Gender-Neutral Washrooms for Canadian High School Students
by lizzfowler on February 23, 2015 - 8:35pm
For the past few years, and especially now in 2015, the transgender and non-binary community's voices have become louder and louder. The details of Bruce Jenner's transition are all over the news, and celebrities like Laverne Cox are getting more and more recognition for their talent, not just their non-conformity. While non-binary and non-gender conforming people are being seen by the public with more passion and empathy than ever, there are still serious issues that trans, non-binary and other people face on a daily basis. Of all of the serious problems, using the public washroom can be pretty high up for many people. People who don't fit what society sees fit to be considered a man or a woman often find themselves in uncomfortable and often life-threatening situations when using restrooms in public. Trans women are often stereotyped to be voyeuristic men in disguise violating cisgender women's privacy. Trans men can be physically assaulted if certain cis-men find that they do not belong in the men's washroom. Anyone who does not fit the idea of 'man' or 'woman' can have the cops called and face charges just for using the washroom.
Using public washrooms, however normal and boring it may be for cisgender people, does have a significant influence on our gender identities. I don't know about you, but I, as a cis-woman, would be pretty upset if all of the sudden I was forced to use the men's washroom. I would feel uncomfortable and threated, and it would compromise my self-identifying as a woman. This is the feeling that many trans and non-gender conforming people feel.
The article Gender-neutral Washrooms Part of CBE’s Plan for New Schools talks about the importance of 20 new unisex or gender-neutral washrooms in Calgary schools. Sam Dyck, a transgender student at Forest Lawn High School in Calgary said in regards to his own school opening gender-neutral washrooms: "Gender neutral washrooms should be included in schools because there's more people like me. There's gender neutral identifying people, and anyone along the trans-identifying spectrum who don't feel comfortable walking into the girl's or the boys' washroom" In this CBC article, Sam Dyck goes further into what his experience with his transition was like, and how the Calgary Board of Education was very open and willing to listen to him on the topic of gender-neutral bathrooms in high schools.
Naomi Hiebert, who spoke to Global News about the opening of more gender-neutral washrooms in schools in Calgary said "There was a time when I was less obviously female where I would be very much afraid to use gendered washrooms in public because I did not fit people's expectations of either gender". Naomi Hiebert, who was not out as a trans woman in high school but was "visibly gender-variant" dropped out in her grade 12 year, which was a major contributor to her leaving. She says "We're all just in there to use the bathroom; that's literally it. It's the only reason we're in there-so all those other arguments against them, they're kind of moot. They don't make sense in the context of what we're trying to do to access a public space."
An argument that many have against gender neutral washrooms in schools is the idea that children don't have an idea of their gender at younger ages. People often confuse gender identity and sexuality (and clearly do not bother to learn the difference). I personally knew that I was a girl since before I could speak. I had a sense of gender identity at that young, and many, many people do. John Jolie-Pitt, as an example of a famous trans child that many know of, has known that he was male (with copious criticism from the press to say the least) since he was around three years old.
In 2014, between August 1st and 5th, Montreal held The Camp of Six Colours, which is a camp for children aged 7 and 15 who are transgender, intersex, gender-creative and gender-nonconforming. At the camp, there will be gender neutral washrooms and activities that are focused more on friendship and team building as opposed to focusing on individual gender identities. The counsellors and staff are parents of transgender/gender-non-conforming children, or are transgender/gender-non-conforming themselves.
Access to the use of a washroom while in school or in public is a basic human right. What people seem to forget is that trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals are people, too, and they are just as human as everyone else.
CBC News. "Gender-neutral Washrooms Part of CBE's Plan for New Schools." Cbcnews.ca. CBC News, 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/gender-neutral-washrooms-part-of-c....
Tucker, Erika. "Transgender Youth Embrace Gender-neutral Bathrooms Coming to Calgary Schools." Globalnews.ca. Global News, 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://globalnews.ca/news/1814558/transgender-youth-embrace-gender-neutr....
Hanna, Chris. "Quebec’s First Camp for Transgender Youth." Montrealfamilies.ca. Montreal Families.ca, 1 July 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.montrealfamilies.ca/Montreal-Families/July-2014/Quebecs-first....