restrooms.

“I get used to it now,” Wu said, “because it is the social norm that there’s a ‘men’s’ restroom and a ‘women’s’ restroom, but it is still uncomfortable each time…I have to choose option A or B when I am actually option C.”

They used to feel frustration, but now Wu just feels resigned, because now it’s easier to just choose the option society deems acceptable for them.

“So, before I enter a bathroom, I just say ‘Oh, it’s the norm I have to do this, and it is more socially acceptable, there is no option C right now,’” Wu said.

Despite this, Wu admits it would be a lot easier for non-binary students if the school had gender neutral bathrooms.

MVHS, as it turns out, previously had non-gendered bathrooms, but they were proven temporary or ineffective as students did not have full access to them. Last year, there was a gender neutral bathroom on the exterior of the library, but in order to access it students would need to get a key from one of the librarians.

“Students now, they don’t want to be identified, so going into the library and asking for a key feels a little uncomfortable for them,” said principal April Scott. “They want their privacy to be protected, which I completely understand.”

Because of this, Scott hopes to create something permanent for non-binary students to use, something they can have full access to.

“We want to find a place where we can create a [safe] environment for them,” Scott said.

The New Bathrooms
The easiest way to add gender neutral bathrooms is by relabelling a few of the single person bathrooms in the school, but as Scott pointed out, many of these single bathrooms do not have stall doors or are only accessible through the staff room. This creates an issue of privacy and accessibility — the only bathroom that doesn’t have any of these problems is the bathroom in the downstairs A building, near the rows of lockers, or the one upstairs B building.

The new gender neutral bathroom in the A building. The sign and locked will be changed in the future to respect students’ privacy. Photo taken by Sneha Gaur

The new gender neutral bathroom in the A building. The sign and locked will be changed in the future to respect students’ privacy. Photo taken by Sneha Gaur

To give non-binary and agender students even more privacy and help them feel safe, Scott plans to change the locks on the A and B building bathrooms so that all students can enter the bathroom if it’s not in use or lock the door from the inside. The lock will also specify whether it is vacant or occupied to protect the identities of those who are still closeted, like an “airplane bathroom,” Scott said.

“If someone does not want to be identified, and they don’t want to come forward, which we totally respect, we would have a bathroom in the A building,” Scott said.

After the bathroom is ready for use and the door is furnished with a “unisex bathroom” sign, she will notify the members of Monta Vista’s Gender Sexuality Alliance. She hopes that the bathroom won’t be abused by gender-conforming students if its existence is not widely publicized.

“It is not that it’s a secret, we are not trying to hide it — but we are going to go after the population that requested it and deservedly wants it, and let them know the option is there,” Scott said.

Scott realizes that word will get out, and while the bathrooms are not off-limits to the public, she mainly wants to protect and respect the privacy of non-gendered students, who don’t have a place they can go to.

“The vast majority of the population claims male and female, and they have places to go. So we figured that it’s not that we are excluding them, but they already have a place where they feel safe and that’s appropriate for them,” Scott said. “So we just wanted to make the announcement for those who felt like they didn’t have a place.”

The Impact
“I think it is a definitely good idea,”said junior Janae Zhang, the Public Relations officer for the GSA. “There are no gender neutral options right now, and with the gender neutral bathrooms closeted people would not have to identify themselves if they are uncomfortable.”

GSA has been asking administration to install a gender neutral bathroom since the beginning of the school year. The library bathrooms, according to Zhang, were inconvenient. If someone wanted to use the gender neutral bathroom last year, they would have to go to Joyce Fortune, advisor for MV GSA, who would direct them to the librarians. The librarians would then give them a key, and every time they wanted to go to the bathroom they would have to essentially ask the librarian’s permission for access.

“Non-gendered bathrooms are important because they provide nonbinary and other transgender students with access to something as small as being able to use the restroom without being judged, especially for those who have not come out,” said Zhang.

Wu understands why the administration will only announce the new bathrooms to GSA, especially because it protects non-gendered students from the negative stigma usually associated with this subject matter. They are concerned that if the bathrooms were widely publicized, then many people would take advantage. Wu said they talked to a friend who is uncomfortable because the bathrooms also wouldn’t be limiting people going in. That way, anyone who “identifies”, as Wu said would be able to use it.

“If you don’t publicize the bathroom, then there’s going to be no negative, so then people won’t go, ‘Oh, there’s a gender neutral bathroom? Ugh, what?’ or ‘Oh, I can take advantage of that,’” Wu said.

Wu never heard about the non-gendered bathroom option last year. They were surprised when they first found out about the restroom on the exterior of the library, or that there were temporary solutions last year for them to use. While they are aware of the negative effects and reactions, they do not want to be kept in the dark about these bathrooms as well.

“Basically, by not publicizing it,” Wu said, “You are not allowing people from the MVHS Community to use it.”