RM should implement all-gender bathrooms

The boy and girl bathroom signs at RM are shown side-by-side.

Photo by Emily Zhao

The boy and girl bathroom signs at RM are shown side-by-side.

Shevani Tewari, Editor-in-Chief

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The discussion of all-gender bathrooms tends to be at the forefront of news coverage on the transgender rights movement and has recently become a consideration within MCPS schools. As arbitrary concerns are raised and debated, Richard Montgomery students and staff must recognize that if we truly want to pride ourselves in being an inclusive school, we absolutely must recognize the needs of all of its students. This can only be accomplished with the implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms.

In reference to the school’s current policies, Principal Damon Monteleone said, “I know that what we do right now is that we provide spaces,” referring to the gender-neutral bathrooms in the health room and main office. However, in a school the size of Richard Montgomery, having this few spaces, while often technically available, is almost never accessible. A student in a math, science, English, or social studies class could spend approximately ten minutes walking to and from these bathrooms, effectively spending a fourth of their class period. Add in waiting times, and a student could effectively be spending half of their class period using the bathroom — compared to a gender-conforming student who would spend five minutes — effectively compromising their own education. Providing a singular space that intuitively results in students choosing between learning and a basic human function is simply unacceptable.

Moreover, the population of those affected by the lack of gender-neutral restrooms does not only consist of non-binary students but also transgender students who have not “come out” or self-disclosed their identity and students who do not fall into stereotypical norms for gender. Often, due to the lack of conformity in gender expression, these students are at a heightened risk for harassment in the boy’s bathroom for acting too feminine as well as the girl’s bathroom for acting too masculine. By implementing gender-neutral bathrooms, we can end this lose-lose situation that students fear.

Opponents to gender-neutral concerns raise a myriad of concerns, all of which range from utterly false to inconsequential. 

The first widespread fear is that gender-neutral bathrooms raise the fears of assault, typically by predatory men, within a bathroom. However, this argument fundamentally furthers the toxic ideology that men and women cannot coexist in public spaces. If all genders are expected to coexist in the classroom, cafeteria, and hallways, there is very little justification towards the idea that they cannot coexist in the bathroom. Furthermore, this narrative simply furthers the idea that men (the implied perpetrator) cannot be controlled, instituting even more of a “boys will be boys” mindset; instead of automatically presuming that men are inherently violent, we should trust high school boys to follow not assault others.

Secondly, many are worried that the implementation of gender-neutral restrooms requires revolutionizing the bathrooms at Richard Montgomery; but, past administrative and legislative bureaucracy that would allow for the implementation of these bathrooms, all that would be requires is a change of the signs next to the doors. Gender-neutral bathrooms are not about catering to every gender’s exact needs in the bathroom, but instead providing them with the opportunity to use the restroom without fear.

Richard Montgomery has made strides to be more and more of an inclusive school. Implementing gender-neutral bathrooms is an absolute must to continue this narrative.