Gender Neutral Washrooms: Coming Soon to a School Near You

Gender Neutral Washrooms: Coming Soon to a School Near You

Gillian Smith, News, Science and the Environment

At a meeting last wednesday, the school board unanimously approved a request from the District Human Rights Committee to include gender neutral washrooms in all SD-23 schools. The meeting was surprisingly well attended, with members of the community filling not only the room itself, but also the adjoining hallway.

Kelowna’s LGBT population had a particular impact on the meeting. LGBT youth from around the district were in attendance, speaking up about their experiences in schools, and the impact a gender neutral bathroom would have on their lives. One genderqueer eleven year old shared her experiences being harassed by adults who felt she didn’t belong in the women’s room, a story that was doubly impactful after the School Superintendent accidentally misgendered her later during the meeting. Others brought up the fact that 68% of trans youth faced verbal harassment in washrooms, and that a further 9% faced physical or sexual harassment. Another individual spoke up, calling herself an example of these statistics, and pointing out that this issue is not one of special access, but one of human rights, as per the BC Human Rights Code.

These washrooms will be single stall in most cases, and though they are available in most schools when students ask for a key, the board felt that these keys were exclusive, and made already vulnerable children feel more isolated. Due to being single stalled, it was noted that these washrooms will help students with social anxiety, or who are facing harassment for other reasons. Because they were not granted funding from the Ministry of Education, most of these gender neutral bathrooms will be a simple change of signs. For example, the very room in which this meeting took place included two gender segregated single stall washrooms, which will become gender neutral in due time. If schools do not already have a single stall washroom, there will be renovations made to meet the new requirement.

Though this will take time to unfold as the plans are being made by each individual school, gender neutral washrooms have officially been made a priority, showing a progressive move towards greater trans acceptance.