The Student News Site of Laguna Blanca School

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Gender Mutual

Clara Hillis

With the LGBTQ+ community now receiving more advocacy than ever, in both the media and the Supreme Court, the country has been progressively normalizing acceptance. Laguna Blanca is following suit, and, this year, three gender neutral bathrooms have been added to campus.

These bathrooms are another step toward greater tolerance and inclusivity within the Laguna community: they provide a safe and comfortable space for those who identify outside the gender binary.

If a student does not conform to one of the two conventional genders, or if a student is questioning their gender, they should not be forced to use a bathroom that is assigned exclusively to a single sex.

A gender-neutral bathroom provides any student who might identify as trans, gender fluid, etc. with a place that is non-discriminating and private.

But not everyone is fully on board with having these bathrooms. “I think it’s unreasonable [that] we need to devote multiple bathrooms on campus for [sic] something that only affects one individual,” one student said.

However, a student with a situation like freshman Rae Bernstein’s necessitates this sort of space on campus.

As a teenager who identifies as non-binary and prefers the pronouns they/them, having a gender neutral school bathroom — one that does not force them to fall under the label of strictly “male” or “female” — can be greatly comforting.

“You can go in there and not get weird looks, like, ‘Is that a boy or a girl?’” Bernstein said. “Because there’s no one else in there.”

Bernstein reports being harassed in public-gendered bathrooms and facing this fear every time they enter one. “Do I look masculine enough today to go into the men’s bathroom without getting beat up? Do I look feminine enough to go into the women’s bathroom without getting yelled at and pushed out the door?” Bernstein has to ask.

This vulnerability that Bernstein and any student who identifies with qualities different from those of their birth sex experiences is the exact reason why Laguna must keep working toward becoming a thoroughly accepting place.

This year, Bernstein and sophomore Athena Boyle founded the Queerly Beloved club for students who either identify as LGBTQ+ or wish to show their support. There are also “Safe Space” stickers on classroom windows to remind all students that Laguna will not tolerate discrimination.

English teacher Ashley Tidey agrees: “It takes a lot of courage to put this club together,” Tidey said. “In the 80 years of Laguna Blanca’s history, there has been no such club that allows kids a space to think about gender and sexuality.”

While the school has made several unprecedented efforts, there is still room for improvement. “Respect their pronouns,” Boyle said, in reference to ways Laguna can progress, “because I know some teachers don’t use their real pronouns, and that can be very alienating.”

However, we should keep in mind that a gender neutral bathroom is exactly that — a bathroom. For all intents and purposes, it is a single-stall restroom for anyone to use. True, these bathrooms were previously male-only, but they can only accommodate one person at a time anyway.

Is converting a few bathrooms not worth it to help ensure comfort for every member of our community?

In fact, most people come to Laguna for this very reason: the benefit of a small school is that students can get the individual attention they need.

Whether you feel that a gender neutral bathroom on campus affects you or not, the imperative thing is that we all recognize and accept its importance to some people. “I think people just need to know that maybe there are some things that they just won’t understand,” Bernstein reminds us. “Which is okay.”

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