Op-Ed | The Importance of Gender-Neutral Bathrooms in Schools


Keith Myers/Kansas City Star/TNS

The availability of gender neutral bathrooms are an important way to make all members of the school community feel included and comfortable on campus.

Update 11/17/21: Following the publication of this op-ed, the family bathroom located in the Prep’s faculty lounge is now open to all students.

The gender binary is complex, and the identities within it are now being spotlit far more than ever. Gradually, non-binary students are becoming newly comfortable in their identity at schools, but a major issue that stands in their way is solving the gendered bathroom puzzle. This phenomenon describes the feeling of transgender or gender nonconforming people having to decide which bathroom would lead to the least amount of discrimination or potential harassment, based on how they present on a given day. 

To avoid this, I implore Gulliver to consider the addition of a gender neutral or “family bathroom” on campus that is open to all students. The idea of a gender neutral bathroom is not at all radical; gender neutral bathrooms are currently seen in many colleges and offices. They are also available in the Prep’s faculty lounges — away from the general student population, some of which is represented by gender nonconforming people.

60 percent of transgender students avoid using the restroom at school due to feeling scared of verbal and/or physical harassment. As a result, many students resort to restricting the intake of fluids, leaving them dehydrated which does not aid in their healthy development in the long run. Although Gulliver has done a great job so far in encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion, eliminating structural barriers to these virtues is the first step to really making a genuine impact on students. 

Even though I identify personally as trans, I do not pass as such most of the time and do not feel comfortable using the men’s lavatory. However, even stranger to me is using the women’s restroom as I do not identify as such. To avoid potential harassment, I have to put my comfort aside or avoid all restrooms altogether. Either way I lose. There is, again, a simple solution to this, and although it may not help in my predicament — or the predicaments of other students in my position — within the next several days, it can help underclassmen or future Gulliver students feel more assured in their gender identity. 

Not only will gender neutral restrooms help throughout the school day, but will also help trans students feel more comfortable when changing or getting ready for extracurricular activities. Nothing is more uncomfortable to most trans people than a binary locker room. A gender neutral restroom would offer a good compromise to this challenge.

This is not a proposal for a restroom made just for transgender students (separate does not mean equal) but for an unlabeled, private restroom open to all students, regardless of identity. The reason that gender nonconforming people are being spotlit here is because their human needs are being neglected, due to only having access to sex segregated restrooms at school. It is vital that all students feel safe and affirmed at schools: this starts with making healthy learning environments that exceed course material and social events, making sure that all students are healthy and feel seen.