Letter to the editor: Gender-neutral bathrooms misused and mistreated with unsafe behavior and vaping

Bree Rolfe, Bowie Sexuality & Gender Acceptance Club sponsor

The situation with the new gender-neutral bathroom has escalated to a level of disturbance that needs to be addressed. The main reason we have it is to make a safe space for trans students at Bowie, but now it has become the opposite. Most of the people using it go in there to engage in unsafe activities (i.e vaping) and crowd themselves in to abuse this new space. This behavior has made trans students feel unsafe, unwelcome, and robbed of personal space and respect. This needs to change. What we need to do is educate other Bowie students about why we have this bathroom and teach them how to behave in other ways that make their trans peers feel more content and safer.

While it may seem that the existence of transgender people is new, transgender people have been around for centuries in cultures and history as early as 5000 B.C. There are transgender people in all societies across the globe. “Lili Elbe, a Danish painter was the first person who got a documented sex reassignment surgery to address her gender dysphoria in 1930. 

Currently, the Human Rights Campaign estimates that there are more than 2 million transgender people in the United States. In fact, one in five adults in the United States know someone who uses non-binary pronouns other than he or she. However, even today transgender people face discrimination.75.1% of transgender students feel unsafe at school because of their gender expression, 63.4% of transgender students reported avoiding bathrooms, and 41% of transgender or gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide. In addition, research has shown that 36% of transgender or non-binary students reported being sexually assaulted in the last 12 months at school. According to a May 6, 2019 CNN article, one out of every four, reported being a victim of sexual assault.

For all of these reasons, all gender restrooms are necessary for our transgender students to feel safe. Bowie has only two all gender restrooms. However, recently students report feeling that these restrooms are “unsafe” due to students misusing them for inappropriate activities. We aren’t saying the restroom is only for trans people, but cis-gender people already have many restrooms to use. 

When asked for testimonies about the situation, these were some of the responses we got from trans or queer individuals. “I feel angry about the situation. The gender-neutral bathrooms [are intended to be a safe space] for trans students to use the bathroom and now some of my friends are not wanting to use them because of the vaping. This creates an unsafe space for non-binary people.” 

Another student said, “I haven’t been in the gender-neutral bathrooms because there’s ALWAYS way too many people in there to feel comfortable walking in.” 

Another issue in bathrooms in general is that people need privacy. As one student states, “It’s awkward for anyone to use the bathroom with a hoard of people who are just standing around not even using the facilities, it’s not just a gender-neutral issue… Plus, it’s a bathroom! People do their business there! Do y’all not understand how disgusting bathrooms are? It blows my mind that people choose to stand around there for fun.”

Gender neutral restrooms are intended to provide a safe and private place for transgender and non-binary students to change and use the restroom. Students need to respect these guidelines, so that our most marginalized students have a safe place. Bowie should be an inclusive community that respects all students. Be considerate.