North End Junior High breaks down barriers with ‘everyone washroom’

Click to play video: 'A group of junior high students are lighting up the LGBTQ community'
A group of junior high students are lighting up the LGBTQ community
WATCH ABOVE: It's been a banner year for a North End Halifax junior high with a vibrant Gender Sexuality Alliance. – Jun 24, 2016

As another school year draws to a close, members of the Highland Park Gender Sexuality Alliance are gearing up for an extra special event – leading the 29th Halifax Pride Parade as the Grand Marshalls.

READ MORE: Halifax Pride Festival theme impacted by Orlando Shooting

“I’m just so happy for them because the awards they’ve gotten and the recognition is amazing,” Lisa Daniel, the Principal of Highland Park Junior High said.

The GSA is an educator-led safe space that’s open to all students who want to drop in and share their thoughts on sexual and gender health.

“We talk a lot about issues within the queer community and about accepting yourself for who you are, whether that’s your sexual identity or your gender identity,” Chloe Melnick said, an eighth grader within the group.

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The tight-knit North End Halifax school is home to 130 students between grades seven and nine.

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“Our culture here is very diverse we have a wonderful group of young adults from the North End and this is like a home away from home,” Daniel said.

That diverse culture led members of the GSA to ask Principal Daniel a question that’s transformed school culture.

“They all came traipsing down the stairs and into my office and said ‘Mrs. Daniel we have a problem.’ I said ‘what’s that?’ They said we need an everyone washroom,” Daniel said.

An “everyone washroom” is a gender-neutral space that’s open to anyone regardless of gender identity or expression.

Through the eyes of the youth, the concept of a gender-neutral washroom has always been easy to understand.

“It’s just a bathroom to me, if you got-to-go you got-to-go,” said Jessie Homes, an eighth grader GSA member.

But having a gender-neutral washroom makes a huge difference for transgendered or gender-questioning people.

And the GSA students wanted an “everyone washroom” to support a transgendered student.

“We’ve been very open in supporting this student and at the end of the day this is a child, this is a student, just like anybody else,” Daniel said.

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The Highland Park Gender Sexuality Alliance was awarded a Nova Scotia Human Rights Award for incorporating the washroom.

It’s an honour they’re extremely humble about. The group claims there is only one aspect to the work they do that really matters to them.

“We want you to always be able to express yourself openly and freely,” Melnick said.

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