By Charlotte Houston, Intuitive Writing Project student
It’s passing period, and you have to trek all the way across campus to your next class, where the teacher has a strict bathroom policy. You also feel ready to pee your pants. For a lot of people, this isn’t a problem— just stop in at one of the many bathrooms arrayed around campus. For transgender, gender neutral and gender nonconforming individuals, however, every visit to a public bathroom comes with the the fear of harassment. At my school, Miramonte High School in Orinda, CA, the only place in which students can feel secure is the bathroom in the nurse’s office.
“I seriously think Miramonte needs a real gender-neutral bathroom,” transgender senior Danielle Reaves said. “It’s honestly ridiculous that I to have to walk all the way to the nurse’s office from across the school every time I have to go.”
Gender neutral restrooms can be used by anyone, regardless of their gender identity or expression, and are generally just a single stall to ensure privacy. A gender-neutral bathroom on campus is just as much a right as handicapped stalls— it’s not a “special privilege,” as no one should have to compromise their safety every time duty calls. A new law instituted in California last year requires public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom, locker room, or join any non-coed activity with the gender they identify as, not the one that’s listed on their birth certificate.
Having one bathroom that transgender students can feel safe using, on one corner of campus, is disrespectful to the community of students who don’t feel comfortable in heteronormative facilities. “At Miramonte, if something is different, it’s scary and strange,” Reaves said. “Some people, quite frankly, can be dicks about it, but you just have to hang out with the accepting ones.”
With the recent ruling for the legality of gay marriage in all fifty states, strides are obviously being made for the LGBTQ community. Celebrities like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner are shining light on the issue, but it seems the fight isn’t over. 41 percent of transgender people commit suicide in America, compared to the 1.6 percent of the general public. Housing, work, and educational discrimination are still rampant for this group of people. Transphobia is still ingrained in our country’s practices and attitudes.
In the past, as elsewhere in heteronormative country, there have been similar issues with traditions and institutions at Miramonte that make a person choose a strict boy or girl identity. Senior portraits force students to dress in either a suit or dress and, for people who don’t conform, this becomes an issue. The designated boy/girl green and white graduation gowns have also caused problems, but students have become creative with sewing the different colors together. “I think some of these things are so etched in our tradition that there’s no way to change it,” Reaves said.
In 2012, Miramonte banned the the annual Boys-vs-Girls rally that pitted the two genders against each other. Boys and girls could purchase blue and pink shirts, respectively, to show their spirit. The school’s decision angered many people, both supporters of the tradition and people who argued that the school was actually just ignoring trans people, instead of trying to include them. “As more awareness comes, we try to do what we can to be more accepting,” associate principal Jan Carlson said. “We make sure there is access to whatever is needed, like the room adjacent to the girls P.E. locker room that makes it so people can have a comfortable place to change.”
We can’t continue to ignore and push away these issues and pretend we have resolved them. Including transgender students and making them feel like a part of the student body, instead of isolated and separated special cases, is the next step in creating an accepting environment.
This article originally appeared in the October issue of The Mirador.