The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

‘Gender Inclusive, Not Gender Exclusive’: Middle School ISU’s Fight for Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

An image of an All Gender Restroom sign. The Middle School ISU is working on implementing more gender-neutral bathrooms. (Anna Orso/The Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Middle School ISU and Middle School Assistant Principal Eric Beck are currently planning to implement gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms at WIS. The process is ongoing and the date of implementation is undecided.

ISU’s intent behind the implementation of these bathrooms is for gender non-conforming and transgender students to have a safe space so they feel comfortable going to the bathroom at school.

Gender binary means that a person identifies as one of the three biological sexes: female, male or intersex, which is “a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the boxes of ‘female’ or ‘male,’” according to Planned Parenthood. These people are cisgender and are most likely to use the gender-specific bathrooms.

People who identify outside of the gender binary often fall under the gender nonconforming umbrella. One example of genders outside the binary are transgender people, which are “people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be at birth,” according to National Center for Trans Equality. Another example is non-binary people, who are “people who feel their gender cannot be defined within the margins of gender binary,” according to LGBT Foundation. These people often prefer to use gender-neutral bathrooms rather than gender-specific bathrooms.

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“Our hope is instead of having to install [gender-neutral bathrooms], we can take bathrooms that are already in use and repurpose them to make them gender inclusive,” 7th grader and ISU Co-President Sienna Rapaport said. “It could take time but hopefully not an insane amount.”

The locker rooms are similar to the bathrooms, according to 8th grader and ISU Co-President Tindra Jemsby. As WIS repurposes gender-specific bathrooms into gender-neutral bathrooms, they will also change the locker rooms. Currently, the gender-neutral locker room at WIS is labeled the ‘Visitors’ Locker Room.’ WIS aims to change the name so that gender non-conforming and transgender students feel more welcome.

“[The school should] make sure that everyone is okay and that they feel safe when they are going to go to the locker room,” 7th grade gender fluid student Finn Franusic Dauphin said. The gender-neutral bathrooms will be open to all students, regardless of gender identity. “[It’s] gender inclusive, not gender exclusive,” 6th grade transgender student Caroline Gardiner said.

This school year, WIS implemented a Gender Inclusion Policy. “All students may use the restroom designated for the gender with which they identify and/or the gender-neutral option,” it states regarding bathrooms and locker rooms. “A student will have access to the locker room facility that corresponds with the student’s gender identity.”

WIS’s introduction of gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as the Gender Inclusion Policy, is part of a larger movement towards gender inclusivity in D.C. public and private schools. The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)’ Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Policy Guidance outlines, “Transgender and gender nonconforming students are entitled to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity… All students must have access to the locker room facility that corresponds to their gender identity.”

By establishing policies promoting gender inclusivity and providing resources like gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, DCPS and WIS are making gender nonconforming and transgender students feel safer and more comfortable at school.

By Isabel Robbins

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