During my first few weeks as a high school sophomore, I spent my time stressing over my homework and accumulating a stack of projects and exams to study for. As a straight CIS female, the thought of choosing what bathroom to use never crossed my mind, a privilege that I realized other people did not have. Until the day I was walking to my Spanish class and saw a sign on what used to be a faculty restroom titled, “Gender Neutral Restroom, This Bathroom is for Everyone.” Out of sheer curiosity, I looked to see that the bathroom was vacant and turned the handle to enter the stall. It was a single stall restroom, with a sink a toilet and a door that locked. Simple and to the point. Immediately the school started buzzing with talk, about how the restrooms were pointless and how nobody would even use them.
Now the town I live in is really accepting when it comes to people and their identities. Being less than an hour away from Los Angeles, for the majority, we were a progressive community that accepts everyone regardless of race, gender or sexuality. My school is a small scale charter academy where the last fight we had was over 25 years ago. It was never a place of conflict and the addition of this bathroom, wouldn’t change that. The choice to add the bathroom was sudden and happened within the student-run council. But the bathrooms were no doubt a cause for discussion among students and teachers. Many students did not mind the addition, they believed it was important that the students who did not feel comfortable going into other restrooms had a place to do their business just like the rest of us. Teachers thought that it was a hassle to now have to walk to the office to use the other faculty restrooms.
Months passed and the Gender-Neutral Bathrooms became something we had all grown used to. Many students at the beginning steered away from using them, in fear of ridicule and teasing from peers, even if they were CIS. Others used them because they were cleaner than the regular bathrooms, and had more space to do things such as change for gym class or sports practice. The bathrooms had become nothing more than, what they always were, bathrooms.
It’s no lie to say that high schoolers are under a lot of pressure to meet not only academic but social standards. With technology and social media being a large part of everybody’s daily life, many people spend time sculpting their identity through Instagram photo’s and tweets. But what about the person you are behind the screen? Many high schoolers fail to realize that these years are a time to not only prepare for the future but to discover who you are.
Gender-Neutral Bathrooms are not just a place for transgender or non-binary students. Many high schoolers have probably had thoughts regarding what they identify as because gender as said previously is a spectrum and not a black and white situation. For students trying to find a space to do their business without feeling uncomfortable or judged, this bathroom could have been what they were waiting for.
These bathrooms are meant for the people who are not comfortable using the generic bathrooms found everywhere. These are not spaces for anti-LGBTQ+ people to run away because they are just “uncomfortable” due to another person merely doing a normal everyday function. Ultimately, a gender neutral restroom would provide a safe space for many students and is something every school should consider.