Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Rachel Tousignant

Major changes have been happening at Harwood this year. One of them is the move towards gender-neutral bathrooms. Starting in February, Harwood created four transgender bathrooms and one transgender locker room. QSA (Queer Straight Alliance), a Harwood club, and a new state law provided to schools by Rebecca Holcombe, the Secretary of Education,
 has been the main cause of the change of these bathrooms.

Junior Felix Jaborek said that QSA has been working with teacher Tedin Lange and an administrator in order to put the bathrooms in place. He said that this change has created a positive and safe environment for people who are transgender or gender-neutral.

However, there have been negative comments from some students about how transgender and gender-neutral students should “just pick a bathroom”.

Tedin Lange, an English teacher and advisor of QSA, said how “this benefits everyone, not just transgender people, anyone can use them for any reason and it makes the building more accessible to everybody.” She said that the administration had an active role in the creation of these bathrooms and relied on the input from QSA for suggestions.

The Vermont Agency of Education’s documents on Continuing Best Practices for Schools Regarding Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students states that “The use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students requires schools to consider numerous factors, including, but not limited to: the transgender student’s preference; protecting student privacy; maximizing social integration of the transgender student; minimizing stigmatization of the student; ensuring equal opportunity to participate; the student’s age; and protecting the safety of the students involved. A transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity. Schools may consider including gender-neutral restrooms into the design of new construction and/or building renovation.” This means that schools are required to allow students to have bathrooms and locker rooms where they can feel safe.

QSA is satisfied with the progress currently being made with the gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms and they are looking forward to the positive effects that the bathrooms will have on students.