All Gender Restrooms – If Schools Are Doing It, Shouldn’t We Adults Do It Too?

There's a set of bathrooms in the student union on campus that have been under repair for the past year and a half.  I finally asked someone if they were removing mold or something, but their answer was, "No, they're finally creating a gender-neutral bathroom."  Later, I found out that the all gender bathroom would catch our institution, the 5th largest higher education institution in the nation, up to the rest of the public institutions in the state as well as many high schools.

Should gender specific bathrooms be a thing of the past in our schools?  How young is too young to neutralize the potty problem?  One school in San Francisco says it's never too young, especially if children as young as 6 years old are dealing with gender identity issues.

The boys’ bathrooms and girls’ bathrooms will become just bathrooms at the first San Francisco school to go gender-neutral.

Miraloma Elementary started removing the circles, triangles and stick-figure signs from restrooms at the start of this school year, in part to acknowledge six to eight students who don’t fit traditional gender norms — kids who range from tomboys to transgender, said Principal Sam Bass.

So far, bathrooms in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms at Miraloma, as well as a centralized bathroom, are gender-neutral. The school will phase in the other restrooms used by older children over the next few years, including outside bathrooms with multiple stalls.

How that will happen and how much it will cost is still in question, but the community is committed to getting it done, Bass said.  “There’s no need to make them gender-specific anymore,” he said, adding there has been no pushback from parents. “One parent said, ‘So, you’re just making it like it is at home.’”  Gender-neutral bathrooms, she said, were the thing her son was most excited about at school this year.

A 2013 California law requires schools to allow students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity, a policy San Francisco passed 10 years earlier.  But it’s rare for schools to remove the boy-and-girl stick figures from all restrooms, said Alison Pennington, pro bono attorney for the Transgender Law Center in Oakland.

At Miraloma, parents started raising the issue to address the needs of students who didn’t fit perfectly into one gender or the other.

One first-grader was born a boy and identifies as a boy, but prefers to look like a girl, with long hair and traditionally female clothing, said his mom, Jae, who gave only her first name out of concern for her son’s safety.  “I think most people don’t think about how difficult it can be, going to the bathroom for someone like my son,” she said.  She said that when her son went to summer camp, he chose not to face potential challenges by peers in either the boys’ or girls’ bathroom, and instead went in his pants. Embarrassed, he isolated himself from other campers, she said.  “He was just struggling with it quietly,” Jae said. Now, “he can just use the restroom without thinking about it.”

The school district’s responsibility is to create a safe environment for all students so they can learn and thrive, said Kevin Gogan, the district’s director of safety and wellness. That, he said, means accepting and accommodating the 1 percent of all middle and high school students who identify as transgender — who add up to more than 300 students. – sfgate.com

Are you shocked that this potty issue is now in 1st and second grades? 

Is this San Francisco school doing the right thing?

I think we have a long way to go.  Needing to use the urinal, I walked into one of the campus bathrooms.  I noticed two stalls were occupied and men were seated and I could tell they were waiting for me to leave before proceeding with their "process."  Good lord men, if you can't have a bowel movement with another man in the room, just wait until the ladies start coming in. 

The all gender bathroom issue reminds me that you're not born with bigotry, homophobia, hatred, etc.  And you're not born with body shame, you learn that, too.  All gender bathrooms could be a great thing, not just for LGBT or individuals working through gender identity, but for all males and females and gender fluid individuals.

Go San Francisco!  Keep up the good work!

What are your thoughts?

And if elementary schools are doing this, shouldn't we?  What about at sporting events?  Concerts? Restaurants? Or will we have to wait for the more tolerable generations to get older and then make the change?

For more of the SF Chronicle article, go to sfgate.com.  Jill Tucker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jtucker@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jilltucker

What do you think?