Breaking gender norms
December 17, 2018
This is the word students and staff members say when they speak of the new gender inclusive rest rooms in our school.
As of two weeks ago, H-F opened two gender inclusive rest rooms in both North and South building.
The rest rooms are open to all non binary, transgender, intersex and every other student or staff member who isn’t comfortable with going to the gender they are assigned to at birth.
Social Worker and Club sponsor of the LGBTQIA+ club Phillip Barker, is the catalyst for the new restrooms, during his second year at H-F he began asking questions about the schools methods to make LGBTQIA+ students feel more welcomed.
However in 2017, the new inclusive bathroom talk became mandatory due to the mental and physical health many students suffered from the lack of gender inclusive restrooms.
“A lot of our students would starve themselves so they wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom at school,” Barker said. “Many of them not eating school lunch for weeks on end.”
Nurse Lottie Parker opened her office restroom for students who wanted to use an inclusive restroom.
When Parker was informed of the physical toll students would put themselves to she was heart broken.
“I totally understand why they do it, and it breaks my heart. You should be comfortable in school, you spend so much time here. ”
According to The New York Times one in every 137 teens in America identify as transgender and that number is rapidly increasing. In May of 2016, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, under The Obama Administration, issued guidance to public school districts across the country clarifying that Title IX, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education programs and activities, protects students who are transgender.
The guideline was rescinded by Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. According to CNN, “This rejection is a sliver of the temporal attitude the Trump Administration and his cabinet has for LGBTQIA+ civil rights.”
Not only education, but health care, military and housing. During the Obama Administration when the bill was first introduced to Congress, H-F wanted to wait until the bill passed to legalize and ensure safety for our LGBTQIA+ students.
Despite the controversial topic on LGBTQIA+ rights, the administration insisted on doing what is fair to our students of the community.
“The coward thing to do is wait. Let’s do something now. Students are starving themselves over something we can fix. Why should we wait?” Vice Principal Lawrence Cook said.
Staff members were notified immediately of the new inclusive bathrooms.
Jill Bonavia-Galligani, English Teacher and co-sponsor of our drama club broke down in tears when she heard the news.
“The world is changing and H-F is changing with the world too. Finally, the world is changing to accept everyone. I was so happy to see it, I sent an email to the administration thanking them.” Boniva said. “The students deserve it”.
Last Friday, Barker told his students about the bathrooms and many were elated at the good news.
One student who asked to remain anonymous told us of their experiences.
“It feels amazing to know that H-F still cares. I’m so glad we have something like this for our community. It’s such a small thing, but you don’t realize how much this means to us,” the source said.
Theatre sponsor and LGBTQIA+ member himself J.R Rose hopes the community looks at H-F as a stepping stone to a progressive neighborhood.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think it’s long overdue. I think it’s amazing that H-F is being a little cutting edge by doing it. I think it’s a great step for the community for equality,” Rose said.
Although the bathrooms are just one stall, Barker plans to increase the amount of gender inclusive bathrooms in our school.
“It starts with one stall. I hope to increase the amount of gender inclusive restrooms in our school,”Barker said.
The bathrooms can be found in E-Building in South and on the second floor in North building.