A gender neutral sign now sits by certain bathrooms near the gym at Harlem High School. It allows transgender students to use the facilities without having to pick one sex or another.
“Our message is that everyone deserves to be who they are and everyone has an equitable place in our building and we’re going to value everyone for who they are,” said Associate Principal Jeremy Bois.
When the idea was first made public not all parents were in agreement. Some called the idea ‘awful’ and ‘unbelievable,’ many commenting on Facebook about problems that may arise.
“Sometimes creating a place for people that have been marginalized in the past doesn’t make everyone comfortable but I think that we’ll work past that,” said Bois.
Center on Halsted, an LGBTQ organization based in Chicago, has had the same signs for over a year without an issue.
“People have a right to their own opinion but those opinions really need to be based on fact and not on opinion. In reality-rather than on fears. I want to say this: the presence of a transgender student in a restroom is not a threat to anybody. It’s aggressive, predatory behaviors that are a threat,” said Director of Transgender Relations and Community Engagement at Center on Halsted Vanessa Sheridan.
But the bathrooms are just the beginning.
Harlem High School has also started a gender equality program with a support team for those who need it or need to speak to someone while going through the process.
“It’s extremely important that everyone who walks through our doors feels valued, feels comfortable like they have people here that care about them for who they are-that they can be who they are when they’re here,” said Bois.