The move is a first in the district and relatively uncommon nationwide.
Grant High School, in Portland, Oregon, has taken a firm stance on an issue that is becoming quite a controversy in the US these days, that of transgender student’s rights. The school announced last week that 6 unisex bathrooms have been created “in response to concerns from transgender students uncomfortable with traditional bathrooms.”
According to The Oregonian, the initiative was led by Grant High’s Vice Principal, Kristyn Westphal, after several of the school’s counselors came to her with concerns. She said,
We just need to make sure that all students are safe and comfortable here, and that they have their needs met,” Westphal said. “If they feel unsafe using the bathroom, that’s a problem.
One student at Grant High, Scott Morrison, who was born female but is transitioning to male, said he “appreciates the privacy” of the new, single-stall unisex bathrooms. The 17-year-old senior explains that two years ago he started each day by choosing between a “boy outfit” or a “girl outfit,” but before long he began choosing only the “boy outfit.” Within a short period of time Scott stopped identifying as female all together. He told The Oregonian that although he became comfortable telling people to call him Scott, and using male pronouns,
The bathroom was still a place fraught with anxiety and fear. Before long, he stopped drinking water to avoid choosing between using the boys or girls bathrooms … In the girls bathroom, he felt “confronted by gender” as he maneuvered around girls fixing their makeup in front of the mirror. In the boys bathroom, he worried someone would ridicule him or tell him to leave, which happened to him in a public restroom.
Morrison said the new bathrooms are the best fit for him right now, as he undergoes hormone therapy.
Oregon is several steps ahead of the rest of the US when it comes to protecting the rights of those who identify as transgender, and has been for years now. In 2007 voters passed the Oregon Equality Act which specifically protects the rights of LGBT citizens. And while several other states are currently facing legal battles over transgender students rights, earlier this year Portland Public Schools’ general counsel Jollee Patterson sent guidelines to administrators on how to best deal with “transgender issues,” including bathrooms. She said, “This (bathroom) issue requires us to consider the need to support our transgender students, while also doing our best to ensure the safety and comfort of all students.”
Hopefully other school districts across the US will take the lead from Oregon and begin to confront and solve the issues facing their own transgender students.