WATCH ABOVE: Both the Catholic and public school boards have approved gender-neutral washrooms in all schools. Shallima Maharaj has more.
EDMONTON — It looks like a regular, single-stalled washroom. But it means a lot to at least five transgender students of Strathcona Composite High School.
“People just need to go to the bathroom in peace, without being scared of anything,” says the co-leader of Scona’s Gay-Straight Alliance, who did not want to be identified.
Scona is one of at least two Edmonton schools with a gender-neutral washroom. The sign on the door depicts a man, a woman and a wheelchair. More washrooms like it are coming to local schools.
Both Edmonton public and Catholic school boards are planning to include single-stalled, gender-neutral washrooms in new schools under construction. In existing schools, they will be added by adapting staff washrooms, or through renovations over the next few years.
“In the past, any time a student wanted to have privacy, we have directed them to a staff washroom,” says Edmonton Catholic Schools spokesperson Lori Nagy. “So now we are going to provide a third option for students.”
Both school boards say the decision is not related to any negative incidents in school bathrooms — it’s about accommodating an increasing number of student requests, and making everyone feel comfortable.
“These students, if it makes a difference for them feeling safer coming to school, then certainly we do whatever we can,” says Scona’s assistant principal, Suzanne Fuller.
The GSA student, who identifies as LGBT, says horror stories about transgender people using typical male/female washrooms are common.
“I have heard about friends being threatened to have security called in many places… There are also stories about people being punched and beat up.
“We don’t want anyone to have to deal with that.”
The student would like to see all public places add an inclusive washroom, suggesting replacing the “family” rooms that have become common in shopping malls.
“What we would do is remove the ‘family’ part of it and just have a gender-neutral bathroom for everyone, so everyone can access it. That would solve all those problems with the fear of being beat up.”