Gender Neutral Bathrooms

As of March 15, nearly 240 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have been proposed by state legislatures this year alone. Over 150 of these bills specifically target transgender individuals. However, this legislature does not reflect the majority public opinion of the nation, with 79% of Americans supporting laws that protect queer people from discrimination, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. Rather than representing majority opinion, these bills are utilized by conservative politicians to motivate republican voters to defend traditional institutions in society, such as family.

Colorado public school students’ right to the “use of gender-segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity ” is protected under the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Civil Rights Commission (3 CCR 708-1). Although transgender students are granted access to restrooms that affirm their identity, bathroms remain an area of contention. According to the results of the most recent biennial Healthy Kids Colorado survey, less than half of queer Coloradan youth reported feeling a sense of belonging at school.

Although students’ right to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, gender non-conforming people are presented with inadequate options. Gender markers on bathrooms reinforce the gender binary and support a hostile culture against non-cisgendered individuals, making gender-non conforming students feel isolated and discriminated against.

Gender Spectrum is an organization that seeks to improve the well-being of gender-diverse adolescents by educating and training medical providers, educators, families, and mental health professionals. In schools that lack safe and affirming bathrooms. trans students are subject to emotional and physical harassment from peers, pressing 63.4% of transgender students to avoid bathrooms altogether. Additionally, 75.1% of transgender students reported feeling unsafe as a result of their gender expression. The impacts of unsafe restrooms extend far beyond the classroom. The lack of peer support and acceptance for transgender students gravely impacts their mental health and well-being. More than 41% of transgender youth have attempted or completed suicide. According to the CDC, this is far higher than the average for American teens, of whom 8.9% have attempted suicide.

The removal of gender markers from restrooms assists in the elimination of social constrictions and can potentially alleviate some of the dysphoria felt by many trans students. Yet, there is no simple solution. Although a private, single-stalled restroom is typically the easy change for institutions to implement to affirm people’s gender identity, they still have the ability to alienate queer people, by ‘othering’ them.

Given the current political climate, transgender students can no longer be an afterthought for school administrations. Unfortunately, our valley is all too familiar with the devastating impact of transphobia and a minimal support network for gender-diverse students. Although the Aspen School District is rather progressive and openly supportive of queer students, the administration has not taken sufficient action.

In order to ensure the safety and welfare of trans individuals, schools need to teach pupils about trans issues and provide them with educational resources.