On Friday, my high school became the first high school in the state and the fifth school in the nation to set up gender neutral bathrooms
Portland Oregon is often seen nationwide as city with liberal views that fight for individual rights. Portland School district has the second highest percentage of LGBT students in the nation. These gender neutral bathrooms are one more example of the way our school district includes members of this community. Instead of forcing people who either don’t identify with any gender or who identify with a gender they were not given at birth to use the restroom in the bathroom of their genetic gender, they can now choose to go into a non – defined restroom with stalls accessible to all.
This is not a common privilege yet, as Friday my school became the fifth school in the nation to offer non gender identifying public restrooms. However, with time more and more schools plan on offering this in their schools. Gender neutral bathrooms are crucial in order create a community of acceptance and how prove important it is is to respect the rights of others.
But in order to understand how my school became one of the first, we must take a step back.
One of my first issues of Hey Hank News was an interview with our school’s Principal. When I wrote that issue, it was after I had spent a day with her in her office as a journalist for the Cardinal Times, going to some of her meetings, and seeing what it is she does.
In September of 2015 a group of students who were members of the LGBTQ Straight Alliance met w ur school principal to discuss turning one of our women’s restrooms into a gender neutral bathroom. The kids presented what they wanted to do, how they would accomplish their mission, and the problems they would have to overcome in order to achieve their end result. Our principal outlined the obstacles, remarking that her top priority was ensuring the safety of all students. She also outlined that the school district might push back on their efforts. The students were receptive yet relentless, promising that they have what it takes to overcome obstacles, and make equality a reality.
The year of work that these kids put into this project lead to our school’s gender neutral bathroom.
In order to both publicize and commemorate this momentous occasion, our school held an assembly.
Unfortunately, the story of the kids who worked to make this possible was left out of frame. A large majority of the credit went to our Principal. Although she played a major role in making this happen, little credit was diverted to the group of kids I saw in that meeting, no one sharing what those brave kids said when adults posted blockades in their way.
It is scenes like the one I saw in the Principal’s office that make this event a big deal.
Let us remember that this event was made possible because kids banned together to create equality for others. Kids are expected to go to school and maybe do a couple extracurriculars until their are old enough to go to college and become ‘adults.’ But every once in awhile, a few kids will take on a greater sense of civic virtue and improve the quality of life for others, defying the odds stacked against them and the roadblocks set up by others. And their stories are important – far more important than being the fifth school to do something.
This assembly is an event that is commonly seen throughout life. One of my father’s coworkers once said that politics is all about the idea of “you build the parade and I will lead it.” The kids who met with the Principal battled against adults for the rights of others only to see the parade lead by people who were once indifferent to their cause.