The Importance of Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

The+Importance+of+Gender-Neutral+Bathrooms

Mo Nobel and Molly Patton

You stand in front of the two doors. The two choices. Be misgendered or risk the chance of harassment and odd stares. Everything seems to cloud around you and it’s just all too much. This is what gender-non-conforming students have to deal with on a daily basis. While finding a restroom for most people might be easy, for people who do not identify as their biological sex, just going to use the restroom can be a daunting task. The only seeming options we are given are boy and girl, but what happens when you are neither? Gender dysphoria is a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. So when being forced to choose between bathrooms, it can cause gender dysphoria to rise. Here at Haddonfield Memorial High School, we have gender-neutral bathrooms for this reason. The problem is, no one seems to know where they are, nor that we even have them. 

Our school has been taking steps towards being more accepting and inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community. One of those steps has been creating gender-neutral bathrooms for those who don’t identify as strictly male or female, or who don’t feel comfortable in a gendered bathroom. But, even though this advancement has benefits for people who are gender-nonconforming, it also has some downfalls. So far, there are only four gender-neutral bathrooms in school, with a fifth one pending. The locations of some of these bathrooms aren’t easily accessible for students during the school day. These bathrooms can be found in Ms. Penna’s office, on the second floor of the C-wing in the ‘science hallway’, and in the basement of the C-wing. These bathrooms have only one stall which means that if a student needs to use it between classes, another student or a teacher might be using it. And since there are only four throughout HMHS, it’s not likely that a student will be able to find an open bathroom and get to class on time.

But, why are these bathrooms single-stalled? Well, there is a large concern for the well-being of students if these bathrooms are multi-stalled. We talked with Mrs. McHale to understand what concerns caused the push for multi-stalled gender-neutral bathrooms to be turned down, and she stated that ,“We had concerns with students that have experienced any form of sexual assault being triggered if someone came into the bathroom while they were in there.” She also included that, “Our overall concern is safety and we must put that first while making all students feel safe and accepted.” Though a multi-stalled gender-neutral bathroom might be harmless for some students, it could cause other students to feel unsafe. Bathrooms tend to be an epicenter for bullying and harassment, and having a gender-neutral bathroom that has multiple stalls could pose a problem. Even though single-stalled bathrooms are not the most convenient for students, it is the safest route.

We interviewed students on how they felt about the gender-neutral bathrooms, but here’s the problem: most students were not aware we had any. Multiple students claim that they didn’t know these bathrooms existed. We need to raise awareness among students that they have another choice and do not need to feel caught in the storm of gender-based pressure. Some students we talked to who knew about the bathrooms wished that they were more accessible. A freshman at our school, Diana Huebl, voiced that, “People need to be made more aware that that is an option.” We also found out that unless the bathroom is open you need a key because the outside is always locked. So, students will have to find a staff member with a key, which is not a fast process. Not only that, but it can be embarrassing to have to ask a teacher for a key to use the restroom. Some students might be scared they will be judged or questioned.

In the end, we are still in the fight to make school a safe place for girls, boys, and everyone in-between. Using the bathroom shouldn’t be embarrassing, stress-filled, or scary — it should be a simple, everyday thing. We all need to be more cognizant, respectful, and supportive of each other’s differences, to provide a healthy environment for our school community.