One of the most prominent trans rights issues in the news this past year has been efforts to make sure trans people have access to public restrooms of the gender by which they identify. Now, Miraloma Elementary School in San Francisco has chosen to eliminate gendered restrooms altogether, which is even better. Hopefully many more schools follow their examples.
Since 2013, under California law, all schools are already required to let students use restrooms that match their gender identity, even if that gender identity differs from the one they were assigned at birth. San Francisco has had a similar law for a decade. However, at Miraloma, there are several students who don't fit traditional modes of gender expression or identity, from kids who identify as boys but wear girls clothes to kids who identify as trans. And so the school decided that what made the most sense for their student body was to simply make all restrooms gender neutral.
“Some elementary schools in the district have created one space for a student on the gender spectrum to use. Here at Miraloma, we are the first elementary school in the district to say that’s not good enough,” Principal Sam Bass explains on the school website.
As the website lays out, this change will happen gradually. This year, the change will only affect the first grade classrooms, which have single user restrooms for student use that will now be gender neutral. And as this year's first grade class moves into second and then third grade, those classrooms will also convert their restrooms, which will all be single-user restrooms. The school is still debating how to convert the larger restrooms for fourth and fifth graders, which are on a separate floor, but they feel they will have worked something out by the time the change is scheduled to happen, in the 2018-2019 school year.
The whole thing is pretty awesome, first and foremost because it creates a supportive and accepting space for gender non-conforming kids, but also because it sends the right message to the entire student body. Rather than being given the impression that gender is a rigid binary, a lesson they would then need to unlearn as adults, kids at Miraloma are being taught the far more accurate lesson that gender is fluid, and that people who don't conform to norms about gender identity and expression are still welcome.
As Principal Bass says on Miraloma's website, the need for gender neutral bathrooms is not an issue that only affects a few students, but that impacts all students. "Not only do we want ALL of our students to feel safe, supported, and comfortable to be who they are, we want them to understand systematic equality for everyone. We are teaching them a valuable lesson."
So far, the change seems to meet with parent approval. Parents of kids with non-traditional gender identity or expression are particularly happy. “As parents, you eventually realize it’s not your job to change your child’s personality,” Miraloma parent Gedalia Braverman, whose son wears both boys and girls clothes, told SFGate. “It’s not my job to identify and pigeonhole my children’s genders, and certainly it’s not the school’s.”
Hopefully more schools also see things this way, and with luck Miraloma will be only the first of many elementary schools to embrace gender neutral restrooms.
Images: Sam Howzit/flickr; Giphy (2)