Transgender and non-binary students petition for gender-neutral bathrooms


Elle Rotter

Transgender students and other members of the LGBTQ+ community gather to support a petition for gender-neutral bathrooms, wanting to gain access to a gender-neutral bathroom on each floor of the school.

DESIGN SOLUTION: Offer multiple gender-neutral bathrooms throughout the school so that transgender, genderfluid and non-binary students have a bathroom to use. 

One in four members of the LGBTQ+ community identifies as non-binary, genderfluid or transgender. Another source states that about 5.6% of the U.S. population is a part of the LGBTQ+ community, estimated at about 18 million people, increasing 1.1% from last year. Freshman Addi Bertz believes that this shows that society is changing and with that our social standards should be changing too. Bertz is cis-gendered, but still supports positive growth in the LGBTQ+ community and making the environment equally accommodating for everyone.

“Having two gender-specific bathrooms, just male and female has been around for a long time, and society is changing,” Bertz said. ”Things similar to that also have to change to make sure everyone is comfortable. Sometimes changes like this are required.”

The increasing population of the LGBTQ+ community supports conversations for gender-neutral bathrooms in schools, public buildings and places of work, as many people don’t associate with one gender. Because of this cause, transgender student, freshman Lu Schuetz started a petition for more gender-neutral bathrooms in school. For Schuetz, walking into a bathroom associated with birth gender feels weird, awkward and unsafe. 

“[Using school] bathrooms makes me feel irritated or distressed. I often just wait until the end of the school day, when I can return home to use my bathroom where I can lock the door and be comfortable,” Schuetz said. “I have issues sometimes even going in public as [a transgender male] because there are people out there who don’t see us as normal. Being in a restroom is one of the places where you aren’t safe either way [because of] that discrimination.”

Freshman and transgender male Spade Shearer adds to Schuetz’s thoughts about feeling unsafe and agitated in school bathrooms. Both feel as if they have faced verbal harassment in bathrooms due to their gender, and even though they would prefer to use a bathroom that associates with their genders, Shearer feels as if that would create bigger problems. 

“If someone sees me in a female bathroom, they are automatically going to assume that I am a female, and I am not,” Shearer said. “If the [gender neutral bathroom] is easy for me to access, I’ll use it. But I know that if I go to the guys’ bathroom, I could get in trouble for that, so I don’t use the school bathrooms at all.”

In order to help gain support for gender-neutral bathrooms in schools, Schuetz started a petition to help increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms in Parkway Schools. 

“These restrooms would be for people who aren’t cis-gendered or don’t want to use a bathroom specific to a gender. There’s a whole bunch of men’s and women’s bathrooms but there’s only one gender-neutral bathroom,” Shearer said. “It makes us more uncomfortable, especially because they are hidden away from the rest of the school and harder to access.”

Currently, the building has a single gender-neutral bathroom in the nurse’s office, at the front of the school entrance. Schuetz advocates for transitioning one current bathroom on each floor into a gender-neutral bathroom. 

“I hope the petition gets more people to sign it. Someone defaced one of our petitions saying ‘boys will go in the boys, girls will go in the girls’ and it really hurt our feelings, so I am hoping if the school supports this plan, people will see the error of their ways,” Shearer said. “Hopefully [these bathrooms] will be normalized because explaining pronouns is uncomfortable and a lot of time I get ignored and people will continue to [refer to] me as a female.”

Those who argue against gender-neutral bathrooms say that students may take the room for granted, deface the property or violate school rules in these bathrooms by vaping, skipping class and smoking in the bathroom with little ability of enforcement. Shearer has difficulty understanding the argument made that adding a gender-neutral bathroom would negatively affect the school. 

“I think it would be best if the school would start educating people on it. So instead of people thinking it’s funny, or weird, if they actually understand the importance behind these bathrooms then it would be a lot less of a risk to [transition] these bathrooms,” Shearer said. 

If you are interested in signing this petition and helping Lu Schuetz raise awareness about the need for gender-neutral bathrooms, contact Lu Schuetz at [email protected], or go to the Keys Room 1518 to sign the petition.