All genders welcome: Bathrooms to accommodate Blake’s spectrum of identities


Artwork by Zoe Nyberg-Powell

Kelly Brakken, Staff Writer

This archived article was originally published in the print edition of Spectrum on October 28, 2014.

It is important for Blake to be an inclusive community for all people. Through clubs such as GSA and Justice League, we have begun to build a (small, imperfect) support group for minority students. All of us know we are extremely lucky to receive the level of education that Blake has to offer. However, it is obvious that there is a drastic imbalance in privilege between our students that cannot go unacknowledged. The awareness and activism within the Blake community is still improving, and with that growth, new issues are being brought to our (and the staff’s) attention.

The recent subject of controversy in many schools across America is, of all things, bathrooms. Gendered bathrooms. To the large cisgender portion of the student body and faculty, this may seem like a trivial and unnecessary topic of discussion; why, after all, would we need to change the current bathroom arrangement? To assume that having specific male and female bathrooms is necessary is to ignore and disclude the great variety of gender identities present in our school.

There are a handful of transgender and gender nonconforming people at Blake that do not identify as the sex they were assigned at birth, and while they are able to use the restroom that is fitting to their gender, they may still experience harassment if their peers perceive them as being in the “wrong” bathroom or express discomfort in sharing that space with them. For people that identify outside the gender binary, the bathroom situation can be even more of an issue.

Gender, like sexuality, is a spectrum. There are many people that do not identify as either male or female, but as a person whose gender falls in between, or perhaps a person with no gender at all. Gender nonconforming people may not feel comfortable using a restroom that requires them to associate themselves with either side of the spectrum. In the words of J.J. Kahle, “Traditionally defined “Men’s” and “Women’s” bathrooms force people to define their gender as they push open a door and occupy a gendered space. That, alone, can be distressing to people who don’t identify with that gender choice.” The gendered bathrooms compromise the comfort and safety of trans and non-gender conforming students, sometimes causing enough anxiety that those students will begin to avoid using the school bathroom at all costs. Not only can this lead to the development of chronic health issues such as UTIs and bladder infections, it can potentially keep students from eating or drinking during the school day, which puts them at a higher risk for eating disorders and dehydration.

The solution to this problem is based off of a genuinely simple concept. School bathrooms will be converted to all-gender bathrooms, where anyone is able to use a toilet or urinal within locked stalls. Currently at Blake, there is one gender neutral bathroom located in the sub basement near the black box theater. This location is extremely inconvenient for students that have a short amount of time between classes, some of which may be all the way up on the third floor. The bathroom also is a single-stall bathroom, which further decreases its availability. Sage Bergeson, ‘17, says the bathroom’s location is “unwelcoming”, and doesn’t properly “accommodate the needs of gender nonconforming students”.

However, bathrooms such as this one allow a sense of privacy, and should be available as an alternative bathroom for anybody who may be uncomfortable using all-gender multiple-stall bathrooms.

Blake is proud of its wide spectrum of beliefs and identities, and we need to acknowledge and take action to make our school a more considerate space for students of all genders.