By Lia White, Staff Writer
//The passing of the North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, an extremely transphobic bill stating that people must use the restroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate, has become a highly controversial topic, spurring heated arguments from both sides for the past two months.
The federal government has not kept quiet on this subject either. The Department of Justice and North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory are suing each other over the law’s alleged violation of the Civil Rights Act. The Obama administration, along with the Departments of Education and Justice, issued a statement proclaiming that all trans students are allowed to use the bathroom of their gender identity in public schools, an issue that was previously dealt with on the state level.
This so-called “guidance” has little effect on Acalanes students, as California passed the School Success and Opportunity Act int 2013. This law gives trans students the right to use the locker rooms and bathrooms of the gender they identify with, along with other protective rights. Nevertheless, this guidance is a monumental step forward in the fight for nationwide transgender equality, and should not be diminished in its importance.
However, what the federal government has yet to touch upon is the placement of gender neutral bathrooms on high school campuses. Many colleges around the country have “All Gender” or “Gender Neutral” bathrooms in place, with few complaints and even fewer complications. But this has yet to be extended to many high schools.
A few years ago, Acalanes was considering converting some bathrooms to gender neutral ones, but after much deliberation by the administration, the idea was abandoned. Most gender neutral bathrooms are single stalls and can be locked from the inside, causing the administration to worry that it would become a “safety hazard,” despite the fact that the bathrooms already in place at Acalanes can lock from the inside. The school stated that students could use the gender neutral bathroom in the nurse’s office if they felt uncomfortable using a gendered bathroom.
There have been plenty of arguments against the existence of gender neutral bathrooms, but the most common one is the most ignorant one: why would we even need them?
Of course, when addressing the problems that come with this question, one must recognize that many people do not have access to education about the LGBTQ community and simply do not know that more than two gender identities exist.
Western culture has set up a strict gender-binary system. Our society has gendered many things unnecessarily: emotions, toys, jobs, clothing, hair styles, even colors are given genders. People are assigned a gender at birth, as either a boy or a girl, based on their reproductive organs.
Most people will not question their gender identity in their lifetime, but there are many who do, and with that questioning comes a whole host of new identities. There is a large and vibrant community of people who do not identify as either a boy or a girl, but rather as something else, such as genderqueer, gender neutral, agender, genderfluid, etc. The full list is fairly extensive, and many use the umbrella term “nonbinary” to describe people whose gender identity does not fit into the gender-binary, meaning that they do not identify 100 percent as either a man or a woman.
With a growing number of nonbinary people present in our society, many questions are raised, such as which pronouns they will use, how they will dress, and which bathroom they will use when in public. For people who are not nonbinary, the answer to that last question seems obvious: just use the bathroom of the gender you were assigned at birth.
It seems like an easy solution, but the reality is that it’s not that simple. Many nonbinary people feel uncomfortable using public restrooms because it forces them to misgender themselves by picking between two options, neither of which feel correct. Going to the bathroom in public is an ironic reflection of a problem that nonbinary people face everyday: people telling them that they need to “choose” a gender, insinuating that nonbinary identities aren’t real.
This problems extends far beyond Acalanes and into high schools all around the country. Nonbinary people deserve a restroom where they can feel safe about their own identity. The reason why they are denied this in so many public places is because nonbinary identities are not seen as valid in many people’s eyes. Nonbinary people are seen as confused, naive, or simply just wrong.
Does Acalanes technically have a gender neutral bathroom? Yes, but it’s very far out of the way and no one knows about it, making its existence ineffective. It would not be difficult for Acalanes to simply convert one or two other bathrooms into gender neutral bathrooms for those who need them. The administration claimed it was a safety hazard, but what about the safety of trans and nonbinary people? Do they not deserve to feel comfortable in their own school?
Adapted from Issue 8, Volume 77. Originally printed May 27, 2106.