WHS to introduce gender-inclusive bathrooms


Credit: Lina Baranovsky

Pictured above are the English bathrooms. These bathrooms are going to become gender-inclusive in the near future. “This is just one more push towards making the world more accessible and inclusive,” Naomi Rosenthal, co-leader of The Alliance, said.

The Alliance has been working on a new project: implementing gender-inclusive bathrooms at WHS. The gender-inclusive bathrooms will replace the current gender-specific bathrooms in the English wing. The bathrooms in the other three wings of the academic building will stay gender-specific. The administration is still considering the designation for the Commons bathrooms.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education published a document in June 2012, titled Guidance for Massachusetts Public Schools Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment, which according to Principal Allyson Mizoguchi, updated a pre-existing law regarding nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Partly it’s the law, and partly it’s around anti-discrimination laws that we want to follow, and partly it’s just wanting to have a safe school environment for everyone,” Mizoguchi said. “We are working toward a plan that will be as swift as possible but that allows time for a meaningful process and a shared understanding.”

Mizoguchi added that this new change will probably require discussion in an advisory session. She expressed how important it is to find a balance of informing people of the change but not calling undue fanfare to it.

“This is really what we want to be doing and what we should be doing in the first place,” Mizoguchi said. “The bathrooms will exist to create a safe environment for any student, particularly students who are not feeling safe [or] comfortable in a gender-specific bathroom.”

According to Naomi Rosenthal, co-leader of the Alliance, WHS should not ignore something just because it can make people uncomfortable.

“This is just one more push towards making the world more accessible and inclusive,” Rosenthal said.

Co-leader of the Alliance, Jennifer Sullivan, added that both the leaders of the club and the club members would like this new change to be the new normal.

Senior Linda Zhang, a member of the club since her freshman year, said,
“If we ignore the fact that some students in this school don’t have the security to be who they are wherever they are, then we aren’t doing our best to be accepting and inclusive of everyone,”

Junior Ellery Kiefer has also been a part of the Alliance since her freshman year. She hopes that one day all bathrooms will be gender-inclusive.

According to Kiefer, there have been worries that some people may be reluctant to give the gender-inclusive bathrooms a try. She stated the purpose of these new bathrooms is to provide any student, regardless of gender identity, with a bathroom that isn’t gender-specific.

“I have heard opposing views [from people who] understood why the bathrooms were getting put in place but just didn’t feel comfortable using them,” Kiefer said.

Both Kiefer and Zhang added that the bathrooms will not change much in terms of setup, but more in terms of signage. Sullivan shared that the sign in front of the gender-inclusive bathrooms will read something similar to, “All Gender Restroom.”

“This is going to be a process,” Rosenthal said. “It doesn’t end with the bathrooms.”