Gender Neutral Bathrooms

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In the beginning of this week, Townsend Harris High School is adding a gender neutral bathroom on the sixth floor.

Principal Rosemarie Jahoda recently announced through an email, “that a multi-stall gender neutral bathroom is available on the sixth floor to the right of the elevators for use by students only.”

The bathrooms on the sixth floor are currently closed. One of the bathrooms is currently being used by the Robotics team for storage purposes while the other is completely empty, which is the one that will be the gender neutral bathroom.

Ms. Jahoda gives credit to the GSA club, School Leadership Team and the custodians for making this addition happen.

Sarah Gafur, one of the presidents of the Gender Sexuality Alliance club, explains “the new change happening in the bathrooms is the inclusion of a new bathroom for all students to use regardless of gender identity or expression. This non gender specific bathroom is open for students.”

Gender neutral bathrooms have been in the spotlight, recently. From the beginning of 2015 to now, Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to protect transgender individuals from discrimination. And one way of protecting of their rights is by having gender neutral bathrooms.

Assistant principal Ellen Fee informed us that “gender neutral bathrooms should be accessible in public spaces in general.  Our school has had a gender neutral bathroom since 2011, but it hasn’t been very publicized.”

However the gender neutral bathroom was not efficient as Sarah stated, “it is not efficient for students to go all the way down to the first floor, into the nurse’s office to use a gender neutral bathroom. Most students have class on the fourth, fifth or sixth floor and going all the way down to the first floor would take too much time. Thus having a gender neutral bathroom on the sixth floor will be more convenient for everyone.”

Assistant Principal Veronica York, who is the new advisor of GSA, discussed her point of view: “The idea of gender neutral bathrooms is something adults have to think about, not students. It’s a non issue for them, since they are growing up with this concept, rather than being introduced it recently. To me, it’s just a way of life.”

In regard to cost and expenses, Ms. Fee commented that the school was able to “avoid any costs” by  “making repairs in the sixth floor girl’s bathroom, to “ re-purpose” it.

GSA Board members shared their thoughts about the new bathroom.

Co-president Michelle Illescas said: “ I’m really optimistic about the opening of this bathroom as well as the reaction that the student body will have. So far, we’ve only received positive feedback. However, my biggest fear is probably that some people will be opposed to the opening or make those use the bathroom uncomfortable somehow.”

Web master Vicki Jagdeo is happy with the new change but hoped it will be accepted by the student body at large: “My biggest fear about this bathroom is that people will make a joke out of the bathroom and use it, and still make gender neutral conforming people and other people…feel uncomfortable.”

Sarah is by far the most hopeful about the new change: “The bathroom will foster a new hopefulness within gender nonconforming students and students who are transgender. Now that they are given a safe space for students to use the bathroom without fear of being singled out allows them to feel safer and more secure in their own identity. This is the a small step, but a step nonetheless, that leads to total acceptance of people in every shape and form.”

Ms. Fee stated that “everyone’s process of coming out as LGBTQIA+ is different and can happen at a variety of times in life. By opening a multi stall gender neutral bathroom on the sixth floor, we are attempting to create another safe space that validates all gender expressions.”

Ms. York shared her final thoughts with us: “I trust the student body. They know what is right without being told. I believe they know what to do and how to act, even when they is not a teacher near. If you believe in all those things, then there shouldn’t be any fear.”

As of November 16, 2016, the gender neutral bathroom is open for all students to use.

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