CALGARY – The Calgary Board of Education will be building gender-neutral washrooms into the design of its new school buildings. It’s a move spurred by conversations with Calgary students from Gay Straight Alliance clubs, and concerns from transgender students.
“Specific designs are underway as part of planning, and we will work with impacted stakeholders and our school communities on this,” said the CBE in an emailed statement to Global News.
The board said the need for a gender-neutral bathroom is a “school-based decision based on the needs of their school community and available space in their facility.”
Naomi Hiebert identifies as transgender and said she dropped out of high school during her Grade 12 year. She said at that time, she wasn’t “out as trans” but was “visibly gender variant” – which she said had a lot to do with her leaving school.
“There was a time when I was less obviously female where I would be very much afraid to use gendered washrooms in public because I did not fit people’s expectations of either gender,” Hiebert said.
“And especially during that time, gender-neutral washrooms were basically a necessity for me to spend more than a couple hours somewhere.”
Transgender advocate James Demers says people shouldn’t be “afraid to pee” when they’re at school, and points out this can affect mental health and feelings of safety in any environment.
“We’re all just in there to use the bathroom; that’s literally it. It’s the only reason that we’re in there—so all of those other arguments against them, they’re kind of moot. They don’t make sense in the context of what we’re trying to do to access public space.”
With files from Jill Croteau