Many periods in history are defined by a movement that swept over society and engulfed citizens in a discussion that led them to learn, reconsider their beliefs, and hopefully, progress. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Americans discussed the issue of civil rights; through protests, boycotts, sermons, and articles, Americans examined African-American civil rights issues. While these discussions were often violent and unjust, they were necessary for progress and ultimately lead to changes like the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Such movements solidify the idea that change is impossible without the reevaluation of a norm; dialogue within a society that captivates all citizens and all perspectives is of the utmost importance for reevaluation. At the core of all past social movements exists the examination of conflicting definitions of equality and justice. We too are examining equality and justice; however, our focus is larger than women’s or gay rights. American society has broadened the horizon and is discussing gender and sexual orientation equality. For example, on June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. With gender and sexual orientation equality in mind, I call upon schools and public facilities to consider opening a third bathroom option labeled gender-neutral; gender-neutral bathrooms will promote equality between people regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
California policy bans discrimination based on sex, but allows districts to dictate their own policy regarding transgender bathroom rights. As of Jan. 1, 2014 all public schools in the San Mateo County must allow students “to participate in sex-segregated school programs, activities, and facilities, including athletic teams and competitions, consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records” (AB 1266, Section 221.5 of the Education Code). Nicole Cisneros, Co-President of M-A’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club, shared that as a gender fluid student it is “overwhelmingly victorious [to be] able to step into a bathroom that one corresponds with without being negatively affected. Obviously, people will still complain, but at least you can say, ‘By law, I can be in here.’”
Allowing students to adhere to their chosen gender is a great step for gender and sexual equality; however, as Cisneros mentioned, “People will still complain,” so, why not open gender neutral bathrooms to more powerfully combat gender inequality? Rather than maintaining strictly defined and gendered bathrooms, gender neutral rooms would be an equalizing factor for all. This year, an elementary school in San Francisco, Miraloma, adopted gender neutral bathrooms in order to “[remove] any confusion or discrimination from the bathroom routine at Miraloma.” Gender neutral bathrooms are also on a rise in universities. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s LGBTQ organization, The Stonewall Center, “a hundred-fifty universities in the United States have gender neutral bathrooms.” These institutions have established a standard that schools and public facilities should follow. M-A’s current construction poses the perfect opportunity for the school to add a gender neutral bathroom.
However, the topic remains controversial as people have various opinions on the issue. Opponents of gender neutral bathrooms believe that it could be dangerous to share bathroom facilities with people of different genders. While, there is no evidence behind such claims, people are usually not willing to change their beliefs overnight.
A sweeping movement to ban all gender segregated bathrooms and replacing them with gender neutral bathrooms would be counterintuitive and distance opposers of gender neutral bathrooms even further. However, having gender segregated bathrooms and not opening gender neutral bathrooms is equally extreme and unjust. Thus, I propose to all schools and public spaces to provide a third gender-neutral bathroom option. This would allow anyone who so wishes to use the bathroom without the limitation of gender.