Gender-neutral bathrooms at Acalanes

Gender neutral symbols

The vast majority of people do not have to take the time to decide which bathroom to use. However, those who do not identify as cisgender face a much more difficult decision involving both their own gender-identity and societal expectations. 

 Before students return to the Acalanes campus, the administration plans to install new gender-neutral bathrooms in hopes of creating a more thoughtful and inclusive school environment for all students.

Beginning in 2018, members of the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) at Acalanes pushed for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. 

Steph Liu and Helen Kleinsmith, both Acalanes graduates in the class of 2020, interviewed transgender students at Acalanes to understand their perspective. 

Although the bathroom in the nurse’s office is gender-neutral, it requires students to walk through the school office, and it is often closed. After years of research and communication, the QSA advocated for a more accessible gender-neutral bathroom. 

“The reason why we wanted to have a more accessible gender-neutral bathroom was that it would be a lot more convenient and comfortable for transgender and gender non-conforming folks,” Liu said. “In my understanding, choosing which bathroom to use can be a source of distress and even dysphoria. Having a gender-neutral bathroom would make life a lot easier.”

After the Acalanes Union High School District approved this project, students in the QSA were vigilant and kept up to date on its progress. 

“Really the student part was advocating and then reminding. Once the district was on board, then it was just about the logistics. There were definitely some strategic decisions as to which restrooms to alter in terms of convenience and practicality,” Acalanes Associate Principal Mike Plant said. 

These bathrooms are a major step toward making the school environment more inclusive. There are some concerns, however, about how students could use or misuse the bathrooms.

“I just hope that people recognize the importance of a bathroom on campus for transgender students and respect that,” Liu said.

Current QSA presidents Emerson Brown and Autumn Long, both juniors,  follow up with administration periodically to continue to ensure that the project is on schedule. 

The final plan for the gender-neutral bathrooms includes a single stall bathroom in the 400 wing, and a multi-stall bathroom with greater privacy near the locker rooms. The purpose of this is to spread the bathrooms effectively across campus and give students a place to feel comfortable changing.

“Cisgender students have the privilege of not having to worry about which bathroom they use. Transgender kids deserve to not worry about it either,” Liu said.

Sophomore Sophie Sawyer explained the impact these new bathrooms will have on her and other transgender students.

“Currently, using the boys’ bathroom makes me feel dysphoric, and I refuse to use the girls’ bathroom because I’ll feel like a creep. So the gender-neutral bathroom would help me out a lot,” Sawyer said.

The goal of these bathrooms is to make Acalanes a comfortable place for each and every student.

“I’m not sure how many people this will help, but even if it is only a few, it could very well change their overall school experience,” Long said.